Saturday, July 03, 2010



In reflecting further on the death of Jesus on the cross I feel compelled to share one more thought with you.

NOTE when the love of God is mentioned in the New Testament it is usually found in the context of Jesus' death on the cross. In John 3:16 Jesus says, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son." Then in Romans 5:8: "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." And then again in I John 4:10: "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice for our sins." John goes further and says that GOD IS LOVE.

Emil Brunner called this "The most daring statement that has ever been made in human language." But that statement alone tells us nothing. It is the cross that unpacks its meaning. As Eugenia Price says in Share My Pleasant Stones, "God's mercy was not increased when Jesus came to earth, it was illustrated! Illustrated in a way we can understand."

The love that Jesus illustrated was self-giving for the benefit of others. We tend to think of love in emotional terms, but the New Testament concept of love is more focused on active self-giving. And the greater the cost of that self-giving, the greater the love, therefore Jesus commands those who follow Him to "love your enemies" as well as friends. The very night before Jesus was crucified, He said to His disciples: "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."

On the day Jesus died all of the guilt of the world was paid for by the sacrifice of the lamb of God. And, on that day all of the love of God rushed in to touch and transform all those who will see and hear the self-giving love of Jesus. You are a delight to God. He desires to have fellowship with you. He continues to court you with His self-giving love to woo you into a relationship with Him, no matter what you've done or haven't done. Now that's AMAZING GRACE.

ONE MORE THING: As followers of Jesus you are to practice this self- giving love with all those He brings to you. This self-giving love is best illustrated by loving and touching those who are in need and who are identified as your enemies.

So, it's SELF-GIVING LOVE or SELF-CENTERED LOVE? The good news of the Kingdom of God is that the Creator-God is love. And, God wants you and me to continually get back on track with the ultimate purpose of life. Do you know what that is? It's LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. It's all about self-giving love. Every time you exert any energy toward "It's all about me!" or "What's in it for me?", you are spending yourself toward self-centered love which goes nowhere healthy. I find the greatest deception among followers of Jesus is that they can say, "I love God with all my heart as long as I can do life my way and I love my neighbor as myself as long as I can choose my neighbor." So, which is it for you? Self-giving love that spreads the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom to all the world around you or self-centered love that can only spread as far as your mirror and your decreasing band of friends? THINK IT OVER.



Listen to Luke's account of the crucifixion and the death of Jesus. As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' Then "'they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"' For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals-one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is God's Messiah, the Chosen One."

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.

The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, "Surely this was a righteous man." When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

So, we've heard the story of Jesus' crucifixion and His resulting death so many times. But I think these events require a simple explanation in order to understand why Jesus had to die in the first place.

You see, it's like this. Every one of us has something innate, built-in to our psyche. We just know deep down, inside that we must pay for whatever we do wrong or don't do right. There must be a payment. So, I feel guilty whenever I do anything wrong. That sense of guilt can only be satisfied when I pay for it, like when I do some compensation or penance that makes up for this wrong.

This payment concept is inherent in the sacrificial system that God established with Moses. A most vivid illustration of this is the Passover. Each family was required to kill a lamb, putting the blood of the lamb over the door of their home. When the death angel saw the blood of the lamb, it passed over that home. The lamb was sacrificed as a payment. The lamb died, so that the families might live. The lamb paid the price of death so that the family didn't have to die.

This same concept is what the entire sacrificial system is all about. A lamb or some other kind of animal was sacrificed to pay for certain sins. This occurred frequently for the Jewish family-daily, weekly monthly and annually. In the minds of the Jewish people the sacrifice of an animal substituted as a payment for the one who offered the sacrifice. The greatest payment ever received through the sacrificial system was a year's payment for their sins. Once the sacrifice has been made successfully by the high priest, then the people were absolved of their sins for one more year. This annual sacrifice is called Yom Kippur.

Then the Lord through His prophets made it clear that He was going to send His lamb some day to be the ultimate payment for any and all things that anyone has done wrong. This lamb was God's Messiah who was to die for the sins of the whole world. This is why John the Baptist, when recognizing Jesus, said, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." He knew Jesus was God's lamb.

You see, Jesus died as your lamb-the lamb of God, so that you don't have to pay for anything any longer. You don't have to feel guilty, because your account is all paid up.

There is only one catch to it all. You must personally identify with the lamb b placing your hands on the lamb sacrifice. This was the way to put personal trust in the payment. Well, today you must place your personal trust in God's lamb sacrifice for your sins-for all you ever did wrong or for whatever you will do wrong. Jesus has truly paid it all!

And, just as the Passover feast is a celebration of freedom from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, you can be eternally free. There are two verses in Acts that say it all: "Therefore, my brothers and sisters, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38-39).

Do you get it? Through Jesus' death you have FORGIVENESS of sins (all you do wrong), so that you don't have to pay any longer. In fact, you can't make any payment that satisfies. And, through Jesus' death you have FREEDOM from it all, IF YOU BELIEVE IN JESUS, THE LAMB OF GOD. Forgiveness and freedom form the bottom line of the crucifixion and death of Jesus. So, Jesus' death is not some religious or theological belief; it's the spiritual and psychological dynamic that every human being needs to find true satisfaction. Do you know what that means for you personally?



Now in the 23rd chapter of Luke we come to the Roman trials Jesus faced: Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, "We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king." So Pilate asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "You have said so," Jesus replied.

Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, "I find no basis for a charge against this man." But they insisted, "He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here."

On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

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 a sign of some sort. 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. That day Herod and Pilate became friends-before this they had been enemies.

Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, "You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him."

With one voice they cried out, "Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!" (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

For the third time he spoke to them: "Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him."

But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

The trials before the Roman authorities started with Pilate (John 18:23) after Jesus was beaten. The charges brought against Him were very different from the charges in His religious trials. He was charged with inciting people to riot, forbidding the people to pay their taxes, and claiming to be King. Pilate found no reason to kill Jesus so he sent Him to Herod (Luke 23:7). Herod had Jesus ridiculed, but wanting to avoid the political liability, sent Jesus back to Pilate (Luke 23:11-12). This was the last trial as Pilate tried to appease the animosity of the Jews by having Jesus scourged. The Roman scourge is a terrible whipping of 39 lashes. In a final effort to have Jesus released, Pilate offered the prisoner Barabbas to be crucified and Jesus released, but to no avail. The crowds called for Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified. Pilate granted their demand and surrendered Jesus to their will (Luke 23:25). The trials of Jesus represent the ultimate mockery of justice. Jesus, the most innocent man in the history of the world, was found guilty of crimes and sentenced to death by crucifixion. Talk about going along with the herd!

All those who go on pilgrimage to Israel will visit the site of Caesarea by the Sea. And at that site archaeologists found an inscription naming Pontius Pilate as the Prefect of Judea. This was a military title for a commander of 500 to 1000 troops. He is mentioned by Josephus, Philo, and Tacitus, and, of course, in the Gospels. He is appointed in 26 AD with the support of his mentor, Sejanus, commander of the Praetorian Guard. Pilate quickly builds a reputation of contempt for Jewish customs and beliefs. He is dismissed by Emperor Tiberius in 36 or 37 AD.

One of my professors, Dr. Hoehner, suggests a motive for Pilate being so pliable under the pressure of the Jewish leadership. He says, "If Jesus is crucified in 33 AD, as many believe, Pilate has only recently received news of the execution of his mentor Sejanus, and may realize that, with his lack of political support in Rome, he must be more compliant with Jewish demands than he had been in the past."

Herod has tried to see Jesus before (9:7-9), understanding him as a sort of John-the-Baptist figure. Now he gets his wish. Unfortunately, Herod isn't interested in truth but in entertainment. He wants to see Jesus perform one of those miracles he has heard about. But Herod takes neither John the Baptist or Jesus seriously. The picture of Herod painted by the New Testament as well as contemporary historians such as Josephus is one of a vain, selfish, and ruthless king. But Herod receives no amusement this day. He asks Jesus numerous questions, but Jesus says nothing.

So, Pilate gave in to the crowd's demands. As was the custom, the Roman authority would release a prisoner during Passover. What is incredible is that Jesus was charged with insurrection and being a rebel against the Roman government. Yet, when Pilate released Barabbas, he was releasing a man who truly was an insurrectionist and a rebel against the government.

This all reminds me of what Peter says about Jesus' actions in the face of these accusations. "But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."

Jesus suffered in the following manner: · He committed no sin · No deceit was found in His mouth · He did not retaliate · He made no threats · He entrusted Himself to God · He was willing to hurt in order to heal!

We are to suffer injustice in the same way. Peter says, "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, THAT YOU SHOULD FOLLOW IN HIS STEPS. This seems difficult and maybe even impossible, but we'll uncover the bottom line reason for all of this suffering and death to bring about healing to the world tomorrow, when we discuss the crucifixion. Don't miss it!



The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, "Prophesy! Who hit you?" And they said many other insulting things to him. At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. "If you are the Messiah," they said, "tell us."

Jesus answered, "If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God." They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied, "You say that I am." Then they said, "Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips."

There were six different trials Jesus faced. The first three were in a religious court and the second three were in a Roman court. In the Jewish court Jesus was tried before Annas, the former high priest, then the current high priest, Caiaphas and finally here in this passage He is tried before the Sanhedrin. The primary charge in the religious court was blasphemy, claiming to be the Son of God, the Messiah.

As we come to the final trial within the Jewish court of the Sanhedrin-the supreme court for the Jews. All of the religious trials were riddled with illegalities. I want to list out a few:

FIRST-If a man was arrested for a capital crime, he could never be arrested at night. It had to be in broad daylight. Jesus' arrest took place between 1 and 2 o'clock at night.

SECOND-If a man was arrested for a capital crime, no one cooperating in the arrest could be in any way connected to the one who is accused. No arrest for a capital crime could be made based upon information given by a follower or colleague of the accused. Because they felt if the accused was guilty, so were his followers. But the entire plot revolved around Judas, one of the followers. This law was blatantly and openly ignored.

THIRD-No Jewish trial could ever be held at night. The law stated that it must be held in the daytime. Listen to the code, which is taken from the Talmud: "The members of the court may not alertly and intelligently hear the testimony against the accused during the hours of darkness." But, if you check the record, both before Annas and before Caiaphas, these trials were held in darkness.

FOURTH-The members of the Jewish court, after hearing the testimony of true witnesses (none of which were ever brought before Jesus) in a capital crime, could not immediately act and judge. They were to go home and remain alone and separate from one another for two days (at the least, one full day), thinking about the testimonies they had heard. During that time, here's what they were to do. They didn't do that. They never left the presence of Caiaphas!

FIFTH-Even the method of voting was specified. They never took an "all in favor say I, all opposed say no" kind of vote. Their vote was supposed to be taken from the youngest to the oldest so that the youngest wouldn't be intimidated or influenced by the older votes. This never happened.

SIXTH-No trial could be held before only one judge, and never without a defense attorney. All of that was overlooked and ignored. Even though they were people of the book, they didn't follow their own rules.

According to the Gregorian calendar, the arrest and trials of Jesus took place on April 6th, 32AD, during a nine hour period. The Jews put together a plan that was illegal, fallacious, unfair, and unwarranted. No man was ever more innocent, and no man ever stood before six more illegal and unfair trials than Jesus.

Why were all of these illegalities committed? It simply goes back to Jesus in His revolutionary ways works with the heart. Jesus goes to the heart of the matter. His revolution makes everyone feel a little uncomfortable, because it threatens the prideful stance and position of so many-especially the leadership. The spiritual revolution of Jesus is all about turning you inside out and turning your world upside down. If you are not willing for Him to work on your heart, then you must do anything you can to destroy His work in your life-even if it means to destroy Him. Give it up and let Jesus do His surgery on you.



Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, "This man was with him." But he denied it. "Woman, I don't know him," he said.

A little later someone else saw him and said, "You also are one of them." "Man, I am not!" Peter replied. 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.

Jesus has just been arrested by temple troops in the Garden of Gethsemane and his disciples have fled for their lives. Peter has just had a traumatic experience attempting to chop a man's head off, missed and sliced off his ear, only to have Jesus heal the ear completely. It is a real night of terror for Jesus and His disciples in Jerusalem.

The temple troops took Jesus over to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. The high priest was usually selected from among the Sadducees, however the selection process may have been actually performed by Herod at this time. So, he was Herod's appointment.

Peter went along with the soldiers and tried to blend in with the little crowd of curious people. This in itself is quite courageous. He had followed Jesus for over 3 years and he was sticking with him, even at a distance. He's got to be scared personally for what might happen to him, too.

Fear overcame him as he was discovered by the servant girl and he quickly denied being one of Jesus' band of men. Later he was recognized by another person and Peter again blurts out that he is not one of Jesus' people. Finally, about an hour or so later as it was turning closer to morning Peter was recognized as a Galilean which he quickly turned into the third denial. And, just as he denies Jesus for the third time, the rooster crows and Jesus is able to see Peter, looking straight at him.

Talk about "I told you so!"; this had to be most debilitating to Peter. This is the Peter who claimed he was willing to go to prison or death for Jesus. This is why Peter quietly leaves the compound weeping bitterly. He is overwhelmed with guilt and shame.

Have you ever caught yourself in this kind of situation? Have you ever denied that you are a follower of Jesus either by your words or your actions? The lessons here are many and here are a few:

FIRST-Don't ever think you are above being a coward when it comes to identifying yourself with Jesus. This is why we must humbly follow after Him and humbly deal with one another.

SECOND-Prayer does matter in preparing our hearts for difficult times. Peter had just left a night of a little praying and a lot of nodding off.

THIRD-Fear and faith can't coexist easily. It's too easy to give into our fears. I like the saying, "When fear knocks, I must send faith over to answer the door."

FOURTH-Jesus is always looking. This use to scare me to death, when I was sure that Jesus was mad at me. Now, I understand that His look, though sometimes disappointed in me, is still filled with unconditional love, concern and forgiveness for me. More than anything else Jesus wants me to "get it" and "get through it."

ABOVE ALL I think this scene in Peter's life is indicative of our own lives as we move in and out of highly stressful and fearful moments. The most devastating thing of all is the look on Jesus' face when I screw up. When my parents gave me that disappointed look, that was worse than any spanking or grounding ever. I never wanted to disappoint them. And when I did, that's what hurt me the most. It's the same way with our relationship with Jesus. We don't want to disappoint Him, but we do. But OH THAT LOOK ON HIS FACE.

I am comforted by a passage in II Timothy that says, "And when we are faithless and deny Him, He remains faithful." Now that's why Jesus is worthy of our faith and trust and worship. HE REMAINS FAITHFUL!