Read John 19
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
When the Roman officer who stood facing Him [heard His cry and] saw how He had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39 NLT)
Up until now, it might not be clear why I entitled this series of Holy Week devotions, “Son of God. I mean, sure, I am writing about Jesus of Nazareth who is known by billions of Christians to be the “Son of God.” That much is self-evident; and sure, I am writing about the activities, suffering and death of “the Son of God” because it is Holy Week and that is when billions of Christians celebrate the last days of Christ. But, other than that, why entitle this SON OF GOD.
What most people don’t realize is that the title, “Son of God”, was not held exclusively by Jesus during his lifetime. There was another person who was known to the world at the time as son of god and his name was Tiberius Caesar, just as Augustus Caesar was before him. Because Julius Caesar was divinized following his assassination, Augustus (whose birth name was Octavian) took on the title divi filius, aka son of the divine one, aka son of god. When Tiberius succeeded Augustus, he took on the same title, as did the Caesars that followed him. And, honestly, who was going to argue with them. They were truly the most powerful men in the known world and to argue their divinity with them was to order your own death.
When Jesus’ followers, and later the Gospel writers, started hailing the peasant carpenter from Nazareth as “the Son of God,” this instantly put him in immediate competition with Caesar, who did not take kindly to such competition. What’s more, Jesus wasn’t being called the equivalent of divi filius; rather, he was being called the equivalent of Dei Filius, which put him above the son of a deified mortal and made him the Son of the immortal God. Also, this Jesus claimed that being the Son of God meant conquering people with love and truth, as opposed to Caesar’s way of conquering people with fear and force. It was on this day, nearly 2,000 years ago, that this peasant Nazarene came face to face with the Roman Empire. It was on this day, nearly 2,000 years ago, that the Son of God challenged another son of god. It was on this day, nearly 2,000 years ago, that LOVE and brute force crossed paths in such a dramatic way that the world would never forget it. While brute force may have won the battle, three days later it totally lost the war!
On this Good Friday, we are being called by the Son of God to reflect on the ways we oppose walking the path of LOVE. How often have we tried to force our way on others? How often have we put ourselves above the Son of God through our thoughts and through our actions? Christ is calling us to search our hearts and our souls. The Son of God is calling us to acknowledge his Sonship, his divinity, and his Lordship over our lives. The Son of God is calling us to abandon our ways for his ways, and he is calling us, at all costs, to return to the pathway of LOVE. While this is not always easy, it is what the Son of God calls us to do and his death on the cross is a reminder to us all of the extent to which he was willing to go in order to see that pathway through. The Christ on the cross is waiting for us to join him in his mission.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.” – Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 10:45 NLT)
Lord, precious Son of God, thank you for your sacrifice. Stir up in me a sacrificial love that reaches far and wide to those in need around me. Amen.
Read Isaiah 53
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“My God, my God, why have You abandoned me? Why are You so far away when I groan for help?” (Psalms 22:1)
When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.
His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.
Good Friday. What is so good about Friday of Holy Week? Isn’t this the day that Jesus of Nazareth was put through a mock trial, was found guilty of blasphemy by the religious leaders, sent to Pontius Pilate to be publicly tried, was found guilty of treason against Rome, was whipped, beaten, and crucified? Why in the world would we ever consider this particular Friday good?
Indeed, in terms of what happened to Jesus on that Friday, it was NOT a good Friday. It was the worst of Fridays for him, for his disciples, for his family and for his friends. It was the worst of Fridays for those who put their hope in him as the Jewish messiah, the liberator of the Jews from Roman occupation.
A brief note on the term messiah. The term comes from the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ (pronounced maw-shee’-ak), which in Greek is Χριστός (pronounced khris-tos’). This of course is the word that transliterates into Christ in English. The Jews had many different understandings of who the messiah would be, and what his role would be. With that said, the predominant understanding in Jesus’ day was that he would be a king that would rise up out of King David’s lineage, would come from Bethlehem, and would establish his kingdom and reign forever (through royal lineage). This king would overthrow the foreign occupiers, and re-establish Judah/Israel as a united sovereign kingdom.
Yet, that is NOT all the Bible had to say about who this messiah would be. In Daniel, the prophet foresees a divine “one like a son of man” coming on the clouds to overthrow the oppressive world order and establish God’s Kingdom.
Isaiah talked about a “suffering servant” through whom the sins of the world would be redeemed. Isaiah wrote that this was God’s plan for this appointed sufferer, and wrote of this person that “when he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.” (Isaiah 53:11 NLT)
That is what makes GOOD FRIDAY SO GOOD! Yes, Jesus suffered terribly for those who did not deserve it! Yes, it was not a good day for Jesus or his family or followers. But it WAS…AND IS…Good Friday. If this is still hard to understand, think of someone like Oscar Schindler Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who suffered tremendously (and died) in order to help Jews escape Nazi Germany and who worked tirelessly, and unsuccessfully, to bring down the Adolph Hitler. Or the suffering of Harriet Tubman and others to liberate slaves through the Underground Railroad. While their suffering was not good, it was necessary to liberate countless people. Their suffering was not good, but the moment of liberation was to celebrate!
Good Friday, which marks the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, also marks the fulfillment of God’s promise to liberate humanity from its sin and separation from God. Now, through Jesus Christ, all human beings were given the blessed opportunity to be forgiven for their sins and reunited with their Creator. This is not just good news, THIS IS GREAT NEWS! We do not celebrate the torturous capital punishment of our Lord; rather, we celebrate the good news of liberation from sin, evil and death as a result of his selfless sacrifice. This celebration begins on Good Friday, and culminates on Easter Sunday, when we are given the assurance that in Jesus Christ, sin and death ARE NO MORE!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
There is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. There can be no resurrection without death.
Lord, help me to die to my sins and liberate me from my old self. Redeem me and recreate me so that I may fully live into your image in which I was created. Amen.
Let this virtual journey through the stations of the cross be a point of reflection for you on this Good Friday.
Every year, Christians the world over observe the final week of Jesus’ life, which ends the season of Lent and propels us to resurrected life outside the empty tomb. With that said, in order to experience resurrection and the eternal life that comes from it, one must first experience the passion, the death, and the depths of the cold, dark, dank and hollow tomb. Walk with Jesus as starts his Holy Week journey being hailed a king and finishes it being crucified an enemy of the empire. Enter the dark uncertainty, of the grief-stricken tomb and experience the transformative power of the resurrection on Easter Sunday, when the unthinkable happens, Jesus is RISEN and walks out of the tomb alive! Celebrate Holy Week and encounter the Risen Lord of all Creation, and experience the resurrection through the One who conquered sin and death.
Today’s devotion is SON OF GOD: Good Friday
Wow, can you believe Holy Week is here already? Lent has flown right on by and we now find ourselves in the midst of the holiest week in the Christian calendar. Take this time to reflect on this day within holy week as you read through a devotion I wrote during holy week a few years ago. Click here to begin today’s deovtion.
Click here to view today’s devotion.