“Will you come and follow me…” We have borrowed the title for our Good Friday meditation from John Bell’s song ……….because it expresses the journey of our Christian lives……a journey of unforeseen challenges, and for most of us includes times of difficulty as well as great joy. We look at GETHSEMANE, THE TRIALS, THE CRUCIFIXION, and THE TOMB – each one with its own message.
1..Jesus Prays in Gethsemane Matthew 26:36-56
REFLECTIONS Lord, your word says that you set your face steadfastly toward Jerusalem. You could have chosen long before, not to go to Jerusalem ……not then…..not ever. You could have stayed in Galilee where you were popular, and ministry to others brought joy and laughter. You could have remained in Heaven and left us human beings to get on with our mess, and not get involved.
And even though you did go to Jerusalem, you could have chosen to be careful…..tactful…….politically correct……. not disruptive …… not upset the authorities.
And even though you did upset them…… you didn’t need to go to Gethsemane that night. Judas was bound to lead them there. Why didn’t pray somewhere else?
Why did you beg God to take away the bitter cup? You could have walked away.
Why did you wait for the raiding party to arrive? You had time to get away.
Why did you tell Simon Peter to put away his sword? He wanted to protect you!
Instead you walked ………
Toward conflict with those who hated you………
Toward abandonment by your disciples………
Toward arrest and brutal treatment……
Toward the crowd shouting for your death……
Toward the shame and the pain……..
Toward the spiritual anguish
How committed and steadfast am I in following God’s will? At what stage do I back off and look for an easier way? When faced with conflict and tough choices what do I do? Where are the “safe places” that I retreat to? What rationalising excuses do I make? What do I try to “hide behind” when I am afraid?
Jesus asks me today: “Will you follow me to Gethsemane? Will you really choose my will, not your own?”
2. Jesus Is Condemned by the Religious Leaders Matthew 26:57-66
REFLECTIONS “They began to accuse Him…..” Lord, how is it possible that “they”, the religious leaders, accused YOU – the Son of God? Why did they so dislike the accounts of your marvellous teaching about God, your amazing miracles, your truth, your grace, your love, your perfect demeanour?
But they had their own agenda, their favoured position, their power, their self-seeking rules. Their clever arguments twisted your words, they justified their conduct to sound as if THEY were right and YOU were wrong. And because they could not, in reality, find anything against you, they employed FALSE WITNESSES who didn’t even agree with one another!
Lord, why were you silent?
Why did you not speak up in your own defence?
Why did you not call Heaven to dismiss them?
BUT – YOU ALLOWED THE DARKNESS ITS ALLOTTED TIME
The distortion of their sacred trust – The violation of their position of authority –They became your judges.
When I am justly accused for doing wrong, do I respond with grace,…. accept correction and learn from my mistakes? Or do I defend myself and blame others………or circumstances…… or even You for asking too much of me?
And if I am unjustly accused for your sake……am I gracious, or grumbling?
Do I seek revenge or retribution? Do I beg you for vindication?
What am I prepared to endure in terms of accusation, anger, hostility and rejection for the sake of Your Name and of doing what is right?
Jesus asks me today: “Will you follow me and face the trials? Will you stand with me?
3. The Crucifixion. Matthew 27:33-55
REFLECTIONS “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”. Did they really NOT know what they were doing? They didn’t WANT to know You, as the Incarnate Son of God. They did not like your power and said it was from the devil. They hated the claims you made about yourself. Your popularity made them fear for their position. Your miracles were embarrassing. Your teaching made them squirm. Your purity and beauty of character showed up too clearly against theirs………..AND OURS!
What depth of love is in your heart that you would allow themto hate you and insult you and mock you and scourge you?
You, who are the Creator of the Universe, their Creator, my Creator yet make yourself so vulnerable?
They taunted you to prove yourself and come down from the cross. Was this your final temptation?
Lord, how could you endure so much……….and yet forgive?
How could you remain there……………and die………for them…for me?
Can I forgive those who hurt and injure me? Will I forgive the angry words, the cruel jokes, the broken relationships, the cheated business deal, the broken promise, the unjust judgment? What does love look like in these situations? How far will I go?
Jesus asks me today: “Will you follow me to the cross? Will you lay down all you hold dear? Will you walk before me with integrity?”
4. The Burial of Jesus. Matthew 27:57-66
REFLECTIONS “…in the garden was a new tomb…….they laid Jesus there.”
This is where it all led ……..the Author of Life, the Healer, the One who raised the dead, Who spoke about His Kingdom, Who fed the hungry………laid hurriedly in another’s tomb because He hadn’t prepared One for Himself. Equal with us, the King of the Universe lies silent and moribund in a grave.
This is where life goes to…….no matter who we are, what we have been, or done or failed to do. No winners or losers, we are all the same. At the close of the game it all ends in the box.
Lord, this is what “Faithful unto Death” means……..obedience to God, no matter where it leads or the cost………….the end of hope, ambition, earthly joys, opportunities, the future……. All gone in sacrificial love and trust in God’s eternal plan.
Countless saints, past and present, have willingly gone this far because they seek the City that is to come. Thank God for them, and pray for all for whom this is an immediate choice.
Many more of us are called not to be dead saints, but living sacrifices – whatever that means, and wherever He may take us.
This tomb requires that I ask myself, what am I prepared to give, or to let go of, in following Him? The challenge is terrifying, yet glorious, or no-one would do it. Jesus did it “for the joy that was to be set before Him”. Can I do the same……by the power of the Holy Spirit?
He is the Way, the Truth and the Life – there is no other way, but the choice is still mine.
Jesus asks me today: “Will you still follow me to the tomb, where there is no hope…. but me?