Mark 15:22-39 (NIV)

They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. 25 It was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews. 27 They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself !” 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself ! 32 Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.  33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “”Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? “”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” 36 One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. 37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

1 Peter 2:24 (NRSV)

[Christ] himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

DEVOTION – James A. Harnish (Florida)

When I was young, the stores in our small town closed their doors from noon to 3pm on Good Friday to commemorate the hours Jesus hung on the cross.  My family sat through the entire three-hour service that rotated among the Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches because they had the largest sanctuaries in the community.  This observance was a formative experience in my life.

The cultural patterns of those days are long gone.  We gave up the noon-to-3:00 service decades ago in favor of a shorter one on Good Friday night, a tradition that goes back to the Middle Ages and one that I appreciate more every year.

But evidently those childhood experiences conditioned me to think of Jesus as hanging on the cross only at that time of day.  The Gospel of Mark, however, says that Jesus was crucified at 9am.  Then midday darkness covered the earth from noon to three.  I shuddered at the sudden awareness that Jesus was on the cross for six hours – an eternity in that hell.  No wonder Jesus prayed, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).  Who wouldn’t feel God-forsaken in a time like that?

And yet Good Friday is not a time for theorizing about how we are saved by God’s love at the cross.  Rather, it is a time simply to hear the story, to experience the love, and kneel in wonder in the presence of a God-forsaken Christ like this.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Relationship with Christ leads to the greatest love of all.

PRAYER:  O God, thank you for your love that saves us from a God-forsaken eternity.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Leaders of Lenten Worship