Easter Explained – Part 5
From You Version
For the last 1,600 years, Christians around the world remember the last days of Jesus’ life during Holy Week. Today is Good Friday. Good Friday remembers the day Jesus was condemned by Pilate, crucified on a cross, and buried in a tomb.
The Jewish court system has found Jesus guilty of blasphemy and deserving of death (Mark 14:63-64). But Rome had different standards for what deserved the death penalty, and only they could execute criminals (John 18:31). So the chief priests drag Jesus before Pilate and claim that he’s a tax evader and insurrectionist who calls himself the ‘King of the Jews’ (Luke 23:1-2). Jesus never said this, but he doesn’t deny the title either. He simply adds that his Kingdom is not an earthly one (John 18:36-37). But Pilate clearly sees the religious leaders are making up crimes to seem like friends of Rome while forcing Pilate to do their dirty work. To expose their hypocrisy, Pilate tells them he will release one of two men: either the innocent Jesus or an actual insurrectionist and threat to Rome (Mark 15:7-10). Their choice will prove their true motives. Predictably, they choose to release the rebel. The religious leaders don’t care about Rome, they just want Jesus dead.
When asked what should happen to Jesus, they convince a growing mob to chant, ‘Crucify him!’ (Mark 15:13). Jesus is immediately flogged and carted off by a troop of soldiers to be tortured. Mocking his claim to kingship, they dress him in a purple robe, ram a crown of thorns on his head, and mockingly bow to this king. They then hammer his sentence to the top of a cross before nailing his wrists and ankles to the beams: ‘This is Jesus, King of the Jews’ (Mark 15:26). The cross is raised into place and for hours Jesus hangs, bleeds, and suffers.
Before he dies Jesus asks God to forgive his tormentors. He promises a guilty man crucified next to him that he will see him in heaven soon. Jesus then dies. But at that exact moment, a curtain in the Jewish temple is torn in two (Mark 15:38). Symbolically, that curtain blocked access to God’s presence. But once a year the chief priest would go behind that curtain and sprinkle some blood on a box called the mercy seat. And in response God would show mercy and forgive the sins of the high priest and God’s people regardless of what they had done wrong.
The prophet Isaiah predicted that one day God would send someone who would be rejected by Israel’s leadership, condemned by his fellow citizens, and abandoned by his closest followers. That person was Jesus. Isaiah, thinking of Israel’s many sins and failures, says that Jesus ”was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
Like a good king, Jesus took responsibility for the failures of his subjects. He was pierced, crushed, punished, and sacrificed for the sins, failures, and cruelties of his guilty citizens. And since Jesus was willing to be their sacrifice, there is no longer a curtain between the guilty and God’s mercy. Nothing blocks access to God’s presence for anyone anymore.
Good Friday is good news because Jesus’ death announces that there is forgiveness for all sins. His blood pulls back the curtain of God’s mercy and now all people can be forgiven and saved from a death that would otherwise be deserved.
So I pray that on this Good Friday you would accept Jesus’ death in your place. Only through him will you have access to God’s mercy and only by his blood do we escape the death we deserve.