We are following in the footsteps of Jesus during the Passion week. After Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was put on trial.
The trial of Jesus Christ was the most important judicial proceeding in all of human history. It was the day that Jesus Christ was arrested, tried, and executed in the greatest travesty of justice this world has ever seen. Countless religious and civic laws were broken or ignored in this “rush to judgment.”
Jesus was arrested at 1:00 in the morning, and then examined by Annas, the former High Priest. He was a shadowy, Godfather-like figure who pulled the strings behind the scenes.
Annas had an old score to settle with Jesus, as he was the one who profited from the money-changers in the temple, whose tables Jesus had overturned twice.
Then Jesus was brought before a full council to hear so-called witnesses perjure themselves as they told lies about His flawless ministry and preaching. He was then brought before Caiaphas–the High Priest and, conveniently, son-in-law of Annas–who condemned Jesus to death and sent Him to Pontius Pilate (the Roman governor) for execution.
Pilate the Politician
Pilate was immediately placed in the horns of a dilemma, a quandary.
It was the time of the Jewish Passover and the city was swelled with pilgrims. Pilate did not want these religious rulers inciting a riot against him.
Things were already tense between Pilate and the Jewish religious leaders. According to history, he had already had some serious run-ins with them and one more incident could have caused a full riot.
Pilate was scared, plain and simple. This hardened, anti-Semitic Roman cared nothing about public opinion. He would have freed Jesus just to spite them, not to mention He was innocent.
It’s just that it was his head in the noose. He had to keep the Jews from rioting, lest Rome turn on him.
Behind the Scenes
But there was much more taking place “behind the scenes” on this day.
The forces of good and evil were at work. Both God and Satan were mysteriously moving in the same direction, but with different objectives.
Satan wanted Jesus dead, and so he marshaled his forces and played his wicked hand. God wanted the sin of the world dealt with, and that would only happen through the death of His Son.
But Pilate did have a choice in the matter. He was soon to find out that he had no easy way out. He would have to make a decision concerning Jesus Christ.
Deep down inside, he may have even thought that Jesus was the Messiah. But he had his career, his position, his power to think about.
So, in spite of the fact that Jesus was completely innocent of all charges against him, Pilate had him whipped and murdered in cold blood through crucifixion.
How much is your soul worth?
So what is your price? How much would it take for you to “sell your soul,” so to speak?
Judas sold his soul for 30 pieces of silver. Herod sold his for an immoral lifestyle. And Pilate sold his for position, power, and prestige.
History tells us that within seven years of this cruel deed, Pontius Pilate–the great Roman governor–was removed from his office and banished to Gaul. He was left broken, destitute, unwanted by Caesar, and all alone.
In the end, Pilate went out into the darkness of night and, like Judas, hung himself. His body was found by a workman.
Pilate threw his life away because he was more concerned with what others thought about him than what God thought about him. His craving for popularity and power cost him everything.
What a story it would have been if he would have believed in Jesus on the spot.
We are in Pilate’s shoes
We know people like Pilate, but it’s not just the people who reject Christ.
For some, they choose career over Jesus. It’s not that you can’t have both, but they pour themselves into the pursuit of success at the cost of everything.
They are willing to sacrifice their integrity, their standards, their friends, even their faith, for the results they can reach.
That is sad. Pilate did this.
Others will choose people over Jesus. In other words, they are more concerned about what is “cool” or “acceptable” with their circle of friends than what God wants or does not want.
So they will not stand up for what is right, out of fear of losing their social position. Pilate did that too. That is tragic.
It is better to succeed in God’s eyes and fail in the world’s. It’s the trap of compromise that Pilate got himself into.
I’ll close with a “little secret!”
Christian author Graham Scroggie once said of compromise, “It prompts us to be silent when we ought to speak for fear of offending. It prompts us to praise when it is not deserved to keep people our friends. It prompts us to tolerate sin and not to speak out because to do so might give us enemies.”
It causes us to “lower our standards” in order to “extend our reach.”
But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Instead of compromising, make your life’s goal to please God and watch how He will bless you!
Sure, you may lose some “friends” here, or a “position” there. But when it’s all said and done, you will be glad you chose the way of the Lord.
We are following Jesus to the cross in this Passion week.
In my last blog post, I talked about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He is in deep agony, as he considers the horrors of the cross. His trial on trumped-up charges before a kangaroo court of injustice will soon begin.
Enter the betrayer, Judas Iscariot.
In films about the life of Christ, Judas has sometimes been portrayed sympathetically. He is presented as a man who wanted the world to know Jesus was Messiah, and he was simply trying to get the Lord to declare Himself.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Judas was a wicked man who, despite the fact that he had spent three years walking and talking with Jesus, cold-heartedly betrayed Him.
What’s even worse is the way he did it.
Why a Kiss?
Luke’s Gospel describes the scene for us vividly:
“And while He was still speaking, behold, a multitude; and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?'” (Luke 22:47-48)
Why did Judas betray Him with a kiss? Why not just a gesture like pointing at Jesus?
Because Judas was a “hypocrite extraordinaire.” Even in this, his hour of ultimate betrayal, he wanted to appear to be spiritual!
Like when he falsely accused Mary for anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume because that could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Scripture tells us he said this was not because he cared for the poor, but because he was in charge of the money and he was effectively “skimming off the top.”
Peter to the rescue!
Despite his greed and wickedness, Judas still wanted to come off as a super-spiritual man. This is almost like a sickness, wanting to look good on the outside when you are diseased on the inside.
When it says that Judas kissed Him, this literally means Judas “smothered Jesus with kisses.” In other words, he kissed him repeatedly. This was a “kiss from hell.”
The disciples are outraged and want to take action! They are ready to take up swords and defend Jesus.
Peter wasn’t waiting around. He took action.
“When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, ‘Lord, shall we strike with the sword?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear” (Luke 22:49-50 NKJV)
Old Peter can’t take it anymore and pulls out a sword and takes a swing,
cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant (whose name was Malchus).
On one hand, we want to commend Peter for his act of bravery. But on the other hand, Jesus did not commend this action and told Peter to put the sword away.
Boasting when he should have been listening
Poor Peter just couldn’t get it right. He was boasting when He should have been listening, and sleeping when he should have been praying. Now he was fighting when he should have been surrendering.
What was he thinking? He wasn’t! He was reacting. Peter seemed to be an emotional man, given to the impulse of the moment.
Peter made a number of mistakes when he struck Malchus, and these are mistakes that we all make.
He was fighting the wrong enemy with the wrong weapon! Our enemies are not flesh and blood, and they cannot be defeated with ordinary weapons. Scripture says, “The weapons of our warfare are not physical but mighty before God” (2 Corinthians 10:4 AMPLIFIED).
Preaching the gospel and praying are two of our most powerful weapons in our arsenal. Sadly, they are often if not usually neglected.
The last miracle of Jesus
In this midst of this flurry of activity in the garden, very few noticed the last miracle of His earthly ministry. It was not a big, flashy, go-out-with-a-bang miracle, but a quiet one.
This final miracle showed His true heart. He healed the ear of one of the ones who came to arrest him. As Luke 22:51 says, “And He touched his ear and healed him” (NKJV).
If ever a man did not “deserve” a healing, it was Malchus. He probably got sliced by Peter because he was leading the charge against Jesus. And yet Jesus had compassion on him.
Our Lord received no thanks from this man (that we know of). But Jesus, in the face of this lynch mob, had not forgotten about the need of the individual.
It’s also worth noting the last miracle performed by Jesus was made necessary because of a blundering disciple. And He probably has been busy ever since then, healing the wounds made by blundering disciples.
Let’s use those “secret weapons” God has given to us as the Church, praying and preaching the gospel, especially as Easter approaches and people are more open to attending church with us.
Let’s talk about Jesus.
The seven days before us is generally referred to as the “Passion week.” It is during this time that we think deeply about what Jesus went through for each of us as He made the journey to the cross, where he shed His blood for us and ultimately rose from the dead.
Let’s follow Him step-by-step together.
Before that precious blood would be shed, there would be agony in a garden–the Garden of Gethsemane.
And what do we find Jesus doing in this Garden?
Praying! He was giving us the example of what we are to do when it seems like our world is ending.
In this unique and insightful portion of Scripture, we are given a rare “behind the scenes” look at the personal struggle of Jesus as He contemplated the cup He had to drink.
The Bible says, “He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). But the sorrow He experienced in Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion seemed to be the culmination of all the sorrow He had ever known, accelerating to a climax the following day.
We cannot even begin to grasp the anguish Jesus was experiencing at this moment because, being omniscient, He was fully aware of what lay ahead.
Jesus knew the future, and it wasn’t pretty
It has been said “Ignorance is bliss,” and “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.”
There is some truth to these statements. For Jesus, being God, knew full well what horrors awaited Him.
He knew that in just a few short hours He would go to a Roman cross to be crucified. This, of course, would be after a time of humiliation, beating, and a horrendous whipping.
He knew Judas would betray Him and Peter would deny Him. He knew He would have to bear all the sin of the world.
I’m glad I don’t know the future. Aren’t you glad you don’t?
This time at Gethsemane was, next to the cross itself, probably the loneliest moment of His life.
We need to remember this in our moments of loneliness, when we feel like our friends and family have let us down (or even when we think God has let us down).
Remember this: Jesus has been there, and He is there for you!
He knows what you’re going through!
Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us, “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (NKJV).
We will face our own “Gethsemanes” in life. By that, I mean a time when perhaps life is not making any sense. When your problems seem to great to bear. When you are seemingly overwhelmed.
Much is said about the cross (and rightly so), but keep in mind that here in the Garden of Gethsemane we see the decision agonizingly made that took Him to the cross!
The ultimate triumph that was to take place at Calvary was actually accomplished first beneath the gnarled old olive trees of Gethsemane.
None of the wonderful things promised during Jesus’ ministry–the promise of eternal life, the sending of the Holy Spirit as comforter, Jesus’ return for His church–would have happened if the events before us did not take place first.
Jesus prayed a prayer in Gethsemane that we all should pray. “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 NKJV).
Not my will, but yours be done.
Yesterday was tough, as we remembered the birthday of our son Christopher, now in heaven. But we got through it, thanks to God’s help and your prayers!
I want to also thank all of you who sent messages on this blog and my Facebook page.
Tonight in O.C.
Well, I’m gearing up for our O.C. Bible study tonight. The title of the message is “Why Did Jesus Have to Suffer and Die?”
I will give a number of answers to this question, but here is one–sort of a sneak preview of what I will be teaching.
Why did Jesus have to suffer and die?
Jesus died to absorb the wrath of God. If God were not just,there would be no demand for His Son to suffer and die. And if God were not loving,there would be no willingness for His Son to suffer and die.
But God is both just and loving. His love is willing to meet the demands of justice.
God says in His Word, “The soul that sins shall surely die,” and ”All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” So sin is not small, because it is not against a small God.
We sinned against and offended God, so the just and loving God sent Jesus as the substitute for us. God’s wrath, which should have been on you, was placed on Him!
More of that to come in my message this evening.
What we think about is really important.
In Philippians 4:8, the apostle Paul wrote, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things” (NKJV).
Another translation puts it this way: “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (THE MESSAGE).
What we think about ultimately affects what we do
Therefore, we must nip in the bud any thoughts that are impure, spiritually harmful, or that feed the beast of worry. This means refusing to play the “What If” game, driving yourself to despair.
You remember the first temptation, when Satan came to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:1 says, “Now the Serpent was more Cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (NKJV)
He did not introduce himself by saying, “Hi, I’m the Devil, the enemy of God, and I have come to ruin, destroy, and pull you into hell with me and my demons!” He may be wicked,but he isn’t stupid!
The Devil is like a snake
When the Devil comes to us, he comes with subtlety, snake-like, slithering in when you least expect it. People don’t always keep their guard up for him either.
I read about a large python that ate a family’s dog, a silky terrier-chihuahua crossbreed. The children, ages 5 and 7, watched as the snake finished his meal.
This is sad, but also odd. The local zoo owner, who eventually came and picked up the snake, said, “The family that owned the dog had actually seen it in the dog’s bed, which was a sign it was out to get it.”
“They should have called me then, but (the snake) got away . . . and came back,” he added.
We can be like that with the Devil
He has essentially plopped himself right in our bed, and we pay him no mind. “Oh, he won’t be back,” we think to ourselves.
But just like that python, he is stalking you! Don’t underestimate his power, and don’t leave your mind open to his attack.
As a snake, Satan attacked Eve’s mind. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:3, “I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (NASB).
Why? Because it is here in “command central” that we reason, contemplate, and fantasize. Your mind can reach into the past through memories, and into the future through imagination.
Train your brain!
You need to train your mind to think properly and biblically. We read in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that we should cast down “arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
This is why I am teaching this new series on Sundays and Thursdays called Essentials: What Every Christian Needs to Know. Because we as believers need to learn how to think more clearly.
Just some things to think about today.
When we think of God, we usually consider that fact that He is righteous, holy, loving, and good. But here is something else to consider about God: He is the God who has suffered.
We don’t tend to think that a perfect Creator would experience such a human trait as human pain and suffering. After all, why would you suffer if you did not have to?
But God has suffered,and that more deeply than any of us could ever imagine.
In his book The Cross of Christ, John Stott said, “Our God is a suffering God.” And I think he is right.
Listen to Isaiah’s description of what Jesus (who was God) went through at Calvary:
“He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief . . . Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:3-5 NKJV)
“A man of suffering.” That was Jesus.
But why did God suffer?
Because He loved and loves. That means He also enters into our suffering as well.
Hebrews 2:17-18 tells us:
”Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then He could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and temptation, he is able to help us when we are being tempted” (NLT).
You are not alone in your suffering today. Jesus has been there and walked in your shoes and He is here for you right now.
Call out to Him.
This Sunday at Harvest
I will deal with this idea and more in a message I will be giving this Sunday morning at Harvest. The message is titled “Why Did Jesus Have to Suffer and Die?”
This is part of our new series, Essentials: What Every Christian Needs to Know. I hope you can come and join us, or tune in and watch online. It will also be broadcast live in Southern California at 9:45 a.M. on KWVE (107.9 FM).
Links to other resources