Holy Week Friday - Slandered, Sentenced, and Slain
Jesus ended late Thursday night praying in anguish and submission to his Father, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will,” (Mark 14:36) all while his closest friends failed to pray by falling asleep. By the time he finished his pleas to his Father, he knew he must take the wrath of God on the cross for sin. So, he got up, woke up the sleeping disciples and told them his betrayal was at hand (Mark 14:37-42)
A series of painful abandonments and pathetic accusations filled that fateful night.
Judas, a disciple, and supposed friend, betrayed him with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver. And his disciples fearfully fled the scene for their own safety. (Mark 14:43-53)
Jesus gets roughly led before a kangaroo court of Jewish leaders. All they’ve spent their time doing this Holy Week is planning to capture, accuse, and kill Jesus, and yet they still can’t get their stories straight (Mark 14:56). Jesus remains silent during the beginning events, offering no defense or even pointing out their obvious foolishness, thus fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah 53:7:
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
Jesus kept his mouth shut so he could be slaughtered for sinners later that day. They could find nothing wrong with him, but he would soon die for the wrongs of the world.
The Jews finally ask him if he is the coming Christ. He answers that he is the Son of Man and they’ll see him at the right hand of God coming on the clouds in power. Here, Jesus is fulfilling the prophecies of the One, “The Son of Man” who was given all dominion over all nations and an everlasting kingdom by God (Daniel 7:13-14) and who reigns at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1), because this Son of Man was indeed God! Jesus is declaring himself Messiah and God.
The leaders declare “blasphemy” and condemn him to death (that they can’t execute themselves) while spitting on him, beating him, and mocking him, telling him to “prophesy!” (Mark 14:61-65)
All the while, outside the court, Peter had followed close behind and is identified as a disciple of Jesus. Peter heartbreakingly denies Christ three times (Mark 14:66-72), just as Jesus had prophesied he would (Mark 14:26-31), and as Jesus meets his eyes the third time Peter denies him (Luke 22:61), Peter is overwhelmed with grief. While the leaders mock Jesus for his claim to be the Messiah and mock him to prophesy, one of his prophecies is literally coming true, confirming his very identity as the Son of Man who will reign forever at the right hand of God. The leaders are blind to the irony, but it is painfully stark.
Peter runs away, overcome with grief, but Christ had promised to preserve him and Peter will live to see another day and even die for Christ. Around the same time, Judas gives back the silver and kills himself, overcome with grief. There is no happy ending to his story.
Jesus is led away to Pilate, the Roman ruler with the power to give the Jewish leaders what they want, the blood of Jesus. The Jewish leaders make all sorts of false claims about him. Pilate interviews him and asks him about his identity. Jesus does not deny that he is the “King of the Jews,” but is otherwise silent, amazing Pilate. (Mark 15:1-6)
The more Pilate talks to Jesus the less guilty he thinks he is. Pilate’s wife even says she has a dream and that Pilate should not have anything to do with his punishment. And so, overwhelmed with the character of Jesus and underwhelmed with the guilt of Jesus, Pilate tries anything to have his hands clean of this man’s death. He even perceives that Jesus is being delivered to death out of envy (Mark 15:10). Several times he declares to the Jews that he “finds no guilt” in Jesus. (Mark 15:14)
Again, Jesus is being declared innocent of crimes, only to soon die for the crimes of those who declared him guilty.
Pilate sends Jesus away to Herod, only to get him back. Pilate offers (per their custom) to release a prisoner to the crowd, assuming they’ll choose the mild-mannered, humble, and righteous Jew, but instead the Jewish leaders get the crowd to shout the ugliest words ever spoken toward the God-man, Jesus, “Crucify him!” (Mark 15:11-14)
Finally, Pilate gives in, washes his hands of the guilt of the impending death of the Savior of the world, and he sends Jesus away to be even further mutilated with whips to prepare for the most brutal, ugly torture machine of the Roman Cross. (Mark 15:15)
The soldiers mock him, “Hail King of the Jews,” they clothe him with a painful crown of thorns, they give him a purple robe and bow down to him in jest, all while beating him and spitting on him (Mark 15:16-20). Sharp irony is at play again, as one day every knee will bow to this Son of God and every tongue confess that He IS Lord. (Philippians 2)
Jesus is led away with a heavy cross that he needs help to carry. At this point, the Son of God is unbelievably weak—beaten and bruised. The nails are pounded in. The blood starts to pour. The breath starts to get stolen away. This is misery at its worst. They offer him a mixed drink for his pain, which he denies. They cast lots for his clothes. They mock him and tell him that he can save others but cannot save himself, not realizing that to save others he, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, must hold the nails in his hands and let the blood pour out for sins if he will save sinners as the substitute sacrifice and reconcile them to God. (Mark 15:21-32)
Jesus asks the Father to forgive wicked sinners who don’t know what they do when they deny him. He makes sure his mother is cared for. In these last moments, Jesus is still full of mercy and compassion rather than malice and cruelty.
Darkness fills the land. The worst moment comes as the Father turns his face away from his bruised Son, unable to look on the heinousness of sin he is taking upon himself. Jesus cries out in the anguish of the Father forsaking him. (Mark 15:34)
Death is here and Jesus cries out the victory cry of “It is finished” and breathes his last. The promising King of Palm Sunday is dead on Friday. How did this happen?
A first-hand witness in a Roman solider declares, “Truly this was the Son of God.”
The Son of God is taken off the cross and laid in a tomb. The religious leaders have gotten their wish. Jesus is dead.