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Good Friday Devotional
As Cheryl spoke about yesterday, on Maundy Thursday we witness Jesus interacting with his disciples in significant, life-giving ways. He lowers himself to wash his disciples’ feet. He eats one last meal, which carries deeper meaning than they can fathom at the time. As always, on that night he taught them what love really is. They could have never guessed that their teacher would display this true love in the most powerful, chain-breaking, and definitive way the following day.
Leaving supper, Jesus took his disciples to the garden of Gethsemane to pray over what would soon take place. Jesus is the Great I AM, he is the Alpha and Omega, he is fully God, but also fully man. As such, he was plagued with the woes of man. He grew tired from a long day’s work and felt pain and sorrow and fear. He knew that if he were to face the next day’s mission, the mission his entire life on earth was building to, he needed to find his hope and trust in God the Father. So he prayed and prayed and prayed some more.
Now, Jesus is the Word of God. Knowing all that was about to take place, he would have had Genesis 22 on his heart. He knew Genesis 22 in his heart because he was there. He saw Abraham obediently take his son Isaac to sacrifice him because Yahweh had called him to. When Abraham proved his willingness to place God above all, Jesus along with the Father and Spirit, stopped Abraham from killing his son and provided a sacrificial lamb to be slain instead.
Jesus was with Isaiah when he wrote about the great servant of God in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. A hard passage that speaks of God’s servant suffering to the point of being unrecognizable, being mocked and despised by all, being crushed while remaining silent. Jesus knows what this prophetic passage is pointing toward: a servant-king who would be much more than anyone could understand–the Messiah would be the very Son of God, Yahweh in the flesh. This servant was and always will be Jesus himself.
Jesus was with Jeremiah when he foretold of the New Covenant (31:31-34) that would be written on the hearts of every believer. A covenant that would differ from the rest because it would not be established by animal sacrifices, always lacking something, but by one perfect sacrifice for all. This covenant would be established upon the Trinity’s choice to “forgive their iniquity, and… remember their sins no more.”
And so Jesus knew that in order for the New Covenant to be established, it meant death for him. When Genesis 22 finds its fulfilment in the suffering servant and God the Father goes to sacrifice his own Son for the sins of his people, there would be no substitute lamb that could take his place. For only a perfect sacrifice without blemish could cover the sins of all, and only one is worthy of such a death–Jesus himself!
All of these truths must have been present in Jesus’ heart and mind when he cried to God in the garden, pleading, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Mt. 26:39). He has prepared his whole life on earth for this. The God-head has been orchestrating this salvation history for some time now. In fact, since before time began. Even so, it remains true that “the Spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt. 41). Jesus prays deliberately that the Father’s will be done, despite the temptation of his own flesh to be spared of the agony to come. And after praying three times, he composes himself to face his betrayer, the angry crowd, and the deathly cross.
We see the fruit of this prayer in the faith that Jesus displays on the cross. When he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he is actually quoting from Psalm 22. Yet, despite this moment of despair, the psalm is not at all about doubting God’s goodness. In fact, it continues on to proclaim God’s faithfulness to his people and calls God to vindicate his servant(s). It acknowledges real fear and pain but resounds with triumphant faith in God’s hope. This comforting Psalm, and every passage pointing to and affirming Jesus’ mission must have comforted Jesus and pushed him to faithfully follow to the end. Jesus knew that the Father had faithfully guided him throughout his life; even to death on this cross. He knows that God will allow him to die; the Son separated from the Father. But he does not lose hope! Instead he fixes his eyes on the vindication that God will bring for his people–death and sin will soon have no dominion over him or his people. The New Covenant will be established and his kingdom will endure forever!
The day of the crucifixion is a sorrowful day because it reveals our own sins, our own brokenness. It is dangerous to skip over the sorrow and gravity of the cross in order to feel the joy and celebration of Easter morning. We cannot blame the Jews or the Romans for crucifying Jesus, our King. We crucified him. We were among the crowd that begged for him to die. We do not lightly call this day Good Friday. It is good because Jesus reclaimed us as good for God. Although Jesus was “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent” (Is. 53:7), his silence does not signify some Stoic divine distance or make him less human. His cross was actual death and separation. He, Jesus, was filled with emotion and passion for his people. He was truly brutally beaten and mocked by the very people he died to save. He felt the weight of it in his legs and on his back as he carried the sins of all people as he dragged the cross to Golgotha. But he clung to God the Father in prayer. He held fast to the hope of reconciliation with his own creation. He loved beyond comprehension. It is a Good Friday because he is good and brings all things, especially his people who are cleansed by the flowing blood, into a new creation.
May the Grace of God be with you always,