Each year on the Friday before Easter Sunday, Christians solemnly observe the crucifixion and death of Jesus on the cross. Christians observe Good Friday* with prayers, church services or fasting. Larger celebrations occur on Easter Sunday. For many Christians, Good Friday marks the end of the 40-day period of Lent which is spent in the spirit of sacrifice in observance of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness alone.
Jesus was crucified on a Friday, and He rose from the tomb on a Sunday. That is why Sunday is taken as a day of worship and service in churches.1
As told in the Bible, in the days leading up to the Friday, Jesus and his disciples entered the city of Jerusalem greeted by many of his followers. By then stories of Jesus’ teachings and his miracles had spread among the people of Palestine. Jesus went to the large Jerusalem temple. Finding much commercial activity where there should be prayer and meditation, Jesus overturned some of the merchants’ carts in righteous anger. Thus began the final series of events leading to his crucifixion. The temple priests were offended that Jesus had upset their established commercial routines. A few days later Jesus was arrested by soldiers and taken to the high priest for interrogation. The high priest brought Jesus to the city governing elders for a trial. Jesus was silent in the face of accusations of blasphemy, which carried the penalty of death. At the time Palestine was ruled by the Romans who required their own approval for any penalty of death. The Roman leader questioned Jesus and found him innocent. A large crowd had gathered. The Roman leader declared Jesus innocent. The leader made a show of washing his hands of the matter before the crowd and turned Jesus back over to the priests and city elders. By then the crowd was demanding that Jesus be crucified. The crucifixion was carried out that day, a Friday.
In discourses Sri Sathya Sai Baba mentions Jesus to inspire us to embrace the main teachings of Jesus, love and sacrifice. Sri Sathya Sai Baba also emphasizes religious tolerance and unity.
Love and sacrifice
There were controversies regarding Jesus. These differences were the cause of the ordeals he had to go through. But Jesus was prepared to face any trouble or any penalty. He considered Compassion as the supreme quality. At first, he declared he was a "Messenger of God." Then, he announced: "I am the Son of God." Ultimately, he declared: "I and my Father are One." You must take note of this oneness. You must proclaim your oneness and not your diversity. Today people talk about unity but do not practice it. In every discourse Swami speaks about love. How many practice it? How many have tried to understand the Love Principle? Who has this Love? Love is not to be seen anywhere. Where there is love, there is no room for hatred. Do not be envious of anyone. When this evil quality appears. Love takes to flight. A pure heart is abode of Love. Where there is Purity, there is Unity. Unity leads to Divinity. Today Purity is absent. How, then, do you realize Divinity? You must offer everything to God without any desire. Dedicate all yours to God. This was the teaching of Jesus. He considered everything as an offering to God. When he was being nailed on the cross, people around were weeping. At that moment an ethereal voice declared: All are one, my dear son! be alike to everyone." Jesus declared: "Death is the dress of life." Just as we change our clothes, we also change our bodies. The bodies are vestures (for the indwelling Spirit). Hence bodies should be regarded as mere vestures. We should not worry about the body.2
Jesus sacrificed his life for the regeneration and welfare of mankind. Today there are some who exaggerate the so-called differences between different faiths and, for their own selfish purposes, exploit these differences and thereby bring a bad name to the great founders of these religions, who were spiritual giants. No prophet or messiah asked his followers to hate other religions or the followers of other faiths. Every religion has declared that God is One and that the Divine dwells in every being, Jesus also proclaimed the truth that the One Spirit resides in all beings. When Jesus was addressing the dews, an ethereal voice declared: "All lives are one, my dear Son. Be alike to everyone." When Jesus was being crucified, the same ethereal voice declared that the human body is only a vesture for the Spirit. The body is subject to constant change. But the indwelling Spirit is immoral. This was the truth proclaimed by Vedanta when it said: "The body is a temple in which the Eternal Spirit resides as the Indweller." The inner meaning of this is that wherever you may go, the Eternal Spirit remains with you. You must regard the body as the temple of the Spirit; bear in mind that Divinity is ever within you. Only when you realise this truth can you begin to experience the Divine.
Jesus was a supremely pure and sacred person. To forget Jesus's teachings and to profess love for Him is no love at all. You must all remember: "God is One. Love is God. Live in Love." Only by this means can humanity, despite the many divisions that exist at present, be unified. Absorb the teachings of all the great seers and prophets. Do not despise anyone. Everyone is entitled to accept what is good from any source. Differences of creed and caste are irrelevant. There is only one caste, the caste of humanity. There is only one religion, the religion of Love. There is only one language, the language of the heart. There is only one God, He is omnipresent.
Develop a broad outlook
What the world needs today is the redeeming and unifying force of love---love which continually expands and embraces more and more people. By giving up narrow ideas regarding one's religion, nation or caste, by developing a broad outlook and cultivating the company of the good, you can elevate your life and make it meaningful and satisfying. Many of you have come from distant countries at great expense. You must make good use of your stay here by cultivating good company, imbibing good thoughts, developing a large-hearted attitude towards all, taking to heart the wise words of elders and trying to put into practice at least some of their teachings. Otherwise, you will have wasted both life and money.3
Editor’s Note: Sri Sathya Sai Baba's full discourse of December 25, 1985, has the following sections:
Journey to the Divine
The Basic Truth
Do Not Decry Other Religious Faiths
Good Company Takes One Near to God
Jesus’ Vital Message to Mankind
Develop a Broad Outlook
For full discourse, go here.
* The word “good” carries an old English meaning, pious or holy. Other languages use varying terms for Good Friday.