The seven messages for Good Friday

Good Friday is a profound day in its quiet solemnity. It is filled with emotions. It is peaceful, but also depressing. Jesus’ death on the cross puts us to shame. All He wanted was to bring peace and make the world a better place. And where was the gratitude for it?

It is early on this Friday morning. The soldiers bring Jesus, whom they had arrested, to Pilate. “Are You the King of the Jews?” is his ignorant question. “It is as You say,” Jesus says and falls silent. There are so many lies, insults, and threats that it is impossible to defend oneself against them. Only hours later, He is crucified. And here too, Jesus is mocked, ridiculed, taunted—the whole scale of human injustice. Once crucified, a person is lost.

But at this very point, this Man’s inner strength emerges. According to Scripture, Christ speaks seven last words on the cross.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

Much has been written about this statement. If only human beings always knew what they were doing, the world would likely be a better place. Their thinking is too petty, too narrow-minded, too rash, too carefree and irresponsible. And then they crucified the Man who had come to save them because He was different and presented a threat. He told them the truth. Because to have a choice means having to make a decision, and this has to do with responsibility.

“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

This statement clearly expresses compassion. Empathy. The man whom Jesus is talking to deserved his sentence. But not Jesus. But this statement says even more: no matter who you are or where you come from, God loves you! Seek Him and you will find Him. Repent of your sins and look to the Son of God. God will grant grace even if mankind rejects you.

“Woman, behold your Son!” And, “Behold your mother!”

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is standing under the cross, sharing His torment with Him. But the Christ commends her to His Apostle. He wants him to look after her in His stead. And John, the Apostle, has to agree to this assignment. No excuses, no negotiations. They become an entity: from now on, the church and the Apostle ministry belong together.

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

To find an answer to this is hard. Ministers, pastors, know what it feels like to be speechless. Dying is frightening. It presses and weighs on the soul. This is how people feel when they are at death’s door. Actually, it is not really intended as a question, but more of an exclamation, a cry: “Do not leave me! Not now!” And that in turn proves Jesus’ trust in the One who is stronger than He is.

“I thirst.”

Only two words for human needs. They cannot kill God, but the Man Jesus Christ. In His agony, when nothing else matters any more, He is thirsty: for water, but also for love and warmth, for closeness and esteem. It is terrible if a human being is completely alone as death approaches.

“It is finished!”

A verdict at the end of a life. What will we say when our end nears? He, who is breathing His last, has completed a work which is still talked about to this day. He was not a one-day wonder, but a historic figure. And He finished what He had come for: He ignited a fire in mankind that is still burning.

“Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”

In the afternoon, Jesus cries out with a loud voice and dies. It has become dark, the sun’s light fails. At the same time, the veil of the temple is torn in two from top to bottom, opening up the view of the Most Holy Place. In the evening they bury Him in a tomb.

Photo: Ricardo Reitmeyer / fotolia

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Peter Johanning
Good Friday