By far, the one day of the entire church year in which the church prays together is Good Friday. More prayers are prayed, more readings read, more hymns chanted than any other time. All because of the perfect sacrifice; all focused on God and on the Cross.
The prophecies read on this day far outweigh those read throughout any other day of the week. In the first hour, 11 prophecies are read; in the 3rd hour, 6 are read and one final prophecy is read in the evening.
On Friday, Jesus began to be judged in front of a series of councils. The chief priests convened together and condemned the Savior so that they might deliver Him to Pilate to kill him. (Exposition) False witnesses came forth to falsely accuse Him. The “fierce witnesses” mentioned in Psalm 35:11 specifically refers to these false witnesses at the trial of Christ.
The prophecies mostly condemn the priests for this atrocity. Jeremiah says, “Woe to the shepherds that destroy and scatter the sheep of their pasture!” The Wisdom of Solomon shows how the Jews will spitefully examine and torture Him. Because of their wickedness, they are blind and will not receive the reward of forgiveness as the rest of the world.
But in each prophesy, the Lord promises to save His people. This one glimmer of hope shined forth through the Cross on this Great Friday. As Micah the prophet proclaims, “for I have fallen yet shall arise; for though I should sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light to me.”
When Judas saw that He was condemned, he brought the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders to avoid the responsibility for innocent blood (Matthew 23:34- 35; Deuteronomy 21:9, 27:25). His love of money led to his demise, as explained in the homily of St. John Chrysostom. Ironically, Judas has the same name as Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob, who rather than shedding his brother Joseph’s blood, sold him for twenty (or thirty) pieces of silver. (Genesis 37:26-28).
The chief priests took the silver and bought a potter’s field with it to bury strangers in. This itself was the fulfillment of two prophesies (Zechariah 11:12-13; Jeremiah 19:1-13, 32:9). Judas hung himself, unable to acknowledge the forgiveness of God, and unwilling to depend on Christ. Instead of repentance, Judas turned a transgression into another transgression
Then, they had bound Jesus and delivered Him to Pontuis Pilate, the governor. A set of charges is presented to Pilate. When Pilate discovers that our Lord was from Galilee, he sent Him to Herod, who questioned and mocked Him. Then the Accused is then returned back to Pilate to without being found guilty. When Christ is returned to Pilate, he tries twice to release Him, even offering a lesser penalty of whipping. Finally, Pilate gives in to the “will” of the Jews. It was a custom to release one of the prisoners at the time of the feast, but the people chose to release Barabbas instead of Jesus. Then Pilate washed his hands in front of them, denying any responsibility for the Innocent One.
At the end of this hour, the Icon of the crucifixion is placed on an icon holder in the chorus of deacons. Candles, lamps, crosses, gospels, and censor(s) and rose petals are placed before the icon of Crucifixion.
Third Hour: Via Dolorosa
The third hour begins the painful torment of Lamb. After Pilate washes his hands, the soldiers took Him into the common hall, paraded around Him, stripped Him and divided his garments. All of this was prophesied about in Psalm 22:17, “They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” They dressed Him in a scarlet robe, platted a crown of thorns, and placed a reed in His hand.
“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. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 5:6).
This is the day of pain, the day of sorrows. It is the commandment for us, “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). By actively participating in the Holy Passion Week, through fasting, prayer and repentance we suffer for His sake. Suffering is a gift from God, so that we can experience His satisfaction and capture the quiet endurance of the saints. Through meditation of the Cross, we witness His Divine Love for us. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
My Lord and Savior, Your body is torn by whips and I wear nice clothes, living lavishly and carelessly. You are given the myrrh to drink, and I enjoy the desires of life. You comfort my pains and sufferings and I refuse to repent. I ask You to have mercy upon me, for I know how tender is Your overflowing mercy.
Because of us, we who have been uncovered because of sin, the God of Glory, Jesus, was stripped of His clothes, was tied to the post, and was whipped with ropes and rods in which there was a chain of bones…Until this innocent body is scattered and its flesh dispersed in compensation; and His blood is shed to protect our wounds and to cure them. May we praise Him, for it is He who has killed death by death with His crown of thorns! (St. Ephram the Syrian)
This day of sufferings for God is at the same time a day of rejoicing for all humankind, who obtained Salvation through the Cross, achieving what was unthinkable — Salvation and eternal life at the price of Jesus’ blood. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to be] conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom. 8:29).
The sign of the Cross appears for the first time in Genesis 48:1-9. When Joseph presented his two sons, Ephraim and Manassah to be blessed by his father Jacob, Joseph placed Ephraim on the left side of Jacob, and Manassah on his right side. Jacob put his right hand on Ephraim, although he was the youngest, and his left hand on Manassah, thus crossing his hands. Joseph protested telling his father that his right hand should be on the eldest but Jacob replied: “I know my son, I know.”
All the prophecies that are read during the Third Hour describe Jesus’ sufferings in words similar to the words used in the Gospels:
(Prophesy) I did not defend myself, but offered my back to be lashed = (New Testament) Jesus was delivered to be lashed (Mark 15:15)
(Prophesy) …and my cheeks to be slapped = (New Testament) …and they slapped Him (John 19:3)
(Prophesy) …and I did not turn my face away from the shame of the spitting (Is. 50:4-9) = (New Testament) …and they were spitting at His face (Mark 15:9)
(Prophesy) They conspired between them- selves saying: let us tie the innocent (Is. 3:9-15) = (New Testament) They tied Him and took Him (Matt. 27:2)