Holy Week - Good Friday
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:34.
This week was a week of increasing abandonment for Jesus. Just a few days before, on Palm Sunday, he had entered Jerusalem surrounded by the echoes of an elated crowd. He was thronged as he taught, and delighted his listeners as he entered into debate with the scribes. Yet this popularity brought with it opposition from the authorities and plots began to form. Those concerned with the Temple were outraged that the money-changers had been driven from its courts. The crowds might have shouted their hosannas, but their enthusiasm did not spread to those who were in charge, and wanted to remain in charge.
Then on Tuesday he had dined with his disciples at a house in Bethany, when a woman anointed him with expensive perfume. The disciples were outraged at the cost, but Jesus understood the action to be his anointing for burial. He knew what was to occur later that week, even if the disciples still failed to understand.
As the week continues, Judas goes to the chief priests and agrees to betray his master. After the last supper, as Judas goes off to bring about his betrayal, Jesus goes to pray and asks those who go with him to ‘watch and pray’. They fall asleep. Twice.
Then betrayal and arrest. Peter denies he even knows Jesus. The disciples flee. The crowd, now presented with Jesus by Pilate, cry out “crucify” and so his fate is sealed. The Son of God is whipped. The King of all Creation is given a crown twisted out of thorns. The Messiah is nailed up on a cross, and left to slowly die outside of the city walls.
It is then that the mocking starts. First the rulers sneer at him, and then the soldiers mock him. The cruelest of all is the newly crucified thief slowly dying at his side, who manages to summon up the breath to insult him. Such is the abandonment of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, but it is not yet complete.
The final abandonment comes as Jesus cries out in the words of Psalm 22: “my God, my God why have you abandonment me”? Abandoned by God. Abandoned my his friends.
But as Jesus felt the abandonment of his Father, he knew his work was done.
The cross is far more than the death of a martyr, or an expression of love. The cross is a cosmic event which changed forever the relationship between God and his creation. As Jesus cried out “why have you abandoned me” both death and sin were dealt with as they were laid on Jesus shoulders. Our punishment becomes his punishment. Our sins, our abandonment of God, become his. He takes it all and is abandoned. Jesus experienced this separation from God so that we do not need to, he bore all this for our behalf.
So let us join with Charles Wesley as we glory in this wonderful exchange:
And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”