A blessed Good Friday to you, my friends! What are you doing today to wrap your minds and hearts around this tragedy-turned-beauty we celebrate today?
Me? I will continue to soak in the scriptures of Jesus’ last week and try to keep an attitude of gratitude for the intense mercy and love that Jesus poured out on my behalf. One thing hit me when I was reading in John 10 not too long ago. I’ve “known it” but I think my heart finally understood it: This path to the cross and all it entailed was 100% Jesus’ choice.
In love for us, He restrained every fiber of His human and Heavenly being, submitted to the scorn, hatefulness, abuse, torture, loss, pain, and then to death. Willingly. No one made Him do any of it. Though the scoffers and participants in the crucifixion would think that they were the main antagonists in the drama, it was Jesus Himself who allowed every breath those enemies of the cross took, so that they could carry out the plan that would hang Him there… so He could die… so we could live. How great a salvation! How overwhelmingly wonderful a Savior! Oh, praise the Lord with me!!!!
A few years ago I was slowly reading and soaking in some Thursday and Friday passages from the chronological timeline of Jesus’ last days when I realized that there are some things we (at least I, and those I hear tell the Story) tend to miss in the retelling of the Easter story. Did you know that seven incredible miracles occurred on that day, in addition to Jesus’ death as payment for our sins?
We read of these miracles in Matthew 27:51-56, Mark 15:38-41, and Luke 23:14-15 & 47-49. I’m just trying to imagine what the people who were unaware of Jesus’ death were thinking about these strange and disturbing happenings… I find them fascinating and hope to do some further study on each of these events.
1. The curtain of the sanctuary separating the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place tore in half from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:51 & Mark 15:38)
Scholars say that this curtain was at least FOUR INCHES thick, and made from woven fabric. Up until that point, only the High Priest could have access behind the curtain, where the holiness of God was represented. But praise the Lord – When that curtain was torn, all people gained access to God! Because the tear was from top to bottom, it represents the truth that access to God always begins from God’s end… From Heaven to earth, Jesus to man.
2. There was a great earthquake. (Matthew 27:51) Many more than just those near Golgotha felt the impact. And scientists can even prove it!
The International Geology Review focused on earthquake activity at the Dead Sea, located 13 miles from Jerusalem… To analyze earthquake activity in the region, geologist studied three cores from the beach of the Ein Gedi Spa adjacent to the Dead Sea. Varves, which are annual layers of deposition in the sediments, reveal that at least two major earthquakes affected the core: a widespread earthquake in 31 B.C. and a seismic event that happened sometime between the years 26 and 36. The latter period occurred during “the years when Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judea and when the earthquake of the Gospel of Matthew is historically constrained,” Williams said.
3. Rocks split open. (Matthew 27:51) The landscape was forever changed. Both literally and spiritually.
In Luke 19:40, Jesus said that if His followers kept quiet, even the rocks would cry out. In Habakkuk 2:11, a warning is given about the stones crying out under the weight of sin. This splitting of the rocks became a permanent reminder of what had happened that day that would forever change our lives.
4. The tombs were opened. (Matthew 27:52) Not much is known about this, but because the Bible says it happened, we can be sure that it did! Could God have been making the point that a grave could not keep Jesus???
5. Many bodies of the saints who were dead were raised to life. (Matthew 27:52). Did you know that? We don’t know who they were, and what they did from Friday through Sunday (see next point), but we are told that many were raised to life.
John MacArthur says, “When Jesus died, their spirits came from the abode of righteous spirits and were joined with their glorified bodies that came out of the graves. This was full and final resurrection and glorification, making this miracle another foretaste of God’s sovereign work during the end times, when all the dead in Christ shall rise. They didn’t appear in Jerusalem until after the Lord’s resurrection, because He was divinely appointed to be the first fruits of those who sleep. They probably appeared to only believers as did the resurrected Lord.” (The Mystery of the Resurrection)
6. After Jesus’ resurrection, these same saints went into Jerusalem and appeared to many people. (Matthew 27:53) Can you imagine??? Where did they go? Who did they see? What did they say? What did others say to them? Where did they go after Sunday? Did they go back into the tombs? Oh how I would love to know more about this!
We don’t know much, however we do know one thing – these saints didn’t appear until AFTER Jesus was resurrected. Those tombs remained opened and the resurrected believers were walking around after Jesus proved that death could hold neither Him, nor those called by His name.
One day, one glorious day in the future, tombs will open again, and the dead in Christ will rise! Thess 4:16, 1 Cor 15:51-54, and John 14:19
(That’s US, my friends! Those of us who have given our lives to Jesus Christ as Lord will rise and join Jesus in the air! Earthly death is really just the beginning of true living!)
7. At noon, it became totally dark. (Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, Luke 23:44-48). Luke tells us that the whole earth was “enveloped by darkness” for three hours. Total and unexplainable darkness. What were the people in other nations and areas thinking about this? No sun, no stars, no moon… total darkness. Can you imagine the chaos at the cross? How about everywhere else?
Over the years skeptics have tried to explain this away by calling it an eclipse of some kind. However God decided to do it, the Bible tells us that the whole earth went dark, and we can take that as the truth.
This darkness of the earth was an outer reflection of the inner darkness of our hearts, our sins, God’s forsaking of Jesus because of Jesus’ carrying of our filth. This enveloping darkness represented the emptiness, heaviness, and chaos of a world when the “Light of the World” was dying on the cross.
Matthew 27:54, Mark 15:39, and Luke 23:47 tell us that these seven things terribly frightened the ones who saw them. It caused those witnessing these miracles to proclaim, “Surely this was God’s Son!”
Yes… This was God’s Son. And on this Good Friday, may we remember with deep heart gratitude that God’s Son died instead of each of us, so that we could live.
He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
2 Corinthians 5:15, NLT
Praising our Lord Jesus for this Friday… for our sakes, it certainly is Good!
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