We are now in what is known as Holy Week, I preached this sermon on Palm Sunday 24 March.
Jesus has entered Jerusalem riding on a colt of a donkey, he is hailed as the coming savior, the King. We see in Mark 11:7-11 that Jesus was hailed as the King: Mar 11:7-11 ESV “And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.”
That is a wonderful picture Jesus is lauded by the people and seen as the rightful King of Israel. Now he has surveyed his temple, and then goes out to Bethany to enjoy the evening with his disciples and his friends, Lazarus, Mary and Martha. In many congregations across the country we would hear a sermon based on Palm Sunday, we would celebrate along with the people in Jerusalem, then leave Church to return on Easter Sunday to celebrate the resurrection. Wait, you mean Jesus died? He is resurrected? You see the problem, we don’t want to deal with the coming week, because it is not what we expect from our God. We don’t want to think about Jesus moving through the next week to the time of his arrest and crucifixion, that is just not the picture we want to bring with us to Easter Sunday. Better to just enjoy the palms and the accolades and then come next week and celebrate that He is Risen!
However, if we avoid those days, then we also lose out on what happened and why it happened. Now in some denominations, they do celebrate the Last Supper, and then Good Friday and that is good, those who attend those services will have a sense of what is so important in all of this. For those of us who do not celebrate those services, we too need to know just what transpired that week, because it is important for us to understand what a mess our faith is based in. After all, Peter, the chief apostle will deny Jesus not once but three times, all the disciples will run away and abandon Him except for John. Jesus is even betrayed by one of the 12, one of the closest of the followers. So why? Why do they abandon Jesus, why do they cower in fear, hiding from the authorities? Why is Jesus set to die a criminals death. Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals and non-Romans.
First, let us understand that this entire week is called Holy, each day is called Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, etc., but Friday is called Good Friday – Why? Well we will get to that but it is an anomaly in the midst of what is truly a hard week for all the players in this drama.
On Monday, Jesus is back at the Temple in Jerusalem, on both Monday and Tuesday he teaches the crowds at a place called Solomons Porch and the Priests get more and more upset as they perceive that his teaching is about them and their practices, He tells the story of the wicked tenants at the vineyard, they beat the messengers of the owner and finally kill his son. The priests see in that the stories of the prophets and that some of them were beaten because of their message, others were killed.
By Wednesday, the priests were trying to figure out how they could arrest him and bring him before the Sanhedrin, the High Council of the Religious leaders. They want to kill him, but they know the people will rise up against them if they try to do that, so they look for a way to get him in a place where they can arrest him and bring him to the High Priest to start the process. Meanwhile, Jesus is at the House of Simon the Tanner in Bethany enjoying dinner when a woman comes and anoints him with a perfume called Nard, normally used to anoint the dead so the odor of death will be hidden. A very powerful spiced perfume. There are those who feel this is a waste, because it could have been sold and the money used to help the poor. Jesus advises them all that: Mar 14:6-11 ESV ‘But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. (7) For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. (8) She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. (9) And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (10) Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. (11) And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.’
Then we see that Judas, decides to betray Jesus to the priests for money. The next day: Mar 14:13-16 ESV “ And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him,
(14) and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’
(15) And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” (16) And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.”
That evening Jesus and his followers all come to the upper room which is prepared for them and recline at table for the celebration of the Seder/Passover Meal. As they were eating we see that John was at his right hand, Judas his left. Jesus is of course the leader of the Seder drama and he says in the midst of the meal:
Mar 14:18 Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me.” Mar 14:19 And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, “Is it I?” And another said, “Is it I?” Mar 14:20 He answered and said to them, “It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me in the dish. Mar 14:21 The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born.” None of the disciples notice that it is Judas who dips with him. At this point in the Seder there is a change in the story. This Passover or Seder meal is the same one that the Jews have celebrated since leaving Egypt and entering the Promised Land. In it they tell the story of the Exodus so that all Jewish children will know and remember the story and retell that story to their children
Jesus has changed it so that it becomes a new story, notice what it becomes as Jesus continues to speak: Mar 14:22 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”Mar 14:23 Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. Mar 14:24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.Mar 14:25Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
After they finish the meal, they go out to the Mount of Olives for a time of prayer and meditation. Judas has left the group, they thought he was going to help some of the poor of Jerusalem.
When they arrive at the Olive grove, he takes Peter, James and John with him.
Mar 14:32-34 NKJV Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”
(33) And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. (34) Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.” The scene in the Garden is one of extreme anguish as He prays. He asks that he not have to suffer the death that he knows is coming, and then says he will do as must be done, not my will but yours be done.
Now comes Judas, and the kiss to identify who they are to arrest, the temple guards are with him and they arrest him and bring him to Caiaphas. The time of suffering and trial begins: Mar 14:53 NKJV And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes. They question him and they bring out witnesses against him, but their stories do not match and so they cannot condemn him. Finally: Mar 14:61-63 NKJV But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”
(62) Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”(63) Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses?
Of course he is now condemned, but they cannot kill him, so they bring him to Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor to be tried and condemned as a criminal against Rome. All those wonderful folks who had proclaimed him king just a short 5 days ago, now cry out for his crucifixion. There is much more to the story, chapter 15 in Mark tells the abbreviated version, but I do want you to understand that we, you and I have made a commitment to God that we will walk as Jesus walked, we will stand for the Kingdom, no matter what others may say or do against us. Jesus committed himself even to death, death as a common criminal. Many millions have died through the centuries for that same faith. That is the type of commitment it takes brethren, that is the type of commitment our Lord showed on that Good Friday. Let me say to you that this is what your Lord did for you:
What is crucifixion? A medical doctor provides a physical description: The cross is placed on the ground and the exhausted man is quickly thrown backwards with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flex and movement. The cross is then lifted into place.
The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees flexed. The victim is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain–the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places the full weight on the nail through his feet. Again he feels the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of his feet. As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath. Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.
Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins: a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. It is now almost over–the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level–the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues–the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. He can feel the chill of death creeping through his tissues. Finally he can allow his body to die. All this the Bible records with the simple words, “And they crucified Him.” (Mark 15:24). What wondrous love is this? Adapted from C. Truman Davis, M.D. in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary,Vol. 8
Good Friday indeed, yet what else can we say, but, that without Good Friday, there would be no Easter Sunday, no resurrection, no completion of God’s covenant promise, and you and I would not be saved. So it is Good Friday, leading to Holy Saturday, and finally to Easter (Resurrection Sunday). The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” You and I were guilty of rebellion against God because we were sinners, but because of the suffering and death of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary, we have eternal life, in the presence of almighty God, strictly by the grace of our God through Jesus Christ.
Andrew Murray has said: “Salvation comes through a cross and a crucified Christ.” let us not forget that our God suffered terribly for us. When or if it becomes necessary to make a sacrifice for the truth of the gospel, remember how you came by your salvation and step out for Christ.