“19:23 Now when the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and made four shares, one for each soldier, and the tunic remained. (Now the tunic was seamless, woven from top to bottom as a single piece.) 19:24 So the soldiers said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but throw dice to see who will get it.” This took place to fulfill the scripture that says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they threw dice.” So the soldiers did these things.
19:25 Now standing beside Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 19:26 So when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, look, here is your son!” 19:27 He then said to his disciple, “Look, here is your mother!” From that very time the disciple took her into his own home.”
(John’s gospel, chapter 19: verses 23-27)
It’s Good Friday, and in common with many Christians throughout the world, I attended an early morning service to commemorate the suffering and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We watched a simple drama performed and I was struck anew by the groups of people at the cross, watching the crucifixion.
Firstly, were the Roman soldiers, clad in armour, carrying weapons, those with power and authority. Jesus had already been tortured with scourging. Now they nailed His hands and feet to the cross and hoisted Him upward to die an agonizing death. They mocked and scorned Him and passed the time gambling for His last piece of clothing.
Secondly, there were the true followers of Jesus, those who knew Him personally and followed Him to the very end. They believed all that He had taught. Their love for Him never faltered, despite the threat of retribution from the Romans, despite their fears and confusion, despite the fact that all the hopes they had seemed to be coming to futility. Such was the faith of John and Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and others who were with Him.
What a contrast this group would have been to the Romans. Simply dressed, lacking wealth and status, powerless and sorrowful, oh so filled with the horror and tragedy and loss that was happening before their eyes.
Then there was another group- the crowd who had followed to witness the spectacle. This morning in my church fellowship there was a large crowd watching the drama, as on that day at Calvary two thousand years ago. The only difference now is that we know the events of the following third day.
In the crowd as Jesus was crucified, there would have been many who had seen or heard of Jesus’ miracles and heard His teaching. There would have been many who had welcomed His entry into Jerusalem with hosannas and palm branches just a few days previously. There would have been some who genuinely believed in Jesus. Then there would be others who had called upon Pilate to crucify Jesus and release Barabbas. Some would have followed Jesus for what He could do for them or give them. Some would have turned away when they thought He had failed to deliver them from Roman oppression. No doubt for some it was a day of great confusion.
Has the world of today changed all that much?
The darkness of this world, the dominion of Satan, is opposed to Christ, mocking His disciples, scorning His teaching, inventing alternative lifestyles, glorifying the idols of power, success, money and sex. In some countries to be a Christian is to be marginalised, discriminated against, fined, abused, jailed and sometimes martyred for your faith.
The light of the world, Jesus Christ, through His Holy Spirit, is still at work through His people, the church on earth. It is the only way to relationship with God and the only true source of peace, happiness and fulfillment for all time.
And there are the crowds who are wondering what it’s all about. Easter and Christmas are traditions with special food and no special meaning. It is for them that we hope and pray and write and work that they will know God’s loving transformation in their lives.
We are privileged to know the events immediately following Jesus’ death. The curtain of the temple was ripped into two, signifying that Jesus had taken away the barrier between God and humankind. Jesus alone, not the law, not sacrifices, was the only way to our Heavenly Father. The power of God over nature, over death, is revealed. Satan is a defeated foe. An in the words of unnamed Roman soldiers we see that those who oppose and mock Christ must finally acknowledge His sovereignty.
“27:51 Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split apart. 27:52 And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised. 27:53 (They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.) 27:54 Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified and said, “Truly this one was God’s Son!”” (Matthew’s gospel chapter 27: verses 51-54).
Where do you stand at the Cross?
I pray that through His grace and His Holy Spirit it will be with those truly devoted to Him.
|Photo at Bridgeman Baptist Community Church, Bridgeman Downs, Brisbane Australia.||Good Friday service.|