Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

"And he, bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of the skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified him . . .
"After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst . . . When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." (John 19:17–18, 28–30)

Harry Anderson, The Crucifixion

Good Friday is observed with great solemnity in some Christian traditions.  While not marked as a holiday as such in the LDS community, Good Friday can be a tender and reflective time for individuals and families to pause and consider how Jesus, as our great high priest, offered himself as a sacrifice for us: "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Hebrews 9:12).  Understanding how and why he died makes the miracle of his resurrection on Easter morning all the more glorious and joyous.

Customarily the day Jesus died on the cross is called "Good Friday" in English, either because it is a "holy" Friday, or, more likely, because in English "good" is often an archaic expression for "God."  For instance, "goodbye" means "go with God."  Accordingly, the Friday before Easter is "God's Friday" because this day saw the culmination of God's efforts to reconcile the world to himself through the death of his Son.  The apostle Paul described it this way:

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.  And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:8–12).
The gospel narratives all agree that Jesus was first tried before Pilate, the Roman governor.  Luke adds that he was also questioned by Herod Antipas, the client ruler of Galilee. During his trial and after his conviction, Jesus was mocked and physically abused before being led to the place of crucifixion, where, after hanging on the cross for three to six hours, he died.  He was then hastily buried in a borrowed tomb.

Scriptural Accounts: Matt 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18:28–19:42; see also 3 Nephi 8

Episodes for Personal Study

  • Jesus in the Hands of the Romans (Mark 15:1–19; Matt 27:1–30; Luke 23:1–25; John 18:29-19:15)
  • Jesus is Crucified (Mark 15:20-28; Matt 27:31-38; Luke 23:26-34, 38; John 19:16-24)
  • Jesus' Final Hours (Mark 15:29-37; Matt 27:39-50; Luke 23:35-46; John 19:25-30)
  • Signs and Reactions to Jesus' Death (Mark 15:38-41; Matt 27:51-56; Luke 23:47-49; John 19:31-37)
  • The Burial of Jesus (Mark 15:42-47; Matt 27:57-66; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42)
Carl Bloch, Crucifixion

Suggested Listening: Bach, St . Matthew Passion; Handel, Messiah, Part II.

For further reading: Raymond Brown, The Death of the Messiah (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 665–1313..

Eric D. Huntsman, "Before the Romans," From the Last Supper to the Resurrection, The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ 3, edited by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Thomas A. Wayment (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003), 269–317.

Kent P. Jackson, "The Crucifixion," From the Last Supper to the Resurrection, 318–337.

Eric D. Huntsman, "The Lamb of God: Unique Aspects of the Passion Narrative in John," Behold the Lamb of God: An Easter Celebration (Provo: Religious Study Center, 2008), 49–70, n.b., 60–65.

Dawn C. Pheysey, "Picturing the Crucifixion," Behold the Lamb of God: An Easter Celebration, 155–164.

Robert Millet, "Glorying in the Cross of Christ," Behold the Lamb of God: An Easter Celebration, 125–138.

Cecilia M. Peek, "The Burial," From the Last Supper to the Resurrection, 338–377.

Ideas for Families

  • Discuss the trial and abuse of Jesus.  How did these experiences constitute part of “descending below all things?” 
  • Read Isaiah 53:3–4 and discuss what it means that Jesus was “a man of sorrows.”  What is the connection between the Lord’s sufferings and how we are falsely judged and badly treated?
  • Sing "O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown" (hymn 197).
  • Read one of the gospel accounts of the crucifixion, such as John 19:17–30.
  • Take turns reading the Last Words of Christ (Luke 23:34; 23:43; John 19:26–27; Mark 15:34/Matthew 27:46; John 19:28; Luke 23:46; John 19:30).
  • Sing one of the sacrament hymns that described Jesus’ death on the cross, such as “Upon the Cross of Calvary” (hymn 184), “Behold the Great Redeemer Die” (hymn 191), or “There Is a Green Hill Far Away” (hymn 194).
  • Read John 3:14–18, John 12:32, and 3 Nephi 27:14–15 and talk about the symbolism of the cross.
  • Share testimonies of how Jesus died for our sins.

Traditional Anglican collect for the day:

 Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this thy human family for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross: who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

Brief Discussion of the Events of the Friday before Easter
See the much longer discussion in God So Loved the World, 71–93.

Titian, "Christ Crowned with Thorns," 1540

Jesus in the Hands of the Romans
Trial, Scourging, and Mocking

  • Before Pilate (Mark 15: 2–5; Matt 27:2–14; Luke 23:1–12; John 18:28–38a)
  • Suicide of Judas Iscariot (Matt 27:3–10)
  • Pilate and Jesus
  • Pilate interviews Christ Privately Jjohn 18:33–38a: Art thou a king?)
  • Jesus before Herod (Luke 23:6–12)
  • Jesus again before Pilate and the mob (Mark 15:6–11; Matt 27:15–23; Luke 23:13–23; John 18:38b–19:12)
  • Pilate hands jesus over to be crucified (Mark 15:12–15; Matt 27:24–26; Luke 23:24–26; John 19:13–16)
  • The soldiers mock Jesus preliminary to his crucifixion (Mark 15:16–20a; Matt 27:27–31)
  • Simon of Cyrene bears the cross (Mark 15:20b–21; Matt 27:32; Luke 23:26; the Johannine Jesus carries his own cross)
  • Women bewail Jesus (Luke 23:27–31)
Whereas the charge in the Jewish hearing was one of blasphemy, the one laid against Jesus in the Roman trial was political: Jesus claimed to be a king, an offense against the Roman order.  Pilate is described in the gospels as indecisive and at times even desirous to let Jesus go.  This in no way exculpates him; when political pressure is brought upon him by the Jewish leadership ("If thou let this man go, thou are not Caesar's friend . . ." John 19:12), Pilate knowingly allowed an innocent man be executed.  In the end, discussions of immediate responsibility are irrelevant.  Jesus' death was a critical part of the plan of salvation, and it was made necessary by us.  Elsewhere I have written,
. . . what remains important is that judgment took place, and it is both significant and ironic that the two 'trials' of Jesus took place before the two peoples who were most dedicated to and obsessed by law. Just as the two trials reflect the two realities of Christ’s identity—as both Son of God and King—so the Jews and the Romans represent all Gentiles and all of Israel (Acts 4:27). Examining the trial should not be for us an issue of assigning culpability—to Judas, the chief priests, or Pilate—for the betrayal and condemnation were necessary parts of the Atonement." ("Roman Trial of Jesus," From the Last Supper to the Resurrection, 316)
Stained glass window in the Church of the Flagellation
And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men. (1 Nephi 19:9)
After both the Jewish hearing and the Roman trial, Jesus was subjected to abuse: mocking, scourging, spitting.  Although often overlooked as we concentrate on the three pivotal points of the Atonement—Gethsemane, Golgotha, and Garden Tomb---this abuse was a prophesied part of what Jesus would suffer for us.  The fact some of the most powerful recorded prophecies of the abuse and mockery are found in the Book of Mormon in such passages as 1 Nephi 19:9, 2 Nephi 6:9, and Mosiah 3:9 suggests that they cannot be overlooked.  "The focus there is not with when and how the scourging, hitting, and spitting took place, but why. Christ was willing to suffer these things ‘because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.’" (Huntsman, 316317)
Crown of thorns mosaic from Church of the Flagellation
Much of this experience is powerfully represented in the beautiful hymn adapted from a Bach chorus, "O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown."
O Savior, thou who wearest
A crown of piercing thorn,
The pain thou meekly bearest,
Weigh’d down by grief and scorn.
The soldiers mock and flail thee;
For drink they give thee gall;
Upon the cross they nail thee
To die, O King of all.
No creature is so lowly,
No sinner so depraved,
But feels thy presence holy
And thru thy love is saved.
Tho craven friends betray thee,
They feel thy love’s embrace;
The very foes who slay thee
Have access to thy grace.

Thy sacrifice transcended
The mortal law’s demand;
Thy mercy is extended
To ev’ry time and land.
No more can Satan harm us,
Tho long the fight may be,
Nor fear of death alarm us;
We live, O Lord, thru thee.

What praises can we offer
To thank thee, Lord most high?
In our place thou didst suffer;
In our place thou didst die,
By heaven’s plan appointed,
To ransom us, our King.
O Jesus, the anointed,
To thee our love we bring! (Hymn 197)
Reflection: A Man of Sorrows

As noted yesterday, the cumulative feelings of betrayal, abuse, rejection, and false judgment despised were foreseen by Isaiah, whose words are movingly caught by Handel in the sorrowful mezzo-soprano air "He Was Despised" (see
(Isaiah 53:3).  Today, on Good Friday, with the image of our Lord, bruised and bleeding and bearing the cross, the wrenching choruses "Surely He Hath Born Our Griefs" and "With His Stripes We Are Healed" are particularly poignant:
Surely he hath borne our griefs, 
      and carried our sorrows: 
yet we did esteem him stricken, 
     smitten of God, and afflicted. 
But he was wounded for our transgressions, 
     he was bruised for our iniquities: 
the chastisement of our peace was upon him; 
     and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)
Frieze from the Church of the Condemnation
The fact that "with his stripes we are healed" demonstrates that these incidents were, in fact, parts of our Lord’s atoning journey. Further, what Jesus experienced personally in this terrible day, together with the vicarious suffering that began in the Garden the night before, seem part of the filling his bowels with mercy "that he may know how to succor his people according to their infirmities" (See Alma 7:12).

Yet even while the Lord can truly empathize with us in our afflictions, there are ways in which our sorrows, heartaches, and sufferings allow us, in some measure, to be more like our Savior. Paul wrote, "For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:5). How often we pray to be more like Jesus, but when pain, rejection, loss, and heartache come our way, we recoil and beg for these experiences to be taken away! Yet when we learn true patience, the Latin root of which is "suffer," from these experiences, our ability to trust in God and understand and empathize with others who similarly suffer grows exponentially.

The Crucifixion

The Synoptics, following Mark, have Jesus crucified at the third hour (approximately 9:00 a.m.).  Darkness and physical manifestations of the suffering of Jesus occurred at the sixth hour (12:00 noon), and Jesus died at the sixth hour (about 3:00 p.m.).  Some scholars have suggested that Mark wrote his gospel to be read aloud, and that these precise hours reflect an early Christian practice of dramatizing the Passion narrative and perhaps praying or worshiping at these hours.  John portrays the crucifixion as taking place at noon, which gives more time for the trial and the events of that morning; he agrees that our Lord died about 3:00.
J. Kirk Richard, Grey Day at Golgotha

  • Jesus is crucified (Mark 15:22–28; Matt 27:33–38; Luke 23:32–34, 38; John 19:17b–24)
  • Jesus is mocked (Mark 15:29–32; Matt 27:39–44; Luke 23:3–39)
  • "Salvation" of the Believing Bandit (Luke 23:40–43)
  • Women at the Foot of the Cross (John 19:25)
  • Jesus’ Mother Commended to the Beloved Disciple (John 19:26–27)
While it became popular in the Middle Ages to focus on extreme suffering of Jesus' scourging and crucifixion, the gospels themselves are sparing of such brutal details.  They simply state, for instance, "there they crucified him."  Instead the emphasis is on the words and symbolic acts of Jesus that fulfill prophecy.  These include the the division of his garments, his crucifixion between two bandits or criminals, mocking that Jesus endured upon the cross, the so-called "Seven Last Sayings of Jesus," offering poor wine as a drink, the failure to break his legs, and his side being pierced.

Further reflections from Handel's Messiah

The mocking that Jesus endured on the cross—from those passing by, from the chief priests and scribes, and from even one of the thieves being crucified at his side—is introduced in Messiah by a tenor recitative adapted from Psalm 22:7.

All they that see Him, laugh him to scorn;     they shoot out their lips, and shake their heads, saying:

The chorus then begins with the basses, followed by the tenors and eventually the full choir taking the part of those opponents who had done so much to orchestrate Jesus' death:
He trusted in God that he would deliver him;
     let him deliver him, if he delight in him. (Psalm 22:8)

The tenor soloist then sings movingly of the impact of this on Jesus, who was suffering this derision on top of his physical and spiritual anguish for the very foes who were slaying him:
Thy rebuke hath broken his heart;
     He is full of heaviness.
He looked for some to have pity on Him,
     but there was no man
     neither found he any to comfort Him. (Psalm 69:20)

Behold, and see if there be any sorrow,
      like unto His sorrow. (Lamentation 1:12)

Last Sayings of Jesus
Liz Lemon Swindle, "It Is Finished"

  • "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).
  • "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).
  • "Woman, behold your son: behold your mother" (John 19:26–27).
  • "Eli Eli lema sabachthani?" (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).
  • "I thirst" (John 19:28).
  • "It is finished" (John 19:30).
  • "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Luke 23:46).
"Gordon's Calvary," a site near the Garden Tomb identified in the late eighteenth century as a Protestant alternative to the Holy Sepulchre.

Last Moments (Mark 15:33–37; Matt 27:45–50; Luke 23:44–46; John 19:28–30)

Significantly, the greatest suffering that our Lord suffered on the cross does not seem to be anything that man inflicted upon him.  Jesus’ cry, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34–35; Matt 27:46–47), may reflect that, as in Gethsemane, carrying the weight of our sins necessarily separated him from his Father in a way that he never experienced before, leading Elder McConkie, following Elder Talmage, to write:

Then the heavens grew black. Darkness covered the land for the space of three hours, as it did among the Nephites. There was a mighty storm, as though the very God of Nature was in agony. And truly he was, for while he was hanging on the cross for another three hours, from noon to 3:00 p.m., all the infinite agonies and merciless pains of Gethsemane recurred. (McConkie, May 1985)
When the prophecies had all been fulfilled and his work for us completed, our Lord cried out and died (Mark 15:37; Matt 27:50; Luke 23:46).  Luke sensitively notes that Jesus commended his spirit to his Father; John records that he authoritatively declared "It is finished" (John 19:30b), typical of the divine Johannine Jesus who "laid down his life" because no one could take it from him.

Two of my favorite sacrament hymns reflect these final events, portraying them with different tenors.  First, "Behold the Great Redeemer Die."

Samuel and Rachel in front of the traditional Rock of Golgotha in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Behold the great Redeemer die,
A broken law to satisfy.
He dies a sacrifice for sin,
He dies a sacrifice for sin,
That man may live and glory win.

While guilty men his pains deride,
They pierce his hands and feet and side;
And with insulting scoffs and scorns,
And with insulting scoffs and scorns,
They crown his head with plaited thorns.

Although in agony he hung,
No murm’ring word escaped his tongue.
His high commission to fulfill,
His high commission to fulfill,
He magnified his Father’s will.

“Father, from me remove this cup.
Yet, if thou wilt, I’ll drink it up.
I’ve done the work thou gavest me,
I’ve done the work thou gavest me;
Receive my spirit unto thee.”

He died, and at the awful sight
The sun in shame withdrew its light!
Earth trembled, and all nature sighed,
Earth trembled, and all nature sighed
In dread response, “A God has died!” (Hymn, 191)

Then, "There Is a Green Hill Far Away."

There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all.

We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains he had to bear,
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.

There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin.
He only could unlock the gate
Of heav’n and let us in. (Hymn 194)

In the tradition of the medieval verdant cross. Often the cross was green in stained glass windows, and sometimes paintings depicted it sprouting leaves, flowers, and even fruit. The idea was that the dead tree of cursing (the instrument of Jesus' death) became a new Tree of Life (the instrument of our salvation and resurrection).

Pacino de Buonaguida, Tree of Life
In God So Loved the World, 84–85, I wrote the following about the symbolism and importance of the cross:
For many Christians the experience on the cross has become central to the expressions of their faith in what Jesus did for us.  For them it is not purely a symbol of death, particularly in the Protestant tradition, where the cross is empty, because he has risen and is no longer there.  As Latter-day Saints we rarely use cross imagery, largely because of our focus on a living Christ rather than a crucified Christ.  But part of this may also have arisen from the fact that the early members of the Church in the New York and Ohio periods came out of a fairly Puritan Protestant background that generally avoided images of any kind.

In 1975 President Hinckley addressed the issue of such symbolism in an important address subsequently reprinted in the April 2005 Ensign.  In it, he pointed out that the greatest symbol of Christ is found in the lives of his people.  Indeed, we are charged to bear his image in our countenances and hold up his light in the examples of our lives (Alma 5:14; 3 Nephi 18:16b, 24).  Nevertheless, although we do not use the symbol of the cross, we remember weekly what happened on it, as revealed by the texts of most of our sacrament hymns, which often focus on the final act of Calvary more than on Gethsemane.  But Jesus did not just bear our sins or even suffer for them-he died for them, and he died in a way that had long been prophesied.  As President Hinckley has noted,           

". . . no member of this Church must ever forget the terrible price paid by our Redeemer who gave his life that all men might live-the agony of Gethsemane, the bitter mockery of his trial, the vicious crown of thorns tearing at his flesh, the blood cry of the mob before Pilate, the lonely burden of his heavy walk along the way to Calvary, the terrifying pain as great nails pierced his hands and feet, the fevered torture of his body as he hung that tragic day . . . This was the cross, the instrument of his torture, the terrible device designed to destroy the Man of Peace, the evil recompense for his miraculous work of healing the sick, of causing the blind to see, of raising the dead. This was the cross on which he hung and died on Golgotha's lonely summit. We cannot forget that. We must never forget it, for here our Savior, our Redeemer, the Son of God, gave himself a vicarious sacrifice for each of us."
Hendrick Goltzius, "Christ on the Tree of Life," 1610
The cross was not just the means of our Lord's death, it was also a symbol of what that death has and will accomplish for us.  Historically, the cross was not necessarily the Latin or Greek cross of art; it was just as likely to have been scaffolding or upright poles to which crossbeams of various kinds were attached for any number of criminals.  Instead, the significance of the cross is found in the image of raising Jesus up, like the brazen serpent in the wilderness (Numbers 21:9; see also 2 Nephi 25:20; Alma 33:19; Helaman 8:14-16).  Three times the Savior referred to this symbolism in the gospel of John (John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32), but nowhere is the point made more clearly than when the Risen Lord himself said this to the Nephites:
" . . . my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works." (3 Nephi 27:14-15, emphases added)
Finally, the crucifixion left lasting tokens of the Lord's saving act, marks that were used to impart a sure witness that he was the Lord and God of those whom he saved.  Although the experience of Thomas after the resurrection does suggest that we should be believing before we receive such assurance (John 19:24-29), Jesus' display of the marks in his hands, feet, and side took on almost ritual significance when he appeared to the Nephites at the temple in Bountiful: "Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world." (3 Nephi 11:14)

Musical Reflection: "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"

The noted Christian poet Isaac Watts (1674–1748) wrote the words to this stirring hymn as he was preparing for a communion service in 1707.  He was inspired by Galatians 6:14, which reads, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."  Charles Wesley (1717-1788), another noted English hymn composer, is claimed to have said that he would rather have written this than all of his other hymns, and Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) called it the greatest hymn of the English language (see Osbeck, Amazing Grace, second edition, 103, and Morgan, Then Sings My Soul, special edition, 89).

As we come to better understand that everything that Jesus suffered from the Garden of Gethsemane through his final moments on the cross was vital to the atonement that he worked on our behalf, his sacrifice can change us ever more powerfully:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Signs and Reactions to Christ’s Death (Mark 15:38–41; Matt 27:51–56; Luke 23:45b, 47–49; John 19:31–37)

The Synoptics Record that upon Jesus’ death, the veil of the temple was torn from the top to the bottom, indicating that it was rent by God from above rather than by any person below.  Hebrew 9:11–12, 24–26 explicates this symbolism, teaching that the blood and death of Christ have opened the way for all to come into the presence of God.

Interestingly, it was a Gentile, the Roman centurion in charge of the crucifixion, whose reaction is the most telling: “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).  While the people who had gathered mourned and finally left (Luke 23:48), the women who had followed Jesus since Galilee stood afar and continued their role as witnesses—having seen how Jesus died, they will next see where he is buried and at last find that same tomb empty Easter morning.

The final images of Jesus as the Lamb of God are found after He voluntarily surrendered His spirit. When the Jewish leadership asked the Roman authorities to break the legs of those being crucified so that their bodies would not desecrate the Sabbath—and in John, the Passover itself—the soldiers first broke the legs of the two insurgents or revolutionaries (lestai, King James Version “thieves”) who had been crucified with Him. When they came to Jesus, however, and found that He was already dead, they did not break Jesus’s legs “that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken” (John 19:31–33, 36). While this was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Psalm 34:21, not breaking any bones was a particular requirement of the Paschal Lamb, one that was as significant as the prerequisite that the Paschal Lamb, like Jesus, be without blemish (see Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12).

John ends his testimony of the Lord's saving death with this important event:

But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs.  But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe." (John 19:33-35)
John emphasized the importance of this sign, I think, because it provides a testimony of who Jesus really was and what he had done for us.  Throughout the gospel of John blood is the symbol of life but mortal life, whereas water is a symbol of eternal or divine life.  Could it be that the blood represented Jesus' mortal inheritance from his mother Mary, the power to lay his life down for sin and that water represented his divine inheritance from God his Father, the power to take it up again and be to us "a well of water springing up unto everlasting life?"  (See “The Lamb of God: Unique Aspects of the Passion Narrative in John,” Behold the Lamb of God: An Easter Celebration, 62–64, and God So Loved the World, 90–91).

Artistic Reflection: The Lamentation

Michelangelo, Pietà , 1498–99
One of the most powerful episodes artistically is one that is not accounted for scripturally. Whereas the gospels agree that Joseph of Arimathea requested the body of Jesus from Pilate and was given permission to bury it, nothing is said of the women who grimly watched the crucifixion except that they followed afar off and saw where the body was laid.

Few more images are more powerful, however, than those based on the theme of the heart-rending despair felt by those who loved Jesus.  Works of art often depict Jesus’ mother, Mary, John, the other women, an even angels of the heavenly hosts lamenting over the body of Jesus. No parent who has lost a child—either in actuality or metaphorically—can fail to be moved by images of the Pietà, Mary holding the body of her beloved son.
Bloch, Burial

The Burial of Jesus

  • Joseph of Arimathaea Requests Jesus’ Body (Mark 15:42–45; Matt 27:57–58; Luke 23:50–52 [Joseph’s righteousness and messianic expectation attested]; John 19:38 [Joseph a secret disciple])
  • Nicodemus Brings a Kingly Amount of Burial Spices in Daylight (John 19:39–40; cf. 3:2a, 14)
  • Placing the Body in the New Tomb (Mark 15:46a; Matt 27:58–60a; Luke 23:53–54; John 19:41–42)
  • Sealing the Tomb (Mark 15:46b; Matt 27:60b)
  • The Women Witness Where the Body Was Laid (Mark 15:47; Matt 27:61; Luke 23:55–56)
  • The Pharisees Request and Obtain a Guard from Pilate (Matt 27:62–66)
Following Jesus' death, Joseph of Arimathea, assisted according to John by Nicodemus, obtained the body of Jesus and buried it in a "new tomb."  Nicodemus' involvement in the Fourth Gospel is telling.  Sometimes seen as a secret disciple of Jesus or as one who represents those who lacked sufficient faith to support Him openly, he had visited Jesus secretly by night in John 3 and then tried, weakly, to speak for Jesus before the council in John 7:45-53.  However, in his third appearance in the Gospel of John at the burial of Jesus (19:38-42), Nicodemus, who earlier had come to Jesus when it was dark, comes out into the light, bringing a kingly amount of spices to assist Joseph of Arimathaea in preparing Jesus= body to be placed in the tomb.  Significantly, this occurs after Jesus has been lifted up upon the cross, a fulfilment of a prophecy made by Jesus that He would be lifted up "as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness" (3:14).

Traditionally placed at the site of the Holy Sepulchre, which in the Herodian period was outside of the city walls, many Protestants and most Latter-day Saints instead identify the Garden Tomb outside the current city walls near the site of Gordon's Calvary (which today looks like a skull) as the probable site of Jesus' final resting place. 

Located in a modern garden, it conveys better the sense of what the tomb and its setting must indeed have been like, and Presidents Lee and Kimball are both on record as having had particularly strong impressions at the site.  On the other hand, many archaeologists have noted that the Garden Tomb is actually a much earlier tomb and does not date to the first century.  President Hinckley, in his personal remarks preluding the Testimony of the Living Christ that was filmed on the site, has said, "Just outside the walls of Jerusalem, in this place or somewhere nearby was the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, where the body of the Lord was interred."  (see my discussion of sites in God So Loved the World, 81, 100-101)  

Perhaps more exactly similar to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea is the family tomb of the Herods or a number of first-century tombs near Bethphage, which are securely dated to the time of Christ and include the rolling stones and other features described.  Still, the Garden Tomb remains in the hearts and minds the best place for picturing the setting not just of our Lord's burial but also the miracle of his resurrection.


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday

Harry Anderson, Jesus Praying in Gethsemane

The Thursday before Easter is a day rich in deep, often poignant events. These include Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, at which he instituted the sacrament and washed his disciples’ feet; his prayer and agony in the Garden of Gethsemane; his betrayal by Judas and abandonment by the other disciples; and his arrest, cynical examination, and abuse by the Jewish authorities of the time.
Known as Holy Thursday in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communities, in many English-speaking countries this Thursday is sometimes called “Maundy Thursday.”  The word “maundy” is an early English form of the Latin mandatum for "commandment” and recalls Jesus’ teaching “A new commandment I give you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye love one another” (John 13:34).

In God So Loved the World, 49, I wrote:

While Latter-day Saints do not formally observe the day, the events commemorated in the gospel texts for Thursday hold great significance for us.  Because we partake of the sacrament weekly, the Last Supper has particular meaning.  Further, insights from restoration scripture and latter-day apostles and teachers regarding the atonement make the events in Gethsemane especially important.  But Thursday also marks some beautiful final teachings of Jesus to his closest disciples, as well as other, difficult experiences-such as his betrayal, abuse, abandonment, and false judgment-that were important parts of his “descending below all things” (D&C 88:6; 122:8).
Because of the importance of this evening, those celebrating with families may want to plan on extra time for reading and discussing the events of this day together (see “Ideas for Families” below).

Scriptural Accounts for Thursday: Mark 14:12–72; Matthew 26; Luke 22; John 13:1–18:27; see also Mosiah 3:7 and D&C 19:15–20

Episodes for Personal Study

  • The Last Supper (Matt 26:17–35; Mark 14:12–31; Luke 22:7–38; John 13:1–38)
  • Last Supper Discourses (Luke 22:24–30; John 13:31–17:26)
  • Jesus Goes to Gethsemane: “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” (18:1a)
  • Jesus at Gethsemane (Mark 14:32–42; Matt 26:36–47; Luke 22:39–46; John 18:1b)
  • Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:43–52; Matt 26:47–56; Luke 22:47–53; John 18:2–3)
  • Jesus Before the Jewish Authorities (Mark 14:43–65; Matt 26:57–68; Luke 22:54–71; John 18–28)

Suggested Music: Bach, St. John Passion.

Suggested Interview: Listen to the first half of "Reflections on Gethsemane, Golgotha, and the Resurrection," an interview with Andrew Skinner, a prominent LDS author and a professor of ancient scripture at BYU.

For further reading: Raymond Brown, The Death of the Messiah (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 110–660.

Eric D. Huntsman, "The Lamb of God: Unique Aspects of the Passion Narrative in John," Behold the Lamb of God: An Easter Celebration (Provo: Religious Study Center, 2008), 49–70, n.b., 49–59.

Eric D. Huntsman, "Gethsemane and the Trial," Beholding Salvation Lecture Series, Museum of Art, Brigham Young University, March 14, 2007. Also an Audio CD by Deseret Book, 2007.

Andrew C, Skinner, Gethsemane (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002).

Dana M. Pike, "Before the Jewish Authorities," From the Last Supper to the Resurrection, 210–268.

Ideas for Families
Remembering Maundy Thursday with the kids --- with the help of passages from Mark 14, John 13, Luke 22, an olive wood Last Supper carving from Bethlehem, and a small figurine of Jesus praying in Gethsemane

  • Read Mark’s account of the Last Supper.  Discuss the sacrament and its symbolism, sharing how it helps us each week remember the Savior’s sacrifice for us
  • Sing one of your favorite sacrament hymns.
  • Discuss how Jesus washed the disciples feet and commanded that we should love one another.  What are ways we can serve and love one another?  Perhaps sing “Love One Another” together.
  • Read Luke’s account of Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Then, after reading Mosiah 3:7, Alma 7:11–13, and D&C 19:15–20, bear testimony of how Jesus took upon himself and suffered for our sins, infirmities, sorrows, and other challenges.
  • Sing “Reverently and Meekly Now” (hymn 185).
  • Emphasize that while Gethsemane was a critical part of the atonement, it was only the beginning. Testify that Jesus not only suffered for our sins in Gethsemane but he died for them on the cross.

Traditional Anglican collect for Maundy Thursday
Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament f his Body and Blood: mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in thee holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

Brief Discussion of the Events of the Thursday before Easter
See the much longer discussion in God So Loved the World, 49–69.

Bloch, The Last Supper
  • Preparation of "the Passover" meal (Matt 26:17–19; Mark 14:12–16; Luke 22:7–13)
  • The Last Supper with the Disciples (Matt 26:20–25; Mark 14:17–21; Luke 22:14–18)
  • Institution of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (Matt 26:26–30; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 22:19–20)
  • Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet (John 13:1–20)
  • Jesus Foretells His Betrayal (Luke 22:21–23; John 13:21–30)
  • The New Commandment to Love One Another (13:31–36)
  • Peter’s Denial Foretold (Matt 26:31–35; Mark 14:26–31; Luke 22:31–38; John 13:36–38) 
The Synoptic Gospels seem to suggest that the Last Supper was a Passover Meal, whereas John is clear that the Passover began at sundown of the day when Christ was crucified. John’s account seems to bear the most historical verisimilitude: a criminal would certainly not be crucified during the Passover feast itself. Additionally, the Johannine imagery is strong: the day before Passover was a Preparation Day, and between 3:00–5:00 the paschal lambs were slaughtered in the Temple.  Accordingly, Jesus died on the cross at 3:00 at the very moment the first Passover lamb was sacrificed. Although scholars have proposed a number of ways to resolve the apparent discrepancy, the most likely answer is that Jesus, knowing that he would be dead before Passover began, celebrated the feast early with his friends.

And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God." (Luke 22:14–16; see D&C 27:5ff.)
Crowds entering the Cenacle, the traditional site of the Last Supper on holy Thursday 2012
The gospels record two important ordinances at the Last Supper: the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in the Synoptics the Washing of Feet in John. The earliest reference to the institution of the sacrament in the New Testament is actually in the letters of Paul, which were written before any of the gospels:
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. (1 Corinthians 11:23–26)
Holy Eucharist service in the Cenacle
John’s omission of the sacrament is surprising, but sacramental imagery is woven throughout the body of his gospel (e.g. the Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus as the Fountain of Living Water, the Vine, etc.). John does, however, preserve an account of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. Although a priesthood ordinance, one aspect of which is alluded to in D&C 88:139–141, the significance of it in the narrative of the gospel of John is as an act of service and love:
J. Kirk Richards, Greatest in the Kingdom
Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. . . . So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, "Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:3–5, 12–17)
In accordance with this example it is the practice in the Roman Catholic and some other churches for bishops or spiritual leaders to wash the feet of token members of their flock on Maundy Thursday. Similar practices were performed by some European kings, who would wash the feet of peasants and make distributions of coins to the assembled crowds. In the Church today, the ordinance itself is reserved for sacred occasions, but the example of loving and serving others is lived every day.

Washing of the feet at Notre Dame of Jerusalem, Holy Thursday 2012

Queen Elizabeth after Maundy Thursday services at Blackburn Cathedral, 2014


John also preserves several lengthy discourses delivered during and right after the Last Supper (14:1–17:26).  These focus on the love of Jesus, our relationship to him, and our need to likewise love one another.

Part 1A

  • Christ’s Departure: Jesus the Way to the Father (14:1–14)
  • Promise of the Holy Spirit or Paraclete (or "Comforter," 14:15–26)
  • Peace and the Love of the Father (14:27–31)
Part 2
  • Jesus the True Vine (15:1–17)
  • The Hatred of the World (15:18–16:4a)
Part 1B
  • Christ’s Departure: The Work of the Spirit (16:4b–15)
  • Christ’s Departure: Sorrow Will Turn to Joy (16:16–24)
  • Peace and the Love of the Father (16:25–33)
  • Part 3
The Great Intercessory Prayer (17:1–26)

Throughout the discourses, but especially in chapters 14 and 16, Jesus focuses on the imminence of his departure, but insists that his coming sacrifice is necessary for our salvation. In the famous opening of the first discourse, he assured his disciples:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1–3)
The teachings in these discourses are too rich to give even a perfunctory review here. Instead we only note the love that motivated Jesus’ great atoning sacrifice and the powerful parallel of the sorrow of the passion to the pains of a woman in childbirth—terrible at the time but giving way to greater joy.
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12–13)
Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. (John 16:20–22)

The discourses end with the famous Intercessory Prayer, also known as the Great High Priestly Prayer, of chapter 17 wherein Jesus explained the purpose of his sacrifice: to make us one with each other and one with God and Christ. This is, in reality, the essence of the Atonement—the at-one-ment—and having prayed that God will grant this end, he went forth ready to do what was necessary to bring it about.

Elaine at the "Tomb of Absalom," Holy Thursday 2012

The pivotal moment of this night, however, was Jesus' great struggle in Gethsemane, "the place of the wine press."  To get there, John 18:1 records that Jesus and his disciples needed to cross over the Qidron Valley (KJV, "the brook Cedron"), the deep valley to the east that separated the city and the temple mount from the Mount of Olives.  Anciently the valley was so deep that much of it was in shadow through much of the day. Passing through the valley under the Passover moon, Jesus and his disciples would have seen numerous tombs that filled the lower slopes
of the southern side of the Mount of Olives.  Both of these facts gave poignant meaning to the well-known passage from 23:3, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me . . .”

The Qidron Valley after the Holy Thursday Night service in the Basilica of the Agony at Gethsemane, 2012
Click here for an on-site visit to the Qidron Valley, which in the context of Maundy Thursday certainly fits the description of the Valley of the Shadow of Death"

An ancient olive tree in Gethsemane

  • Jesus Prays that his disciples not enter into "temptation" or "the time of trial" (peirasmon; Luke 22:40)
  • Jesus Has the Disciples, Presumably Eleven of the Twelve but Perhaps Including Others at this Point, Sit Apart and Takes Peter, James and John Further (Mark 14:32b–33a; Matt 26:36b–37a)
  • Jesus’ Soul Becomes Sorrowful; Three Disciples Asked to Pray (Mark 14:33b–34; Matt 26:37b–38)
  • Jesus Suffers and Prays that the Cup May Pass (Mark 14:33–36; Matt 26:37–39; Luke 22:41–42)
  • An Angel Appears to Strengthen Jesus [Luke 22:43]
  • Jesus Sweats Blood [Luke 22:44]
  • Finds Peter, James, and John Sleeping (three times: Mark 14:37–42; Matt 26:40–46; only once: Luke 22:45–46)
John is sparing of the details of what occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane, either out of reverence for its sacredness or because "plain and precious parts" of his account have been lost (see D&C 93:18).  The Synoptics, however, recount that Jesus took his three closest disciples, Peter, James, and John part way into the garden and then left them to watch and pray while he went in further.  There he "began to be sore amazed and very sorrowful" (Mark 14:22 and parallels).  Of this experience, Elder Neal A. Maxwell has tenderly written:
Later, in Gethsemane, the suffering Jesus began to be ‘sore amazed’ (Mark 14:33), or, in the Greek, ‘awestruck’ and ‘astonished.’ Imagine, Jehovah, the Creator of this and other worlds, "astonished!" Jesus knew cognitively what He must do, but not experientially. He had never personally known the exquisite and exacting process of an atonement before. Thus, when the agony came in its fulness, it was so much, much worse than even He with his unique intellect had ever imagined! No wonder an angel appeared to strengthen him!
The cumulative weight of all mortal sins—past, present, and future—pressed upon that perfect, sinless, and sensitive Soul! All our infirmities and sicknesses were somehow, too, a part of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement. The anguished Jesus not only pled with the Father that the hour and cup might pass from Him, but with this relevant citation. ‘And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me.’ (Mark 14:35–36.)" (Neal A. Maxwell, "Willing to Submit," Ensign, May 1985, 70ff.) 
Olive screw press at the BYU Jerusalem Center

Mark, Matthew, and Luke agree on what happened next.  Falling upon the ground, he pled with his Father that thus cup could pass, but then in harmony with his nature since the beginning, he submitted to his Father's will.
When in the wondrous realms above our Savior had been called upon to save our world of sin by love, He said, "Thy will, O Lord, be done.” 
The King of Kings left worlds of light, became the meek and lowly One; in brightest day or darkest night, He said, “Thy will, O Lord, be done.” (hymn 188)
Richards, Gethsemane
Of the Synoptics, Luke preserves additional, critical details, including the important appearance of an angel to comfort or assist the Lord and the fact that his agony resulted in his sweating blood (Luke 22:43–44).  Although some scholars have called into question the text of these two verses, latter-day revelation confirms the "sweating of blood" and gives us the greatest insight into the events of Gethsemane, where Jesus took upon us the weight of our sins and sorrows and began the process of the Atonement. 
And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people. (Mosiah 3:7) 
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men. (D&C 19:16–19)
Heinrich Hofmann, Christ in Gethsemane
 Most of our sacrament hymns deal with with Jesus' death on Calvary, but one of them, "Reverently and Meekly Now," has a verse that refers to Jesus' suffering in the garden: 
Rev’rently and meekly now, Let thy head most humbly bow. 
Think of me, thou ransomed one; Think what I for thee have done. 
With my blood that dripped like rain, Sweat in agony of pain, 
With my body on the tree I have ransomed even thee. (Hymn 185; see the discussion in God So Loved the World, 63). 

My family in the Garden of Gethsemane in November 2011.
Click here to watch a video of us at Gethsemane as we read from Luke 22

As important as unique Latter-day Saint insights are regarding the significance of what happened in Gethsemane, perhaps we should be careful not to "over-correct," assuming that the atonement occurred in Gethsemane alone.  Jesus not only suffered the weight of our sins and sorrows, he suffered and died for them.  Indeed, following the sacrificial procedure, the sacrifice first receives the guilt, is then led to the altar, is slain for the sins, and then consumed in the fire, thereby ascending into heaven.  The Gethsemane experience, so well-explained in Mosiah 3 and D&C 18 thus began the process that would continue all the way to the cross, and indeed, to the Empty Tomb and the Risen Lord's ascension into heaven.

Holman, The Scapegoat.  Like the scapegoat, Jesus emerged from Gethsemane bearing our sins and transgressions.  Like the sin offering, he would bear them to the altar of his cross.


Giotto, Arrest of Jesus (Kiss of Judas)

  • Judas Leads Arresting Party to Jesus (Mark 14:43; Matt 26:47; Luke 22:47a; John 18:2–3)
  • Judas Identifies Jesus with a Kiss (Mark 14:44–46; Matt 26:48–50; Luke 22:47b–48)
  • Jesus’ "I Am" Proclamation to the Arresting Party (John 18:4–8a)
  • Jesus Intervenes for His Disciples (John 18:8b–9)
  • Servant of the High Priest Wounded (Mark 14:47; Matt 26:51; Luke 22:49–50; John 18:10)
  • Jesus Rebukes the Defending Disciple (Matt 26:52–54; Luke 22:51a; John 18:11)
  • Jesus Heals the High Priest’s Servant (Luke 22:51b)
  • Jesus Rebukes the Arresting Party (Mark 14:48–50; Matt 26:55–56a; Luke 22:52–53)
  • Disciples Abandon Jesus (Mark 14:50; Matt 26:56b)
  • Young Man in the Linen Cloth (Mark 14:51–52)
Following the agony in the Garden, our Lord suffered another blow, his betrayal by his friend Judas and the subsequent indignities of his arrest and trial. As part of the "atoning journey" begun when Jesus took upon himself our sins, pains, and sorrows, he "descended below all things" and experienced the terrible realities of betrayal, false judgment, arrest, and rejection. No wife betrayed by a husband, no child abused by a parent, no friend rejected by another will fail to resonate with Jesus' being betrayed by the kiss of a friend, abandoned by the disciples, and denied, if only briefly, by Peter. No one ever falsely judged can fail to relate as to how Jesus, innocent and pure, was falsely accused and condemned.


  • Jesus before the former High Priest Annas (John 18:12–14; 19–24)
  • Jesus Before the High Caiaphas and members of the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:53–64; Matt 26:57–68; Luke 22:54a [22:66–71 after the denial and the mocking]; John 18:24, 28)
  • Jesus Mocked by the Jewish Guards (Mark 14:65; Matt 26:67–68; Luke 22:63–65)
  • Peter’s Denial (Mark 14:66–72; Matt 26:69–75; Luke 22:54b–62; John 18:17–27)
  • Morning Hearing Before the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:1; Matt 27:1; Luke 22:63–71)
St. Peter in Gallicantu with archaeological remains
Matthew, Mark, and John have Jesus examined and perhaps tried by various Jewish authorities during the course of the night after Jesus’ arrest. Scholarship is divided on whether the Jewish authorities had the right to execute a person condemned for blasphemy, one of the charges discussed in Matthew and Mark.  Luke portrays a formal hearing before the Sanhedrin the next morning; this was mostly likely an investigative hearing to gather information for the charges to be laid before Pilate.

Two different sites on Mount Zion, just south of the current Old City, claim to commemorate the place where Jesus was examined, held, and abused by the Jewish authorities.  One is the Armenian "House of Caiaphas."  The other is the Franciscan St. Peter in Gallicantu, or "Peter of the Cock Crow."  This St. Peter's is built over the remains of a first century mansion that does, indeed, have a dungeon and holding cells in its basement.

Looking down into the "Sacred Pit" under St. Peter's in Gallicantu

The "scourging place" in the ruins under St. Peter's in Gallicantu

Today's Messiah reflections

Most of the movements in the Passion section of Handel's Messiah refer to the abuse and suffering that Jesus experienced in the hands of the Romans on Good Friday.  But since his handling by the Jewish authorities acts of cruelty and abuse parallel to those that he would suffer from the Romans, some of the movements that tell of rebuke, rejection, and abuse also fit for late on Thursday night.  Indeed, coming from his own people, some of the abuse from the Sanhedrin and its guards may have come as an even greater rejection.

Tenor recitative:
Thy rebuke hath broken his heart,
     He is full of heaviness;
Thy rebuke has broken his heart.
     He looked for some to have pity on Him,
but there was no man
     neither found He any to comfort him (cf. Psalm 69:20).

Tenor air:
 Behold, and see if there be any sorrow
     like unto his sorrow (Lamentation 1:12).

Alto air:
He was despised and rejected of men;
     a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief
He gave His back to smiters,
     and His cheeks to them that plucked out the hairs:
     He his not his face from shame and spitting (Isaiah 52:3a; 50:6).

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: 
     yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: 

      the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5).

Here is a link to pictures and video clips from our experience in Jerusalem for Maundy Thursday in 2012

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