(April 5, 2023) Robert McQuillan recalls last Easter…
Why last Easter? you ask. It’s almost this Easter, Good Friday is only a couple of days away!
That’s the very reason I’m recalling last Easter, especially Good Friday. Oh I know we’ll be rejoicing come Resurrection Sunday when we’ll all joyfully praise God for the fact that Jesus overcame death, defeating what’s called the last enemy (Acts 2:24)! Hallelujah!
But… think about Friday, Good Friday, the most solemn day of what we call Holy Week. This is the day when Christians bemoan the fact that Jesus went through so much agony and pain even before He was treated as a criminal and nailed to an ugly cross on Calvary’s hill!
So what was good about that? Who came up with the ridiculous title of Good Friday? So strange, so weird! I would have called it Black Friday!
Actually it appears no one knows who first called it Good Friday. Some think that maybe somebody first termed it God’s Friday, anticipating all that God was achieving through His Son’s sacrifice on Calvary –
- All our sins forgiven.
- A clean slate for us on genuine repentance and accepting Jesus as Saviour.
- An incredible relationship with God (first one having been broken back in Eden).
- A guarantee of heaven and home for eternity!
- God’s public announcement of His love for humankind. (As Dr Richard Winter writes in The Cross-Centrepiece of the Gospel of Christ).
A costly Friday!
But oh, what it cost Jesus to live through that awful Friday to fulfill God’s redemptive plan, knowing what lay ahead, the hell He would be going through for us! The agony that He went through alone in the garden of Gethsemane – no nearby awake friends to pray with Him, console and encourage.
He was crushed, being ‘… in great anguish He prayed more intensely, so that His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground’ (Luke 24:44CJB)! ‘Drops’ is thrombos, a clot in the sense of thickening, ‘great’ drops as the KJV puts it. Message Bible reads ‘Sweat, wrung from Him like drops of blood, poured off His face.’
No wonder in agony, Jesus cried out: ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death’ (Mark 14:34NLT), fulfilling Isaiah 53:5, ‘He was crushed for our iniquities.’ (See Dr Winter’s In-the-garden).
Some other incidents that made ‘Good’ Friday not just a bad but a ‘Black Friday,’ that Jesus had to handle and respond to, were –
- Those sleeping disciples. His response? ‘Sleep on’… (Matthew 26:45MJKV).
- Judas’ arrival to betray Him. Jesus called him friend! (Matthew 26:50).
- Arrest and bound like a criminal (John 18:12). He could have but didn’t call down 12 legions of angels (Matthew 26:53).
- Heavy interrogation by religious enemies (John 18:19). He quietly spoke the truth (v 20-21).
- Facing many false witnesses (Matthew 26:60). He remained silent (v 63).
- Struck on the face (John 18:22). Merely gently asked a question (v23).
- Being spat on, beat up, mocked (Mark 14:65, 15:19). Took it all in, no retaliation from this strong carpenter who had emptied the temple! (Matthew 21:12).
How awful were the many atrocities committed on God’s Son. He’s…
- Publicly flogged with a leather-thronged club ending with little metal chains of lead pellets (John 19:1).
- Crowned with long thorns rammed on His precious head (Matthew 27:29).
- Brutally treated, beard ripped painfully from His face (Isaiah 50:6).
- Stripped and mockingly dressed in a scarlet ‘robe’ scarlet being associated with sin (Isaiah 1:18).
- Condemned by Pilate as a criminal to be crucified (John 19:16).
- Public disgraced as He carries the crossbar (stauros) of the cross He will be crucified on (John 19:17).
- Crucified on Calvary’s hill, His body already battered and bruised, our Saviour, God’s Son, experiences…
– being nailed to that crossbar now fixed to the waiting upright!
– jarring causing more pain as the upright is dropped uncaringly into the ground hole!
– more mocking.
– a bitter drink.
– stabbing by a Roman soldier.
– more pain, caused through hanging on that cross, dying for our sins that offend a Holy God (1 Peter 2:24)!
Ever seen one of those huge Roman nails, those spikes, some 7-9 inches (18-23 cm)? I have, courtesy of The Bible Museum. It looked terrifying, revolting, so ugly that even before I took it in my hands I shuddered as I thought of what Jesus would have suffered!
Feeling it, I began weeping, thinking of the scene in that brilliant 1993 movie, The Visual Bible: Matthew, where Jesus (actor Bruce Marchiano) forced to lie down on the cross sees with horror the first nail being hammered in! Oh the petrified look in those saddened eyes!
Regarded as Persian-contrived around 300 or 400 years BC, it has always been recognised as among the most painful and excruciating forms of punishment leading to death ever created! Jesus paid the most incredible but horrific price to gain our salvation and a secure eternity!
Images usually depict a suffering Jesus nailed through the palms of his hands… but it’s been thought that He was nailed through His wrists. In either case, the wrists were firstly tied tightly to the crossbar of the cross. Whether wrists or palms, the intent was to produce punishment of agonising, ongoing pain, especially with those heavy iron nails. Nails would be hammered inside His feet would have gone through His Achilles tendon (reminder of Genesis 3:15!).
It was an ugly, humiliating death for God’s Son, the incarnated Jesus! But… Hallelujah, as no doubt you do, I rejoice thatJesus rose again from the grave after His death and burial. He’s alive… and the hope of the world! This the real Easter story – not chocolate eggs and bunny rabbits, childhood fun thought they be.
Why did I start this article recalling last Easter? Let me share something very personal, something that causes me to especially remember our Saviour on Calvary’s cross… in relation to last Easter!
As some caring readers know, I had an operation to remove an unexpected and concerning length of colon cancer. The op was successful (thanks to the Lord, prayer, trust in 1 Peter 2:24, and excellent medical team!), but due to a physical reaction involving (sorry to name this… a horrible tube up my nostril and down into my stomach), I was in so much discomfort.
I won’t show an image here (you’re probably thinking ‘Appreciated!’) – but I was in much discomforting pain and hospitalised over Easter. I couldn’t sleep, eat, talk very well, or phone Maureen to update her. Unfortunately the hospital staff didn’t phone her to explain! Hospital visitation wasn’t allowed at that time…
Here’s the cruncher… it was now the early hours of Friday morning, dark in my room, dark outside the large bedroom window, a dark Good Friday morning.
I was so troubled that I cried out to the Lord to take me home… to Him! It was a terrifying moment when I just wanted to give up. But suddenly I remembered things about Jesus, like I written above, all that He had suffered!
I immediately repented, recalling that I was still His servant, believing that He had still much for me to accomplish along with Maureen – with the Holy Spirit’s help! In my mind, I worshipped Jesus in that hospital room, inwardly I cried out to God, sobbingly. ‘Oh, Lord, my Saviour, what I’m suffering… my discomfit, pain, strongest tablets not working, sleepless nights, loneliness… is all nothing compared to what you went through!
Bits of Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21-25 came to me as I was feeling so foolish… but so glad God didn’t take me heaven-home: ‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain… I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary… that I remain in the body.’
How foolish I had been! I began rejoicing that I’d see Sunday and be rejoicing that Jesus had risen triumphantly from the grave! Weary I fell into bed and for the first time in so many nights I fell asleep…
Later that Good Friday morning I awoke so refreshed! Then… a big surprise, one I hadn’t noticed until two nurses came in for the usual morning checkups. ‘Robert!’ exclaimed one, eyes open wide. ‘You’re taken the tubing out! You’ve pulled it all out!’
I was astounded. I hadn’t realised the long tubing was out, now lying on the bedclothes… but I knew I hadn’t even thought of daring to pull it out! I praised God and found it so easy to talk to the nurses, no sore throat not even from the extraction. What’s that old saying? ‘God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.’
The further good news was that I could now phone Maureen and we rejoiced together! Then on Resurrection Sunday I was given more good news – I could go home! I was rejoicing even more! But… in a quiet moment, I thanked my God, not just for my good news but for the Easter good news. Hallelujah, Jesus was alive! I was able to go to church and join with others praising God for all His Easter victories!
Go to church? No, not hospital church, but rejoicing along with ABC TV’s Songs of Praise great old hymns! Oh, a funny little surprise… during my deep and welcomed first sleep for nights, ‘someone’ had slipped in and left me a little Easter egg! Hmm.
Jesus is Alive!
I know… I know… I’ve written some heavy Dark Friday insights above regarding our Saviour. But my bad Friday became a Bright Friday because He’s alive and I know that He loves me so!
But I’ve written as I felt led, sharing great truths. Christians owe Jesus so much… only He could have gone through it all! May we thank Him in whatever way we choose… singing great old hymns, or meaningful ‘modern’ choruses. And whatever He has spoken to us to be involved with for His church, His kingdom, especially sharing the good news!
Personally I was to discover my new assignments… and went for them. May it be likewise with you, dear readers. Indeed may Paul’s next words (verses 27c-28a) in that last scripture above be very real to you –
‘I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel… without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you…’
Have a Bright Friday! ‘God’s’ Friday!
Dr Robert McQuillan’s link: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com and Facebook