The United States (The Gaslamp Post) –
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The previous passages come from the Gospel according to the apostle Matthew, a disciple of Jesus Christ. These were the recorded words of our Lord and Savior, spoken to a massive crowd of those whom gathered to see and hear Him, at the historically famous Sermon on the Mount.
A great many who had learned of Him, the signs and miracles he had performed, came from far and wide to be in his presence.
Christ, the Son of God, word made flesh, put himself out there to shed light on mankind, and show them the path to His Father. During those times, the Jewish church was corrupt, and He came to set things straight.
Like many before Him, His presence and the message He brought was troubling to the Jewish authorities, and they had to put a stop to it if they were to maintain control over their people. If the high priests and their ilk were to keep their power and wealth, this man Jesus had to go.
The joke was on them though, as Christ was purposefully sent here to earth with the express purpose of paying for the evils and sins of the world with His own life. God used the corrupt priests and the Roman occupiers at the time to carry out the plan.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
That was the plan all along; Jesus was God sent to earth in human form, whose purpose was to take our sin upon Himself, and pay for it with his life. While that sounds confusing, it’s nonetheless true. And by sacrificing Himself, He permanently removed the barriers that up until that time, had kept us from our maker.
Up until that time, sin meant death. In Christ, we were given a second chance.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
While that sounds great and all, what does that have to do with Good Friday? Good Friday is the day we honor the sacrifice Christ made when he was executed by crucifixion. While it was Roman civil authorities whom carried it out, it was the Jewish establishment who had it done.
The day before Good Friday is known as Maundy (Holy) Thursday, and sets the stage for everything that happened on Good Friday. The previous day, Thursday as it is revered, is the day when Christ revealed that His end was coming.
He gathered His disciples together and ate with them. This is what is known as The Last Supper. During this time He spoke to his disciples and told them how to remember Him. When they asked what was going on, Jesus told them what was about to happen and that it was one of them who betrayed Him.
20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.
21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.
24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”
Jesus answered, “You have said so.”
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.
28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
He was right as earlier that day, Jesus’ disciple Judas Iscariot who loved money, had been approached by the high priests and was offered 30 pieces of silver in return for him handing Jesus over to them. Not thinking his actions through, Judas accepted. Imagine his surprise when Jesus blurted THAT out in the middle of the conversation. Think Judas realized he messed up when he heard those words spoken?
During The Last Supper, Christ also revealed that he would be denied and that it would be his close friend Peter who would do it – an accusation that the apostle vehemently denied. Unfortunately for the hot-headed Peter, this too came true.
Later on, Jesus took with him his disciples, and went to a place called Gethsemane to calm down. He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and went into the garden to pray.
During this time Jesus begged His Father to not let what was about to happen, happen. Christ, God’s Son in a human body was having to struggle with the reality that was coming. He had known for a long time what was coming, and was feeling it with human emotions.
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Soon He emerged from the garden and found his companions asleep on the ground. He cried out at them, as the only ones who would be there for Him when He needed them, couldn’t stay awake.
Within moments, a group of armed men arrived accompanied by Judas Iscariot. Judas approached Jesus, greeted Him and kissed Him. It was with this kiss that the armed men knew who they were there for.
They grabbed Jesus and in an instant the situation exploded; Christ’s companions went into attack mode, Peter drew his sword and began going on the attack. In the fury of steel on steel in the light of torches, Peter swung at the head of a Roman soldier, but only took off his ear.
Jesus, while being held yelled at Peter and ordered him to put away his sword. He then picked up the soldier’s ear from the ground, put it to the soldier’s head, and in front of everyone it healed.
From there Jesus was taken to Caiaphas the High Priest and went before the Sanhedron (court). There He was spit upon and beaten in order to obtain a confession so that they would be justified in executing Him for blasphemy.
When they didn’t get what they were looking for, they brought Him to the Roman governor, Pilate. Although he declined to initially execute Jesus (because He hadn’t broken any Roman laws), Pilate had Christ flogged. Fearing a riot from the growing masses of Israelites, Pilate eventually gave them their way.
When Pilate offered to execute a murderer named Barabbas in Christ’s place, the crowd of Jews screamed for Barabbas’ release and instead the execution of Jesus.
Jesus was stripped, beaten with fists, and mocked by Roman soldiers.
The soldiers placed a robe on Him and a crown made of thorns on His head, and continued to make fun of him. When they had their fun, they took the robe off of Him and placed His own clothes back on Him. They then dragged Him away to crucify Him.
Forced to carry His own cross, Jesus was forced to stagger under its’ weight all the way to a place called Golgotha, or the skull place. He had fallen several times on the way there, and was helped with His cross by a man named Simon.
Once at Golgotha, Jesus’ hands and feet were nailed to the cross and He was raised up, suspended by spikes through His hands and feet. He was placed between two criminals whom were also scheduled for execution, and atop His cross was put a sign intended to further mock Him. It read, “Jesus Christ, King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who was next to Jesus screamed from the pain at Him, and demanded that if Jesus truly was the Son of God, that He should take himself down from the cross and he along with Him. At this, the other criminal who was also being crucified told the other to be quiet. He declared that while they were being punished for their crimes, Christ was an innocent man.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?
41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
As Jesus hung there, slowly drowning in his own fluids as his lungs were unable to expel anything (that’s how a crucifixion killed a person) there were witnesses to the execution who came to mock Him, and those who were grieving for Him. Judas, having realized what he had done, attempted to return the silver to the high priests in order to clear his conscience, but nothing could fix what he had done.
Judas overcome with guilt found himself a tree and hung himself.
Watching from a distance, Peter was approached and recognized by some people who had seen him with Jesus much earlier. Each time he was singled out, Peter denied knowing Jesus – and didn’t realize until the third time he had done it, that Jesus told him that he would do that very thing the previous day.
He ran away and cried for what he had done.
On the cross, Jesus cried out that he was horribly parched so a soldier took a sponge and dropped it into a dirty bucket of gall (like vinegar), he placed it on a pike, and raised it up to His lips. Even in His last few minutes alive, they treated Him worse than an animal.
He then said “it is finished,” and in a loud voice He cried out, “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.”
The exact moment of Christ’s death is well documented by the really strange and terrifying things which happened at that time. The sky grew dark and the sun was blocked out in the middle of the day, the earth shook violently, and the 30-foot-high curtain in the temple which hid the Ark of the Covenant from view suddenly tore in half – all at the exact moment.
A Roman soldier who witnessed this at the foot of Jesus’ cross is on record as saying;
“The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”
Although this was a horrible and cruel death, this is far from the end of the story. What happened next not only proved God’s existence, but proved that Jesus was in fact who He said He was.
To be continued…