If you can, as you read this, disconnect yourself from worldly thoughts for a while and join me as I follow Jesus Christ from a short distance…
Although the birth, youth and ministry of Jesus were already unusual to those who watched and followed Him, His last days and hours on earth were far beyond human understanding and reason.
How things have changed since Jesus’ royal welcome as he entered Jerusalem. First, we see one of His disciples plotting to betray Him. Then we see Jesus having His last supper with His disciples, where He washes their feet and announces His impending death. Soon after, Jesus predicts Peter’s denial of Him.
Next, we follow Jesus into the garden of Gethsemane, where we hear Him ask His closest friends to pray with Him. Sadly, they fall asleep instead of remaining alert and another disciple comes to betray Him. Jesus is arrested like a common criminal and led away by soldiers.
Just when He needed them the most, “all His disciples deserted Him and fled,” leaving Him alone. (Matthew 26:56) One disciple did follow Jesus from afar but, when questioned, he denied knowing Jesus at all.
Jesus is then brought to the high priest and elders, only to be falsely accused by so-called witnesses, and the council decides to put Jesus to death. They bind him up and hand Him over to Pontius Pilate, the governor. Pilate tries to release Jesus but the crowds and priests keep shouting: “Crucify Him, crucify Him… and let His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matt. 27:22, 25)
As if all this wasn’t enough, we read in Matthew 27:27-31 that “the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”
Can you imagine the cries of “Police brutality!” we would hear if something like this happened today?
No one volunteers to help Jesus carry His cross so the soldiers force a bystander named Simon to do it. (What a privilege!” At Golgotha, which means The Place of the Skull, the soldiers nail Jesus to a cross, with a crucified thief on either side of Him.
Passers-by throw insults and curses at Him: “Save yourself if you are God’s Son! Come on down from the cross!” Meanwhile, the soldiers busily divide His clothes among themselves by throwing dice and then sit down to watch Him die.
Suddenly, at about noon, the entire country is covered by darkness, which lasts for three hours… until Jesus cries out with a loud voice: “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani?” , which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The people around Jesus continue to mock Him, and He finally utters His last words: “It is finished.” With that, He bows His head and gives up His Spirit.
At that moment, the darkness disappears, the curtain of the Temple is torn in two, from top to bottom, the earth shakes, rocks split apart, graves burst open, and many of God’s people who had died are raised to life!
The army officers and soldiers who had been watching Jesus see everything happening around them and are terrified. One of them exclaims: “Surely He was the Son of God!”
What a tragic picture of humanity Calvary is! While the Son of God suffers for man’s sins, soldiers gamble for His few earthly possessions, the Jews make fun of Him, and other just sit and stare. But one Roman soldier proclaims his belief that Jesus is the Son of God.
Jesus’ last words— It is finished. —are actually one word in Greek: tetelestai . Merchants used it to indicate that “the price has been paid.” Servants used it when reporting to their masters to say that their work had been completed. And Christ, the obedient Servant, had finished the work the Father had given Him to do. He willingly and deliberately gave up His life. He lay down His life for His enemies.
As the old song asks, were you there when they crucified my Lord? Well, I was. I was there when they crucified our Lord. My every weakness and shortcoming, my sinful and fallen nature, were represented by the people there. Every one of us was represented there.
Priests and church leaders were there. Fishermen and carpenters were there. Government officials and soldiers were there. Prostitutes and fornicators were there. Jews and Gentiles were there. Every conceivable sin and corruption was represented there.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Do you believe in Him? Have you accepted Him as your Lord and Saviour or do you still doubt Him?
Are you waiting for Him to come down to believe? Well, dear friend, He will come down again, but not to save this time—rather, to judge.
Many people today are like those who had gathered around the cross looking at Jesus but not believing Him, not receiving Him. They were so near Him… and yet so far.
One dying man, on a cross next to Jesus’, reached out and said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
What about you? Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour? He died so that you and I could live. What are you waiting for?
Pastor Joseph Hovsepian