Good Friday – The Darkest Hours

When I was a teenager, I once stayed overnight at a colleague’s home. Before retiring for the night I browsed the bedroom bookshelf and found the most unusual piece of literature…an old, huge handwritten volume of on-the-scene experiences of a young British private in WW1. An amazing book really, filled with on-the-spot drawings of soldiers and war and detailing the young man’s fears, confusion and concerns.

One particular incident gripped me vividly… about a time when certain death faced this young soldier and his little group of outnumbered comrades come the dawn when superior forces would attack. He graphically described that dark lonely night that was filled with personal alarm, horror and fear inspiring tension as he waited in the terrifying blackness during those long trying, uncertain hours.

That the night is always darkest before the dawn is so true! Men wept openly, men prayed to the God they weren’t even sure existed.

Then the dawn. Shouts, battle fire, dense smoke, and a horde of enemy soldiers moving quickly toward the brave but doomed little group.

Then an incredible thing happened
… suddenly, just as the outnumbering German forces were about to attack, an army of heavenly soldiers dressed in khaki uniform appeared from nowhere through the smoke and drove back the enemy. Fear fell on the Germans and they fled and the little group was saved.

Just as suddenly as they had appeared the unstoppable ghost army disappeared and a holy reverence fell on the young man and his comrades. Had they imagined it? Had it really happened? There was no other group of British soldiers near them. The dark hours had given way to victory for them despite their fears.

The dark hours

Dark hours…we all have them from time to time. Fear can come in, as can a sense of being alone and no one caring. Doubts can lead us to believing lies. Ever notice how troubles, uncertainties, sicknesses and the unpaid bills always seem bigger – worse – in the dark hours? I guess we’ve all been there.

Let me remind us of a very special soldier who went through his own night of dark hours with no one, no heavenly army, just for us…

‘Good’ Friday
Black Friday, dark Friday, evil Friday. For on that awful day, at noon, the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, would begin to die on a rugged cross at Calvary outside Jerusalem to personally pay the penalty for every wrong committed by every member of the human race.

An incredible, amazing and horrible event. The agony he would suffer would become unbearable. Crucifixion was called the worst of deaths, yet it would be more so for Jesus for he would know pain beyond pain as he became a sin offering for all of us and suffer torment beyond torment and the rejection of his friends and – worse – his Father God.

For all for us. Sin is wrongdoing, sin is evil, and sin must be punished. God has said so. But God does not want any one to perish in eternal hellfire. So he sent his Son Jesus to pay the penalty instead. Amazing. Love demonstrated at its highest example.

The dark hours of that historic Friday probably began around midnight. His disciples – his so-called friends – had deserted him in fear for their own lives when the local authorities arrested Jesus. Now, alone and without support, he’s bound and dragged before the priest Annas for questioning, then to Caiaphas the high priest and the whole Sanhedrin – the council of religious teachers.

Somewhere between one and three am he is heavily interrogated, struck on the face, falsely accused, spat on and repeatedly struck with fists followed by successive resounding slaps. And his prophetic ministry and holy personage mocked.

Outside, his previously best friend, Peter, has denied their relationship three times…just as Jesus had prophesied! Jesus is truly alone.

The dark night moves on. There is further interrogation by the Sanhedrin, probably between 6 and 8am, as day dawns. Will it never end? More indictments are railed against Jesus and he is wrongly judged as worthy of death. But the Sanhedrin no longer has the legal right to inflict capital punishment so they cunningly send him bound to Pilate the Roman governor for official condemnation and crucifixion.

Outside the city, Judas, who also betrayed his friend Jesus, hangs himself in self-condemnation and guilt. But there is no remorse among these so-called religious people who do not want Jesus as the God and king of their lives… (Has anything changed today among religious people who profess Christianity but don’t want to submit to Jesus’ right to rule them?)

Pilate also questions Jesus and, admittedly, endeavours to find a way out for him. But the Sanhedrin brings new pressure to bear. Pilate sends Jesus off to the local authority, King Herod. It’s now around 8.30am. Herod fails to get a response from Jesus and he too has him mocked and treated with contempt, then returned to Pilate.

Jesus’ dark hours continue relentlessly…
Pilate, still convinced Jesus is innocent, decides to let him off after corporeal punishment. But the religious leaders and the now gathered crowd won’t have a bar of that. ‘Crucify him’ they scream and scream. How foolish! Their hasty foolishness will become a self-indictment against them before God.

And then it begins…the real dark hours. Somewhere between 9 and 11am, some of Isaiah’s terrifying prophecies of our Saviour’s awful, horrendous ordeal and sufferings are fulfilled.

Picture if you can, the atrocities committed on the Son of God. He’s publicly scourged with a club of leather thongs ending with little metal chains with lead pellets or hooks; he’s stripped and dressed with a scarlet robe, a crown of long thorns is rammed on his precious head; he’s mocked, spat on and struck on the head. His beard is ripped painfully from his face.

An ugly scene. An ugly time. Madness! Satan and evil or misguided people are having their self-centred way.

Yet, incredibly, Jesus says nothing to defend himself or escape the horror, torture and mockery. Such is his resolve to fulfil his Father’s will that he die to save all humankind that he does nothing to protect or free himself either through word or the use of supernatural or angelic power.

He’s returned to Pilate who again tries to release this guiltless man…but then submits to the pressure of the religious leaders and the crowd. Barabbas, a real criminal is released instead. Pilate washes his hands of the whole thing. But only the blood of Jesus can forgive and wash away mistakes, wrong doings and sin! And that blood has yet to be spilled on Calvary.

We move on in the time frame. It’s coming up to noon by now. Pilate has given the order invoked by the very people whom Jesus came to save…’Crucify him.’ Jesus is again mocked, stripped of his supposedly kingly robe and dragged away to be hung on a wooden cross between two thieves.

On the route to outside the city wall, women cry when they see what has been done to the one who had been a friend to so many, had healed so many, had spoken kindly and comforting to so many. Amazingly, in spite of his pain and discomfort, he still has a kind word for them, and a prophetic word of challenge regarding future days.

The weight of the crossbar he was forced to carry, the several beatings he had taken, the agony… has all been too much. Jesus is very weak by now and a visitor from Cyrene is compelled to carry the heavy wooden crossbar.

Oh what it must have cost Jesus to drag himself through the streets of his beloved Jerusalem and up the hill to the area called Golgotha, or Skull Hill. And the worst is to follow.

The dark hours carry on into the fulness of the day
The crossbar is now attached to the upright, lying on the ground. Jesus is forced down onto it. The nails – those long heavy, ugly nails are forcefully hammered into his wrist, the only part of the hand able to bear weight on a cross, and into his feet. He was God but he was human. He would have screamed in new agony with every hammer blow. The Romans knew no pity.

Then comes the pain-bringing jarring through every part of his being as they haul the cross upright and drop it and Jesus with a thud into the prepared hole in the ground. The shuddering would have run through his whole body bringing wracking renewed agony. The terror, the pain of what crucifixion does to every part of the body now really begins…

Noon! Eerie, unexplainable extreme darkness falls across the land as the Son of God begins to really take on the punishment properly due every sinner ever born and the heavenly Father in his own pain turns his face of light away from his Son!

Yet, somehow, through dry, chapped lips Jesus finds strength to throatily forgive all who have wronged him this dark day. Even a dying thief receives a blessing of assurance of forgiveness and heaven ahead.

The Romans had crucifixion down to a fine art to punish those they cruelly hung. Very quickly those crucified would long for death and release. But the agony was deliberately prolonged. And Jesus isn’t dying as one man receiving human punishment; he’s dying for all humankind. His agony is multiplied beyond understanding and counting! He can only take so much.

Three pm, Jesus cries out to his heavenly Father and submits his dying and future to the Holy Spirit. Our Saviour dies alone. In a lonely place. On a lonely cross. In a lonely moment.

The dark hours are finally over
What inner agonies, what bodily pain did Jesus go through for us? Did doubts afflict him; did he wonder if it was really all worthwhile? Where were his friends? Where was his Father God, the Holy Spirit, the angels…!
Not everyone was going to appreciate his sacrifice or accept him as Saviour…people would go on despising him, not believing in him, mocking him, passing him by, and millions would come to use his name as a swear word. Even ‘Jeez’ is a diminutive of ‘Jesus.’ Two thousand years later not a lot has changed – except for those who have accepted him as friend and Saviour and Lord.

Over the centuries many would deny Jesus. Many today say that they don’t believe in that ‘sort of thing.’ But the facts can’t be changed. Humankind has sinned, we all need forgiveness of our sins – the breaking of God’s laws and our spurning of his love and right to rule our lives – we all need a Saviour. Jesus is that Saviour! And we owe him so much!

Thank you, Lord that you carried those dark hours!
Oh dear, dear Lord Jesus…whatever went through your mind – or were you too much in pain to even think about what was going on? – thank you that you did go on to Calvary to become our Saviour. We owe you so much! Yet we are soon so ungrateful at times and forgetful of your grace and mercy. Forgive us afresh and help us today to reverently remember that you did it all for us. Only you – the spotless, perfect lamb of God could have gone through with it all.

Thank you for your determination, your incredible love for God’s wayward creation. Thank you Father God for your awesome plan of salvation. Thank you Holy Spirit that you moved in on resurrection Sunday and raised Jesus from the dead to become our Lord and Saviour with victory over Satan, sin and selfishness, death, the grave and the future! Our hope for today and tomorrow is truly in you!

Come Good Friday Christians remember what Jesus went through for us but on Easter Sunday we’ll celebrate and shout, ’The dark hours are over! He’s alive! He’s alive and he reigns forever more! He’s now my Saviour every day, every hour of every day. Every dark hour in my life will turn to blazing light because he lives!

Facing dark hours?
If you’re facing some dark hours then this Good Friday – or any day, even today – give them all to Jesus…he understands. He understands your hurts, your uncertainties, fears and pain. He’s been there, he knows…and he has the power to help you, comfort and strengthen you. Just give it all to Jesus. Talk to him…he’ll listen; he’ll move to help you. He loves you; he’s your friend, your Saviour.

Black Friday, dark Friday, evil Friday indeed, yet a great Good Friday for us! Forget about Easter eggs for a moment and praise God for his unspeakable love and sacrifice through Jesus. Hallelujah!

This Good Friday remember – not with sorrow, but with an expectation of victory – to celebrate the fact that Jesus went through dark hours on our behalf. And … that today he lives for each of us to give us great blessings of sins forgiven, reconciliation with Father God, peace, health, happiness and an incredible future through the Holy Spirit’s supernatural help. Not some ghost or angelic army will come to your rescue but Jesus himself. He’s already fought life’s battles for you. Don’t be afraid or terrified, trust him for every victory!

And it’s all because he loves us so. Rejoice Easter Friday; don’t sorrow as those without hope! Don’t wait until Easter Sunday! Remember this…the darkest hours are those before the dawn. Let Jesus take you into a new dawn, a new day… a day of resurrection life and hope for every tomorrow!

The old song, ‘Because he lives, I can face tomorrow…’ still brings great hope!

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