Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter - The Final Hours of Christ (part 4 of 5)

You are there, you just don’t admit it.  Like the Disciples who believed that their life and hope died on the cross that dark Friday, in truth Life and Hope had just begun.

The First Good Friday
Very early in the morning the leading priests and the elders of the people met again to lay plans for putting Jesus to death. Then they bound him, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.   When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”  “What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”  Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself. (1)  By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. (2)  After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there.  A sign was fastened above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.   The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!”  The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus.  “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him!  He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”  Even the revolutionaries who were crucified with him ridiculed him in the same way.  (3)  One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”  But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”  And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (4)  Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.  When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.”  And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow.  (5)
In the recounting of the final hours of Jesus’ life, you are there.  Look closer, Judas, Pilate, the Pharisees, the mocking crowd, the criminals, the Roman Centurion.  In them you will find yourself.  

Judas the betrayer - who forfeits his own life for his betrayal of the truth, it is not by accident that he chooses an eternity in hell, before Jesus sacrifices His own life so that those who believe may have eternal life with Him.  Are you Judas – one who chooses betrayal, perhaps of your family, your friends, your spouse, deliberately trespassing against those who love you, claiming Jesus as your savior but not your Lord?

Pilate - who though he finds no fault, still refuses to do what is right, for his own selfish ambition.  Are you Pilate, more concerned about your own self interest and desires, then doing what Jesus commands? 

The Pharisees – those who hate him and think that they are judging him, when in actuality are being judged by the one on the cross.  Are you a Pharisee, hating Him and His word?  

The Crowd – those who just a few short days ago, sang Hosanna, but now mock Him.  Many of you will find yourself here, a member of the Crowd, mocking Jesus by professing to be a Christian, while mocking him with your behavior and selfish choices. 

The Criminals - one who is part of the mocking crowd, seeking his own self interest, condemns himself to hell, or the other who in an instant of clarity repents and receives ever lasting life in paradise.  You are absolutely one of the two criminals, you are either the one who like the crowd will die a un- repentant criminal, or you are the one who realizes that you deserve death for your sins, and in an act of submission  choose repentance and ask Jesus for forgiveness, and grace.  You are one of the two and you will share one of their eternity. 

Or the Roman Centurion – a man who does not believe in our God, but when faced with the overwhelming evidence that Jesus was in fact the son of God, falls to his knees and worships God.  Perhaps you see yourself as a Roman centurion, a person who denies the existence of God, and are fearful of the relentless inescapable fear, of what if you are wrong.  A fear that in it’s self provides evidence of the truth.

How God must have hurt to watch His son suffer the most horrific form of death on the cross.  How God must hurt when we reject His sacrifice for our own desires.  How much God must love you to let His son suffer at your hands so that you could have everlasting life with Him.  Whichever one you are, forgiveness is just one choice away 

(1) Matthew 27:1-5
(2) Luke 23:44-45
(3) Matthew 27:35-44
(4) Luke 23:39-43
(5) Luke 23:46-48

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