Good Friday Reflection

by David Morson

It is believed that the English Term ” Good Friday” describing the most dramatic day in the events of Holy Week may have come from the German of the Anglo Saxon Church, “Gottes Freitag” or ” God’s Friday.” Although the results of what happened that Day transformed our world, from our human perspective, it is difficult when hearing or reading the narratives about what happened to Jesus, to describe it as “Good”. Because of our love for Jesus, it makes it difficult for us to to consider His suffering. But, what must be remembered, is that it was His Great Love for us which enabled Him to bear it. Jesus’ Passion cannot be divorced from the “Passion of His Life” which was to instigate the “Kingdom of God”, bringing about a world of love, justice and peace. The dominant powers of Temple Authorities and Roman Rule did not accept this because it challenged the powers they had created for themselves.

Both St Mark and St Luke record that Caiaphas and the Chief Priests and their followers brought Jesus to Pilate, “early in the morning” ..”at daybreak”. After Judas had led them to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and the rushed illegal Trial Before the Sanhedrin, The Chief Priests were anxious to remove Jesus, before the Crowds who followed Him, started to gather and before the Sabbath. Here it must be remembered that the Jewish Day started at sunset on the evening before.

St Mark provides us with a timetable of the Day. Jesus was crucified about 9am. By noon the earth had turned dark and at 3pm ,”Jesus gave up His Spirit and died.”So, the trial before Pilate must have been very early in the Day.

Each of the four Gospels have slightly different features of Jesus’ Trial Before Pilate, although the common theme in all four, was Pilate’s reluctance to sentence Jesus to Death. In Matthew, it is Pilate’s wife who warns him, ” not to have anything to do with that innocent Man”. It is in Luke’s Gospel that once Pilate realises that Jesus is from Galilee, he transfers Jesus to Herod Antipas the Tetrarch or Ruler of Galilee, in the hope that he will deal with the case. In St John’s Gospel, Pilate has Jesus scourged and mocked in an attempt to gain the pity of the crowd to release Him in favour of Barabbas, whilst Matthew and Mark have the scourging and mocking as the prelude to crucifixion. Luke does not mention the mocking.

All of these tactics by Pilate failed, as did his attempt to exchange Jesus for Barabbas. Jesus was presented as a “King,” a “threat to Rome” by the Chief Priests. They made it personal. If Pilate did not act, then,”he was no friend of Caesar.” Given his past history of being reprimanded by Rome, Pilate capitulated and ordered Jesus to be crucified. He had one last victory however, by writing the notice, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” to be fixed to the cross, thus, turning the claims of the Chief Priests against them.

Jesus’ journey from Pilate’s residence to Calvary is at least a kilometre if not more, and as those who have been blessed to follow Jesus’ footsteps on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, it is largely up hill. Crucifixions happened outside the City Gates as a public warning to those who dared contravene Roman Law and Authority.This extreme punishment was reserved for slaves and agitators against Roman rule.

In many paintings of the Crucifixion there is a skull at the foot of the cross as Calvary, in Hebrew “Golgotha”, translates as “place of the skull”.Traditionally in Art, the skull represents Adam and the death and condemnation He brought to the human race, whilst, in contrast, Jesus’ Death brought life and salvation.. A further tradition states that the wood of the cross came from the same tree in the Garden of Eden. Obviously this is only conjecture but based in a continuous view of our redemption.

Besides the immense physical suffering, Jesus faced psychological trauma.

He was challenged by the Chief Priests, in similar vein to the Devil’s Temptations at the start of His Ministry, ” If You are the Son Of God, come down from the Cross and we will believe in you”. But Jesus’ Mission was not to convince by miracles or spectacular events but by Love.

Because it was The Sabbath, the Jews demanded the bodies be taken down.

The legs of the two thieves crucified with Jesus were broken so they could not push themselves upwards to breathe and would suffocate, but when they came to Jesus, He was already dead, so the Centurion opened His side with a spear to ensure that was the case.

A wealthy man, Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for the Body of Jesus and had it laid in a Tomb. The Chief Priests went to Pilate saying, this Imposter claimed that He would rise again in Three Days and demanded that a guard be put outside of the tomb to prevent Jesus’ disciples stealing it and claiming He has Risen.

Finally, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, must not be excluded from this Story. When Jesus