It's Friday, But Sunday's Coming!
Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last. So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!” And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned. Luke 23:44-48
This week our third graders at the Christian school where I teach led the Chapel service. The skit began with a student asking the question, "What is Easter all about?" They went on to decide that Easter is NOT all about hiding and finding Easter eggs, dressing up for church on Easter Sunday, or getting a chocolate bunny and a stuffed animal in your Easter basket. Easter is all about Jesus dying on the cross as the sacrifice for sins. It was so precious to see the children share the real story of Easter. It can be very easy for children to get caught up in the trappings of Easter and baskets of candy and egg hunts and forget the true meaning of the holiday. As adults, we get so busy with things like buying new spring clothes for the family, planning fun activities for the kids, practicing for the Easter musical at church, preparing a big family meal, etc. that we also forget what really happened 2000 years ago that started the most important holiday on the Christian calendar.
If you've been a Christian for a long time, you've likely heard both the Christmas story and the Easter story so many times you almost have it memorized. The familiarity we have with these scriptures can cause us to lose our sense of awe at what Jesus accomplished for us that fateful Passover long ago. Let me point out some of the interesting things that happened that day which must have totally freaked out the people who were there watching it unfold.
When Jesus was sentenced to be crucified, he was pronounced innocent by the Roman Governor, Pilate. This actually made his crucifixion illegal - they killed an innocent man! In fact, if you read the four gospels you will be able to count a total of seven times throughout the accounts of the crucifixion that Jesus was pronounced innocent! One of the interesting things I've discovered about the Bible is that God seems to love the number seven!
Darkness in the scripture is a symbol of judgement. Remember the plagues in Egypt that proceeded the Passover? The next to last plague in Egypt was a plague of darkness upon the Egyptians for three days. It happened just before the death of the first born which required the Passover Lamb to be slain. How interesting that there were three hours of darkness while Jesus was on the cross just before He died! He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
At the moment of Jesus' death there was an earthquake that some scholars estimate to have been around an 8 on the Richter scale. At the same time the earthquake was taking place, the thick curtain in the Temple miraculously tore in half from top to bottom. The death of Jesus removed the barrier between us and the Holy of Holies - the place where God dwelt on earth and met with the High Priest every year on the Day of Atonement. Jesus opened the way to God for us so that we no longer need a priest as a go between once a year. We can pray directly to God because Jesus perfectly atoned for our sins. Can you imagine being in the Temple and seeing that happen right before your eyes? Can you imagine being one of the gawking crowd when the supernatural darkness covered the land in the middle of the day and then when Jesus cried out, "It is finished," a level 8 earthquake broke loose under your feet? All of this prompted the Centurion soldier to proclaim, "Surely, this Man was the Son of God!"
Remember that at the Passover, the blood of the lamb had to be smeared on the upper and side doorpost of the dwelling in order for the people inside to be spared from the death angel? They were to use a branch of hyssop to place the blood up on the door frame. When Jesus was offered His final drink of sour wine, moistening His dehydrated mouth so that He could speak His last words, they used... a hyssop branch! Coincidence? Also remember that wine is the symbol of blood, so they were reaching up to the cross with they symbol of blood on their branch of hyssop. Pretty amazing!
Also remember that the Passover lamb which was a type of Jesus, could not have a spot or defect, (representing sin) and could not have a broken bone. The soldier disobeyed a direct order from his superior when he decided not to break Jesus' legs, and instead to pierce His side. Surely a Roman soldier had no earthly idea that he was fulfilling prophecy by keeping Jesus' bones whole and giving Jesus a pierced side that the Jews will look upon at His return and "mourn as one who mourns for an only son."
I always wondered why we would call the day Jesus was treated so brutally "Good Friday." It was a terrible day in the history of man and a terrifying day for those who were watching. But, thank God, it was a great day for all of us who are saved by His sacrifice! And don't forget... Sunday's coming...