Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." … Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done."
Jesus has finished the years of his ministry, and now comes to the crucial moment of his life. He knew what was ahead for him. He told the disciples more than once that he was going to die (e.g. Matt.26:2, 12). Jesus asked his Father to take away the 'cup'. This recalls Isaiah 51:17 Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering.
He knows that he is not just going to be crucified, a brutal and agonising death, but he is going to suffer the full weight of God's wrath against sin. No wonder he dreaded it. No wonder he asked his Father if there was any other way. But he knew that there was only one way to save mankind, and he bowed to his Father's will. At the crucial moment, he was obedient. Luke tells us that the strain was so much that his sweat was like drops of blood (Lk.22:44).
Despite Jesus having told the disciples what would happen to him, despite his asking them to watch with him, the disciples did not understand. They fell asleep. And despite Peter's earlier protestations, and maybe the others had said something similar, all his followers ran away. But not before Peter (according to Mark's gospel) drew a sword and attacked.
Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?" At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples left him and fled.
It makes Jesus' obedience even more astounding when we realise that he could he saved himself at any point (with twelve legions of angels!), but he did not. He even prevents his followers from violence, and heals the servant's ear. Also, once again, Jesus says he is fulfilling prophecy. This must have angered the religious leaders, as they didn't believe he was the Messiah. But what must it have meant to his followers, who also were raised on the Scriptures? And for us, it is wonderful confirmation that he really was the One who was promised for so long.
The First Trial
Jesus was taken first of all before Caiaphas the high priest. Before all the false witnesses Jesus said nothing. Only when the high priest put him under oath did Jesus respond.
And the high priest stood up and said, "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?" But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus said to him, "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." Then the high priest tore his robes and said, "He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgement?" They answered, "He deserves death."
When Jesus referred to the Son of Man, he was referring to one of Daniel's prophecies.
"I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages, should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
Under oath, Jesus finally declares himself before the religious leaders. They are so adamant that he cannot be the Messiah, that they are horrified at his blasphemy. Their minds were so closed that they were not prepared to consider how closely his life fulfilled prophecy. By coming out with it at this point, Jesus ensures that they will seek his death. We need to think carefully about situations where we prefer to listen to our prejudices rather than the truth.
The Second Trial
Jesus was taken for trial before Pilate, because the Jews were not allowed to sentence people to death. But they had to convince Pilate to pass the death sentence, and he was reluctant.
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus said, "You have said so." But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, "Do you not hear the things they testify against you?" But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, "Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream." Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas." Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said, "Let him be crucified!" And he said, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified!"
So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves." And all the people answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
The accusation of the religious leaders was not sufficient to convince Pilate to pass the death sentence, but they whipped up the crowd to push him into it. They cannot allow this man to live. We should ask ourselves if we ever bow to pressure over something we know is wrong.
At the crucifixion, three charges are levelled against Jesus:
And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, com down from the cross." So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, 'I am the Son of God.'" And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
Pilate, I believe, was deliberately annoying the Jews by putting the charge above Jesus that he was the King of the Jews. He did not know how right he was. The others all urged Jesus to prove who he was by saving himself. They obviously did not believe that he could, but also they did not realise that by saving himself he would be condemning all mankind. What a temptation to show them all his power and do what they taunted him with!
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, "This man is calling Elijah." And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him." And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping, watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!"
The darkness lasts from noon until three in the afternoon. At the end of this time Jesus cries out: 'My God, why have you forsaken me?' Why should he do this? What could separate the eternal bond between Father and Son? Nothing but sin. God cannot tolerate sin, and when Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world, God could not tolerate him, and withdrew. On top of the physical and spiritual agony he was facing, Jesus saw God turn away. He had to face it all alone.
Notice that when Jesus died, the account says he 'yielded up his spirit.' He had previously said that no one could take his life, he had the power to lay it down and take it up again. When his work was finished, he laid his life down. This also means that until it was finished, no matter the suffering, no matter the strain on his body, he did not allow it to die. It was such a momentous death, that the earth convulsed and the temple curtain tore, and even the pagan Roman soldiers realised that something significant had happened.
Six hundred years before, the prophet Isaiah had seen what a momentous thing it would be:
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgement he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
[Based on Pantygwydr Baptist Church's Lent Studies]
Other posts in this series:
Jesus as Leader
Jesus as Divine
Jesus the Man
Jesus as Teacher
Jesus and Us
Jesus as Messiah
Jesus as Saviour
Jesus as Lord
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