Good Friday Devotional
BIBLE READING. Isaiah 53:4-9
It was two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The religious leaders who collaborated with the Roman occupation were conspiring against Jesus. They had gathered in the palace of Caiaphas the high priest. This man had received the high priesthood at the hand of Valerius Gratus, the former Roman governor, and now retained the office under Pontius Pilate. They all were planning to arrest and destroy Jesus quietly so as to avoid a popular revolt among the Jews.
At this time Jesus was lodging at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. While he was there, a woman approached and anointed him from an alabaster jar of pure nard. When his disciples saw the act, they were outraged. "Why this waste?" they demanded. "Such costly ointment might have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor." Jesus responded, "Why do you bother the woman? The poor are always with you. Indeed, I tell you that, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told in her memory."
Then one of the twelve named Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, went to the chief priests and asked, "What will you give me if I deliver Jesus to you for the governor?" When they heard the offer, they were glad and promised Judas thirty pieces of silver. From that hour he sought an opportunity to betray Jesus.
At the beginning of the feast, when the passover lamb was sacrificed, the disciples of Jesus approached him and asked, "Where do you wish us to prepare the Paschal meal?" Jesus took two of his disciples and instructed them, "Go into the city, and you will see there a man carrying a water jar. He will show you a suitable place." The two did as Jesus commanded. They entered the city where they found the man with the water jar, who brought them to a large upper room.
When evening had come, Jesus arrived with the twelve. While they were eating, he said, "I tell you truly that one of you is going to betray me." The disciples were stunned with grief and began to protest one after the other, "Surely not I!" Jesus replied, "The betrayer is one of you dipping his hand in the dish with me. The Son of man is fulfilling Scripture, but woe to the man through whom the Son of man is betrayed." Then Judas slipped out into the night.
As they were eating, Jesus took bread. After reciting the blessing, he broke it and gave it to his disciples as he said, "Take, eat; this is my body." Then taking the cup with the traditional blessing, he gave it to his disciples as he said, "This is my blood of the covenant which is being shed for many. I tell you in truth that I shall not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it fresh in the Kingdom of God." Then, having sung a hymn, they left the city for the Mount of Olives.
As they walked, Jesus said to his disciples, "You will all desert me this very night. So it is written in the prophet Zechariah, 'Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.'" Then Peter protested, "Though all desert, I will remain by you." Jesus replied, "I tell you truly that in this very night, before the cock crows twice you shall deny me three times." Still Peter maintained, "Even though I must die with you, I will never deny you.": and so declared all the disciples.
Jesus halted at an olive grove called Gethsemane. Then going apart with Peter, James, and John, he left them on watch and continued a little further alone. There he fell on his face in anguished prayer. Soon he returned to the three on watch and found them sleeping. Rousing them, he asked Peter, "Could you not watch with me for just one hour? Watch and pray that you are not put to the test; for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." Again Jesus went apart in troubled prayer; and again he returned to find the disciples sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. Then Jesus said, "Sleep on and finish your rest. Now is the time for the Son of man to be delivered into the hands of sinners. Here comes my betrayer."
Jesus had not finished speaking before Judas, one of his own disciples, arrived with a group of Roman soldiers and other armed men from the Temple. Now the betrayer had arranged with the authorities for a sign and had said, "The man whom I kiss is the one you want." In accord with this arrangement Judas went directly to Jesus and cried out, "Greetings, Master." Then he gave him the kiss. Jesus responded, "Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?" Immediately the soldiers laid hands on Jesus and held him fast. Then one of the disciples with Jesus drew his sword and cut off an ear from the slave of the high priest; but Jesus said to him, "Sheathe your sword. All who take up the sword will perish by the sword. Do you not know that I can call upon my Father and that he will respond at once with more than twelve legions of angels?" Then turning to the mob, Jesus continued, "Have you come for me as against a rebel bandit with swords and clubs? Why did you not seize me in the Temple, where I sat teaching by day? Were you so afraid of the Jewish people that you must come for me by stealth? Nevertheless, your actions are fulfilling the words of the prophets." Then all of his disciples forsook him and fled.
Those who had seized Judas brought him to Caiaphas, whom the Romans had made a high priest. Peter followed at a distance as far as the courtyard. There he sat with the attendants and warmed himself by the fire. The high priest had gathered his whole council, and they began to arrange the case against Jesus which they would present to Pontius Pilate the governor. The charge was that Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews; and they brought in many false witnesses, but to no avail. Finally two came forward and testified, "We heard this man say, 'I will tear down this temple made with hands and within three days build another not made with hands.'" The testimony was evidence that Jesus claimed an authority over temple affairs which traditionally belonged only to the rulers of Israel, and in those days Israel was ruled from Rome. Yet even these witnesses were unable to agree on their testimony. Finally Caiaphas stood up and examined Jesus directly. "Have you no answer to these charges?" demanded the high priest. Jesus remained silent and answered nothing. Then the high priest put the question of kingship in the terms of the royal titles "Anointed" and "Son of God." "Are you the Anointed One, the Son of the Blessed?" he probed. Jesus answered "I am, and you shall see the Son of man seated at the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven." The high priest turned and said, "What need have we of witnesses? He has condemned himself." They all concurred that Jesus was indeed worthy of death. Then those holding Jesus began to spit on him. They covered his face and were striking him as they taunted him and said, "O Anointed One, prophesy who it is who is striking you."
Now Peter was warming himself in the courtyard when a small slave girl entered. She confronted Peter and said, "You also were with this Jesus the Nazarene." Peter quickly gave a denial. "I do not know what you are talking about," he replied and went outside into the gateway. Meanwhile, the cock crowed. The slave girl followed Peter out and said to the bystanders, "This man is one of them." Again Peter denied knowing Jesus. After a little while the bystanders said directly to Peter, "Surely you are one of them, for you speak with a Galilean accent." Then Peter began to swear with an oath, "I do not know this person of whom you are speaking"; but the cock interrupted him as it crowed for the second time. Immediately Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, "Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times." He went out and wept bitterly.
When morning arrived, all of the chief priests, along with the other Roman collaborators, bound Jesus and delivered him to Pontius Pilate, the imperial Roman governor. When Judas saw what was happening, he knew that Jesus was doomed, and he repented. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and confessed, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood."" What is that to us?" they responded. "That is your affair." Judas threw down the thirty pieces of silver in the Temple. Then he wen tout and hanged himself. Picking up the silver pieces, the chief priests said, "It is unlawful to put this silver into the treasury; for it is blood money". Whereupon they used the money to buy the Potters' Field for the burial of strangers. Therefore, that field is known to this day as the Field of Blood.
Jesus stood before the Roman governor as the accusers made their charge, "We found this man perverting our nation," they said. "He was forbidding us to pay taxes to the Emperor and proclaiming himself Anointed King." The governor asked, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "You say so." The chief priests were accusing him of many things. Therefore, Pilate again spoke to Jesus. "Have you no answer to give?" he asked. "Look at how many accusations they are making!" Jesus astonished Pilate by remaining silent.
At that festival the governor used to release a prisoner, and some were urging Pilate to do so at this time. Now there was a notable rebel in prison with those who had committed murder during the insurrection. His name was Jesus Barabbas. Therefore, the chief priests arranged a demonstration to demand Barabbas. Pilate asked them, "Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus the Anointed One?" The demonstrators shouted, "Barabbas!" Pilate responded, "What shall I do then with Jesus the Anointed One?" The crowd shouted, "Crucify him!" Pilate continued, "Are you certain of his guilt?" The crowd took up the chant. "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Again Pilate spoke, "Shall I crucify you king?' "We have no king but Caesar," cried the demonstrators. Then Pilate agreed to release Jesus Barabbas, but Jesus the Anointed One he handed over to his soldiers for scourging and crucifixion.
The soldiers led Jesus away within the governor's palace. There they assembled the whole battalion. They clothed Jesus in royal purple. They set a crown of thorns upon his head and shoved a reed between his fingers for a sceptre. They began to mock him by kneeling before him and proclaiming, "Hail King of the Jews." They also spat upon him and smote him on the head with a stick. Then, after mocking him, they took away the purple, returned his own clothes, and brought him out to crucify him.
On the road they met an African of Cyrene named Simon coming from the countryside. Him they compelled to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means "skull"). There they crucified him.... They offered him wine mingled with myrrh, but he refused it. His garments they divided among themselves, casting lots for them. Over his head they inscribed the charge against him, The King of the Jews. Also there were two insurrectionists crucified with him, one to his right and one to his left. Those who passed by were shaking their heads in derision and saying, "So you would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! Save yourself. Come down from the cross." Likewise the priestly collaborators mocked him as they said to one another, "He saved others; himself he cannot save. Let the Anointed One, The King of Israel, come down from the cross that we may see and believe." Even the two crucified with him reviled him.
Now from midday there was darkness over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At that hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice,"Eli, Eli, lema shevaqttani!" words that mean, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Some of the bystanders said, "Look, he is calling for Elijah." One of them put a sponge full of vinegar on a stick and laid it to his lips. Others said," Wait! let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down". Then Jesus having uttered a loud cry, breathed his last breath.
Suddenly the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. Even the tombs of the dead were opened. Now, when the centurion on watch and the others who were with him saw all that was taking place, they were filled with awe and said,"This man truly was God's royal Son".
The Lord be with you
And also with you.
Let us praise the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
May the God of all grace, who has called us to his eternal glory in Christ, himself restore, establish, strengthen us. To him be the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
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