Friday, April 6, 2012

The Passion Week - Good Friday

Religious Persecution

Let us first look at the events that transpired after Christ’s arrest on Thursday night.  There were three hearings before the Jewish authorities.  The first is before Annas.  John 18:13 “and led him off to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law to Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year.”  The account before Annas is in John 18:12-14, 19-23.  Annas was high priest from AD 6-15 and was followed by Caiaphas.  It seems that bringing Christ before Annas would have been out of respect for his office and Jewish law stating that the position is for life (Annas is even called “High Priest” in verse 19).  Jesus asks for evidence and witnesses (John 18:20-23) and is then sent to the High Priest Caiaphas (John 18:24).

Between the “trials” before Annas and Caiaphas, we have the account of Peter’s denials.  Peter and an unnamed disciple seem to have been the only disciples to follow Jesus (John 18:15).  Jesus had previously told Peter that he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed.  We have the account in John 18:25-27: 

In the meantime Simon Peter was still standing, keeping himself warm. Some of them said to him, "Surely you too are one of his disciples, aren't you?" And he denied it and said, "No, I am not." Then one of the High Priest's servants, a relation of the man (Malchus) whose ear Peter had cut off, remarked, "Didn't I see you in the garden with him?"  And again Peter denied it. And immediately the cock crew.

The “trial” before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin that night was not official.  The Sanhedrin could not have a proceeding on the night of a Feast Day.  The proceeding with Caiaphas in the evening is reported in Mark 14:53-65.  They could really find no reason to prosecute Jesus, and their witnesses even contradicted each other:

Mark 14:55-56 - Meanwhile, the chief priests and the whole council were trying to find some evidence against Jesus which would warrant the death penalty. But they failed completely. There were plenty of people ready to give false testimony against him, but their evidence was contradictory.

Jesus’ reply to Caiaphas in Mark 14:62 had some strong implications - And Jesus said, "I am! Yes, you will all see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, coming in the clouds of heaven." 

Part of Jesus’ statement is from Daniel 7:13-14.  The other content of those verses would surely cause the Sanhedrin to see Jesus as claiming to be more than human.
Daniel 7:13-14  ‘I was seeing in the visions of the night, and lo, with the clouds of the heavens as a son of man was one coming, and unto the Ancient of Days he hath come, and before Him they have brought him near.  And to him is given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, and all peoples, nations, and languages do serve him, his dominion is a dominion age-during, that passeth not away, and his kingdom that which is not destroyed.

Mark 15:1 The moment daylight came the chief priests called together a meeting of elders, scribes and members of the whole council, bound Jesus and took him off and handed him over to Pilate.

They could now make an arrest legal.  It seems that the Sanhedrin quickly called together enough people to make a legal arrest.  We do know that there was not a unanimous vote as attested in Luke 23:50-51, but we will look at that later.

Civil Persecution

Since the Sanhedrin could not pronounce capital punishment on a person, they handed Jesus over to Roman Authorities. (John 18:31)  The only answer that Jesus gave Pilate was “Yes, I am” (Mark 15:2).  The priests kept accusing him and Pilate did not fully believe them.  Pilate had been warned by his wife, from a dream she had, that Jesus was innocent and that Pilate should have nothing to do with him (Matthew 27:19).  Pilate then sent Jesus to Herod when he found out that Jesus, being from Galilee, would be under Herod’s jurisdiction.  Herod, coincidentally, was in town for Passover.  Well, Herod questioned Jesus but Jesus did not respond.  So Herod and his soldiers mocked Jesus and put a beautiful robe on him before sending him back to Pilate.  As a side note, Pilate and Herod became friends after this.  (Luke 23:6-12)

Luke 23:13-16 - Then Pilate summoned the chief priests, the officials and the people and addressed them in these words. "You have brought this man to me as a mischief-maker among the people, and I want you to realise that, after examining him in your presence, I have found nothing criminal about him, in spite of all your accusations. And neither has Herod, for he has sent him back to us. Obviously, then, he has done nothing to deserve the death penalty. I propose, therefore, to teach him a sharp lesson and let him go."

However, in the end, Pilate fell to the whims of the masses.  He even washed his hands of the mess (Matthew 27:24).  He freed a prisoner and imprisoned an innocent man.

Via Dolorosa – “The Sorrowful Way”

“Jesus of Nazareth underwent Jewish and Roman trials, was flogged, and was sentenced to death by crucifixion. The scourging produced deep stripelike lacerations and appreciable blood loss, and it probably set the stage for hypovolemic shock, as evidenced by the fact that Jesus was too weakened to carry the crossbar (patibulum) to Golgotha. At the site of crucifixion, his wrists were nailed to the patibulum and, after the patibulum was lifted onto the upright post (stipes), his feet were nailed to the stipes. The major pathophysiologic effect of crucifixion was an interference with normal respirations. Accordingly death resulted primarily from hypovolemic shock and exhaustion asphyxia. Jesus' death was ensured by the thrust of a soldier's spear into his side. Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicate that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross.” - William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, MDiv; Floyd E Hosmer, MS, AMI 
Reprinted from JAMA - The Journal of the American Medical Association
March 21, 1986, Volume 256
Copyright 1986, American Medical Association

Jesus hung on the cross for three hours.  He had seven last “words” on which we will focus.

  1. "Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
  2. "I tell you truly, this day you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
  3. "Look, there is your son!" And then he said to the disciple, "And there is your mother!" (John 19:27)
  4. 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' (Mark 15:34; Psalm 22:1)
  5. "I am thirsty." (John 19:28)
  6. "It is finished!" (John 19:30)
  7. "Father, 'into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46; Psalm 31:5)

There were then some events that happened after the crucifixion.  First of all, there was a strange darkness that overcame the land (Mark 15:33, Julius Africanus – Greek Papyri 10.89).  The centurion at the cross is also convinced of Jesus’ innocence (Luke 23:47).  An earthquake occurred (Matthew 27:51), and tombs were opened and saints walked around (Matthew 27:52-53).  Jesus, by Jewish tradition, had to be buried before sundown, so Joseph of Arimethea got the corpse and buried Christ.  Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin and was not one who voted to condemn Christ (John 19:38).  Also accompanying Joseph was Nicodemus, from John 3 (John 19:39).  Was Nicodemus also a believer?  Had his heart been softened by being near Jesus on a couple of occasions?  Did the forthcoming resurrection convince him?  We don’t know.  He could have just been glad to see Jesus gone, but we cannot attest to that either.  Finally, the tomb was sealed (Matthew 27:62-66).  Surely Christ was in the tomb when they sealed it, but just a while later they tried claiming that the body was stolen (Matthew 28:11-15).  Good try, but He is risen!

No comments: