Jesus Was Crucified at 9 am: Reflections on Good Friday
The following are my notes for our church’s Good Friday Service. I hope these reflections bless you as we prepare our hearts for Easter.
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My name is Benjamin; I’m one of the teaching pastors here at Community Church. Welcome to our Good Friday Service. In just a moment we’ll formally begin our service. To prepare our hearts, please listen to our music team play a rendition of Psalm 88, which is a well-known Psalm of Lament. It’s an appropriate way to begin our Good Friday Service.
Song: “Can the Dead Rise Up to Praise?” (here)
Would you join me in prayer? “Dear Heavenly Father...”
In the early church, there was a young pastor named Timothy, who was called by the Lord to pastor a church in the ancient city of Ephesus. The Apostle Paul wrote two letters to Timothy that we have in our Bibles. In one of those letters, Paul told Timothy to “devote [himself] to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). Each Sunday we do all three of these: we read Scripture, we exhort, we teach. But we often have more of the latter two (exhortation and teaching) than we do the reading of Scripture. So tonight we are going to major on the reading of Scripture, and I’m praying that the plain reading of Scripture would have its own way of exhorting and teaching us with the goal that our hearts might be strengthened by grace.
All ten of our Scripture readings tonight come from the gospel of Luke. The readings encompass the events that took place on Good Friday so many years ago. We are going to intersperse the readings of Scripture with songs, a few we’ll ask you to sing along with if you know them and a few the band will play over us as we listen and reflect. Before each cluster of readings, I’ll come forward to give a brief introduction to the readings. I’ll also venture a guess as to the “time stamp” of when each event took place throughout the Thursday night when Jesus was arrested and to Friday afternoon when Jesus died. Some of the times are exact because they are stated in the Gospels; other times are approximations based on what seems plausible. (I was helped by this article by Russ Ramsey.)
I’ll lead us in the first reading, which comes from Luke 22:47–53. This reading covers the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, which took place sometime in the late hours of Thursday night, so, perhaps something like 11:00 pm. Jesus, as you’ll see in the passage, refers to the following events as the beginning of an evil hour and “the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53)
Reading 1: Luke 22:47–53, Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
Song: “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”
After Jesus is arrested, he is beaten and mocked by soldiers. As well, religious leaders convene a council where Jesus is tried. All this takes place in the early morning hours of Good Friday, perhaps somewhere between 2:00 am and 6:00 am. Meanwhile, we’re also told that just as the sun is coming up, Peter denies knowing Jesus.
Reading 2: Luke 22:54–62, Peter Denies Jesus
Reading 3: Luke 22:63–65, Jesus Is Mocked
Reading 4: Luke 22:66–71, Jesus Before the Council
Song: “Oh God” by the Citizens
Now that the sun is up, the pace of the story quickens. Between 6:00 am and 8:00 am, Jesus appears before the Roman governor Pilate, and then the Judean ruler Herod Antipas, and then he goes back to Pilate where Jesus is sentenced to crucifixion. Between 8:00 am and 8:30 am, Jesus begins his march to Golgotha, which is an Aramaic word. Luke calls Golgotha by its translation: “The Place of the Skull,” likely so called because the rock formation looked like a skull and also because it was a place of execution and burial.
Weakened from his sleepless night, his beatings, and his flogging, Jesus is unable to carry his own cross, so a man name Simon is conscripted to carry the cross for him. We can’t be certain, but when you piece together what is said in Mark’s gospel with something that’s said in the book of Romans, it would seem that at least one of Simon’s sons and Simon’s wife became followers of Christ and even leaders in the early church (Mark 15:21 and Romans 16:13). We can’t know, but I’d love to think Simon became a believer in Jesus as well.
The crucifixion begins around 9:00 am. Over the next three hours, Jesus has a conversation with the criminals on the cross, and we do know for sure that one of those men becomes a believer, because Luke tells us so.
Reading 5: Luke 23:1–5, Jesus Before Pilate
Reading 6: Luke 23:6–17, Jesus Before Herod
Reading 7: Luke 23:18–25, Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified
Reading 8: Luke 23:26–43, The Crucifixion
Song: “Man of Sorrows”
After Jesus was on the cross for three hours, from 9:00 am until 12:00 noon, a strange darkness was over the land. Then, at 3:00 pm, in a loud voice, Jesus cries out to his father and gives up his spirit.
Sometime later that afternoon, as the sun sets—so perhaps around 5:00 pm—Luke tells us of a rebel, a wealthy religious leader named Joseph. Joseph did not consent to the condemnation of Jesus, as the other religious leaders did. Very bravely, Joseph requests permission to bury Jesus in a tomb.
In the Jewish reckoning of things, one day ends and a new day begins at nightfall, which means Good Friday comes to a close at sundown. But just before the sun goes down, Luke tells us a few women followed to see where Jesus is buried. Then they return home to prepare spices, which they intend to bring to the tomb in two days, after the Sabbath rest day and the celebration of Passover.
Reading 9: Luke 23:44–49, The Death of Jesus
Reading 10: Luke 23:50–56, Jesus Is Buried
Songs: “The Power of the Cross,” “There Is a Fountain,” and “Nothing but the Blood”
Closing Thoughts & Prayer
I don’t think it’s stealing the punchline from Sunday’s Easter sermon to tell you what happens. We know the story. The women never get to use the spices they prepared to place on his body. His body is gone.
Tonight we’ve been reading from Luke’s gospel, but it’s fair to say that the rest of the New Testament, in a way, is doing two main things: first, the New Testament gives us the interpretation of the events that took place on Good Friday and Easter. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God was reconciling us to himself (2 Corinthians 5:18). Jesus bore the punishment we deserved and now—wonderfully—the perfect life of Christ is given to us. Through faith in Jesus, God now sees us as having the perfection of his Son.
The second thing the New Testament authors do is explain the implications of Good Friday for our lives, the life of the Church, and the future of the world. We certainly don’t have time to tease out all of the implications of the death and resurrection of Jesus. That will take our whole lives, indeed even our eternities.
But we should mention one implication. One implication of Good Friday and Easter is that believers in God do not grieve as those who have no hope, as Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13. We certainly grieve when a Christian who we love dies, and we certainly do the same on Good Friday.
Yes, we grieve the weight of our sin and the gravity of the cross of Christ. But Christians do not grieve on Good Friday as those who have no hope. We have great hope because the spices prepared for his burial were never used. And even so, when we die one day, our own tombs will not be our final place of rest. We will be with Jesus in paradise, just as Jesus promised the thief on the cross.
Join me in prayer, and then we’ll be dismissed. “Dear Heavenly Father...”