Good Friday

Good Friday is the one day in the earthly life of God's Son about which the authors of the gospels have recorded the most details by far. The four gospels dedicate a total of 13 chapters to the events of that day, stretching from the Last Supper of the Lord with the disciples to His farewell discourses, His capture and hearings, and His crucifixion and death. When we contemplate these events, which are of greatest significance in the history of salvation, we gain an increased awareness of the magnitude of the sacrifice which our Saviour Jesus Christ brought out of love for humankind.

In most languages, the day of Jesus' death is described as a "holy Friday". Even the English term "Good Friday" cannot be taken literally to denote a "good" Friday in the modern sense of the word. It is an altered form of "God's Friday" and is thus also understood in the sense of a "Holy Friday". The term "Great Friday" is often used in Orthodoxy. In the German language, it is sometimes called "Quiet Friday" but it is mostly known as "Karfreitag." The "Kar" is derived from Old High German and signifies "mourning" or "atonement."

Whatever the designation for this day, it is of note that nearly all groups consider it a matter of fact that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ took place on a Friday. And this notion is not quite as self-evident as many think. In reading the accounts recorded in the gospels, we note that there are divergent chronological sequences over the last days of Jesus' life. Nevertheless, we also note that all decisive events of significance to the plan of salvation are consistent with one another, and that any deviations in the texts apply to secondary matters that are of no great consequence for our faith or the deeper meaning of Jesus' sacrifice.

One thing that is certain is that the feast of the Passover takes place on the 14th of Nisan (a Jewish month approximately analogous to March/April), which is not a fixed day of the week. In the three similar gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we read that the evening meal the Lord celebrated with the apostles was in fact the Passover meal, which was taken during the night between Thursday and Friday. By contrast, Apostle John relates that the Lord instituted the Lord's Supper on the day before the Passover feast. According to that account, the crucifixion would have taken place on a Thursday. This would certainly be consistent with Jesus' statement that He would spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (cf. Matthew 12: 39-40).

Since the differences in the accounts cannot be resolved and a single chronological sequence cannot be assigned, it would be futile to dwell on this issue. In keeping with a tradition that has existed since the middle of the second century, we commemorate Jesus' sacrificial death on the Friday before Easter. Although this day is not a legal holiday in all countries, our Church conducts Good Friday services with Holy Communion in all congregations where it is possible.

What happened over the days before Good Friday?

The last days before the sacrificial death of Jesus were recorded in great detail by the writers of the gospels. The Lord had entered into Jerusalem from Bethany, riding on a donkey amid the cheers of the crowds. He cleansed the temple of the moneychangers and dove sellers, and healed the lame and the blind who approached Him in the temple (cf. Matthew 21: 14). A number of arguments followed, both with the Pharisees concerned with upholding the Law, and the Sadducees, the group to which the chief priests belonged. Then the Son of God foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and taught His apostles about the future. He vividly described His return in both the parable of the ten virgins and the parable of the talents. In addition, He made it clear that He would be crucified (cf. Matthew 26: 2).

The chief priests and scribes, along with the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the chief priest Caiaphas and discussed how they might cunningly take Jesus Christ captive and put Him to death. In the meantime, the Lord went back to Bethany, where a woman anointed His feet with costly oil. Even here the accounts seem to diverge from one another. According to Matthew 26: 6-13 and Mark 14: 3-9, this anointing took place in the house of Simon the Leper, while John reports on an anointing by Mary in the house of the three brethren Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, which took place before His entry into Jerusalem (cf. John 12: 1-8). This is probably a case of two different events which are easy to confuse on account of their similarities. The gospel of Luke (cf. Luke 7: 36-50) likewise reports of an anointing in the house of Simon, but this had also occurred prior to the Lord's entry into Jerusalem. At this point it should be mentioned that many opponents of the Holy Scriptures draw on these divergent accounts to support their claims that the Bible is not genuine, and flawed in itself. On the other hand, we see these passages as a clear indication that the accounts of Christ's life were extremely holy to the first Christians. They did not compare the individual writings with one another and edit them in order to create a perfect and conclusive piece of documentation. Rather they preserved the records of the apostles and their helpers as precious texts and saw in them the foundation of the doctrine. We believe that each of the evangelists described the events from his own perspective. And even if the sequences of events are not always identical, even if some details that are ultimately of secondary importance are described differently, God still ensured that all the essential elements significant to the plan of salvation would remain consistent - and at times even complementary to one another - within the four gospels.

The Last Supper with the disciples

Before the Lord sat down to supper with the apostles for the last time, He sent Peter and John into the city during the day with the task of preparing the Passover lamb. He told them they would be able to secure a room from a man who would be carrying a jug of water. And that is how it happened. That evening, Christ gathered in this room with the twelve apostles. For the Jews, a new day does not begin at midnight, but already with the setting of the sun. The subsequent events thus took place on the last day of Jesus' life, and thus also constitute part of the account of Good Friday.

During this gathering, the Lord took off His outer garment, put on an apron, poured water into a basin, and washed the feet of His disciples. Then they sat down at the table. While they ate, the Lord told them with sadness that one of them would betray Him. They asked Him who it was. He answered: "He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish." It was Judas Iscariot. The latter stood up from the table and went out into the night. In vivid detail, Matthew describes how the Son of God instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion during this supper: "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body.' Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.'" This explained the words that had caused many of His disciples to turn away from Him when He once told them: "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you" (John 6: 53). After the Last Supper, the Lord told Peter that He had prayed for Him that his faith would not falter. He then gave him the commission: "When you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." Then He went on to say that Peter would deny Him, which the latter refused to accept (cf. Luke 22: 31-34). John 13:31 to the end of John 16 records Jesus' discourses of comfort and farewell through which He strengthened His apostles and once again taught them in detail. He gave them the promise that the Holy Spirit would come to them as a Comforter after His ascension to the Father.

But above all, He promised them: "I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (cf. John 14: 3). The gospel of John also records the high priestly prayer of the Son of God, in which He prayed for Himself, His disciples, and His future congregation (chapter 17). We should repeatedly read this incomparable prayer and the farewell discourses of the Lord and allow them to move within us. In reading these accounts we can practically hear the Lord speaking and praying the way John had experienced Him.

Gethsemane

After the supper, the Lord and the apostles went to the Mount of Olives. Jesus told the disciples that they would all leave Him during this night. Peter and the other apostles replied that they would stay with Him even if they had to die, but the Lord again pointed out to Peter that he would deny Him that very night, before the rooster had crowed. When they came to a garden called Gethsemane, the Lord instructed His own to sit down. He took only Apostles Peter, John, and James along with Him. He told them: "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me." Then He withdrew from them about a stone's throw away, knelt down, and prayed: "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." Then an angel appeared in order to strengthen Him. Luke relates that the Lord then wrestled with death and prayed so intensely that His sweat fell to the ground as drops of blood. After the Lord had prayed, He went back to the disciples and found them asleep. Then He said to Peter: "Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Twice more He withdrew a little distance from them and prayed, and when He returned, the disciples had again fallen asleep. After the third time He told them: "Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand."

Even as He spoke, Judas came with a large group of armed men sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. There were also servants of the Pharisees with them. When it came to taking the Lord captive, the two rival religious groups of Israel-the Sadducees and the Pharisees-joined forces in a common cause. We can well envision this group of people equipped with swords and spears, torches, and lamps. The Lord Jesus, who knew what was about to happen, approached the men and asked: "Whom are you seeking?" They replied: "Jesus of Nazareth." He answered: "I am He." They drew back and fell to the ground. Again, Jesus asked them whom they were seeking, and again they told Him: "Jesus of Nazareth." To this the Son of God replied: "If you seek Me, let these go their way." Judas Iscariot had told the servants beforehand that he would give Jesus a kiss. The betrayer approached the Lord, kissed Him and said: "Greetings, Rabbi!" The Lord replied: "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" The surrounding disciples asked the Lord if they should fight with the sword, and Peter even drew his sword and cut off the right ear of one of the servants of the chief priest. Jesus healed the servant and ordered Peter to put his sword back into its sheath. He said: "Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?" Then He turned to those who sought to take Him captive: "Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching you in the temple, and you did not seize Me. But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then the men seized Him and bound Him. The disciples all fled. Only the gospel of Mark contains the following statement: "Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked." It has always been assumed that this young man was Mark himself. The author of this gospel had thus related an account out of his personal experience and in these few words had described a striking encounter with the Son of God. However this supposition has never been proven.

Peter denies the Lord

Then the men brought the Lord into the house of the chief priest Caiaphas, who presided over the temple that year. All the chief priests, many scribes, and elders had also assembled there. Simon Peter and another disciple had followed the crowd at a distance. The second disciple-it is assumed that it was John-was acquainted with the chief priest, and went into the courtyard along with the Lord. At first Peter had to remain standing by the door, but after the other disciple had spoken with the servant girl who kept the door, she allowed Peter to enter as well. The latter sat down with the servants and warmed himself by the fire. He wanted to see how things would develop. The servant girl who kept the door asked him if he was also a disciple of Jesus. Peter denied it. Another maid asked him the same thing, and again, Peter denied it. He was addressed one last time: "Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you." (Note: the Galilean dialect of Capernaum, the city from which Peter came, was quite different from the Aramaic spoken in Jerusalem). For the third time, Peter denied knowing the Lord Jesus. And then the rooster crowed. When Peter heard this, he remembered the Lord's words that he would deny Him three times. At that moment, the Lord turned to Peter and looked directly at him. How must this glance have struck the apostle! He went out and wept bitterly.

The trial before the high council and the end of Judas

After His arrest, the Lord Jesus was tried before the chief priests and the council. They had decided to put Him to death. They had false witnesses appear, who accused the Lord of various things, however their testimonies were contradictory. Finally, two others came and said that they had heard that Jesus could destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. Even they did not agree in their testimony. Then the chief priest stood up and said: "Do you answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?" The Lord remained silent. Then the chief priest said: "I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!" Jesus replied: "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." Then the chief priest tore his clothes and said: "He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!" Then he asked the assembled group for their opinion and they answered: "He is deserving of death." Then they spat in the Lord's face, covered His head, and beat His head and face, mocking Him with the words: "Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?" Finally they bound Him and brought Him to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate early in the morning.

When Judas Iscariot saw all this, he wanted to give the 30 pieces of silver back to the chief priests and elders. He told them: "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." They turned him away with the words: "What is that to us?" Then Judas threw the money into the temple and hanged himself. Later on, the chief priests used the money to buy a potter's field in which to bury pilgrims. Thus the old prophecy recorded in Zechariah 11: 13 was fulfilled. Matthew mistakenly ascribes these prophetical words to the Prophet Jeremiah. Even in this passage we see the respect of the Bible copiers and translators, who did not simply correct the error, but rather left the old text unaltered as a precious testimony.

Jesus' first hearing before Pilate

Early in the morning, the chief priests and council members brought the Lord before the courthouse, the fortress of Antonia, in which Pilate resided. John relates that strictly faithful Jews would not enter the house of this heathen because they believed they would thereby defile themselves, according to the Mosaic Law. So it was that Pilate came out to them. Now that the governor had been drawn into the affair, the sentencing and ensuing execution of Christ was no longer a matter for the Jews alone. Now the heathens-that is, those who did not belong to the chosen people of the Old Covenant-had also become involved. Both Jews and gentiles-in other words, all people, whether chosen or not-had a hand in executing the Lord, who would later become the Redeemer for both.

Pilate asked why they had brought Jesus to him. They answered that He was a criminal. The governor told them to judge Him according to their laws. But they countered by saying: "It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death." Had the Lord been executed according to Jewish law, he would not have been crucified, but rather stoned to death. Then His accusers cried out that Jesus had forbidden the people to pay taxes to Caesar, and had moreover claimed to be a king. Pilate went back into the courthouse and had the accused brought in to him. Jesus said nothing in response to the accusations of the chief priests, which astonished made the governor. He asked Him if He was the King of the Jews. The Lord countered with the question as to whether he was asking on his own, or whether others had told him to ask whether He, Jesus, was a king. Pilate replied: "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?" The Son of God answered: "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." Pilate persisted in his question: "Are You a king then?" Jesus replied: "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." When Pilate heard this he asked: "What is truth?" Then he went out and said to the chief priests and the assembled crowd that he could find no fault with Jesus. The accusers claimed all the more insistently that He would stir up the people throughout all of Judea and Galilee. Pilate asked whether Jesus was a Galilean, and someone confirmed that this was true. Then he sent Jesus to Herod, who had been appointed regent in Galilee under Roman sovereignty, and who was staying in Jerusalem for the Passover feast.

Jesus is tried before Herod

This Herod, whose epithet was Antipas, to whom the chief priests and scribes now brought the Lord, was one of the sons of Herod the Great, who had ordered the murder of the children in Bethlehem. Only Luke reports on this hearing. He again refers specifically to these events in the book of Acts (cf. Acts 4: 27). Herod had desired to see Jesus, of whom he had already heard, for quite some time already. He was happy that this man was being brought to him. He was hoping the Lord would perform a sign. Herod asked many questions, but the Lord refused to answer anything at all. On the other hand, the chief priests and scribes accused Him vigorously. When Herod did not receive any response from Jesus, he and his court began to mock Him. They put a white garment upon Him and made fun of Him. Then Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. It was on this day that Herod and Pilate, who had been enemies to one another before, made friends.

The verdict

Back at the courthouse, the Son of God was scourged. The soldiers wove a crown of thorns, placed it upon His head, clothed Him in purple, mocked Him with the words, "Hail, King of the Jews," and struck Him in the face. Pilate went back out to the assembled crowd and told them that he could find no fault with Jesus. He had the Lord step outside clothed in His purple garment and wearing His crown of thorns, and said: "Behold the Man!" Then the chief priests and their servants cried out that Jesus should be crucified. Pilate replied: "You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him." The accusers noticed that their charges-namely that Jesus had forbidden people to pay taxes to Caesar and had made himself a king-had not produced the desired effect with Pilate. So they tried a new angle. They said that Jesus was deserving of death according to the Jewish law, because He had said He was the Son of God. When Pilate heard this, he began to be afraid. He went back into the courthouse with Jesus and asked: "Where are You from?" He received no reply. The governor continued: "Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?" Then Jesus said: "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin." From that moment on, Pilate looked for an opportunity to let the Lord go free. When the Jews noticed this, they cried: "If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar."

Then Pilate had Jesus led out. He himself sat down in the judgement seat. In those days there was a custom that the Roman governor would release one captive of the peoples' choosing during the Passover. The governor gave the people the choice of releasing either Jesus or a notorious killer by the name of Barabbas, who had committed murder during an uprising. Pilate had noticed that the Lord was innocent and that the people were accusing Him out of envy. While Pilate sat upon the judgement seat, his wife sent a servant to him with the message: "Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dram because of Him." But the chief priests and elders persuaded the people to insist on the release of Barabbas, and the execution of Jesus. In answer to the governor's question as to whom he should release, the people cried out: "Barabbas!" When he went on to ask what should become of Jesus, the crowd cried out that He should be crucified. When Pilate objected and asked what evil Jesus had done, they cried even more loudly: "Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!" Pilate inquired further: "Shall I crucify your King?" Thereupon the chief priests answered: "We have no king but Caesar!" When the governor saw that all his efforts to release Jesus were futile, he took water and washed his hands in front of the people, saying: "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it." Then the people answered: "His blood be on us and on our children!"

So it was that Pilate released Barabbas and delivered Jesus up to be crucified. The whole garrison of soldiers ridiculed Him. They put a reed in His right hand and threw themselves down on their knees before Him. The soldiers spit at Him and hit Him on the head with the reed. Then they led the Lord out to be crucified. A man by the name of Simon of Cyrene had just returned from working in the field. They forced him to carry the cross of the Lord. Incidentally, there is no mention in any of the gospels that the Lord Jesus collapsed under the weight of the cross, as is sometimes told. A great throng of people followed the Lord, among them many women who wept for Him and mourned. But He turned to them and said: "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children." He was referring to the time in which the inhabitants of Jerusalem would long for death: "Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us!' and to the hills, 'Cover us!'"

The crucifixion - Jesus' sacrificial death

Two criminals were led along with the Lord Jesus to the place of execution called Golgotha, which was located in front of the gates of the city. The soldiers offered Him vinegar mixed with gall to drink. This had already been prophesied in a Psalm by David many years before: "They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Psalm 69: 21). However the Lord declined the drink. Then-according to Mark it was around the third hour, in other words around 9:00 o'clock in the morning-the soldiers crucified the Son of God between the two criminals. And even this detail had been prophesied: "And He was numbered with the transgressors" (cf. Isaiah 53: 12). The evangelists refrained from illustrating the unimaginable torture of such an event, and we too will keep to a sober, objective portrayal of the events.

It moves us deeply when we read that the Lord Jesus prayed for His torturers in these moments of torment: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." Pilate had had the words, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek on a plaque affixed to the cross. The generally familiar letters "INRI" are an abbreviation of the Latin translation "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum." The chief priests told Pilate: "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'He said, "I am the King of the Jews."'" But Pilate countered with the words: "What I have written, I have written." The four soldiers who had crucified Jesus took His clothes and divided them into four parts But His tunic, which was without seam and woven in one piece, they did not divide, but instead cast lots to determine which of them should keep it. Again we find a prophetical foreshadowing of this occurrence in a Psalm of David: "They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots" (Psalm 22: 18). The people who walked past the cross shook their heads and scoffed: "You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross." The chief priests, scribes, and elders likewise ridiculed Him: "He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.'"

Finally one of the criminals beside Him also spoke to Him: "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us!" But the other criminal reproached him and said: "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." Then the thief turned to Jesus and said: "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." To this the Son of God replied: "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." What grace Christ had thus granted this sinner in the last hours of his life, in which he could do nothing more to atone for his deeds! Because he was repentant and remorseful, the criminal found grace.

A number of women were standing next to the cross, among them Jesus' mother Mary, her sister, and two other women by the name of Mary. One of them was the wife of Cleopas (one of the two disciples whom Jesus encountered on the way to Emmaus after His resurrection), and the other was Mary Magdalene. The mother of the Apostles John and James was also present. Apostle John-the words "the disciple whom He loved" are generally understood to refer to him-was also at the cross. Then the Lord said to His mother: "Woman, behold your son!" and to John: "Behold your mother!" And from that moment on, John took the mother of Jesus into his own house.

At the sixth hour-around 12:00 noon according to our time reckoning-a great darkness covered the entire country, and it lasted until the ninth hour, or until about 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon. It was at this point that the Lord cried out aloud: "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" In translation this means: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Some of the people nearby, who heard Him speak these words from the first verse of Psalm 22, said: "Look, He is calling for Elijah!" Then Christ cried out: "I thirst!" In response, one of the soldiers dipped a sponge into a vessel filled with vinegar, reached it up to the Lord, and let Him drink from it. Others said: "Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him."

Matthew and Mark both report that the Lord cried out aloud once more before His death. In the gospel of John we read words that attest to the victory the Lord had gained: "It is finished!" And in the gospel of Luke it says: "And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, 'Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.' Having said this, He breathed His last." With this last cry of prayer on His lips-also taken from a Psalm of David (cf. Psalm 31: 6)-the Lord died.

Events after Jesus' death - the burial

Dramatic events accompanied the death of the Lord: the earth shook and the rocks split. When the centurion and the soldiers who were guarding Jesus felt the earthquake they were greatly frightened. Fear seized them and they said: "Truly this was the Son of God!" One of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear. When he saw that water and blood flowed from the wound-which meant that Jesus was already dead-the soldier did not break His legs. The soldiers did however break the legs of the two criminals beside Him, in order to hasten their deaths. Again, two more Scriptural passages had been fulfilled (cf. Zechariah 12: 10 and Exodus 12: 46).

The moment Jesus died, the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies in the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. Therein we recognise a sign from God that Christ's sacrifice had now replaced the sacrificial service of the temple and that grace had now been made accessible to all. Thus the Old Testament had come to its conclusion and the time of grace had begun. The power of the devil had been broken. Jesus Christ had gained the victory! Liberated, He went into the beyond and preached to the dead. Apostle Peter reports that the Lord went to those who could not believe during the time of Noah (cf. 1 Peter 3: 18-20; 4: 6).

That evening, a rich man by the name of Joseph of Arimathea, who belonged to the high council but had not approved of Christ's execution, went to Pilate. He asked the governor for Jesus' body. Pilate was amazed that Jesus was already dead. After having confirmed His death with the captain, He granted Joseph permission to bury the Lord. Joseph of Arimathea had had a new grave hewn out of a rock for himself, and that is where he brought the body. Nicodemus, who had once been instructed about the rebirth out of water and the Spirit (cf. John 3: 5), brought expensive ointments, and Joseph purchased linens. Then the two took the body, the ointment, and the spices, and wrapped Him in the linen cloths according to Jewish custom. Then they laid Him into the tomb and rolled a large stone in front of the entrance.

Even now that Jesus had died, the chief priests were still afraid. The next day, they and some Pharisees went to Pilate and said: "Sir, we remember that while He was alive, how that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise.' Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead.' So the last deception will be worse than the first." The governor gave in to their wishes and assigned them some soldiers who accompanied the Pharisees to the grave, sealed the stone, and guarded the tomb.

But the will of God cannot be hampered by human measures-not then, not today. And just as Easter followed Good Friday at that time and Jesus Christ arose from the dead, so too will the sufferings of His loyal children end with the first resurrection, on the day that God has decided in His plan.

Why did Jesus Christ have to suffer and die?

When we allow the suffering of the Lord, as recorded in the gospels, to work upon us in all its detail, then we might well ask: "Why did He have to take all this suffering upon Himself? What was the reason He had to die?" The suffering and death of Christ was required according to God's will, in order to bring about a reconciliation between God and mankind, and in order to deliver sinful mankind from the curse of sin and its ultimate consequence, namely death (cf. Hebrews 2: 14). Out of His love toward us, God permitted His Son to take on flesh, and sent Him to earth. Jesus Christ withstood all the temptations of Satan, and was thus able-as an innocent human being-to take the sins of all mankind upon Himself and gain merit sufficient to pay for all debts of sin, through His blood. The Son of God fulfilled this task out of His own free will and in divine love, in order to thus redeem mankind from eternal death, and establish a way back into fellowship with God and thus into eternal life.

Already in the Old Testament's accounts of Prophet Isaiah we read of a servant of God who would suffer, and these statements refer to none other than the Lord Jesus. When we read these words carefully, we find many parallels to the suffering and death of the Lord, and it becomes very clear that He not only suffered physically, but rather endured unspeakable pain in His soul under the weight of sin of all mankind. Let us just read what it says in Isaiah 53: 4-8 and 11-12: "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgement, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

Not all the other passages from the Old Testament will be presented here. Nonetheless, one more bears mentioning, namely God's curse upon the serpent, in which He said: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (Genesis 3: 15). In the 24 hours of a single day-Good Friday-these and many more divine prophecies, which had been given over the course of many hundreds of years, had been fulfilled.

A few Bible passages from the New Testament are also worth mentioning, as they illuminate the deeper meaning of the events of Good Friday. Let us just consider this one from Apostle Peter: "...because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 'Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth'; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness-by whose stripes you were healed" (1 Peter 2: 21-24).

How do we see Good Friday? What does it mean to us?

For us, Good Friday is a day of celebration in which we honour the sacrifice of Christ in deep thankfulness and humbleness. We commemorate Jesus, who gave His blameless life for us, so that we sinful human beings could escape death, and receive eternal life with God. This day calls to mind an event that was necessary for salvation, and thus it is just as holy to us as Christmas, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. Good Friday is not merely a glance into the past meant to evoke repentance and remorse. On this day of fellowship-just as in each divine service-we also thankfully claim the victory of Christ for ourselves.

(From: © Our Family, "Doctrine and knowledge" vol. I, Friedrich Bischoff Verlag, Frankfurt)