Friday, April 18, 2014

Pondering the Last Week of Jesus, part 3

I apologize for not getting Thursday’s installment to you.  Here is both THURSDAY and FRIDAY.

Thoughts to help you pause, appreciate and experience more deeply Jesus’ final week on earth in human form.  And thus, experience Easter Sunday more fully. As you read these, try to put yourself in Jesus’ place: how would you feel, what would you be thinking, how would you act?  Then thank Jesus for all He went through for us, for you.

Jesus wanted to spend the last meal with his twelve closest friends, and so He instructed a couple of them to prepare the Passover Meal.  Perhaps He connected the dots, thinking about Himself as THE Lamb that would save the world.  At dinner (which was hours long), He washed the disciples feet, (John 13), telling them He was leaving them to be servants to others as He was a Servant.

Another distress was Jesus’ knowledge that Judas was about to betray Him and that ALL the disciples would abandon Him AND that the leader of the group, Peter, would deny Him three times.  THINK about that. ALL of them.  He would go through the mocking, kangaroo courts and abuse TOTALLY ALONE.
         When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?” “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
       “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: “ ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” 30“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” Mark 14:17–21, 27-30 (NIV)

At the end of the dinner, Jesus instituted communion.  Think about how He felt as He thought about how His body would be broken and His blood would be shed.
       While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.” When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Mark 14:18–26 (NIV)

We cannot comprehend what Jesus experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He was facing the agony of some of the worst physical pain, but the deepest pain was facing the penalty of sin: separation from God.  That was the greatest suffering and it was literally torture for Jesus.  Medical experts tell us that sweating blood is an indication that a person is close to death.  That is what Jesus experienced in prayer.  And He was doing all this for US!!!!
       They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:32–36 (NIV)

Just as Jesus finishes the agonizing prayer, Judas arrives with soldiers to betray Him with a kiss. WITH A KISS!! We can hear the anguish in His words.
        While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:47–48 (NIV)

Jesus is arrested late in the evening. His trials went into the wee hours of Friday morning.

Jesus is taken before the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court). They look for evidence against and could not find a thing. Not a single thing.  Even as they got false witnesses to testify against Him, they couldn’t get their story straight.  Jesus stood before them silent.  Until the high priest asked Him directly.
        But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death. Mark 14:61–64 (NIV)

And then the abuse began.
        Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him. Mark 14:65 (NIV)

The Jewish leaders were prohibited from executing a person, so they hauled Jesus to Pilate.  When he found out Jesus was from Galilee, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, who wanted Jesus to perform miracles for him.
       When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle.He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. Luke 23:8–11 (NIV)

Hauled back before Pilate again with the Jewish leaders hounding, accusing, demanding Jesus’ death.  This governor took the responsibility seriously, asking Jesus if He was king of the Jews. Jesus admitted He was, but when the Jewish leaders chimed in He again refused to answer them.  Pilate wanted to set Him free, but the people chose Barabbas, the rebellious leader of an insurrection.  Feeling he had no choice, Pilate condemned Jesus to be crucified.
        “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them. “Crucify him!” they shouted. “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. Mark 15:12–15 (NIV)

While Jesus was enduring the Sanhedrin’s abuse, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times.  Think about how Jesus must have felt as Jesus looked at Peter...
         About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. Luke 22:59–62 (NIV)

         The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. Mark 15:16–20 (NIV)

Again, there is no way we can comprehend what Jesus’ endured for the six hours on the cross.  SIX HOURS!  360 AGONIZING MINUTES.  Take time to read it from one of the Gospels.  Slowly consider the pain of the spikes through His wrists and feet.  The circle of thorns pressed down on His head.  The weight of His body compressing His lungs and pushing against the spikes in His feet.  The sun beating down on Him.  Birds landing and pecking at His flesh.  And yet He was concerned about His mother and the thieves on the crosses beside Him. 


         And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
      With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. Mark 15:34, 37 (NIV)

Take time this day to consider these things.
Take time to express your love and gratitude for what Jesus did.

Boldly, Pastor Herb

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