Friday, April 6, 2012

Day of Sacrificial Love

     Early this morning, the religious leader met to plan how they would get Jesus put to death.  Judas came in and interrupted their meeting.  He felt convicted about what he had done to  Jesus.  He told the leaders that he knew he had sinned because he had betrayed an innocent man.  The leaders asked him, “What do we care?  That is your problem.”  Judas threw the 30 pieces of silver down on the floor of the temple and went out and hung himself.  Remember how Jesus warned that it would have been better for that person to never to have even been born? 
     The religious leaders bought a cemetery for people from other countries with the silver pieces.  This was just what the prophet Jeremiah said would happen in the Old Testament Scriptures.  
     The religious leaders had no real power to have someone put to death for a crime, or any other reason, but the Romans did.  They took Jesus to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate.  When Jesus stood before Governor Pilate,  he asked Jesus, “Are You King of the Jews?”  Jesus told Him He was.  Immediately, the religious leaders that had bullied Him all week began shouting accusations at  Jesus. Jesus did not respond to them at all.  
     Every year at Passover time, the Roman Governor would free one prisoner.  The crowds were gathering in front of Governor Pilates' house, the Praetorium, to see who the prisoner to released was.  Pilate asked them who it was they wanted to be let go, Barabbas or Jesus Who is called, the Messiah?  Pilate sat down as the crowd talked it over.  He sat down next to his wife.  She told him that she had a nightmare the night before and that it was really awful.  She told Pilate that he should leave Jesus alone because He was innocent of any crime.
     In the meantime, the religious leaders walked among the crowd and talked them into having Barabbas let go, and having  Jesus put to death.  Governor Pilate was sure the people would say to let Jesus go.  He remembered how just five days before on Sunday,  Jesus rode in and they treated Him like a King. Again Pilate asked the crowd which prisoner would go free.  The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!”  “Then what should I do with Jesus, who is called, the Messiah?”, Pilate asked.  The crowd shouted back, “Crucify Him!”  Pilate asked them, “Why, what crime has He committed?”  The mob roared louder, “Crucify Him!”  Pilate was hoping the crowd would change their minds because he felt in his heart that his wife was right.  But, he knew he was getting nowhere with this crowd because they were starting to riot.  Governor Pilate had a servant bring him a bowl of water.  He washed his hands in front of everyone and told the crowd, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.  The responsibility is yours!”  Pilate was nervous about what was happening so he washed his hands of the whole mess.  The crowd yelled back that they would take responsibility for Jesus’ death, they and their children.
     Barabbas was involved in trying to overthrow the government, and he was murderer.  Jesus was innocent.  The whole of His life He did no wrong.  He was good to everyone.  But, Pilate let Barabbas go to the people and He ordered that Jesus be flogged and turned over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.  They flogged Jesus with a whip. The whips were made of long skinny leather.  Each leather piece had pieces of metal and of bone sewn to it to cut the skin.  The end of each piece was weighed down with lead.  They tied Jesus to a post and whipped Him over and over with these leather whips.  His skin was all torn and blood flowed out of Him.  Most people never lived through this horrible beating.  After this,  Jesus was turned over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
     Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and then they called out the whole regiment of soldiers and government leaders.  In front of everyone they stripped the clothes off of His cut up body and put a bright red robe on Him.  They took branches with thorns and made a crown.  They shoved the crown on Jesus’ head.  The thorns tore the skin on His head.  Then they put a stick in His hand.  They mocked Jesus.  They said things like, “Hail! King of the Jews!”  They spit on him and grabbed the stick out of His hand using it to hit Him in the head with it.  When tired of mocking Him, they removed the red robe and put His own clothes back on Him.  Then, they took Him to be crucified.

    The soldiers made Jesus walk down a long road.  They made Him carry a very heavy cross made out of a tree down this road, 
The Via Dolorosa.  This was the cross they were going to crucify Him on.  He was bloody and beaten, almost to death.  He was not able to carry the cross the whole way.  The soldiers grabbed a man along the road and made him carry  Jesus’ cross and walk with it behind Him.  They would not help Him themselves.  They were as vile to Jesus as they could be.  They took Him out to a place called, “Golgotha” which means, “Place of the Skull”.  When the Romans executed someone they hung them on a cross. With rope they tied the criminal to the cross.  Not Jesus.  They laid the cross down on the ground and then put Jesus on top of the cross.  They took long nails and nailed His hands and feet to the cross.  They raised the cross up and put it in the ground.  Everyone could see Jesus nailed to the cross.    They could see that His skin was broken open, they could see His bruises, and they could see His blood running down.  It was then that Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”   Jesus loved people, all people.  He loves us today.  No matter what they did to Him, or how badly we behave today,  Jesus loves us, and will forgive us.  Since He forgave these people for what they were doing, and He was in so much pain, nearly dead, He will certainly forgive us if we ask Him to.  He loves us that much!
    Even still, the crowd kept on mocking Him and insulting Him.  They said things like, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”  They put a sign on the top of the cross as He was dying that said, “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS”.  The religious leaders mocked Him, too.  They yelled and said if He would save Himself they would believe He was the Son of God.
     Jesus saw his mother, His mother’s sister and his dear friend, Mary Magdalene, standing near the cross.  Jesus was dying.  He knew He would not be on the earth anymore to watch over his mother in her old age.  He talked to his mother and said, “Dear woman, here is your son.”  He was talking about His disciple,  John.  He said to John, “Here is your mother.”  From that day on,  Jesus’ mother stayed with the disciple  John.   Jesus took care of His mother even though He was on a cross and dying.  
     There were two criminals hanging on crosses with Jesus, one on each side.  They were tied and not nailed to their crosses.  They had not been treated like Jesus.  One of them mocked Jesus while he was on his cross.  He said to Jesus, “ If You are the Messiah, prove it by saving Yourself and us, too, while You are at it!”   The other criminal stopped him and said, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?  We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”  Then he looked at Jesus and said, “Jesus , remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”   Jesus said to him,  “I assure you, today you will be with me in, Paradise.”  You see, that man believed Jesus was the Christ.  He knew Jesus was the Savior and though his life must not have reflected it, he desired righteousness.  He would go to Heaven because he was sorry and asked Jesus for His hand.   Jesus always takes someone for His own when they want Him to.
     By this time it was noon.  For three hours, from noon until three o’clock in the afternoon, the whole land was dark.  The light from the sun was totally gone.  At three o’clock that Friday afternoon,  Jesus cried out and said, “It is finished!”   To God He then cried out, “Into Your hands I commit my Spirit.”  Jesus’ body died on the cross that afternoon at three o’clock.  At that moment miracles began occurring.  There was a place in the temple called, “The Holy of Holies”.  Common people were not allowed to go in there.  Only special priests could go in.  No one but these special priests even saw the inside of this sanctuary.  The moment Jesus gave up His Spirit and died, the big curtain in the temple that separated the Holy of Holies sanctuary ripped right down the middle!  It was as high as the ceiling and went all of the way to the floor, and was very heavy.  No man did this, God did it.  There was a huge and scary earthquake.  Many rocks split in half and tombs came open.  Can you imagine the noise and the shaking of the whole earth?  The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the cross were terrified and said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”
     Remember that at the Last Supper in the upper room the night before, Jesus talked about His body being broken for the disciples?  Remember Jesus saying that the wine in the cup was His blood shed for them?  Remember these were new things the disciples had never heard before?  The bread and wine was to remind them of something wonderful God did for His people years before.  This would now be the event that God’s people would remember when they break bread and have the cup.  This was going to be the new and better covenant God made with His people,  with anyone that loves Jesus.  This is the new wonderful thing God did for His people. Jesus paid the price for man’s sin, He did freely and all we have to do is believe He is the Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts and confess so with our mouth and we will be in right standing with God. 
     There was a man named Joseph from,  Arimathea.  He was a priest on the council of religious leaders, but he disagreed with what they had done to Jesus.  He loved Jesus and knew He was the Messiah.  He had been a secret follower of Jesus.  He feared the religious leaders and so He went to get permission from Governor Pilate to take Jesus’ body off of the cross and bury it.  Pilate granted Joseph permission to do this.
     Joseph was a wealthy man.  He was an old man as well.  He had men carve out a rock in the side of a hill to make himself a tomb for when he died.  But, he gave his tomb to Jesus.  Oh, but what Joseph did not know was that Jesus was only going to need it for three days!  
     Joseph and another secret follower of Jesus, Nicodemus, went to the cross and took Jesus down.  They washed his body with perfumed oil and wrapped Jesus with spices and a long sheet of linen cloth, for this was the custom.  The tomb Joseph was giving Jesus was in a beautiful garden, near where the crucifixion took place.  Joseph and Nicodemus took Jesus body to the new tomb and laid Him there.  The women that loved Jesus so much had followed Joseph and Nicodemus.  Once they had laid Jesus to rest they went home and bought spices and perfumed oil to anoint His body.  They would not be able to anoint His body with the spices and oils tomorrow as it was the Jewish sabbath, and it was not allowed.  But, day after tomorrow, Sunday, they will go tend to His body.

   Today was completely about sacrifice that came from Jesus’ deep love for us. Oh Father, take my life and make count for You, never letting this grace you have given me prove vain.

   Thank You Jesus for such amazing and unconditional love,


Kim said...

Amazing Love that He would go through all of this for us. May we love Him with as much passion!

Teresa said...

Absolutely, Kim!! Elmer's candy this year????

Kim said...

Nope, not this year. But lots of Reese's!