The Day Jesus Died

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I. The Last Supper

 

II. Gethsemane

 

III. The Courtyard

 

IV. Before Pilate

 

V. The Via Dolorosa

 

VI. Calvary

The Last Supper

Luke 22:7-34

Jesus said of His Last Supper, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15). He was clearly looking forward to this night. I am not sure why . . .

  • A once-trusted friend turned traitor reclined at His table, and silently watched as Jesus washed his feet.
  • Minutes after Jesus declared His forthcoming sacrificial death by sharing the bread and the cup, the disciples began arguing about who was greatest among them.
  • After the meal, one of Jesus' closest friends boasted of his "to-the-end" loyalty, only to be told by Jesus that he would deny he even knew Christ-not once, not twice, but three times.

Studying the events that transpired in the upper room that night, I am amazed and convicted by the composure and patience Jesus displayed. Just think about the flood of emotions that must have poured over His heart and mind as He spent one last night with His disciples, including the one who would betray Him.

In spite of His impending suffering and the disappointing actions of His disciples, we see Jesus still serving . . . still teaching . . . still praying for His friends . . . still "[loving] them to the end" (John 13:1c). No bitterness, no frustration, no anger?

Oh, how I want to be like Jesus! But as I examine myself in preparation for Good Friday, I find myself identifying less with the loving actions of Jesus and more with the sinful actions of the disciples. How about you?

  • How often have you put up a godly front, acting the part of a good disciple when your heart is covertly filled with anger, resentment, or self-centered greed?
  • How often have you mistaken Jesus' grace as self-earned merit and parlayed His favor into self-congratulations or self-promotion?
  • How often have you professed your love and devotion to the Lord, yet during a time of testing or at a point of decision chosen to abandon Him?

Our sin, like the disciples', is grievous, ugly, and disappointing.

Whenever we partake in the Lord's Supper, we are reminded that Jesus' body was broken and His blood was shed for us. Praise God that our sin has been forgiven-this is the awesome message of Easter. But unless we wade into the dark depths of our own sinfulness to understand our desperate need for rescue, Easter is simply a shallow walk in religiosity.

So as we begin walking the road leading to Calvary, and later to the empty tomb, let us solemnly remember that Jesus' body was broken and His blood was shed, not only for us, but because of us.

Gethsemane

Mark 14:32-50

"O blessed Savior, how can we bear to think of thee as a man astonished and alarmed?" wrote the "Prince of Preachers" Charles Spurgeon, as he considered the "unutterable woe" of Christ in Gethsemane. It is such a dissonant image, the God Man stammering in shock. But this was blunt reality in the garden, as the terror of God's wrath toward sin began to fall fast upon His Son.

It was in Gethsemane that the Father began to withdraw His presence from Jesus, leaving His Son single-handed in His weakness to contend for the deliverance of man. Christ told the three disciples who slept only a stone's throw away, that His soul had become "very sorrowful, even to death" (Mark 14:33). We are told He was so sorrowful "his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44).

It was in Gethsemane that the serpent waged a desperate attempt to finish the heinous work he began in a much different garden long ago. All the powers of darkness closed in on the reeling Savior of the world with the fiercest accusations and temptations.

In Mark 14:36, Jesus prayed, "Abba Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me." How the enemy must have tempted Him to leave His redemptive work unfinished-to walk away from the task and simply wash His hands of fallen humanity, even as Pilate would wash his hands of Christ only hours later.

We are told in Luke 22:43 that in the Lord's distress "there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him." How the enemy must have whispered accusations of weakness and fear, telling Jesus He would not be able to bear the weight of the road ahead, predicting He would fold under the weight of betrayal, scorn, physical anguish-and worst of all, the pain of feeling His Father's face turning away.

As the soldiers drew near to arrest Him that night, His closest-and only-friends, sat nearby "taking [their] rest" (Mark 14:41). But the King was face to the ground undone in prayer to His Abba, and it was through the power of prayer that He prevailed over the enemy. The sparks of temptation that landed on the dry kindling of humanity in Eden were this time quenched as they fell on the ocean of the Savior's earnest devotion to the Father. It was in the garden that Jesus surrendered fully to His Father's will, utterly essential for victory over Satan.

There is so much for us to learn from our Savior's example in Gethsemane. Christ's words to His sleeping disciples in Mark 14:38, "rise and pray," speak through the pages of Scripture to us today. Are you weary, under attack, betrayed, lonely, sick, in despair? Look to the Savior, in His anguish in the garden, lifting up His soul in surrender to the Father in prayer.

If the Son of Man was dependent upon prayer to overcome the schemes of the adversary and the weakness of the flesh, how much more should we be earnest and constant in prayer to our Father? Wherever we are, whatever we are in the midst of, let us too "rise and pray."

The Courtyard

Luke 22:54-62

In the span of an hour, Peter’s world was turned upside down. The past few years of his life were spent walking with Jesus every day. He witnessed the miracles, saw the healings, heard the messages, and ate countless meals with the Son of God. He had stood by the side of Jesus when many of His earlier followers deserted Him (John 6:68). Peter witnessed a dead Lazarus raised to life and even saw a glimpse of Jesus’ glory on the mount of transfiguration. He was willing to follow Jesus anywhere (or so he thought), until the Son of God chose the path of humility and suffering.

It was easier to follow Jesus when all of the crowds were around worshiping Him. It was easier to follow the Lord when His great power was on display calming the storm (Matthew 8:23-27). It is always easier to follow Christ on Sunday morning when the songs are sung, the Word is preached, and we’re surrounded by people who love Him. But now the night was cold, Christ’s followers were gone, and Peter was faced with this question, “Do you really believe gospel that you preach? And are you willing to suffer for it?”

Peter’s neglect of Jesus at this most crucial time proved the fact that he wasn’t willing to suffer. In fact, rather than standing with Christ, Peter saw the men who seized Him and “sat down among them” (Luke 22:55). He followed the guards who took his loving leader away—but he was “following at a distance” (v. 54). Peter wanted to be close enough to see Jesus, but not close enough to suffer with Him.

How often do we do the same? We want to be close enough to Jesus to see Him, but not close enough to suffer for Him. Close in the hope we will gain something, but not so close we could lose ourselves. Now consider the aim of the apostle Paul: “…that I may know him…and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him…” (Philippians 3:10).

Jesus had done so much for Peter. He healed Peter’s mother-in-law, prayed for Peter’s protection from Satan, fed him, caught him when he began to sink in the water, discipled him, taught him, and was now heading to the cross to die for him. Yet Peter was afraid to make a stand for the One he loved. Suffering for Christ was the one area where he was not willing to go.

Three times Peter said, “I do not know Him” (v. 57), and after the final denial, his heart melted as “the Lord turned and looked” (v. 61) at him. Looking at Peter eye to eye, reality sank in. His love for Jesus was not as strong as he thought it was, and so Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (v. 62).

Every week there will be opportunities to stand for the gospel and the glory of God. Where are you most afraid to suffer? Is it at your job or in an environment where there is a temptation to lie? Is it in your family or a close relationship? Do you turn down the light of the gospel in your life around certain people, because you’re afraid of their response or rejection? Do you compromise your convictions and the Word of God, because you care more about what people think of you?

It’s easy to look at Peter’s story and not see ourselves. It’s easy to turn the page and skip this passage. But the reality is we all have areas in which we refuse to suffer for the sake of Christ.

Ask yourself:

  • What is one area in my life where I am afraid to experience suffering for the sake of Christ?
  • When are there times I turn down the light of my faith because of fear of others?

Before Pilate

John 18:28-40

Throughout your life, no doubt you have encountered powerful people. Even if you don't interact with heads of state or CEOs of large corporations, you have been in the presence of people who have significant power. It can be intimidating. They've likely attained their influential status through their own hard work and charisma.

In John 18 and 19, we read the record of a historic meeting between two powerful people who symbolize the clash of two contrasting kingdoms. One was an earthly kingdom, where a man named Pontius Pilate had authority to rule; the other, a heavenly kingdom where Jesus Christ, a King with unlimited power, laid down His desires along with His life. This interaction was so important that the early church fathers, when writing the creeds of our faith, made sure to note that Jesus Christ "suffered under Pontius Pilate."

The Jewish leaders wanted Jesus killed, and felt justified in this decision based on their view that He was a blasphemer for claiming to be God. But they were under Roman rule, which required every person to be tried before being put to death. The sentence needed to be both decreed and carried out by Rome in order to be legal.

Imagine for a moment you were in the shoes of Pontius Pilate. He tried many times to release Jesus-unsuccessfully, because Jesus didn't want to be released and because the people who are calling for His death didn't want Him released. After repeated attempts to give Jesus a way out . . . a chance to live . . . an escape from death . . . Pilate was incredulous: "Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?" (John 19:10).

In John 19:11, Jesus answered, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above." He made it clear that God gave the authority Pilate perceived as his own, and no earthly ruler was in control of Jesus' destiny.

In this clash of kingdoms, we see a very real battle-and one that is waged every day in our own hearts. It too is a clash for power, and it can leave us changed depending on our response.

This interaction between two powerful men only magnifies the amount of suffering Jesus had to take. Here the King of the universe, the One who spoke the world into existence, had to listen as Pilate spoke the words of His sentence to death. There is no doubt that is what Jesus Christ came to accomplish, but the suffering PIlate's words caused cannot be minimized. Jesus demonstrated that the love of a true King is sacrificial and humble.

During this week of remembrance of our Savior's suffering, reflect on this aspect: Though He was the most powerful person on earth, He humbled Himself and kept His mouth shut, so He could fulfill the righteous demands of a holy God by paying for our sins in full.

As you read John 18:28-19:22, notice the amount of times "king" or "kingdom" is used. Underline them in your Bible. Reflect on the ways Jesus is not like an earthly king. What has the Lord opened up in your own heart this day as you reflect on our true King, the One who suffered under Pontius Pilate?

The Via Dolorosa

Luke 23:13-31

No one has a passive response to Jesus. When you are at work or in the grocery store or the gym, no one cares if you talk about God, but there will be a response if you talk about "Jesus." The response may even come from you-in the form of a hesitation to even say His name in front of non-believing friends or acquaintances.

Jesus' journey to the cross was no different. Even when He was here as a man, on His way up the Via Dolorosa, walking among the Romans and His own people, the Jews, the responses to Him varied, but they were always full and emotionally charged.

Pilate tried three times to convince the Jews to free Jesus. He knew in his heart Jesus was innocent, but decided to be swayed by public opinion and send Christ to His death.

The people in the crowd were angry and not thinking. They didn't examine the facts about Jesus or even Barabbas-the criminal set free in Jesus' place-before condemning Him. They let the culture decide for them and did not bother to make their own informed decisions about Jesus.

Barabbas walked away from the situation, getting as far from the controversy as he could and avoiding Jesus all together. He never even acknowledged the hit Jesus would take for him.

Luke 23:26 tells us "they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country" and made him carry the cross. The one act of mercy given to Jesus was a decision forced upon Simon. Did he wish he had volunteered? Or did he wish he had stayed in the country that day? Was he too scared to refuse? We are never told, but again, he has the same characteristic in common with the others: he didn't make the decision to follow behind Jesus for himself. He let others do it for him.

Which one are you today? Who has made your decision about Jesus?

  • Are you like Pilate, knowing in your heart who Jesus is and that the right thing to do is to stand for him, but failing to follow through?
  • Are you like the crowd, not looking for yourself into Jesus' claims as Messiah but letting your background or peer group influence your understanding of who Jesus is?
  • Are you like Barabbas, walking away and hoping you will not have to face the decisions or the consequences of Jesus' sacrifice for you?
  • Are you like Simon, carrying the cross, yet knowing your motives are not always self-sacrificing for Christ, but self-serving instead?

Jesus' person and His life demands our response. His sacrifice in bearing the full weight and penalty of our sin, and experiencing His father turning His face from Him, calls us to turn from passive complacency in our devotion to Christ, to active participation in our sanctification.

Ask the Lord to help you understand your motives and your relationship with Jesus Christ today. The characters in Luke's story of our Lord have already been written, but your story has not. You still have the option to make your own decision and grasp fully the love that Christ poured out for you on His journey to the cross.

How will you respond differently than the one you identified with today? Standing for Christ will change your story and your life.

Calvary

Luke 23:32-56

All of time purposefully marched toward a single day in a place called Golgotha, the place of Calvary. The feet and the hands of the perfect sacrifice nailed to a rugged cross. The searing pain coursed through His body as He was raised alongside two common criminals. The Righteous One surrounded by the unrighteous.

In His final moments, hanging from the cross in unfathomable pain, Jesus showcases His deity and lets us see His heart. Three statements came out of His mouth from the cross:

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34

"Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." v.43

"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" v.46

Jesus was looking at the faces of the people who put Him on the cross-those whose hands gripped the hammer that drove the nails through His flesh, whosefaces were contorted by the anger that welled up from their empty hearts.

In the midst of pure evil, Jesus cried out for these people to be forgiven. He wanted to have a right relationship with them, to see their hearts freed from the bondage of sin.

Amazing love, how can it be? That my King would die for me.

Then He hears the criminal's cry of faith to remember him, and Jesus promises this thief eternal life moments before he would have faced the wrath of God. On Calvary, new life springs forth in a barren wasteland of twisted depravity. Even in the darkest moment, the beauty of the Gospel cannot be missed.

Finally, the entire land was engulfed in darkness as the final seconds of Jesus' life counted down. With His last breath, He surrendered everything to become the sacrifice for our sin. The Lamb of God, the second Adam, the final sacrifice was complete. It was finished. The Suffering Servant suffered no more.

Jesus Christ's submission to death was His final act of love; an act that made reconciliation between God and man a possibility. He made peace by the blood of the cross. It is offered to everyone. This is good news; this is the gospel.

The death of the Savior-our Savior. Our freedom comes through His sacrifice. Take a few moments right now to bow down before our King and thank Him for His forgiveness.

Thank the Lord for specific sins He has forgiven in your life. Stay there at the foot of the cross, knowing His sacrifice was required. He had to die for you. Let the picture of His sacrifice burn in your heart and let it stir up gratitude.

And let the gratitude build . . . Easter is coming.

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"This is Jesus whom you have crucified" - Acts 2:36