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Good Friday Lent Message #7 - Through the Eyes...

Through the Eyes…
Lent 2015 Message #7


On this Good Friday, the first of two messages called “Through the Eyes…”

The second of the two will be Easter morning. In that one we will consider what Easter looked like through the eyes of some of the people who witnessed the day of Jesus’ resurrection.

In this message we will consider what Good Friday looked like through the eyes of four people - Simon who was forced to help Jesus carry His cross, Jesus’ mother Mary and His disciple John, and a Roman centurion.

Simon is mentioned in the first three Gospels. In each case, he is mentioned in only one verse. Yet what an important role He played.

Remember that Jesus had, beginning Thursday night, experienced many things, all of which drained Him physically and emotionally.

He had prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had prayed three times, each time asking God if there was some other way for Him to become the Savior than to suffer what was coming. But He also agreed to follow God’s will, no matter what.

Each of the times of prayer, three of His disciples, who had been asked by Jesus to also pray, had fallen asleep. How disappointing that had to have been for Jesus.

After His praying, Jesus was arrested. What an ugly scene that must have been. The crowd doing the arresting was at least threatening in appearance, and there had been some violence. Peter had taken a sword and cut off an ear of one in the crowd. Jesus had stopped the violence and had replaced the ear, but it was a traumatic scene.

Then, over the next several hours, Jesus experienced a number of trials, which resulted in the sentence of death by crucifixion. At one of the trials, Jesus was hit. After another one He was abused and mocked. Eventually He was whipped and abused and mocked some more. Included was a crown of thorns being slapped and pushed onto His head.

By the time the journey to the place of crucifixion started, Jesus was in bad shape, both physically and emotionally.

So it was that on the way to the place of crucifixion. On the way to Golgotha. Jesus, who, like others who had been and were sentenced to be crucified, was forced to carry the cross on which He would be put to death. How cruel is that? So it was that on the way to Golgotha, Jesus became unable to continue under the weight of the cross. He stumbled, unable to go on.

I wonder if the guards around Jesus were concerned He would die before reaching Golgotha. That would have been unacceptable to their commanders. They could not allow Jesus to die early. So it was they looked into the crowd that lined the road they were on. The one they spotted was Simon, identified as Simon of Cyrene.

Cyrene was in Africa, part of what is today Libya. It was about 900 miles from Jerusalem, which means Simon had had a long journey to arrive in the city for what was happening at the time, which was the Passover celebration.

I do not know if Simon had just arrived or if he had witnessed some of the other things that had happened that week. Including seeing Jesus enter Jerusalem to joyous fanfare a few days earlier. Including hearing some of Jesus’ teachings. Including knowing about the trials Jesus had just faced.

I do not know when Simon had arrived. Nor do I know why, out of all the crowd along the route, the soldiers fixed their eyes on Simon and chose him to help Jesus. Maybe he was young. Maybe he looked strong. I do not know.

But Simon is the one who was chosen. And I wonder. Did he argue? Did he turn away, hoping to be able to avoid getting involved? Or did he just stand there?

Again, I do not know. But when a Roman soldier spoke, the one spoken to was expected to obey. So Simon had no choice. He was forced to leave the crowd, go to Jesus, pick up the cross, and walk the rest of the way with Jesus. According to Luke, the guards forced him to walk behind Jesus, no doubt to make sure Jesus was in full view, which would have continued the mocking He was hearing from the crowd.

What was seen through the eyes of Simon of Cyrene? He no doubt saw the blood - Jesus’ bloodied body and head and the blood already on the cross. He saw a man who had been badly beaten. A man at that moment being mistreated verbally. A man who said nothing in reply or in defense.
    
Did Simon know Jesus’ silence was not from lack of strength, but from determination of will to complete His God-given task of doing what needed to be done to become the Savior of the world?
    
Simon might have known Jesus’ purpose. That is mere speculation, but it is based on something that is reported later in the Bible. In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul greets a Christian leader - a man described as eminent in the Lord - named Rufus. It is mentioned in the Gospel of Mark that Simon was the father of two sons, named Alexander and Rufus.

Could it be the Rufus greeted by Paul was the son of Simon? If that is the case, it would mean Simon was so impressed by Jesus the day of the crucifixion that he shared his belief - his faith - with his sons, at least one of which became a leader in the Christian church in Rome. What spiritual fruit that was for Simon.

On the way to Golgotha, Jesus, suffering greatly physically and emotionally, could not continue under the weight of the cross. Simon of Cyrene was called into service. He carried the cross for Jesus from that spot to the place of crucifixion.

It was at that place Jesus was nailed to the cross, after which the cross was set upright, after which Jesus said a number of things, including something very important to His mother and one of His disciples, reported in John, this too a brief report, this one just two verses long.

As Jesus was on the cross… Remember He had been badly beaten, including on His back. Remember His back was at that time on the cross. As He lifted Himself, pushing up with His feet, which had been nailed to the cross - the pushing up caused excruciating pain in His feet - as He did that, His damaged back was hurt even more. Each time Jesus pushed up and let Himself back down, His back rubbed on the wood of the cross. how excruciating that was.

As Jesus was on the cross, His suffering increasing moment by moment, Jesus looked at Mary and His disciple John next to her. Listen to what He said to them. He said to Mary, “Woman, behold your son.” To John He said, “Behold your mother.”

The point is that even as He suffered so greatly, Jesus still took time to care for Mary and John.

For Mary, Jesus wanted someone to be around to watch over her. Someone to help her grieve. To help make sure she was taken care of - a place to live, food, a comforting shoulder to lean on. His choice was John.

For John, Jesus gave him something to do, which would help him through the grief process.

Through their eyes, Mary and John saw a very kind man. A man so strong He could love, even when He was suffering so greatly.

And by the way, Jesus’ love was expressed at least two other times as He hung on the cross. There were two others being crucified that day. One of them, when he asked Jesus to be forgiven, was forgiven. Jesus also prayed that God would not condemn the people who were mistreating Him. “Forgive them,” was Jesus’ prayer, “for they know not what they do.” Mary and John also heard those expressions of love.

Great love. That is what Mary and John saw through their eyes on Good Friday. A view John went on to share in a ministry, most of which, it is believed, was in Jerusalem. A ministry that included taking care of Mary until her death. A ministry in which he shared his love of Jesus with many others.

Simon  of  Cyrene  saw  through  His  eyes  a  man who was willing to suffer for others so others could be saved. Mary and John saw through their eyes a Savior who still loved, including them, even while He was suffering so greatly. A love shown in making sure they were each going to be taken care of.

Shortly after that, Jesus died.

Immediately, in the Temple, the curtain - a very tall, thick curtain that closed off the Holy of Holies - was torn in two. That was not done by human hands. it was too thick for that to happen. And the tearing was from the top to the bottom of the curtain. There was no way human hands could do that. The curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom. That was done by God.

I wonder if that was heard, even on Golgotha. The sound had to have been tremendous. But there was more to indicate something of great significance had just happened. At Golgotha, the earth shook and rocks split.

Remember something Jesus said on Palm Sunday? The authorities that day had called on Jesus to quiet the crowd. Jesus had answered that if the people were quiet, the very rocks would cry out.

On Good Friday, there were no accolades given to Jesus. And yes, there were some, like the thief who was forgiven, and Mary and John, and maybe a few other followers who recognized who Jesus was. But mostly there were, that day, no accolades given to Jesus. What happened? The earth shook and rocks split. Imagine the sound of that  

The curtain in the Temple was torn. The earth shook. Rocks split. All that happened after darkness had covered the earth, a darkness that lasted three hours before Jesus’ death. All that caused a centurion - one of the Roman soldiers who attended the crucifixion - filled with awe and in praise of God, to proclaim, “Certainly this man was innocent. Truly this was the Son of God.”

The centurion is told about in just one verse in each of the first three Gospels. That is, like the others, just a brief mention. But it tells us that through his eyes, he saw the one - the innocent and perfect one - who had died to be the sacrifice needed for salvation.

After that, Jesus was taken from the cross. His body was given to Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph placed Jesus into the tomb that belonged to Joseph. Joseph and Nicodemus anointed Jesus’ body, wrapping Him in burial cloths. The tomb was then closed. Good Friday came to an end.

Through your eyes, what do you see? Through my eyes, what do I see? Who do we see? May we see what Simon and Mary and John and the centurion saw. A Savior who was willing to suffer to complete His mission. A Savior who, despite His suffering, expressed love. A Savior who truly is the Son of God.

May we see all that. Doing so will help our Easter celebration be wonderful.

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