Matthew 26 - 27
The religious leaders were plotting to kill Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, the one who came into the world to sacrifice his life for the sins of man, the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the very one upon whose arrival that the religious leaders awaited; the promised King of Israel.
There was no sin found in him, yet and still the religious leaders unrelentingly tried at every opportunity to kill the King of Israel, the one that was brought into this world, born of a virgin by the Holy Spirit; a prophecy fulfilled, eternity walking in man, holiness living among men, the living reconciliation headed to the cross of affliction, obeying God, the Father, in the agony of despair, over there in the wasteland of man's relentless sins, which he wrapped around his body of sacrifice in the unrequited love of a people whose eyes were blind and whose minds were dark.
There he was hanging on the cross, nailed by a divine, inexplicable love. He came unto his own, but his own received him not. They cried aloud for a murderer to be released from the sentence of death, and for the innocent Jesus to be crucified instead.
They beat him, spit on him, and made a crown of thorns for his head, this King of Kings, this Lord of Lord whom they did not recognized; he was hidden within the flesh of a man who humbled himself and became obedient to the Word and the will of God.
If we could walk beside Jesus for the twenty-four hours prior to his death, and see with his eyes and hear with his ears, what would we see and what would we hear?
Jesus knew he was about to be betrayed and crucified. He knew that his time was at hand. He knew that his purpose for being born into this sin sick world had ominously arrived.
No doubt he heard the ongoing conversations of the chief priests and the scribes who were plotting to kill him. No matter, for he was born to die for the sins of the world, yet a mystery to the backslidden religious leaders at the time.
We find Jesus in Bethany in the house of Simon, where Mary poured ointment on his head, to which Jesus replied to those who complained, "For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did for my burial" (Matthew 26:12).
Jesus embraced his approaching death as an inevitability, a foregone conclusion. He was wearing a spiritual mantle of sacrifice moving towards his destiny prepared to pay the ultimate price, to shed his blood and give his life for you and I who were yet to be born, and for all those who will come after we have long departed from this world.
Judas Iscariot agreed with the chief priests to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Judas saw all the miracles wrought by Jesus first hand, he knew who Jesus was, yet and still he betrayed him for a pittance.
"For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company" (Psalm 55:12-14).
How is it that the very ones that you are the closest to end up betraying you, and leaving holes in your soul, leaving you with a pierced kind of leftover love in your heart? What thoughts crossed Jesus' mind as he hung suffering from the cross? Whose faces came before him and what was his feelings concerning them; Judas, Peter, all his disappearing disciples, all the people he healed, the ones he raised from the dead? Where were they in his time of distress? Where were his comforters?
We often look around during the greatest hours of our deepest despair and find no one there; we are alone, rejected, dejected and lost in a twirling sort of chaos where our very soul is in jeopardy. This is where we learn to endure the cross of our own afflictions, and realized day by day, month by month, and year by year that God is faithful and will not suffer us to endure more than we are able to bear.
"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matthew 26:26-29).
We find Jesus establishing the Lord's Supper and discussing his death that was nigh; sitting there in the company of his disciples knowing where he was going, and how they would ultimately respond to his impending death, his disciples scattering in fear, confusion, and hopelessness, and Peter's approaching denial.
Gethsemane is on the horizon. The everlasting drama titled "Salvation" is slowly unfolding; a heavenly light transcending finite time and headed towards eternity, piercing the darkness of a world encased in the grasp of sin and death.
The Savior of this world has entered into prayer to prepare for his approaching, wrenching agony on the cross, and he asks of his disciples one thing, "And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?" (Matthew 26:37-40).
How often do we find ourselves in dire situations with no one to stand by our side. We find ourselves alone in a house full of people who seemingly cannot see our inner soul as it fractures into tiny little pieces while we wear the smile of nonchalance; the empty, vacant spaces inside our being, the hollow silent drumming echo that berates the simple smile on our face.
How can you say, "I'm dying inside?" How can you say, "I'm wretched and undone" to someone who is asleep to your pain and despair, completely unaware that you are walking bare feet on broken pieces of glass with every breath that you take?
Jesus found it difficult to comprehend that his disciples could just fall asleep during his cruciality! He was standing on the brink of pouring his very life out for a world that was asleep to his destiny, asleep to his purpose, and asleep to the prophesied divine expression of an unfathomable love.
The whip was waiting for him. The nails were waiting for him. The humiliation was waiting for him. The ground was waiting to drink up his blood. The gall and the vinegar was waiting for him. No doubt, he saw it all in his mind's eye, and did not want to go through with the suffering required of him, yet he obeyed the Father even unto death. Had he not obeyed God where would we be today? Lost in sin and locked in death with no way out!
Yet seemingly we find that a large portion of the world is still asleep in the face of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Unaware of his love. Unaware that he died to pave the way to eternal life for the whole world, and if they would but believe that he died for their sins, acknowledge their sins, ask for forgiveness, and receive Jesus in their hearts as their Lord and Savior, that eternal salvation is their free gift from God the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ, who willingly died a horrible death through his crucifixion on the cross all for the love of mankind.
"And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?"
How many times has someone close to us, close enough to embrace us and give us a kiss, betrayed us? And we, like Jesus, even though he knew what Judas would do, and no doubt, how he would betray him, still seemed to be befuddled by the stark reality of his method of betrayal.
Sometimes, even though the truth is staring us in the face, it's painful to accept the reality of it all when all we had in our heart for them is love, and in return for our love our heart rends in inexplicable pain, and something without a name simple sinks inside of you and dies.
The chief priests and elders of the church were envious (desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute belonging to someone else) of Jesus because he worked miracles, raised the dead, was the Messiah, the Son of God, and lived an upright and holy life before God, the Father by crucifying his flesh, and they themselves fell way short of that, rather than repenting, crucifying their flesh, and accepting Jesus for who he was, the only begotten Son of God, they sought his utter destruction.
They did not realize that they were merely ushers escorting Jesus towards his prophesied destiny; pawns on the chessboard of the life of Jesus, who would have embraced them with love had they humbled themselves and changed their evil ways. It was, no doubt, easier to continue in their rebellious sins, and diligently seek to put the light out among them, thereby assuring their own untimely destruction by God's sure vengeance; divine justice is inescapable.
"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
"And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God" (Matthew 27:45-54).
Where do we go from here? What do we do with this truth, that Jesus willingly died on the cross for our sins even though we were as yet unborn, so that when we arrived in time we would have a chance to change our lives and accept him as Savior and Lord over our lives, realizing we were bought with the price of his shed blood; his innocent life poured out because he so loved us?
Twenty-four hours in the life of Jesus was highlighted by the betrayal of a friend, Judas, who sold him out for thirty pieces of silver. Jesus was abandoned by his disciples, accused by the false witnesses concocted by the chief priests and elders of the church. He was whipped and spit on, oppressed and afflicted, yet he remained silent before his accusers.
Jesus was wounded and bruised, weak and struggling, carrying the cross that he would be crucified upon, up a hill called Golgotha where his hands and feet would be nailed to the very cross that he carried. Jesus was mocked, scorned, denied, and crucified with thieves on either side of him. He was abused, taunted and ridiculed as the soldiers cast lots for the garments they stripped from his body.
Jesus felt forsaken by God as the sins of the whole world were laid on his shoulders; thus becoming the perfect sacrificial Lamb of God, the Prince of Peace reconciling man back to God, thereby turning away the judgment and wrath of God directed at mankind because of flagrant sin.
We are implored via scripture to take up our cross and follow Jesus. Where was Jesus going? He willingly walked towards suffering and despair. In the face of betrayal and a broken heart he continued his journey towards his purpose, that being to die for the sins of the whole world. What then is our sacrifice to be, if in fact we follow Jesus and our lives become a living sacrifice? What have we laid on the altar of our love for God?
Twenty-four hours in the life of Jesus changed the world; uprooted the caverns of hell, overturned the finality of death, and opened the eternal heavens for all who would dare to be obedient sons of the living God. God will not ask us to crucify our flesh if we were incapable of doing so. Capability comes if we truly love God more than anything or anyone else, including ourselves.
God's Word and will for our lives comes first. We must therefore strive to perfect our love for God in order to obey him without reservation. This kind of obedience comes by letting go of everything, standing before the Lord totally committed to him, our flesh crucified on the cross of sacrifice and obedience.