Friday of the Passion of the Lord (Good Friday) Lectionary: 40
Reading 1 Is 52:13—53:12
Who would believe what we have heard? To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; but the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.
Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth. Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny? When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people, a grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood. But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.
Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear. Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
Reading 2 Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Brothers and sisters: Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
In the days when Christ was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
Gospel Jn 18:1—19:42
So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus, bound him, and brought him to Annas first. He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews that it was better that one man should die rather than the people.
Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus. But Peter stood at the gate outside. So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest, went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in. Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter, “You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire that they had made, because it was cold, and were warming themselves. Peter was also standing there keeping warm.
The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his doctrine. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken publicly to the world. I have always taught in a synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me? Ask those who heard me what I said to them. They know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said, “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm. And they said to him, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it. And immediately the cock crowed.
Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium. It was morning. And they themselves did not enter the praetorium, in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and said, “What charge do you bring against this man?” They answered and said to him, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” At this, Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.”
When he had said this, he again went out to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover. Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this one but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out and seated him on the judge’s bench in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top down. So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be, “ in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says: They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. This is what the soldiers did. Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.
Here all kneel and pause for a short time.
Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and that they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may come to believe. For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled: Not a bone of it will be broken. And again another passage says: They will look upon him whom they have pierced.
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.
This is probably one of the most difficult, most challenging, most brutal passages in all of scripture.
Here we have details that make the passion tangible and immediate and raw. Here, in St. John’s gospel, we have weapons and torches. We have the thorns. There is the purple cloak. The bitter wine. The poignant moment between Jesus and his mother. Christ’s pierced side. The flowing blood and water. All the details that, together, paint an indelible portrait of the passion and make it inescapably real.
But there is also one detail in St. John’s gospel that puts everything we have experienced this day into context. It reminds us of where we have been, and what will be.
John begins this account, and ends it, in the same unexpected place:
In the beginning, a garden is the scene of Christ’s agony and betrayal. At the end of this passage, another garden is the place where he is buried.
If it sounds familiar, it should.
John is reminding us of Eden—with Jesus Christ, the new Adam.
We are back where it all began.
But the place where man fell becomes the place where the new man will rise. The world will be remade. Another Genesis, another beginning, is about to unfold.
In the setting where human history went wrong, God will make it right.
We are back where it all began. But with a difference.
Behold, God tells us, I make all things new.
But just as the first Genesis began in a void, so does this one. Our liturgy today echoes that. In fact, what we are experiencing during this Triduum—these three days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday—is one extended liturgy. There was no dismissal or closing for last night’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper. There was no sign of the cross to begin this liturgy today. We are continuing what we began yesterday, and it won’t conclude until tomorrow.
But the absence we experience is profound. No bells. No consecration. A bare altar. An empty tabernacle. David Close, our music director, said to me yesterday, it feels almost like time has stopped. He’s right. It does. We hang in a moment of suspended time, waiting for the explosive moment in the Easter Vigil tomorrow, when God will say, “Let there be light,” and this church and our world will once again be ablaze.
But here, and now, we wait. We grieve. We mourn. We hope.
And our eyes turn to the cross.
In Eden, a tree brought about our condemnation. Today, another tree brings about our redemption. Behold the wood of the cross, on which hung the salvation of the world.
And when you think about it, the fruit from that tree —what it brought us, what it gives us—is incalculable.
I would argue it is one reason why this Friday should not be called “good.” It should be called “Great.”
Near the end of this gospel account, Christ utters his last words: “It is finished.”
All the suffering, the bloodshed, the sacrifice, the humiliation comes to an end.
But the story isn’t over.
He will be buried in a garden.
A seed will be planted.
It isn’t finished.
In fact, it is just beginning.
There is an amazing contrast here between the public disciples of our Lord and his secret disciples. At this time one of Jesus twelve disciples, Judas was exposed as a betrayer. All along he was pretending to be a follower of Jesus, but stealing money from the treasury and really being no disciple at all. When the secret disciples were lovingly preparing Jesus body for burial, Peter was weeping in shame for denying the Lord. The other members of the Sanhedrin remembered that Jesus prophesied that he would rise again in three days and appealed for the guard at the tomb (Mathew 27: 62). This motivated them to make their own visit to Pilate to request the tomb be sealed. Here Joseph could have bumped into the Jews he feared. There is no record of the public disciples taking any encouragement from this resurrection prophecy after Jesus death and they had all suddenly become the secret disciples. On this Crucifixion day, considered the pivotal day in history, the secret disciple Joseph went publicly and boldly to approach Pilate. His fellow secret disciple Nicodemous was also acting courageously on the Crucifixion day. http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/joseph-of-arimathea-the-secret-disciple-of-jesus-and-his-legacy-today-b-d-b-moses-sermon-on-call-of-the-disciples-55817.asp?page=2
When Jesus was upon earth, he had some secret disciples. Not all of those who were in sympathy with his work were willing to openly announce it. While they knew that Jesus Christ was the only begotten Son of God, they were not desirous to take an open stand and publicly acknowledge it. This they would not do because they were afraid. They were more concerned about what men thought of them than they were in pleasing God.
Nicodemus was a secret disciple of Christ. (Jno. 3:1, 2). This Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, came to Jesus by night in private and acknowledged him as a teacher from God. Nicodemus knew the truth. He could not deny the miracles that Jesus had performed and he wanted to tell Jesus in private what was his true sentiment. That he was favorable to Jesus is seen by some later inferences. When the Pharisees rebuked the officers for not bringing Jesus to them, Nicodemus asked in Jno. 7:51, “Doth our law judge a man, except it first hear from himself and know what he doeth?” After Jesus was crucified, Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes. (Jno. 19:39). Although we may assume that Nicodemus sympathized with Jesus, if he ever took a public stand by forthrightly speaking his convictions the divine record does not reveal it.
But there were other rulers among the Jews who were secret disciples. When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, he said, “We know that thou art a teacher come from God.” He was not alone in knowing this truth — some of his fellow-rulers also knew it. It is recorded in Jno. 12:42, 43: “Nevertheless even of the rulers many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God.”
Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple of the Lord. He, like others, was afraid. Following the Saviour’s crucifixion, John wrote: “And after these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked of Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus.” (Jno. 19:38).
As there were secret disciples of Jesus while he was here on earth, there are secret disciples today. There are preachers among us who know the truth in regard to the issues which are facing the church. They know that it is wrong in principle for congregations to do their preaching and benevolent work through centralized brotherhood agencies. Some of these men have told us privately that they are with us on these issues but as yet they have failed to publicly announce their position. Last fall the author of this article went over to Missouri to preach in a meeting. The preacher at that particular church expressed himself as standing opposed to centralized brotherhood arrangements. He also stated his desire that the issue be preached upon during the meeting. However, if there has ever been any public statement from him either by his pen or mouth, it is unknown. This brother sells song books. Some of our brethren know the truth on the various issues facing the church but they want somebody else to do the preaching on it. What will such men say when they face the Lord in the day of judgment?
Not long ago, a well known preacher among us had been understood to say that he stood with us in the battle. When he learned that he had been quoted as saying it, he was quite disturbed and he hastened to inform us that he was being misquoted. This writer asked him to state his position in writing and sign his name to it so that he would not be misquoted. This he refused to do. This scribe then asked him if it would be all right to quote him as not taking a position at all. To this he agreed so we are now quoting him as not taking a position and we are confident that he is not being misquoted. This brother is quite actively engaged in meeting work.
The right side has not always been the popular side with men, but regardless of that the conscientious Christian wants to be sure that he is on the Lord’s side. Frequently we are commended by members of the church for our courage to preach the truth, and yet it should be considered to take far more courage not to preach it than it does to preach it. It is the Lord to whom we must give an account in the day of judgment, not men. Every gospel preacher, therefore, should be afraid not to preach the truth.
There are fundamental principles to be learned when one becomes a Christian. When he learns these, he is not to hesitate to put into practice what he has learned. It is a matter of obeying what he knows to be right. The same is true when it comes to the issues of centralized evangelism and benevolence that are confronting the church. There are some primary principles to be learned and when these are known, it should not be any problem to see why some practices among us are wrong. We need to know (1) that the elders of a congregation have the oversight of that congregation and its phases of work and in no other (1 Pet. 5:2), (2) that each congregation is autonomous in its government, (3) that there is no organization larger than the local church, (4) the local church is God’s complete and all-sufficient organization to do the work that he requires, and (5) the church universal can act only as each individual congregation does its own God-given work. When these principles are learned, it will not take a magnifying glass to see that such arrangements as the Herald of Truth and church treasury supported benevolent institutions are violations of these principles.
Some of our brethren tell us that they are studying on the issues and therefore they do not as yet wish to take a stand. Of course, if the above basic principles are not known, then every gospel preacher along with every other Christian ought to learn them. But when men will acknowledge the above principles to be true, then what do they have to study to find out that it is unscriptural for the church universal to operate through a centralized agency whether it be an eldership or a board? By the way some of our brethren talk about their study of the issues, it would be thought that the Lord’s plan of organization and function of the church is as intricate as an interwoven spider web or as detailed as a long manuscript of fine lawyer’s print. We wonder if some of our “studying” brethren are not using the point as an excuse to not take a position. Could it be?
Back in the days when premillennialism was a prominent issue in the church, a few were waging the fight against it. Many preachers were sitting back allowing the few to carry the brunt of battle. When the smoke began to clear and the force of truth began to eminently prevail, the quiet preachers suddenly clamored, “me too.” Some of those who talked and wrote about how long they had been on the firing line got their lines crossed. They were on the side line! It is the same old story being repeated on these present day issues and the history of this attitude is not so old but what some of us can easily remember it. Last winter one of our brethren in the publishing business admitted that he was straddling the fence. He confessed it which is more than some are willing to do. The brother did state that the time had come when he had to get off. He knows the truth. We would like to know when the time was that he was to get on the fence in the first place.
The secret disciples among us today are afraid. Some are afraid of their jobs, some are afraid of not being popular, some are afraid that they will not sell their merchandise, and some are afraid of other things. In an exchange of letters with one of the staff writers of the Gospel Advocate, it was obvious that his chief concern was “usefulness.” It is feared that the word in his vocabulary is spelled p-o-p-u-l-a-r-i-t-y.
The time has come for men to stand up and be counted. Those who know what is right should make it known. Who is on the Lord’s side?
Following Jesus’ death, one might have expected representatives of the Jewish authorities to have carried out the removal of Jesus’ body from the Cross and its subsequent burial in a common grave reserved for Jewish wrongdoers.
In the event, things worked out differently: at this point the Jewish authorities disappear, and Jesus’ friend, Joseph of Arimathea, enters the scene. Thus far unknown to the reader of the Gospels, he was to become a well-known figure to the earliest Christians. Joseph of Arimathea is the key character in the whole episode.
The Gospel accounts present him as someone of great importance in social and religious terms: a man of wealth and an important member of the Sanhedrin, who did not agree with the decision against Jesus, who was waiting for the kingdom of God, a disciple of Jesus. John also brings onto the scene a second notable disciple, who teams up with Joseph. This is Nicodemus, who at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry had come to visit him at night, and had received from him the proclamation of the new life from above.
These two illustrious characters, members of the Sanhedrin and secret disciples of Jesus, moved by the supreme proof of love of their Master, come out of the shadows invested with an extraordinary courage.
They openly show themselves to be disciples of the Crucified One and each offers him a gift: Nicodemus, precious spices and perfumes for anointing, and Joseph, his new tomb. The authors of the Gospels have entrusted them forever to the memory and veneration of all Christians.
The Church of Jerusalem and the Christians of the Holy Land commemorate Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus each year on 31 August.
Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet 1852-6 Ford Madox Brown 1821-1893
Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate at the juvenile detention center of Casal del Marmo, Rome, on March 28, 2013. Photo: AP Photo/L’Osservatore Romano
Tags: and for my vesture they cast lots, Annas, Caiaphas, Christ, cock crowed, Crucify him, Heb 4:14-16 and 5:7-9, into your hands I commend my spirit, Is 52:13—53:12, Jesus, Jn 18:1—19:42, Joseph of Arimathea, Mary of Magdala, Mary the wife of Clopas, Nicodemus, Peter denied, Pilate, sabbath, secretly a disciple of Jesus, Simon Peter, the body of Jesus, the Son of God, They divided my garments among them, They will look upon him whom they have pierced