Easter is approaching fast and we’re looking at the events surrounding the crucifixion.
This week’s passage is Matthew 26:31-56 and you can read it online here.
The sermon is also available in an audio file here, just click on the link and follow the instructions on the page that will open up.
As we look at these incidents, there are three observations to set the set the scene. Firstly, this is it, it’s what the whole bible story is about. The Old Testament looks forward to the Messiah and the cross, whether it’s the messianic prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel’s visions of the future or even the plot to kill the Jews in Esther which would have destroyed the ancestors of Jesus. The New Testament is even more cross focused. Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a call for the churches to return to the centrality of the atonement. In the gospels, everything is leading up to Christ’s wonderful selfless act of love and obedience. I could go on but hopefully you are getting the picture, this is what it’s all about, it’s the heart of the gospel.
Secondly, Jesus is not an unsuspecting victim. He isn’t blindly walking towards his death. He is a man in control, fully aware of the suffering that awaits him. His conduct during these last hours is incredible but all his ministry has been pointing to what is about to happen.
Thirdly, as I’ve read the account this time I’ve been conscious of Christ humanity. This is the man Christ Jesus, facing something that is daunting yet prepared to be obedient to the divine plan. The message this week is focused on the humanity of Christ.
Have you ever felt abandoned? Jesus had been with his disciples for 2-3 years. They had shared food and travelled together during that time. The intimacy of the Last Supper shows the bonds between them, He had after all just washed their feet.
We are created to live in relationships, relationships of marriage, family relationships and friendships. Christ calls his people to dwell in gatherings or Churches. His plan is not for people to be solitary. Jesus knew that he would face death alone deserted by his friends. For everyone who has been abandoned, Jesus has been there.
Have you ever felt betrayed? The Gospels record Jesus predicting his betrayal seven times and the fact that he includes the betrayal with the suffering shows us that this is something really important.
Judas had seen the miracles and heard the teaching. Just as sporting teams can unite when they feel everyone is against them, there must have been something of the siege mentality in the group. At the meal, that was so loaded with meaning and love, the sad truth is that Judas had already done the deal to betray Jesus. It is difficult to imagine something so hurtful. For everyone who has been betrayed, Jesus has been there.
Have you ever felt crushed? Gethsemane means Olive Press and just hours before the cross the weight of the suffering ahead is truly crushing. He asked that the cup of judgement be taken away.
One of the Hymns to have made a bit of a comeback at Eb in recent years is the lovely Hymn, “I stand amazed in the presence”, I really love the song and it always seems to be blest but there is a verse in it that I cannot bring myself to sing. The second verse states;
“For me it was in the garden
He prayed: “Not My will, but Thine.”
He had no tears for His own griefs,
But sweat drops of blood for mine.”
I know it’s easy to be picky with songs but for me that isn’t what is going on in the garden. Christ prayed one of the most heartfelt prayers to come from human lips. Hebrews informs us that his prayer is heard.
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Hebrews 5:7)
The implication is clear, there is no other way. The Father heard the desperate prayer of Christ and said no. For everyone who has felt crushed, Jesus has been there.
Have you ever triumphed? Our first ancestors failed in a garden. Everything was in their favour, a relationship with God, all that they would ever need in a world without sin. Yet they failed so catastrophically falling for lies with hearts full of pride and arrogance. Their fall had a devastating effect on creation and on the human race.
It was in another garden that Christ triumphed, “Yet not as I will, but as you will”. His selfless love and obedience won the victory that gives hope to all.
John’s gospel gives us a fascinating insight into what is going on. These were days long before photographs so despite the fact that Jesus was well known, many would not have known what he looked like, that’s why they needed a betrayer. In the chaos of the arrest by the armed mob, Jesus clearly indentifies himself, he calls out twice, “I am he” (John 18:4-5). He draws the mob to himself so that others can go free. It is a snapshot of what he is about to do on the cross, taking all of the sin and punishment that was ours upon himself so that we can be free. When all ran away, Christ stood up for those who could not. For everyone who has failed, Jesus has triumphed
Have you ever been reconciled to God? In his letter to the Galatians, Paul is furious that they have added in new teachings to the central message. The letter pulls no punches as Paul seeks to turn believers back to the central message of Christianity, the cross. He writes
“Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified” (Galatians 3:1)
He cannot grasp why they would want to turn away from the gospel. As we look again at the suffering of Christ, the issues raised are just too important to leave unresolved. The death of Jesus demands a response from us. That we ask for his forgiveness, trust in what he has done for us and ask him to be King of our lives. As Paul writes elsewhere;
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)
He goes on to say “Now is the day of salvation”. If you’re not a Christian, can I urge you to make that step. You can contact me through the comments and I’d be delighted to help in any way that I can. However you could simply pray and ask for salvation, after all the Bible states three times “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”