Upper Room & Gethsemane
After a special dinner on Thursday evening, Jesus led His disciples out to the Mount of Olives. Many evenings had previously been spent in this peaceful place, listening to Jesus teach, asking questions, talking about all the things that friends discuss. Many times, they had spent the entire night in peaceful sleep here after these blessed interactions.
But tonight? Tonight was different. During their earlier dinner together, Jesus had told them in Mt 26:24 that He must die, as the scriptures declared long ago. As they walked together toward a special olive grove called Gethsemane, Jesus tried again to prepare His disciples for what was to come. He told them of the Holy Spirit who desires to live in them (and us) after He was gone (John 14:15-21). He reminded them of what the prophet Isaiah said about Him in 53:12, “He was numbered with the transgressors and bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors. He even told them that they all would desert Him that very night. But His disciples were determined that they would never leave Jesus (Mt 26:31, 35). However, as they arrived at this special place, Jesus reminded them that, while their spirit was willing, their flesh was weak (Lk 22:40).
I must ask myself, ‘How many times have I determined to do the right thing and have failed due to my weakness?’ Remember when the descendants of Israel witnessed the voice of God giving them the 10 commandments at Mt Sinai and how all the people said, “All that the Lord has said, we will do”? (Ex 19:8). How did that work out for them? Well, it wasn’t long until many of them were dancing around a golden calf, worshiping this idol of their own making (Ex 32:1-6). How have your commitments to God worked out? Have your promises and resolutions seemed like ropes of sand? I’ve been there, done that…
Do you recall that Jesus twice said in John 5 that in his humanity He could do nothing? Then, this very night, He told his disciples that they could do nothing without Him. Remember In John 15 how He is the vine and we are the branches. So, why should I be so arrogant as to think that I can do anything worthwhile without God! What do you think about that?
In Proverbs 3:34, then echoed by James chapter 4:6 and again in 1Peter chapter 5:5, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”.
Friends, it is pride that says, “All that the Lord has said, I will do”. It was pride that caused the disciples to tell Jesus that they would not desert or deny Him. It was pride that gave false security to the disciples as they fell asleep instead of humbly, yet diligently, seeking God after Jesus plainly warned them to watch and pray so that they wouldn’t fall into temptation (Lk 22:40).
But, it was humility during His greatest temptation that caused Jesus to kneel and pray, “Father, if it be possible, please let this cup of suffering pass from me”. It was humility that caused Jesus to defer to Father God’s will, when He said, “Nevertheless, I want your will to be done, rather than mine” (Lk 22:42). Jesus is always our best example. I want to be more like Jesus, seeking The Father in humble submission.
Jesus was severely tested and suffered greatly that night in Gethsemane. Mark records in chapter 14 (verses 32-35) that after leaving the rest of His disciples and taking Peter, James, and John a litter further, “He became deeply troubled and distressed. [In fact,] He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Then He went a little further and fell to the ground.” Oh, how He must have wished that His three best friends would have prayed with Him and encouraged Him in this, His great hour of need. Luke records in chapter 22 (verse 44) how that “He was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood as He plead with Father God to take this cup of suffering away from Him. Not once; not twice; three times Jesus made this plea. Three times He asked in humble submission, agreeing to go through anything if it be the Father’s will.
Oh friends, how often do we shrink from hardship, temptation and loss? How often do we tell Father God what we think we need instead of humbly submitting to His will, asking Him what He would have us do? (Acts 9:6) How often do we pity ourselves in our suffering instead of trusting that all things work together for good for them, for us, who love Him? Romans 8:28 Do we trust Him that much?
It was because of the joy awaiting Jesus, that “he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:2).
Do we trust Jesus enough to rejoice “when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment.” Do we really believe how dearly God loves us? Do we really believe that he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love? –Romans 5:3-5. Or, would we rather just continue our pity party and blame God for our situation?
Jesus is our perfect example. As He suffered there in the Garden of Gethsemane, dying to self, humbly submitting to Father God, it is recorded in Luke 22:43 that an angel from God arrived to strengthen Jesus. In the same way, as we choose to humbly submit to God in our time of trouble, as we choose to die to our wishes and live to serve God, I believe that He sends an angel to strengthen us. That must be why Jesus strongly encouraged His disciples to watch and to pray.
Sadly they slept instead. Then when scary things began to happen, they all fled, instead of facing the trial with God as their strength. Jesus, on the other hand, as a result of His deep surrender in the garden to Father God and the resultant angel who came to His aid, faced His accusers without fear, knowing that He was in His Father’s will. Yes friends, in all things, Jesus is our perfect example. Friends, I can testify to you today that every time – thousands of times – when I have surrendered myself to God in times of great temptation, God has always delivered me. I have only failed the temptation when I have failed the surrender. Like me so many times, Peter failed to surrender and look what happened…
After the mob showed up to arrest Jesus, and take Him away, Peter was still full of pride. Trying to take matters into his own hands, he pulls out his sword to do battle, but only manages to cut off the ear of one of the attacking mob. Jesus, with hands tied, releases Himself only long enough to heal the man’s ear. (Mt 26:51)
We should ask ourselves, how out of the way will we go to help our enemies? Jesus earlier said, “love your enemies![b] Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:44-45). Jesus is our perfect example. I want Him to live in me.
Do you remember what Jesus said to Peter after healing the man’s ear? Check it out in Matthew 26: 52… “Put away your sword […]. Those who use the sword will die by the sword.” Some Christians today insist on having weapons for self-defense. Would we do that if we really believe that ALL things work together for good when we love God and are following His leading. I am of the opinion that nothing can happen to me without God’s permission. And, if He gives permission for me to be harmed, then who am I to argue with God!? Since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and I’m a sinner (1John 1:8), then anything better than death is better than I deserve. Have you considered this?
Friends, we can trust Jesus because He was tempted in all points like as we are, without sin (Hebrews 4:15). We can trust Jesus because He took our sins on himself (1Peter 2:24). He got what we deserve so that we can get what He deserves – eternal life.
After healing the man’s ear, as Jesus again submitted to the mob, the disciples all fled, as Jesus had predicted. Their expectations of Jesus becoming King were dashed. Their lives seemed to be threatened. They weren’t prepared with prayer as prescribed by their Master.
Friends, will we be prepared when troublous times come to those of us who choose to believe in and practice all of God’s commands? Will we flee like the disciples, with only a little oil of the Holy Spirit? Or, are we emptying ourselves now of self and inviting the Holy Spirit to fill that void? Will we be like the 10 foolish virgins, whose Holy Spirit oil ran out while waiting for the bridegroom? Or, will be like the 10 wise virgins, filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit, ready at anytime to face whatever God allows, waiting faithfully for our bridegroom Jesus to come back and take us out of this messed-up world? –Matthew 25:1-13.
Annas & Caiaphas
Now, the mob brings Jesus “to Annas [the previous high priest and] the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest at that time.” (Jn 18:13). These Jewish leaders were determined to kill Jesus, but because they were under Roman rule, they could not do so, without the Roman governor’s approval. To succeed, they must trump up some false charges that would be believable and worthy of the death penalty. They questioned Jesus through the night hours so as not to raise the ire of the sleeping supporters of Jesus.
Jesus said nothing to defend Himself. Jesus is our perfect example. We should ask ourselves, when we are falsely accused, what do we do? Do we defend ourselves, or do we let it go, as did Jesus?
It was during this mock trial that Peter denied his association with Jesus, not once, not twice, but 3 times. It was just after Peter’s third denial that Jesus turned and looked at Peter (Lk 22:61). Try to put yourself in Jesus’ place. Can you imagine how hurtful this was when He heard one of His best friends deny, with curses, that he even knew Jesus?
Annas & Caiaphas
It was also during this questioning, trying to trap Him, that Jesus was slapped in the face. Some spit in His face. Then they blind-folded Him and beat Him with their fists. They said, “Prophesy to us. Who hit you this time? And they hurled all sorts of terrible insults at Him. Then the guards slapped him around some more as they took him away.”(Matthew 22:63-65) Jesus did not defend Himself. Is Jesus is our perfect example.
As we put our full and complete trust and love in the Almighty God of the Universe, we can be assured of the promise of Romans 8:28: “All things work together for good”. As we trust Him, everything that comes to us is first filtered through Him. We should ask ourselves, “How great is our trust in God?” Do we honestly trust God that much?
But when the Jewish leaders ask Jesus if He was the Messiah, for Him to be silent or to deny that He was, would be just as bad as Peter’s denials of Jesus. So Jesus said, “I Am”, which had the powerful meaning, “I Am the Lord”! Then, He went on to say, “And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power, at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mk 14:61-62) WOW! That’s powerful! Later, through the inspiration of Jesus, the apostle John confirmed this in Revelation 1:7, where he said, of Jesus’ second coming, “Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see Him – even those who pierced Him.”
In some parts of the world today, it is dangerous to admit being a follower of Christ. It is well for us to consider what we will do when it becomes dangerous for us to speak our convictions. Will we boldly speak the truth as did Jesus, or will we deny our faith as did Peter?
I would submit to you today that the only way to boldly stand is to be filled with the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. And the only way to be filled with the HS is to be emptied of self – completely surrendered to Jesus. IMHO, absolute surrender to God is our ONLY option! Oh God, help me to surrender more-fully to you. Galatians 2:20 says, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ, liveth in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loves me and gave himself for me.” And when I am “crucified with Christ, I can say with the apostle Paul, “for God is working in me, giving me the desire and the power to do what pleases Him” Philippians 2:13.
Pilot -> Herod -> Pilot
Pilot was not stupid. He knew that envy was the driving force behind the Jewish leaders’ insistence of Jesus being crucified. After questioning Jesus, both Pilot and Herod declared Jesus to be innocent. But that didn’t satisfy the senseless crowd, so Pilot tried to stop this foolishness by offering to release Jesus, OR to release a most notorious criminal named Barabbas. A sensible crowd would have chosen Jesus, which must have been Pilot’s hope. But, this crowd, controlled by demons, chose Barabbas to be released and insisted on Jesus being crucified.
Pilot made one last attempt to pacify the crowd, hoping to prevent the death of this innocent man. He had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. History names this type of flogging as the Roman Scourge. This was a short whip typically made of 2 or 3 tongs or rope of ox hide leather. These were each knotted with several chunks of iron and/or zinc. Sometimes there was a metal hook at the end, called the scorpion. This scourge, in the hands of a torturer, quickly removed skin from its victim. The goal was to bring the victim as close to death as possible without actually killing them.
They scourged my Jesus. Then they wove a crown from a thorn bush and pressed it down on his head, causing even more blood to flow. They spit on Him; they beat Him on His head with a stick. Then they covered him with a purple robe and presented Jesus to His accusers. But rather than being pacified by this horrendous torture, like hungry hyenas, they yelled, “Crucify Him Crucify Him! Pilot again declared Jesus innocent and brought Him back to his private room. After Jesus made no reply to his questioning, Pilot said, “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” 11 Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” (Jn 19:10-11).
Did you catch that? Jesus inferred that nothing and no one can have power over Him, or(may I add) us, without God’s permission. Remember Romans 8:28…? He also said that this pagan Roman Governor’s sin was NOT as great as that committed by the leaders of God’s formerly-chosen nation. How ironic is that?!
Pilot finally yielded to that demonic mob by authorizing the crucifixion of Jesus. The solders led Jesus” to a place called Place of the Skull –Golgotha, in Hebrew”. It was there that they nailed my Jesus to that old rugged cross. It was there that Jesus said of His persecutors, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing”. We would do well to forgive those who mistreat us. Jesus is our perfect example. Healing comes to us as we forgive others.
Jesus was crucified between 2 thieves. One of them confessed his sin and also confessed Jesus as Lord. As a result, Jesus promised that man that he would be in heaven.
There may be someone in the hearing of my voice right now who is tempted to believe that he or she has sunk too low in sin to be saved. But the Bible says that if we confess our sin to God, He will not only forgive our sins, but also cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness – He will make us righteous (1John 1:9). Friend, if you are sorrowful for your sin and desire to turn away from it, then I guarantee you that there is still hope for you today. Like the thief on the cross, confess your sin and confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then begin a new life, committed to the One who loves you more than He loves His own life – the One who longs to do more good for you than you can even imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
“Luke23:44 By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 45 The light from the sun was gone.”
I can imagine my dark sins, and yours, being laid upon my precious, sinless Savior during this time of greatest aguish. Since Jesus, in Gethsemane, fully accepted this mission, you and I do NOT have to die because of our sins. Jesus died in our place. Praise God!
“And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. 46 Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”[a] And with those words he breathed his last.
Jesus had been on the cross for a few hours. Typically, it took 2-3 days of suffering before a victim of crucifixion would die an extremely painful death. Jesus did not die from that. He died because of my sins and because of yours. Jesus died of a broken heart. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:32). Jesus paid the wages of your sin and of mine.
Luke23:47 When the Roman officer[b] overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “ [according to mark: ‘Surely this was the Son of God’] 48 And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow.”
As sunset drew near on that Bad Friday, wealthy friends of Jesus asked Pilot for and received the body of Jesus. They buried Him in an unused, nearby tomb just before Sabbath began. Even in death, Jesus rested on the Sabbath, just as it still is our privilege to rest and worship on each Sabbath day.
But, praise God, that’s not the end of the story. Early Sunday morning, because Jesus was the perfect, sinless sacrifice, “Mt 28:2 Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. 3 His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. 4 The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.
5 Then the angel spoke to the women. “Do NOT be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.” “Mark 16:7 Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”
Did you hear that, “including Peter!” who 3 times had denied that he even knew Jesus? One of the first messages from Heaven after the crucifixion was that, even though Peter failed, he was not forgotten. Even though Peter sinned against Jesus, he was considered by Heaven to still be one of Jesus’s disciples and friends.
Friends, when you fail, when you sin, do NOT be discouraged. Instead, be grateful that Jesus still loves you and is waiting for you to come home to his open arms of love and confess your sins. The book of Matthew closes with some of the final words of Jesus before He went to Heaven. Jesus said, “be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
I want to surrender all that I am and all that I have to Jesus. How about you?