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Good Friday Choices
In Jewish time reckoning the day begins at sundown. The Last Supper took place on Thursday but when Judas left the meal to go about his business of betraying the man he had followed for three years we read in John’s gospel that "it was night" Thursday had ended and Friday had begun.
This morning I want to lead you in a meditation on some of the many choices that presented them in one way or another on that first Good Friday.
And now the time had come and Judas was about to carry out his infamous act of treachery. Judas had told those he brought with him just how they would be able to seize Jesus even though it was dark. Judas had carefully made his plans and he chose to deliver Jesus with a kiss!
A kiss should be a sign of warmth and affection but Judas showed no love with his kiss. What a choice he had made!
The choice that Judas made was based upon greed.
With the identification complete the forces who had accompanied Judas came up and laid hands on Jesus. This provoked a reaction from Jesus’ other disciples and a bit of a skirmish developed – and act of violence was perpetrated, Peter struck off the ear of the High Priest’s servant. But Jesus didn’t support such action and refused to try to resist arrest. The disciples didn’t know what to do – how confused they were! Then they took their decision: they chose to run away and leave Jesus on his own.
The choice the disciples was based upon fear.
The chief priests and the elders of the people weren’t really interested in trying to get to the bottom of the Jesus’ affair; all they were interested in was getting to the end of it. Having already decided what the outcome of his "trial" must be, they set about attaining their aims.
They too made a series choices that day – they chose to rely on the testimony of those they knew to be false witnesses because they couldn’t find any other way of making an accusation stick and how they wanted to condemn him!
Now they had him within their grasp they couldn’t restrain themselves choosing to vent their anger upon him with insults and abuse.
Hatred drove their choices that day, hatred and envy.
He chose to deny even knowing Jesus and ended up cursing and swearing as he tried unsuccessfully to to deflect the questions that kept on coming.
At that moment the cock crowed! Peter remembered in a flash the warning Jesus had given him just a few hours before and yes, he had now denied his Lord three times. If that was not bad enough for Peter Luke adds that with the cock’s crow Jesus turned and directed his gaze full on Peter. The final straw, wrong choice after wrong choice and now Peter cracked. He couldn’t take any more. He chose to leave, leaving his beloved Master alone, and he wept bitterly as he went.
Poor Peter who was so confident he’d never falter but in a state of stress and confusion made the worst choices of his life.
But it’s too late. Judas is overwhelmed by remorse: he feels bad about what he’s done but he’s not moved to repentance. And in this condition he takes another bad decision and chooses to put an end to his own life.
This choice flows from a misguided attempt to resolve the problem of his own guilt. But he does not go about it in the biblically approved way of repentance.
The chief priests have to make another choice too as Judas throws the silver coins he’d received into the temple courts, and how telling their choice turns out to be!
And what is it about their choice that is so revealing? They choose not to put the coins to temple use but prefer to buy a field to use as a cemetery for stranger: why? – because it is blood money! It tells us clearly that they knew that what they had chosen to do in securing the betrayal of Jesus was wrong! It is the choice of a guilty conscience.
Pilate, encouraged by his wife, tries hard not to have to choose at all, he hopes the crowd will get him off the hook. The chief priests however egg on the crowd and it is the release of Barabbas that they ask for. Pilate can’t escape a decision. Despairingly he asks what he should do to Jesus and the crowd driven by excitement and blood lust call for Jesus to be crucified.
And yet Pilate is still free to act as he chooses. Will he choose to free an innocent and righteous man or will he bow to pressure and choose the way of political expediency?
He tries one more time to evade his responsibility but no-
About the only one who doesn’t seem free to choose is Simon of Cyrene – he was simply forced to carry Jesus’ cross nobody bothered to ask him whether he wanted to or not.
And so, I suppose, we could continue but surely we have already seen enough. We have seen that the choices men and women make concerning Jesus Christ can be affected by many different factors. We should pause and consider how our choices might be determined by utterly unworthy considerations.
Are we really sure that we are immune from: greed, fear, hatred, envy, or confusion? Do we always act transparently and openly and do we never put on a front that we hope others might not see through? And are we never guilty of just mindlessly going with the flow and just doing what others do with not a second thought as to the propriety of it all?
Jesus and the choices he made
As we think about the events of Good Friday we catch a glimpse at how poor human behavior can be and how low mankind can sink. And yet we must not let this produce in us a sense of pity for Jesus. Jesus does not need our pity because he was not some helpless victim. He was not suddenly and sadly overtaken by some unexpected turn of events.
Jesus had chosen to go to Jerusalem
Jesus had chosen to draw all eyes to himself by his mode of entry into the city
Jesus it was who forced the Jewish authorities to fit in with his timetable, it was not the other way round. (They didn’t want to do anything during the feast but Jesus had other ideas! Cf Mt.26:5)
Jesus knew what Judas’ intentions were and yet he chose not to do anything to try to stop him and even sent him away from the Last Supper so that the traitor could get on with his treachery.
Jesus it was who chose to stop his disciples from defending him by physical force and it was Jesus who knew he could call upon legions of angels but chose not to because he wanted to accomplish his Father’s salvation purposes.
When his enemies complained vehemently against him Jesus chose not to answer them even though they sought his condemnation. He chose this route so that he might indeed be dumb as the lamb is before its shearers.
When Peter was cursing and swearing in his denials Jesus chose to look at him, a look which prompted the first stirrings of repentance and subsequent restoration.
No he wasn’t a mere victim, he chose willingly to suffer ignominy and shame, mockery and pain. It was in this way that Jesus chose to drink the cup that the Father gave him!
But not only was he demonstrating his submission to his Father’s will he was at the same time demonstrating the extent of his love for his people. He loved them to the end exemplifying that great love which lays down a life on behalf of others.
Jesus made wonderful choices throughout his life – he always did what pleased his Father, it was his meat and drink to do so – and what wonderful choices the Saviour made on that Good Friday!
What will our choices be like as we ponder these things and as we think about him? How will we respond to him today?