Today is the day that commemorates the death of Jesus Christ, the oddly named Good Friday.
It was an unusual day in history.
Jesus, a Jewish teacher, had only been "known" for three years.
He taught people about God in way that was new and different, revealing a personal God, not just an arbiter of rules.
He touched sick people and healed them, even those with leprosy, the AIDS of his day.
Jesus did miraculous things, verifying his authority over the earth and it's elements; turning water into wine, walking on water, feeding huge crowds of people with a few fish and a bread rolls, restored sight to blind people and much more.
He went further. He raised people who were dead back to life, literally stopping funerals and digging up graves to restore people from death.
His teachings were inspired. They carry weight to the present day and are believed and observed by millions of people throughout the world, not just Christians.
When questioned he stated that the whole of God's laws could be summed up in two simple rules. Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbour the same way you love yourself.
Like him or not, agree or disagree with the Christian faith, I challenge anyone to apply those two rules and not find peace and meaning and fulfillment and become a better person. If the world truly embraced those two rules it would be radically transformed.
But, in a foretaste of the trouble that would follow and echo throughout the centuries, the religious leaders of the day were threatened by his popularity and following, confronted by his relationship with God and jealous of his power and authority. So, they killed him. Late one night they bribed one of his followers to betray him, arrested him, and brought him to trial. They falsely accused him, called witnesses who could not agree or prove any wrong-doing and threatened him with death unless he repudiated his claim to be the Son of God.
I've seen a few real life trials, and plenty on TV and movies, but never one like this. Why was this one different? Because Jesus did not say a word to defend himself. Despite the lies and false accusations made against him he remained silent, allowing them to carry out their sham trial and their supreme act of injustice.
History, the Bible, and witnesses all concur that Jesus had no crime or sin ever recorded against him. He was completely innocent. King Herod and Pontius Pilate both admitted this fact, saying they found nothing against him, certainly nothing worthy of death. But the religious leaders stirred the crowd and turned them against Jesus, demanding that he be crucified. Still Jesus did not protest his innocence or defend himself. He allowed them to carry out their evil actions, right through to a barbaric death by crucifixion, impaled on a cross with spikes through his hands and feet, left in excruciating pain to die of suffocation when he no longer had the strength to raise himself up to breathe by pushing against the spikes through his feet.
It was an horrific way to die. And yet, despite the enormity of the injustice, even on the cross Jesus continued to show love and compassion for other people, calling on God to forgive the very people who were killing him, because they didn't know what they were doing.
Impossible as it is, try putting yourself in Jesus's shoes and consider your reactions in the same circumstances.
I daresay you would not have acted in the same way.
You would not have stayed silent at trial.
You would not have prayed for your killers to be forgiven.
You would not have quietly accepted the death penalty for something you didn't do.
This was no ordinary death because this was no ordinary man. Jesus knew their was a plan. There was a reason he had to die. He knew that his death was planned by God as the single greatest act in the history of mankind because through his death God was able to offer forgiveness to the world for all of it's sin and rebellion.
A little known detail of the crucifixion is that at the moment of his death on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The barrier which had always existed between man and God's presence on earth was torn apart, removed forever. It was as if God himself reached down from heaven and ripped it up, opening the way for man to have free and unfettered access to God. Prior to that, entry to the Holiest place was punishable by death! Now it was open for anyone to come in. It was a symbol of what Jesus achieved by his death, opening the way for people to come to God, by faith and trust in him and what he did on our behalf.
Another thing that is probably not well known or appreciated is how quickly these events took place. The whole time frame from arrest to crucifixion was about 9 hours, with a further 6 hours until Jesus' actual death. We are so used to criminals spending 10-15 years awaiting execution it's hard to conceive that such an important trial and execution was carried out with such phenomenal haste.
It's an amazing story, an incredible event, and the reason, quite rightly, today is known as Good Friday.
It was a bad day for Jesus personally, but a great day for the world.
The full extent of it's significance was not understood however until Sunday.
In one final irony, I am quite sure that the vast majority of people who celebrate or observe Easter this year will concentrate on chocolate easter eggs as the major symbol and meaning of the holiday!