Good Friday

April 2, 2010 | 10 comments
By
Harry Anderson, "The Crucifixion"

Harry Anderson, "The Crucifixion"

The day traditional associated with the crucifixion of Jesus, the Friday before Easter, 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.”  Hence “goodbye” for “go with God.”  Accordingly it is “God’s Friday” because on this day was the culmination of God’s reconciling the world to himself through the death of his Son.

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

  • Jesus in the Hands of the Romans (Mark 15:1–21; Matt 27:1–32; Luke 23:1–32; John 18:29–19:17a)
  • At Calvary (Mark 15:22–28; Matt 27:33–38; Luke 23:33–34, 38; John 19:17b–24)
  • Activities at the Cross (Mark 15:29–32; Matt 27:39–44; Luke 23:35–43; John 19:25–27)
  • Last Moments (Mark 15:33–37; Matt 27:45–50; Luke 23:44–46; John 19:28–30)
  • The Burial of Jesus (Mark 15:42–47; Matt 27:57–66; Luke 23:50–56; John 19:38–42)

Suggested Music: Suggested Music: “O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown.” (hymn 197)

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

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).

None of the gospels directly date the crucifixion to Friday; this is a deduction from the fact that a sabbath began at sundown shortly after Jesus died.  While it is a natural inference that this was the weekly sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday), the first day of the Passover as a “high day” was also a sabbath (John 19:31; see note 31c in the LDS KJV), making it possible that Jesus was crucified on a Thursday.

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.
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.

Titian, "Christ Crowned with Thorns," 1540

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)
  • Jesus Brought to Pilate (Mark 15:1b–2; Matt 27:1b–2; Luke 23:1; John 18:28)
  • The Accusation of the Jewish Authorities (Luke 23:2; John 18:29–32)
  • Suicide of Judas Iscariot (Matt 27:3–10)
  • Pilate and Jesus
  • Pilate Questions Jesus Publicly (Mark 15:2–5; Matt 27:11–14; Luke 23:3–5)
  • Pilate Interviews Christ Privately (John 18:33–38a: Art thou a king?)
  • Jesus Before Herod (Luke 23:6–12)
  • Pilate and the Mob (Mark 15:6–11; Matt 27:15–23; Luke 23:13–23; John 18:38b–19:12)
  • Pilate Plans to Flog and Release Jesus (Luke 23:13–17)
  • Barabbas or Jesus? (Mark 15:6–11; Matt 27:15–23; Luke 23:18–19, 24–25a; John 18:38b–40)
  • Pilate Has Christ Scourged and Mocked (John 19:1–3)
  • Pilate Presents Jesus to the Mob (John 19:4–7)
  • Pilate Again Interviews Christ Privately (John 19:8–11: Whence art thou?)
  • Pilate Again Tries to Release Jesus (Luke 23:20–23; John 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)

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, 316-317)

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

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” and the following choruses “Surely He Hath Born Our Griefs” and “With His Stripes We Are Healed.”

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 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 53:3–55)

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.

CRUCIFIXION

Gordon's Calvary, outside of the Damascus Gate, Jerusalem

Gordon's Calvary, outside of the Damascus Gate, Jerusalem

At Calvary (Mark 15:22–28; Matt 27:33–38; Luke 23:32–34, 38; John 19:17b–24)

  • Golgotha, “The Place of the Skull,” or Calvary (Mark 15:22; Matt 27:33; Luke 23:33a; John 19:17b)
  • Jesus Refuses Wine and Myrrh – cf. Prov.31:6 (Mark15:23; Mark 27:34)
  • Jesus’ Clothing divided – cf. Ps. 22:18 (Mark 15:24; Matt 27:35b–36; Luke 23: 23:34b; John 19:23–24)
  • Jesus’ tunic/undergarment not rent (John 19:23b–24)
  • Jesus Crucified – Mark’s Third Hour (Mark 15:25; Matt 27:35a; Luke 23:33b; John 19:18a)
  • Jesus Prays for Forgiveness for Those Crucifying Him (Luke 23:34a)
  • The Superscription “King of the Jews” [trilingual in Luke] (Mark 15:26; Matt 27:37; Luke 23:38; John 19:19–20)

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.

Activities at the Cross (Mark 15:29–32; Matt 27:39–44; Luke 23:35–43; John 19:25–27)

  • First Mockery – passersby “save yourself” (Mark 15:29–30; Matt 27:39–40; Luke 23:35)
  • Second Mockery – chief priests and scribes, “he saved others, come down and we will believe (Mark 15:31–32; Matt 27:41–43)
  • Soldiers Mock Jesus, “If You Are the King of the Jews,” and Offer Him Sour Wine (Luke 23:36–37)
  • Third Mockery – Bandit(s) deride him the same way (Matt 27:44; Luke 23:39
  • “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)

Last Sayings of Jesus

“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).

While it became popular in the Middle Ages, and recently in the media (as witnessed by Brother Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”), 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 “Seven Last Sayings of Jesus,” his crucifixion between two bandits or criminals, the division of his garments, offering poor wine as a drink, the failure to break his legs, and his side being pierced.

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

  • Darkness from the Sixth to the Ninth Hour (Mark 15:33; Matt 27:45; Luke 23:44–45a)
  • Jesus’ Cry, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34–35; Matt 27:46–47)
  • Jesus Given Sour Wine – cf. Ps. 69:21 (Mark 15:36; Matt 27:48–49; John 19:28–30a [on a hyssop branch in John])
  • Jesus Cries Out and Expires (Mark 15:37; Matt 27:50)
  • Jesus Commends His Spirit to His Father and Expires (Luke 23:46)
  • Jesus Announced “It is finished,” and Gives Up His Spirit (John 19:30b)

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.”

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)

Signs and Reactions to Christ’s Death (Mark 15:38–41; Matt 27:51–56; Luke 23:45b, 47–49; John 19:31–37)

  • Rending of the Temple Veil – cf. Hebrews 9:11–12, 24–26 (Mark 15:38; Matt 27:51; Luke 23:45b)
  • Tombs Open and Dead Saints Arise after His Resurrection (Matt 27:52–53)
  • The Centurion’s Testimony (Mark 15:39; Matt 27:54; Luke 23:47)
  • The People Mourn and Return (Luke 23:48)
  • The Witness of the Women Standing Afar Off (Mark 15:40–41; Matt 27: 55–56; Luke 23:49)
  • Jewish Authorities Request that the Victims’ Legs Be Broken (John 19:31–33)
  • Jesus’ legs not broken – cf. Ex 12:46; Num 9:12 (John 19:33, 36)
  • Christ’s side Pierced: the Sign of Blood and Water (John 19:34–35)
  • Scripture Fulfilled: “They shall look upon him whom they pierced” (John 19:37)

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?”

Ron Richmond, "Triplus No. 3"

Ron Richmond, "Triplus No. 3"

Bones, Blood, and Water

(see “And the Word Was Made Flesh: An LDS Exegesis of the Blood and Water Imagery in John,” Studies in the Bible and Antiquity 1 [2009], 51–65.)

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).

When John recorded the preservation of Jesus’s bones, he also recorded what he felt was one of the most important signs of who Jesus was and what He did: “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; emphasis added). Treatments of this symbol have rightly noted that the blood represents the humanity—and the mortality—of Jesus, but they often differ on the significance of the water. Because the flowing of water from Jesus’s side is reminiscent of the streams of water that Jesus proclaimed would flow from His belly (see John 7:37–39), some have seen it as representing the promised spirit that would flow from Jesus to His believers. While being hanged on a tree was a sign that one was accursed by God (see Deuteronomy 21:2–23), the flowing water, necessary for purification under the Mosaic system, was a sign that rather than being a curse Jesus was in fact a source of blessing, and this water resonates with the water used in both baptism and the washing of feet.

Perhaps more consistent with the symbolism elsewhere in John is the idea that water represents life, and not just mortal life but everlasting life (see John 4:14; 7:37–38). In this case, the flowing of blood and water from Jesus’ side powerfully represents not only what Jesus did—the blood atoning for sins while the water purifies or cleanses the sinner—but perhaps even more significantly who He was. Due to His mortal inheritance from His mother, Mary, represented by the flowing blood, Jesus was able to lay down His life as a sacrifice for sin. Because of His divine, immortal inheritance from God, His Father, represented by the stream of water, He was able to take His life up again and become a source of eternal life. Just as Old Testament visions featured rivers of healing, life-giving water issuing from millennial Jerusalem and its temple, or the place of sacrifice (see Ezekiel 47:1–12; Zechariah 14:8), so now living waters flow from Jesus on the cross. In this view, the cross, a dead tree and sign of cursing, becomes a source of blessings as a new Tree of Life, as it was sometimes depicted in later Christian art—an image consonant with Book of Mormon visions of the love of God, best manifest in Christ and His sacrifice, portrayed as a fountain of living waters and a tree of life, the fruit of which was eternal life, the most precious of the gifts of God (see 1 Nephi 11:22–25; 15:36; D&C 14:7).

The sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb differed from many other sacrifices in that it was not explicitly an offering for sin—rather it was intended to ward off death, perhaps explaining in John the emphasis not just on forgiveness of sins but on new life. But while those who placed the blood of the lambs on their doorposts on the first Passover were spared, they continued not with new life but with the same kind of life that they had before. Significantly the blood of the Lamb of God on the cross was accompanied by water, suggesting the new life that would come to the believers. As Jesus had taught, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). While Jesus certainly deepens and enriches mortality for those who follow Him, a deeper significance to this passage lies in seeing it as a reference to the eternal life—knowing and living eternally with God.

Hendrick Goltzius, "Christ on the Tree of Life," 1610

Hendrick Goltzius, "Christ on the Tree of Life," 1610

Reflection: Why the Cross?

In most Christian traditions 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 reminds them of what Christ did for them but it is empty, because he has risen and is no longer there.  In the LDS community we have become somewhat chary of cross imagery, partially because of our understandable focus on a living Christ rather than a crucified Christ but also simply because the early members of the Church in the New York and Ohio periods came out of a fairly Puritan Protestant background that was largely aniconographic (avoided images).  In 1975 President Hinckley addressed the issue of such symbolism in an important address that is being reprinted in the April 2005 Ensign, where he points 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).

Carl Bloch, "The Crucifixion," 1865-79.

Carl Bloch, "The Crucifixion," 1865-79.

Nevertheless, although we do not use the symbol of the cross, we remember weekly what happened there, as revealed by the texts of virtually all of our sacrament hymns, which focus on the final act of Calvary and not as much on Gethsemane.  Jesus did not just bear our sins . . . he did not just suffer for them . . . he died for them.  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. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Symbol of Christ,” Ensign, May 1975, 92)

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.  It is not the Latin or Greek cross of art, or the more realistic scaffolding or upright poles to which crossbeams of various kinds were attached for any number of criminals that is the important symbol.  Instead the image of raising Jesus up, like the brazen serpent in the wilderness, is what made this particular kind of death a matter of prophecy.  No where is this stated more clearly than by the Risen Lord himself 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)

Likewise, 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)

Carl Bloch, "Burial of Christ," 1865-79.

Carl Bloch, "Burial of Christ," 1865-79.

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.”

Perhaps more exactly similar to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea is the family tomb of the Herods, which is securely dated to the time of Christ and includes the tolling stone 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.

The Garden Tomb, owned and maintained by the Protestant Garden Tomb Association of London, is a popular alternative to the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre because of its peaceful setting and lack of religious paraphernalia.

The Garden Tomb, owned and maintained by the Protestant Garden Tomb Association of London, is a popular alternative to the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre because of its peaceful setting and lack of religious paraphernalia.

10 Responses to Good Friday

  1. danithew on April 2, 2010 at 8:42 am

    When the Niblets come around again there should be a category for best use of artwork in a blog post – and this one should at least be a candidate.

  2. Crossed the Tiber on April 2, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Eric –
    With respect to your assertion that “[t]hroughout the gospel of John blood is the symbol of life but mortal life…” and the question you pose thereafter, this is refuted, in part, by John’s own words: “Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen, I say unto you: except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me: and I in him.” (John 6: 54-57)
    Regarding your section “Why the Cross?”, a suggested exercise for readers: search New Testament for instances of “cross” or “crucified” or their variations. Note how many are symbols of triumph, or even boasting (St. Paul).

  3. Kristine on April 2, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Thank you for all of these posts, Eric. They’re both lovely and tremendously useful.

    It’s worth noting that the “translation” of “O, Sacred Head” (especially the final stanza) is really pretty much an original poem by Karen Lynn Davidson, and one of the most beautiful examples of LDS devotion to Christ in our literature. Thanks for including it!

  4. Adam Greenwood on April 2, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    What Kristine said.

  5. Eric Huntsman on April 2, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Crossed the Tiber . . . Understand where you are going with your comment . . . but in regard to the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6, I, and others, have argued (see reference below; cannot insert a hyperlink in a comment) that “eating the flesh and drinking the blood” is a symbol of accepting Christ’s saving DEATH. I argue in my Blood and Water piece that water represents divinity and blood represents mortality—hence Jesus needed to be the Son of God to perform an infinite and eternal atonement but the son of Mary in order to die and offer himself as a sacrifice. When accept his salvific suffering and death and make it part of ourselves, then the streams of living water flow from him to us. But we can certainly differ on this.

    “The Bread of Life Sermon,” pages 87–112 in Celebrating Easter. Edited by Thomas A. Wayment and Keith J. Wilson. The 2006 BYU Easter Conference. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, 2007. Substantial revision of “The Bread of Life Sermon,” 2006

    Bread of Life, Easter edition: http://rsc.byu.edu/EC6.php for above
    Blood and Water in the Gospel of John: http://maxwellinstitute.com/publications/studies/?vol=1&id=29

  6. Robert Ricks on April 3, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Thanks so much for your Holy Week posts, Eric. They’ve been wonderfully edifying and informative.

  7. Amy on April 3, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    As always, Brother Huntsman, a lovely summary. It seems that you’ve taken over here at T&S. These posts have been wonderful.
    I also love your treatment of the cross. I have taken to wearing a cross, despite the iconoclasm of my co-religionists. I find it to be a powerful symbol with far more profound meaning than a CTR ring ever could have. It is a sign than I am a Christian. It is a representation of the death of my Lord. It is a symbol of victory to me, as it was to Paul. Some see the cross as macabre. I see it as triumphant–Christ no longer hangs there in agony, though I must never forget than He once did.
    As you have pointed out, the common LDS custom is to talk about Gethsemane to the exclusion of the rest of the atoning journey, then skip straight through the scourging and mocking and crucifixion and all the painful bits, and straight to the glory of resurrection morning. But I have found that the cross always stands in the way.
    I truly love Good Friday, and the opportunity it gives me to reflect on my Savior who not only suffered and bled, but also–and perhaps most importantly–died for me.

  8. Eric Huntsman on April 3, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    If this is my student Amy, it was great to see you at the Cathedral of the Madeleine yesterday. The choristers there did a wonderful job with Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater.” I was showing a friend the Stations of the Cross and explaining them when I saw you.

    I had come there from a session at the Salt Lake Temple, my friend Rick Elliott’s noon organ recital at the Tabernacle, and then a break-my-fast lunch at Lamb’s on Center Street with a small group of close friends (where I had lamb in commemoration!). Then I got to enjoy beautiful music in a beautiful setting with many good people who were observing with great solemness what our Lord has done for us. It was indeed a good Good Friday for me.

    I am not “taking over” at T&S . . . I am just kind of seasonal. They are very kind to let me come as a guest blogger and share some thoughts on occasion. Did a bunch of stuff this last Christmas (e.g. “An LDS Observance of Advent,” “Christmas with Autism,” and a short series on the New Testament Infancy Narratives, starting with “Studying the Infancy Narratives.”

    Took your link to your blogs and quite enjoyed them.

  9. Jim F. on April 3, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Eric, I’m disappointed to hear that you’re not taking over at T&S. Please think about doing so.

  10. Amy on April 3, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    I’m with Jim on this one. Please reconsider. =)
    Though my itinerary was somewhat different, it was a very, very Good Friday, and a very good Holy Week.