Friday, April 18, 2014

A Walk Through Holy Week - Post #5

After readying himself through prayer and receiving the blessing of spiritual strength from the LORD, Jesus hears muffled sounds in the distance and looks to see the dim light of the torches. As expected, the arrest party has secretly come in the cover of darkness. Peter, James, and John awake just in time to see their Rabbi betrayed with Judas' kiss. Startled and afraid, Peter quickly grabs his sword and strikes Malchus, the high priest’s servant, and cuts off his right ear. But Jesus says to Peter, “Put your sword [away]; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” And thus begins the most unjust and unmerited arrest and trial in the history of the world.

The trial has been assembled hastily and witnesses haven’t been screened well. Testimonies don't line up. Council members look disconcerted. Jesus is silent as a lamb. Irritated and impatient, Caiaphas cuts to the quick: “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:63).
The hour has come. Charged in the name of his Father to answer, Jesus speaks the words that seal the doom for which he had come to endure (John 12:27): “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64).
Then in an act of both manipulative dramatics and law-breaking (Leviticus 21:10), Caiaphas tears his robes and with those gathered at the Sanhedrin declares, “what further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.” (Luke 22:71). And with that statement, the Council had the verdict and sentence they had been waiting for. They declared Jesus guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to death, but they would need the help of Rome because they didn't have the authority to carry out capital punishment.

What happened next was "a game of political chess" between Pilate, Herod, and the Council. All of them acting as authorities, yet none of them realizing that they were merely pawns in the plan God had established before the foundation of the world. Pilate tried to appease the Council's thirst for blood and justice by having Christ flogged and humiliated...but humiliation wasn't enough. They wanted him dead and nothing would keep them from achieving this end. Pilot even tried to offer Jesus's release as the year’s annual Passover pardoned prisoner, but the Council refused his effort by saying, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” (John 18:40). Their hearts were so hardened by their hatred for Jesus, that they were willing to free a murderous thief instead of Jesus.
[But] the triune God has the Council, Pilate, and Satan where he wants them. They would have no authority over the Son at all unless it had been given [to] them from above (John 19:11).
Unknowingly, they were all carrying out the plan God had already set in place. They were helping Jesus drink the cup he came down from heaven to drink. It was for this very purpose that Christ became flesh. The Son of God was die. By the Council's unjust and shameful actions and Pilot's cowardly efforts to wash his hands of it all...God's will was being carried out. Once again, God was turning what men meant for evil into good, as they "unwittingly collaborated in executing the only innocent [man] who could possibly grant sinners life."

The rest of the story is one we're well familiar with. Christ's cross was strapped to his already lacerated back and he was forced to carry it to the top of Golgotha. Unable to physically handle the task, a man from the crowd was chosen to help him make the trek. Hung between two thieves, Christ endured more ridicule from the crowd as they mocked him while the centurions cast lots for his garments. In the ultimate act of humility and unconditional love, Christ looked down from the cross at those who mocked him. His heart continued to break for them as he pleaded with his father to have mercy. His words equally sad as they were true, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Suffering both from physical pain and thirst, Christ asked for a drink. Physically he was exhausted, but his deeper pain was spiritual. Carrying the sin of the world on his shoulders he was separated from his Father for the first time and last time of eternity. Christ mustered just enough strength to say..."It is finished." And indeed it was. Christ successfully drank the cup his father had set before him, and God received his son's death as payment for the sins of the world.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. | Rom. 3:23-35

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