“The Death of Jesus”
The Bible is a collection of stories about God's work in this world, many years ago. There are 66 individual books or letters written by 40 different people over 1500 years. Now those stories revolve around people's reaction to God and to His son, Jesus Christ. Many refused to hear and obey their words of wisdom and instruction. Others turned to the Lord and faithfully followed Him. There are many sad and tragic events recorded in the Bible, as well as those that bring joy to our hearts. In various ways we can relate to many of them. The messages and the teachings we find are important for our consideration. They lead us into a closer walk with God and help prepare us for a future and eternal home. There is one story that is perhaps the saddest story in the Bible, and yet it is one of the most important. It revolves around the death of God's son, Jesus Christ. Now we perhaps have read or heard about it many times. The Bible includes many of the details about His painful and humiliating death on the cross. It was not a very pretty picture at all. And sometimes we might even ask, how did Jesus make it through that traumatic and terrifying time? Well today, on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will look at the answer to that question. There is something in this story which allowed Jesus to face His death with confidence and courage; and, it is still available to us today, yet sometimes we fail to use it. I hope you will join me as we take a close look at this story and how we, too, can face the traumatic times in our life with confidence and courage.
Perhaps you agree when you hear the words, life is hard. And indeed, life is hard, isn't it? We make such statements when we experience things or events or perhaps even people that seem impossible. Something happens that hurts us deeply. Someone says something that damages our ego or we go through challenging times or trying circumstances and our response is, “Life is hard.” See if you can relate to some of these following situations. A group of people put together a plan to hurt you in some way. They go behind your back to some people that they know really don't like you, and they share some things about you that are false or not true. And in the mind of those people who hear them, it damages your reputation even further. Or, perhaps you were betrayed by a person you thought you knew quite well. Your friendship was based upon some loyalty and some trust, but that went away somewhere along the line and they too said some things and did some things that made you wonder about that loyalty and wonder whether or not you could trust them any longer; and, before long, your friendship was shattered. Or, one of your best friends denied knowing you when you needed him or her the most. Something happened in your life and you had a phone call to make, and so you called that friend, but there was no answer. He did not come to your aid. She was not able to answer the phone, and there was no help that was offered from someone you thought would be by your side. Or, some people perhaps made fun of you because of something you said or did that you thought to be right. You were standing firm upon your convictions of what you just knew was the right thing and, and people laughed at you. They made fun of you because it wasn't what they thought or they believed or they would say or do. What did you do in situations like that? How did you handle those trying and difficult times? Perhaps you tried to deal with it on your own. Perhaps you tried to pull yourself up and to come up with a plan to overcome those damaging words and thoughts. Maybe you confided in one of your family members as to what to do; and so, you asked for some advice and insight on how to handle that matter. Or, possibly, you went to the authorities; and, you just knew that they would stand up for what was right and bring about some kind of justice for you. Yet nothing seemed to work. Well, in the Bible, we read about a man who experienced all of those things, plus many more. And, perhaps now, you know I'm talking about a man by the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Oh, He knew people did not like Him. He knew people were saying things about Him, which were not true. He knew that people were trying to get Him, and to stir up others to be opposed to Him, as well. Some of His own family members rejected His teaching and even tried to take away His life, very early on in His public ministry. Crowds of people opposed Jesus. They made His life just as difficult as possible, threats were made against Him and many simply just walked away. Oh, they were following at a distance. They wanted to hear what He had to say. They wanted to be fed, miraculously. They wanted to have their sick healed and the dead raised. But now it was getting serious, and they chose to no longer follow the Son of God, and so they left. They went their own way. They were unwilling to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Jesus any longer. Well, at the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus experienced an unbelievable amount of opposition. Oh, there were a few who were by Jesus’ side at the end. There were a few who saw something special in Him. People like His friend John, His mother Mary, and some other women who had helped support and encourage Him throughout His public ministry. They were there at the end, but most everybody else was gone, no one to stand by Jesus when He gave His life upon the cross. His fellow Jews put together a plot to kill Jesus. The chief priest and the scribes came up with a plan because they feared the people. Oh, they were not afraid of the people themselves, but they were afraid that the people would go over to the other side, that they would go over to Jesus’ side and no longer do what they wanted them to do. And so these scribes and these religious leaders of the day began to consider that. And they thought to themselves; we don't want to lose control over these people; we want to be in charge of them; and, now they're going over to Jesus, so we've got to eliminate that threat some way, some how. And so, they put together this plan that they would have Jesus given over to them and then they would proceed with their plan to eliminate Him. They did a great deal of their work through a man named Judas. Judas was a disciple, or an apostle, of Jesus Christ, one of the chosen 12. But, Judas agreed with the religious leaders that he would hand over Jesus to them in exchange for some 30 pieces of silver. Well, prior to that taking place, Jesus met with His disciples, in the upper room, as they celebrated the Passover together. And it was on that occasion, as they were eating around the table, Jesus said, “One of you will betray me;” and, it was identify that Judas was that man. And Jesus said to him, “Whatever you're going to do, do it quickly;” in other words, get it over with. And so as they came out of the upper room and Jesus was going to the garden of Gethsemane, Judas proceeded with that plan. He went and he found these religious leaders, and as Jesus came out of the garden of Gethsemane Jesus was falsely accused and arrested. Judas led a crowd of people to where Jesus was. And we can just envision how Judas was bringing all of these people and said, look, I told you, here He is, I'm going to give Him over to you. And so Judas kissed Jesus, and with that he was saying here is the man. And Jesus, somewhat surprised by it all, looked out and He said, “I don't understand what you are doing. I was with you every day in the temple, and yet you come at me with swords and spears and clubs to take me away.” And so Jesus was falsely accused. He was arrested. He was taken into the city of Jerusalem. And while He was there, He was put on trial before three different rulers; Caiaphas, the high priest, and Pilate, the governor, and then there was Herod, from Galilee, who had come down for the special events of the Passover. But first of all, Jesus stood before Caiaphas, there in his courtyard. And Caiaphas had many questions to ask Jesus. He asked about His identity and His work, His ministry, His associations with others, and Jesus had some answers to give to him. There was also another man who saw what was going on, his name was Peter. Now, Peter was also like Judas, one of Jesus' apostles or disciples, he was there also in that upper room for that Passover meal. Somewhere in the midst of all of that, Jesus told Peter, “Before this night is over, you will deny knowing me three times, and you will hear the rooster crow.” Well, this Peter is the very same one who in Matthew chapter 16 said, “Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Oh, he made that great confession in the midst of some false worship, and idol worship, but Peter was going to stand firm on his conviction and his belief. But some time during the evening, when they were taking that meal, that Passover meal, Jesus told him those words - that you will deny me three times. And Peter said, “Oh, not so. I will never leave you. I won't ever forsake you. I'm ready to go with you to prison and even to death. Jesus, you are my friend,” he would tell Him. So as Jesus is there in the court yard, He's being falsely accused, He's being put on trial, He's being beaten, and Peter is standing on the outside warming himself by a fire. And on three different occasions, someone came along and they said to him, “You are from Galilee,” or, “You are associated with that man,” or, “We saw you with this man called Jesus.” And on each occasion Peter said, “No, not me. It wasn't I.” And even on one occasion he cursed and said, “I don't even know that man.” And it was with that third denial that, sure enough, the rooster crowed and Jesus looked at Peter. Imagine what that look must have felt like. Peter, no doubt received that look. Those piercing eyes from Jesus must have penetrated deep into Peter's heart. Through those eyes, Jesus was saying, “I thought you were my friend. I needed you, but where were you? You did not stand up for me; but rather, you denied knowing me, and I knew you would.” Yes, it hurt Peter. It cut him to the heart, even to the point that he went out and he wept bitterly. Well, it was then that Jesus went before the governor, Pilate, there in Jerusalem. Pilate had a number of questions to ask Jesus, just as Caiaphas had done. And as he asked those questions, Jesus gave simple and straightforward answers. Pilate was not happy with that, and then the beatings began; the torture, the abuse was taking place. And Pilate did not know for sure what to do, and so he had heard that Herod was in town, the one who had come from Galilee, and so he sent Him over to him. Herod was glad to receive Jesus. He had heard about Him, but he had not seen Him face to face. And he too, like the others asked questions. But on this occasion, Jesus gave no response to Herod. So, Herod basically washed his hands and he sent Him back to Pilate. And Pilate said, “Well, I don't know what else to do. I don't find any fault in this man, Herod did not find any fault in this man, so what are we going to do?” Well, it was during that time, the tradition was for someone to be released, or to be set free, from prison. And so Pilate asked the crowd, “Who do you want me to set free, Jesus or this man called Barabbas?” Well, Barabbas was a murderer. He was guilty of causing a great commotion there in Jerusalem, and he was in prison. And the people said, “Set him free. We want to deal with Jesus.” And so that's exactly what Pilate did. Before he did, however, Jesus was mocked and He was beaten. Those holding Him in custody blindfolded Him, struck Him on the face and they said, “Prophecy, tell us who it is that hit you.” They put a staff in His hand, a purple robe on His shoulders. They made some kind of a crown of thorns and placed it on the head of Jesus and pressed it down, and the blood began to flow down His face. And it was then that Jesus received the death sentence. After receiving no satisfaction from Jesus, Pilate said, “Okay. Here as Barabbas. He is set free. What do you want me to do with the Christ, the One who calls himself the Son of God?” And that response was, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” So indeed, Pilate washed his hands and he gave Jesus over to the crowd. He received that death sentence, and Jesus was led out to Golgotha, the place of the skulls. But He was weak, He was beaten, He was tortured, He fell beneath the weight of the cross He was trying to carry, and so the authorities found a man by the name of Simon, from Cyrene, to carry Jesus’ cross for Him. He carried it out to Golgotha. And there the events quickly began to unfold. There, Jesus was crucified. It was about the sixth hour of the day, or about noon time, when the Roman soldiers nailed the nails into His hands and into His feet, and Jesus was there on that cross, suspended between heaven and earth. We can just imagine the pain, the pain that He felt when He pushed himself up with His feet, as the nails dug just a little bit deeper; as He tried to hold himself up with those hands. And, no doubt, the nails were ripping through the skin. And there for three hours, Jesus hung on the cross, until He died. And when He did, the curtain in the temple was split in two, darkness covered the land and people rose from their graves. But while Jesus was there upon the cross, there were two thieves nailed on either side of Him, one a believer and the other was not. And the one who was a believer, Jesus turned to Him and said, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” He spoke seven such statements while on the cross. He began with, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He then turned to look at the people who were putting Him to death and He said, “Father, forgive them because they don't know what they are doing.” And then just prior to Him taking His last breath, He said, “Into Your hands, I commit my spirit.” And with that, Jesus died. Oh, all of these events, leading up to and including the death of Jesus, are perhaps the most tragic events in all of history. And through these events, Jesus removed our sin. He took our sin with Him to the cross, and He bore it as He was put to death. And through that, Jesus paid a debt that we ourselves can never repay, but Jesus removes the burden and the curse of sin so that we can enter into a relationship with God the Father, through His death and His burial and His resurrection. Yes, after He died, two of His followers took down the body and put it in the tomb, but He was not in the grave long. On that third day, Jesus rose from the dead, on that great resurrection Sunday morning, to live again. And through His resurrection, He gives hope to you and to me; that, we too can overcome the problems and the trials of life, and we can experience a new life through Him. Yes, what Jesus went through was hard to imagine, but He dealt with that in a very special way. Oh, with His death on the cross, it appears Satan had won a victory, but, but God had the final word when He rose up from the tomb. As Jesus dealt with all of that, He went to a place where He had gone many times before. Do you know what He did? The answer is found in all four Gospel accounts, and I want to read the account that is found in the gospel of Luke chapter 22. This is what Jesus did after He came out of the upper room, having enjoyed that Passover meal with His disciples. Notice what happens, beginning with verse 39. <Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and His disciples followed Him. On reaching the place, He said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When He rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, He found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” He asked them, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”> Oh, here in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus found the answer to the difficulties He faced. In a quiet place of prayer, He turned to His Father for help. In a place with which He was very familiar, on the eastern side of the Kidron Valley, in the midst of some olive trees, Jesus spent the night in prayer. He went to the One whom He knew would not deny Him nor betray Him. He opened up His heart to His Father, and He entrusted His future to Him. He went to the One who had always been with Him, and He prepared for death by praying through the night. He turned to the only One who could help and provide for Him, for what was about to happen. And there, Jesus submitted himself to His Father's will, in the garden of Gethsemane. And while He was there, He prayed, “God, remove this cup of sorrow from me, but not my will, rather, Your will be done.” In the midst of everything Jesus encountered, God provided the strength and the encouragement and the blessing He needed to deal with His death. If anyone ever had the right to say, “Life is hard,” it was Jesus. But indeed, life is hard still for us, today, isn't it? We go through difficult and trying times, perhaps not on the scale that Jesus experienced, but we still have our own burdens to bare, to carry, and sometimes we need help. Where do we go for that kind of help? When you face great challenges and experience the trials and the uncertainties of life, I encourage you to do what Jesus did; find a familiar place where you can go and pray to God. Turn to Him for help. Turn to the One who knows what's going on in your life. He sees you and He has a solution for you. That's what Jesus did. Follow His example! Yes, I encourage you to just open up your heart and say, “God, I can't handle this. Life is hard. Love me like you love Your Son, and give me a new direction and a purpose in my life.” So many things we can learn from the last days of Jesus’ life, but that's the one I hope that we never forget. Turn to God in your times when life is hard, just like His son Jesus did, and know that God will always provide.
The garden of Gethsemane was where Jesus went to pray on the night before He was crucified. He had first met with His disciples in the upper room, and with bread and wine, He gave them a memorial to remember His death. They then left the city, walked across the Kidron Valley and came to a grove of olive trees. The place was called Gethsemane, which means ‘olive press.’ Whenever Jesus went from Bethany to Jerusalem, He would come down the steep Mount of Olives and pass this garden of trees. This was a familiar place to Jesus and His disciples. They often stopped here for rest and prayer. And so, it is not surprising that He came again to this garden on the night before His death. He left Peter, James and John behind, then prayed alone these words, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away. Not my will, but Yours be done.” And after that, the mob of people came with swords and spears to arrest Him. Gethsemane is still much the same as it was in the day of Jesus. Oh, we don't know the exact spot where He fell to His face and prayed. However, according to tradition, the place of prayer was a large flat rock. The early Christians built a church over that rock in the fourth century. In the quietness of those late night hours, Jesus drew close to His Father. Is there a place where you can go on a regular basis to be alone with God? Away from all of the distraction, noise and people, can you connect with your Father in deep and personal prayer? That connection with His Father gave Jesus the strength He needed to endure the next few days; and, no doubt, it will do the same for you.
Thank you so much for being our guest today, on “Key to the Kingdom.” Whenever we talk about Jesus' death, it always reminds us of the great sacrifice He made on our behalf; and yet, there are other lessons to learn as well. Hopefully we are able to envision, a little bit better, how Jesus was able to rely on God's strength in the midst of trying times. If you would like to hear this lesson again, go to our website, keytothekingdom.com. It, along with many other lessons, is available at no cost. Feel free to download it in whatever format is easiest and most convenient. While on the site, take a minute to look at some of the other things we offer. Short devotional thoughts and inspirational videos are available, as well as other teaching material. Our statement of belief, along with a description of our ministry in India, is there, also. By calling the phone number on the screen, you will be able to leave a message which will be returned very soon. I would love to hear from you, and especially if you have a question about this message or any aspect of our work. Every Sunday night, a new two minute video is uploaded to Facebook®. It offers a short inspirational thought, which might be of benefit. Thank you again for taking a few minutes to be our guest today. I do invite you to join us for another episode next time, as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."