Revisiting Good Friday

Each year I re-read the story of the days before the Resurrection from the book of Matthew, just so see if I had missed anything. This year was no exception.  I was reading the part in chapter 27 about Jesus on trial before Pilate, a story I had read and heard read since I was a child.  I had followed the story from the Passover meal Jesus and his disciples had celebrated in the upper room, Jesus’s act of washing of the feet of the disciples to show them how a leader should serve, the breaking of the bread calling it his “body broken for them,” the taking of the hallowed cup from the table and the drinking of it and offering it to them as “the cup of the New Covenant...that your joy may be full.”  I read  Peter’s declaration of total loyalty and Jesus’s prediction that Peter would deny him three times before the break of dawn, of His then telling Judas to “do what you do quickly.” 

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 I had followed the story through the agony of Gethsemane and the vision of just what was in the cup, remembering as I read, the songs we had written inspired by these verses and the whole musical (In the Gardens) about the broader story of redemption stretched like a banner across three gardens (Eden, Gethsemane, and the garden of the tomb). I read on through the actual betrayal with a kiss of Judas, Peter’s striking of the guard with his trusty sword and Jesus’ rebuke of this act, followed by the healing of the severed ear.

 I followed the story from Gethsemane to the awful night of denial, flogging, shaming, and the mock crowning of “the King” with a crown braided of clippings from a cruel thorn bush by the soldiers guarding this “criminal.” I read again the proceedings of the so-called trial before Pilate and his questioning of Jesus, interrupted by the delivery of a note from Pilate’s wife.  She had spent a restless night troubled by a dream and sent the letter asking her husband to have nothing to do with this innocent man.

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 Then came the part about Pilot’s tradition of releasing a prisoner on Passover, offering a choice between the serial criminal Barabbas, and Jesus. And about how the crowd, infiltrated by the chief priests and their cronies, having heard the offer, yelled, “Barabbas!  Barabbas!”  Exasperated, the account said,  Pilate asked for basin of water to wash his hands of the whole thing.  “See to it yourselves,” he had shouted, “I am innocent of the blood of this just man!” 

 Then came the line I had never really internalized before:  “All the people answered, ‘Let his blood be on us and on our children.’”

 I stopped reading.  Illumination flooded my soul.  This is the very prayer I pray for our children every day!  What the clueless crowd that day intended as a condemnation and curse, was, ironically, a prayer! And this was exactly what Jesus was headed to Calvary to do—to cover with his blood the very lives of those and their children who were condemning him to the cross, so he could pour his love and his very blood back on every heart that would accept it.

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 No wonder the very guards that carried out His execution, as they had so many more, stood amazed at the end of that day and said, “Surely, this was the Son of God.” 

 This morning I prayed, as I always do, that our precious children and their children will know today that they have been covered by the blood of the One who came to show us what God is really like—that there is no end to this kind of Love, and that they have access to the power of it as they live their lives in a divisive and sometimes ugly world, bringing the healing of grace, forgiveness, and joy that only comes from something otherworldly.

 And, yes, another song came from the Word’s inexhaustible source.


 Verse 1
Like the restless crowd that milled around the city,
Pilate’s wife tossed restless in her bed.
Was it fear or dread or was it pity?
She wrote an urgent note to clear her head.

 Verse 2
The trial found no crime to charge the prisoner;
The angry mob still shouted their demand—
“Then you see to it!” weary Pilate answered,
“From my hands wash the blood of this just man.”

Let this blood be on us and our children!
Let His cross cast its shadow over us.
Let this blood be on us and our children—
Let this blood, let this blood be on us.

 Verse 3
What the clueless crowd once screamed in agitation
Is the prayer our trusting hearts breathe every day;
It’s our only hope and sweetest consolation:
Let the precious blood of Jesus make a way.

 (repeat chorus)

Let this blood be upon us; let this blood be upon us;
Let this blood be upon us; let this blood be upon us.
Let this blood be upon us; let this blood be upon us.
Let this blood, let this blood be upon us!

 (repeat chorus)
Lyric:  Gloria Gaither, © Hanna Street Music 2015
Music: Dony McGuire, © Rambo-McGuire Music 2015

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