1. Jesus was offered anesthetic twice on the day of His death: once with Pilate at the beginning of the ordeal of His crucifixion, and again near the end - right before Jesus died. You can read both of these accounts in Mark 15:23, 36. The first wine was mixed with myrrh and had narcotic properties. The later drink was probably not as strong - but regardless - Jesus rejected both.
2. Golgotha, the place of Jesus' crucifixion, which we translate as "The Place of the Skull" people often assume that the place itself resembled a skull in some way. But the name doesn't come from the appearance of the site - rather from the Jewish tradition that Noah's son, Shem, brought with them the skull of Adam to Melchizidek and that together they burried it on this site in Jerusalem. This is why many older crucifixion scenes show a skull at the base of the cross. The symbolism is profound - the blood of the innocent and crucified Second Adam running down over the bones of the first and fallen Adam.
3. The darkness that fell wasn't localized - but was actually recorded by some historians (Phlegon, Thaddus, & Julius Africanus) as global. Also - the language of the New Testament itself using the prefix "ges" to indicate that the darkness was over the earth.
4. As Jesus' trial was taking place - Caiphas the High Priest was choosing the sacrificial lamb to atone for the sins of the nation that Passover. Jesus' crucifixion began as the lamb Caiphas chose was also being slain. Lastly - as Caiphas was entering the Holy of Holies to present that sacrificial lamb's blood - Jesus breathed His last and the veil separating the Holy Holies from the rest of the temple tore from top to bottom.
5. The veil - unlike the thin fabric we imagine a bride might wear - to the Jews a veil was a screen - more like a fabric wall. It was 60' tall, 30' wide, and at least 4" thick. It would've been terrifying to be anywhere near it as it tore from top to bottom.
6. The earthquakes that took place on the day that Jesus died were also described in the New Testament with the prefix "ges" (see Matthew 27:51) - indicating that they, like the darkness, were global.
7. Not only were all these things taking place - but even more startlingly - Matthew 27:52-53 says:
52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the [aa]saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. Matthew 27:52-53 NASB
You think reading Paul's sermons on the meaning of Salvation are difficult to comprehend? The chaos of all that unfolded before, during and upon Christ's death with Swiss-watch precision are difficult to fathom. Small wonder we resort to commemorating Easter with little egg-shaped jellied-sugar balls and clucking rabbits laying chocolate-peanut-butter eggs. Bizarre as these symbols are they are infinitely less troubling and show-stopping than global darkness, global earthquakes, and the bodily resurrection of many dead.
What I want to leave us all with on this point however, is not these dusty factoids, but rather a lengthy meditation and prayer-time worthy thought that if this was the power of Jesus' DEATH - imagine the enormity of the power He has at the ready for us in His resurrected sovereignty! Hang on - I think I gotta stop a second, jump up on my desk and yawp out an "AMEN!!"
BUT WAIT!!! THERE'S MORE!!!
8. The first person to declare that the just-died Christ - still on the cross is surely God's son was a man - who moments before was complicit in His crucifixion!
"54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was [ab]the Son of God!” Matthew 27:54 NASB
I don't know about you - but my observation of human nature is that there's few worse things you can call someone than "wrong" - and yet here's a man - in all likelihood a trusted member of the Roman army there to protect the Roman Governor, Pilate; probably a career military professional - calling himself wrong - not just wrong - but simultaneously declaring someone other than Caesar as God!
All seems to die down after Friday - until Sunday morning - and look at what's happening now!
9. Two of the women who followed Jesus came to the brand-new, as of yet unused, tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60) - and found the Roman soldiers assigned to guard Jesus' tomb totally gone and missing (possibly up to 50 guards in all). This was a serious dereliction of duty that under every other circumstance would have led to a capitol sentence on each of the guards - each of the guards should have died for this - but no such punishments are recorded.
10. Not only were the guards gone - but the approximately 4,000 pound stone that had been rolled over the tomb's entrance was rolled away. It seems highly unlikely that the soldiers would've broken their superior's seal and re-opened the tomb.
11. Not only were the guards gone, the enormous stone rolled away from the tomb, but the women who came with spices to as respectfully as they could prepare Jesus body for burial - entered the tomb and came upon this scene:
"and she *saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying." John 20: 12 (NASB)
Which for all the world sounds like a funerial version of this description:
"He made a [d]mercy seat of pure gold, two and a half cubits [e]long and one and a half cubits [f]wide. 7 He made two cherubim of gold; he made them of hammered work [g]at the two ends of the mercy seat;8 one cherub [h]at the one end and one cherub [i]at the other end; he made the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat [j]at the two ends.9 The cherubim had their wings spread upward, covering the [k]mercy seat with their wings, with their faces toward each other; the faces of the cherubim were toward the mercy seat." Exodus 37: 6-9 (NASB)
If you continue to read this passage - this Mercy Seat was God's throne on earth - the place where He would sit on the Day of Atonement. Incredible. The enormously huge and weighty temple veil - which per some accounts required hundreds of priests to hang up whenever it was replaced - was torn from top to bottom - and now a divine, live-action Mercy Seat is being enacted - in plain site of women. It is a new day indeed!
12. Jesus' burial garments remained in the tomb - laid as they had been wrapped around His body - but His body was no longer within them.
"he two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; 5 and stooping and looking in, he *saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6 And so Simon Peter also *came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he *saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself." John 20: 4-7 (NASB)
There is a multiplicity of layers of divine workings laid one over the next when it comes to the entire Crucifixion and Resurrection that provides a life-time of consideration.
13. Jesus' resurrection is the for the early church - the core message. And why not - it was also the core proof Jesus offered His disciples by which to examine the truth of His claims. The gospel for Jesus' closest followers was "Jesus said "if I rise again - I'm the Messiah" and He did!" This incredible series of events - which they were so unable to grasp before it all unfolded that they scolded Him at one point for talking about it - was so trans-formative to them that this was the gospel - this was the message that fueled them all around the Roman Empire.
14. This message didn't just set their travel/vacation plans though - it radically altered their lives. Peter who caved to fear - despite the big, boisterous personality we see him living out over and over again - first to speak up - and first to put his foot in his mouth it seemed - Peter's reaction to Jesus arrest and crucifixion was that he was crushed. Smitten. Peter - threw in the towel and gave up on not just Jesus - but everything. It's as if when Jesus stopped Peter from attacking in the garden (John 18:10) - Peter's whole defense against this awful impossible he couldn't believe he was seeing crumbled. Peter fell to pieces. We can pity him for this - but then look what happens shortly after Jesus' resurrection: Peter - whose given name was actually Simon, stands up and preaches the sermon that proves he really is "The Rock" for Jesus - and we all read this incredible sermon - the sermon against which all others invariably get measured every single Sunday everywhere in the world - and we all go "ooooooh. yeah. that makes sense now."
Upon the resurrection - something inexplicable happened - inexplicable even in light of all the inexplicables that had just unfolded before everyone's eyes - the fearful, unsure, unclear disciples - GOT IT! Oh BOY did they get it! And they were never able to un-get what they now understood. They had no way to unsee what they'd finally seen. They were radically changed - so radically changed - that the natural fall-out from their transformation - was the transformation of the entire planet.
15. And what's the symbol of this new faith? Nothing other than the very thing on which their founder was killed - at the foot of which they wept - and in the face of which their greatest preachers and teachers were destroyed to the core of their souls. Mind-blowing.
Honestly - if you read the resurrection account - it reads like the most twisted plot twist in the history of plot twists ... a homeless man with a radical teaching about God and barely twelve dedicated followers to that idea. Surely - any church planting or missions board would've killed Jesus' ministry and written it off as a failure! And yet - this homeless man - who runs afoul of the greatest government the world had ever seen at that time - gets himself killed in the most brutal way imaginable - all of which is so terrifying to his most ardent, allbeit uneducated and rough followers to see that even they ditch Him and run for the lives - only to be lured back when women testify that Jesus isn't actually dead - and then transform - right before everyone in Jerusalem into the heads of the most world-changing movement the world has ever known - who speak with such power and conviction about their experiences that the academic elites of their day are dumbstruck and confounded.
Wherever you might be in your walk today - let us remember, It may be Friday - but Sunday's coming!
Happy Good Friday everyone!
And a very blessed Resurrection Sunday celebration to you all.