Good Friday is set aside to remember the death of Jesus Christ and it’s implications for all humanity. There is a long list of things we learn in the Good Friday passages (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 22 – 23, and John 18 – 19). Today I want to draw your attention to four thing that always stand out to me when I read these chapters.
Peter’s there fold denial of Jesus alway hits me hard. The most painful, emotionally raw record of the event is found in Luke 22:54 – 62. Luke’s account, like the other Gospels, shows Peter denying Jesus three times out of fear for his own life. It’s a stark contrast to the Peter who days earlier said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” What makes Luke’s account especially painful is the moment he records in verse 61. After Peter denied Jesus the third time, “the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” I can’t imagine the brokenness Peter felt as he locked eyes with the God he was denying.
Pilate is one of the most cowardly individuals in all of Scripture. He was the political ruler who handed down Jesus’ legal death sentence even though he knew better. Here are some of the things Pilate said before he sent Jesus to be crucified. “I find no guilt in this man.” “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.” “I have found in him no guilt deserving death.” So why did Pilate send Jesus to his death? John 19:12 tells us that the Jews threatened Pilate’s Roman position. So Pilate bowed to the pressure of the crowd not to save his own neck but to save his job.
The religious leaders hated Jesus–they were threatened by his teaching and popularity. So they hired a traitor, secretly arrested Jesus in the middle of the night, and put him through a mock trial with false witnesses. The depths of their hatred for Jesus is seen most clearly in John 19:15 when the chief priests cry out to Pilate, “We have no king but Caesar.” No king but Caesar? These men represented the nation of Israel. God gave them a kingdom and set up a kingship. God promised their forefather David that he would always have a man on the throne. You can be sure the chief priests had not forgotten God’s promise. In the moment, however, their hatred for Jesus led them to cry out a lie that went against what they believed.
Jesus showed an unimaginable amount of love when he died on the cross. He wasn’t forced to die, he had a choice. “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). When Jesus was arrested in the garden he said to Peter, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Mat. 26:53). Jesus wasn’t dragged to the cross kicking and screaming. He willingly went to his death. Why? Because he came to die. Out of love Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for many (Mat. 20:28, John 3:16). And here’s the kicker. Jesus willingly, lovingly died for the denying, cowardly, hateful people we’ve looked at.
Truth be told, we have much more in common with denying Peter, cowardly Pilate, and the hateful religious leaders than we do with Jesus. We deny knowing Jesus and his goodness every time we put something before him–whether it’s our life or our pleasure. We shrink back in cowardly fear every time we fail to risk–sharing the gospel, sacrificially loving people, standing for justice–to save our position and comfort. And left in our own sin every man and woman rebels against God. We don’t want Jesus to rule our life, and so we cry out, “I have no king but me.” I’m not Peter, Pilate, or a jewish religious leader. The faults I see in them, however, are the same faults I see in me. We are broken sinners. But we are sinner that Jesus loves, sinners that Jesus died to save.
Good Friday reminds me that Jesus came to save sinners. Rebellious, idolatrous sinners. On this Good Friday meditate deeply on your sin so that you will better know the depths of Christ’s love for you. Look at Jesus on the cross and see how serious and ugly our sin is. Look at the cross and see how deep and strong God’s love is for you.