(April 01, 2022) Robert and Maureen McQuillan solemnly share Easter thoughts…
‘The night is always darkest before the dawn!’ is an old but for many today still a very realistic adage.
It’s Easter’s Good Friday next week – but a dark Friday indeed when one fully realises what Jesus Christ must have gone through!
Good Friday? Bad Friday, evil Friday, fearful Friday!
Thinking aboutthat daycaused Robert to recall staying overnight at a colleague’s home many Easters ago. Not immediately sleepy, he browsed the bedroom’s shelves and found the most unusual book… an old, handwritten volume of on-the-scene experiences of a young WW1 British soldier.
An amazing diary really, filled with drawings of horrific battle scenes. One incident caught Robert’s attention… aware of what his friends and he would face as one particular new day broke on them, the writer had painfully detailed fears, confusions, and concerns.
Certain death faced this little group of outnumbered comrades when superior forces would attack them! Graphically he described that dark lonely night filled with alarm, horror, fear, and tension as they waited in the terrifying blackness during those long trying, uncertain hours.
‘The night is always darkest before the dawn’ he wrote! ‘Men wept openly; men prayed to the God they weren’t sure existed.’
Then the dawn. Shouts, battle fire, dense smoke, and a horde of enemy soldiers moving quickly towards the brave but doomed group.
Suddenly an incredible thing happened… just as the outnumbering German forces were about to attack, from nowhere a ghostly group of ‘heavenly soldiers’ dressed in khaki appeared 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 ‘angelic’ army disappeared, and a holy reverence fell on those young men. Had they imagined it? Had it really happened? There was no other group of ‘real’ British soldiers near them to help. Miraculously the dark hours had given way to victory for them despite their fears.
Reflecting on that incident reminded us that we all have dark hours from time to time. Fear can come in, as can a sense of being alone and no one caring. Doubts can lead to believing lies. Troubles, uncertainties, sicknesses, and unpaid bills always seem bigger – worse – in the dark hours! Guess we’ve all been there, perhaps still are with continuing troubles worldwide.
Reminded us too of a very special ‘heaven-sent soldier’ who went through a night of dark hours just for us with no one, no heavenly army assisting …
Black Friday’s dark hours
One dark Friday at noon, the Son of God began to die on a cross at Calvary outside Jerusalem to personally pay the penalty for every wrong committed by every one of us.
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 the sin offering for all of us, suffering torment beyond torment and the rejection of His friends and – worse – His Father God.
Sin is wrongdoing, evil, and must be, will be punished (Romans 6:23a). But God does not want anyone to perish in eternal hellfire (Romans 6:23b). He sent Jesus to pay the penalty for everyone (John 3:16-17). Amazing. Love at its highest.
The dark hours of that historic Friday probably began around midnight. His disciples – so-called friends – had deserted Him in fear for their own lives when local authorities had 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 – that council of religious teachers.
Somewhere between one and three am God’s Son is –
- Heavily interrogated,
- Falsely accused,
- Struck on the face,
- Spat on,
- Repeatedly struck with fists,
- Followed by successive resounding slaps,
- And His prophetic ministry and person mocked.
Outside, Peter, previously His best friend, denies 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 as the Sanhedrin don’t have the right to inflict capital punishment, they cunningly send Him bound to the Roman governor, Pilate, for official condemnation… and crucifixion.
Outside the city, Judas, who too betrayed His friend, hangs himself in self-condemnation and guilt. But there is no remorse among these so-called religious people who don’t want Jesus as the God and king of their lives.
Has anything changed today, even among religious people who profess Christianity but don’t want to submit to Jesus’ right to rule us?
Pilate again questions Jesus, endeavouring 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 8.30. Herod fails to get a response from Jesus and also has Him mocked and treated with contempt, then returned to Pilate.
The dark hours continue relentlessly…
Still convinced Jesus is innocent, Pilate 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 (Isaiah 52:13, 53:3-12).
Picture if you can, the atrocities committed on God’s Son. He is…
- Publicly scourged with a leather-thronged club ending with little metal chains of lead pellets.
- Crowned with long thorns rammed on His precious head.
- Mocked, spat on, and struck on the head.
- Brutally treated, beard ripped painfully from His face.
- Stripped and mockingly dressed in a scarlet ‘robe’ (Matthew 27:28). Isaiah and Revelation associate scarlet with sin and prostitution but Matthew’s chlamys ‘robe’ indicates an emperor’s cloak. So think of this courageous, sinless King being disgraced and about to die for us.
One ugly Friday
A time of madness! Satan and 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 and die to save all humankind that He does nothing to protect or free Himself, either through word or the use of supernatural angelic power.
He’s returned to Pilate who again tries to release this guiltless man… but then submits to the pressure of religious leaders and the crowd. Barabbas, a real criminal, is released instead. Pilate washes his hands off the whole thing. But only the blood of Jesus can forgive and wash clean mistakes… 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, healed and spoken kindly and comforting to so many.
Amazingly, in spite of His pain and discomfort, He still has a kind word many, and a prophetic word of challenge regarding future days.
The weight of the crossbar He is forced to carry, the several beatings He had taken, the agony… has becomes 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 Skull Hill... Golgotha.
Worse is to follow…
Darkness over the land
The dark hours carry on into the day and an ugly cross lies on the ground. The crossbar is attached to the upright and Jesus is forced down onto it.
Long heavy, ugly nails are forcefully hammered into His wrists – 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 pain-bringing jarring as they haul the cross upright and drop it and its prisoner 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 begins…
Comes noon! Eerie, unexplainable extreme darkness falls across the land as our Saviour begins to really take on the punishment properly due every sinner ever born. The heavenly Father in His own pain turns His face of light away from His suffering Son!
Yet, somehow, through dry, chapped lips Jesus finds the strength to throatily speak forgiveness to all who have wronged Him that dark day. Even a dying thief receives a blessing and assurance of forgiveness and heaven ahead. And He even thinks of His brokenhearted mother, Mary.
The Romans had crucifixion down to a fine art, punishing those they cruelly hung. Very quickly those crucified would long for death and release… but the agony was deliberated prolonged. And Jesus isn’t dying as one-man receiving human punishment; He’s dying for all humankind. His agony is multiplied beyond understanding! 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.
His ‘dark hours’ finally over
What inner agonies, what bodily pain did He really go through for us? Did doubts afflict Him, did He wonder if we are really all worthwhile? Where were His friends, His Father God, the Holy Spirit, powerful 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, Saviour, and Lord.
Today many still deny Jesus, saying today 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 spurning His love and right to rule our lives – we all need a Saviour. Jesus is that Saviour! And we owe Him so much!
It was indeed a black Friday for Jesus… but a good Friday for us!
This ‘Good’ Friday?
Christians should, will, solemnly remember much of what Jesus went through for us… Some of Stuart Townsend’s 2005 song The Power of the Cross come to mind:
‘Oh, to see the dawn
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.
This, the power of the cross:
Christ became sin for us,
Took the blame, bore the wrath:
We stand forgiven at the cross.’
A dark time for Jesus, yes! But on Resurrection Sunday we’re going to celebrate and shout, ‘The dark hours are over! Through the power of the Holy Spirit, He’s alive and reigns forever more! He’s now my Saviour every day, every hour of every day. Every dark hour in my own life turns to blazing light because He lives!’
What about you? Facing some dark hours? Give them all to Jesus… He understands. Your hurts, uncertainties, fears, and pain. He’s been there, He knows…and has the power to help, comfort and strengthen you. Just give it all to Jesus. Talk to Him… He’ll listen and move to help you. He loves you, He’s your friend, your Saviour.
Black Friday, dark Friday, evil Friday… yet a Good Friday indeed! Praise God for His unspeakable love and sacrifice through Jesus. Hallelujah!
Read Romans 5:6-11 and remember this Good Friday to celebrate the fact that Jesus went through dark hours on our behalf. 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.
And when opportunities come our way, may we share this Good Friday news with those without hope!
‘Because He lives, I can face tomorrow…’ wrote Bill and Gloria Gaither back in the sixties during a time of their personal challenges. Let’s share the good news!
Dr Robert and Maureen McQuillan’s links are OnlinerConnect@gmail.com and Facebook (Scripture/other emphases in this Onliner ours. Appreciated images/pics: various general sources available for reuse under creative commons have been used in good faith and not for profit).