Flagellates scourging themselves; people hanging on crosses; people climbing up cathedral stairs, abrading their knees. All causing pain, and producing blood, the staple of Christian beliefs and practice. It is Good Friday, the day they nailed Jesus.
According to the bible, Jesus was seized by the Jewish ruling body, the Sanhedrin, late Thursday night, or early Friday morning, of Holy Week. They wanted Jesus dead. After all, he had been in town almost a week, after riding into it on an ass, and had, inter alia, cursed a fig tree, raised a guy from the dead, and said he would destroy the temple and rebuild it after three days.
Judas got an unfair rap from history. On Thursday night, Judas had left the Last Supper to go off and betray Jesus for the thirty pieces he had been given him to do so by the Sanhedrin. After the L.S., Jesus et al when to the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives, just outside of the walls of Jerusalem.
Judas let the agents of the Sanhedrin to their little group and identified Jesus by kissing him. It is not known if this was something that was done before this time between them. The Gospel of Mark says that Jesus had with him a young man, with a garment tossed over him. When someone grabbed for him, the garment came off and the young man ran away naked. Odd detail to put into this action packed story.
One might think that Jesus would be well known to those whose tables he had overturned, to those who had been whipped by him, and to those who knew he had cursed a fig tree, raised a dead man from the dead, etc. But we are told Judas was necessary to identify him, and the bible is said by some to be inerrant.
Today, as throughout the history of Christianity, Judas has been reviled and hated as the greatest possible of villains. Yet consider that without him there would be no sacrifice of Jesus as god had planned, no resurrection, no post mortem immortality, and no forgiveness of sins. Christians believe all of this would not have happened if Jesus had not gotten crucified as called for in the program. Salvation is only possible, they believe, because Jesus got crucified as a blood atonement for the sins of humans. So if Judas had not done as he did, we would all still be in a state of hopeless sin and doomed to an eternity of punishment by fire.
After being seized, Jesus was hauled before Pontius Pilot, the representative of Roman rule in Jerusalem. We are to believe that a bunch of much marginalized Jews could wake up Pilot in the middle of the night, and that Pilot would conduct a sort of summary trial on the spot. It is even stranger that the Jews, who did not practice crucifixion, would be permitted to crucify Jesus without a Roman judgment finding guilt and a finding that crucifixion was the proper punishment. Everything about the story of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus was mind bogglingly bizarre. But the bible says it’s so. Jesus was nailed on Friday and was dead a few hours later on Friday.
It usually took the condemned several days to die on the cross. That was the great agony inflicted by this inhuman method of execution that was usually reserved for the worst of traitors. A couple of thieves and a rabble rouser would have hardly met the criteria.
Then consider that Jesus was nailed up on Friday of Holy Week. The Jewish Sabbath started at sundown Friday, so all of those hanging on the crosses needed to be dead before sunset, when work was not permitted and when bodies should not be on crosses. A Roman execution would be a different matter, but Pilot had put the Jews in charge of this one. When it was time to break his legs so he would die faster, because he would no longer be able to push upward to take a breath, it was found that he was already dead. So he was taken down and put in a tomb. Another problem. In Roman crucifixions, the dead body was usually not taken down and buried but allowed to nakedly rot on the cross as part of the punishment and as a warning to others.
So, the Friday of Holy Week, that started with Jesus riding into town on an ass ended with Jesus being dead and put in a tomb.
It is hard to understand just why believers should be upset by this. It was all part of god’s great plan for salvation—have a kid, raise it to manhood, then have it killed as a blood sacrifice to god for the sins of other people.
Great system, huh?
Edwin Kagin © 2012