SHOCKED SPEECHLESS

Isa.52:13-15 – “Look! My servant will prosper and succeed!
He will be highly honored, raised up, and greatly exalted!
Just as many were appalled at the sight of him
(for so marred was his appearance, like an object of horror;
he no longer looked like a man),
so now he will startle many nations.
Kings will be shocked speechless before him.
For they will now see a sight unheard of,
and things never considered before now fill their thoughts.”

Shocked speechless; that is the best way to describe our response to the birth, life, and death of Jesus of Nazareth. He was born of a virgin, shocking. He is God in the form of a man, shocking. He was raised in a common, working class family, shocking. His teaching and miracles were shocking, His betrayal was shocking. His suffering and death leave us speechless. The results of His death and resurrection have continued to shock us speechless. Our miserable lives have been restored and made complete by Jesus of Nazareth. Here are some comments from the Passion Notes on His horrifying death.

“This section of Isaiah is perhaps the greatest description of the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, apart from the four Gospels. Up to this point in Isaiah’s writings, the “Servant” has been described as the true Prophet, Teacher, and victorious Redeemer, with no hint whatsoever that his activity would be interrupted by death. But in this section we find him as the unparalleled Suffering Servant and Sin-Bearer who died for us. The prophecy found here is the most remarkable in all of the Old Testament of the sufferings of Jesus Christ and the glory that followed (1 Peter 1:11). Isa. 52:13 through Isa. 53 is quoted in all four Gospels, Acts, Romans, and 1 Peter. It is the epicenter of the gospel.”

To think that the Son of God who became a man was marred more than any man is astounding. His suffering was not only physical, He also carried the suffering of our sinfulness in His death on the cross. This mystery is beyond comprehension unless…. Unless you have a glimpse of His work of redemption which is the fruit of the suffering of Jesus. Christ suffered and died to save sinners. He suffered and died for me. How does that effect me? I am shocked speechless.

WITNESS OF THE CROSS

Jn. 19:17-20 – Jesus carried his own cross out of the city to the place called “The Skull,” which in Aramaic is Golgotha. And there they nailed him to the cross. He was crucified, along with two others, one on each side with Jesus in the middle. Pilate had them post a sign over the cross, which was written in three languages—Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. Many of the people of Jerusalem read the sign, for he was crucified near the city. The sign stated: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

What I often think about when I think about the cross is the people that saw His death and the impact it had on them. First I think of the criminal who was released in His place, Barabus. After his release I imagine that He had to make His way to Calvary and have a look at the cross that was meant for him. Actually we are all Barabus in a way. The punishment that was meant for me fell on the Lord. Then there was the thief on the cross. While others who were being executed began to curse and ridicule, the thief recognized who he was dying with. His pleas for mercy found the ear of God. No greater words were ever spoken, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”.

Of course there was Mary, the Mother of Jesus. As her Son hung and died she found her thoughts going back to the days of His infancy when He was dedicated in the temple. The voice of Simeon rang in her head as Jesus suffered and died, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Not far away was Mary of Bethany. She alone had anointed His body for burial. She had dreaded this day but she knew that it was His love for her that took Him to the cross. And of course there was the poor centurion who had been saddled with this horrid job, overseeing the death of the Son of God. He had seen hundreds, if not thousands of other crucifixions; no man had ever died the way this one had. The prayers that Jesus prayed for His executioners penetrated the centurion’s heart; “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”. The only response this Roman officer could have would have to be the one that anyone who comes to Calvary must have, “Surely this is the Son of God”.

TRIUMPH

2 Cor.2:14,15 – God always makes his grace visible in Christ, who includes us as partners of his endless triumph. Through our yielded lives he spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere we go. We have become the unmistakable aroma of the victory of the Anointed One to God —a perfume of life to those being saved and the odor of death to those who are perishing.

Col.2:15 – Then Jesus made a public spectacle of all the powers and principalities of darkness, stripping away from them every weapon and all their spiritual authority and power to accuse us. And by the power of the cross, Jesus led them around as prisoners in a procession of triumph. He was not their prisoner; they were his!

This passage has the smell of a parade or a victorious celebration, about it. These two passages draw the connection between a conquering Roman army parading its captives through a conquered city and Christ’s victorious parade at His return. In Christ’s parade we are His victorious trophies that He celebrates. The prisoners are His vanquished demonic foes. When I think of Christ’s coming triumphal return my mind instantly turns to Palm Sunday. When Christ lead His victorious procession into Jerusalem just days before His crucifixion His actions were prophetic. He was imaging His soon approaching victorious parade. I like to imagine what that day may have been like and who were those following as close as they could to the Lord.

Of course, Blind Bartimaeus was right in the middle of this. He had been healed just days before in Jericho and followed Jesus into Jerusalem. The sights that day had to be quite over whelming for a blind man. There was dancing and singing and crowds as far as the eye could see. Those things didn’t hold Bartimaeus’ new found sight very long, he couldn’t keep his eyes off of Jesus. Then there was Jesus’ friend Lazarus. He had to accompany Jesus to His death, after all Jesus had just delivered him from his. If anyone had an expectancy for what next Sunday would hold it had to be Lazarus. Lazarus’ sister Mary wasn’t far away. She was still caught up in the events from the night before. Mary had poured out her most precious possession, a pound of very costly oil, spikenard, on Jesus the night before. That fragrance was still on her and also on her Lord. All she could do is worship Him, she alone had anointed her King for His burial. If you look closely, other faces were clearly seen. Of course there was Mary Magdalene who would be the first witness of His resurrection. All she could think of was she had been dead and now she was alive. Another unlikely face from Jericho was also in the crowd. The hated Zachaeus, chief tax collector. Why was he there? He had found the pearl of great price and was walking away from everything else. Zachaeus had discovered there really wasn’t anything else. Leading the whole parade were the children dancing and singing. Just days before Jesus had laid His hands on some of them. If I know Jesus, these children would be leading His victory parade for years to come.

MOCKED AND RIDICULED

Matthew 27:27-30. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.

 

 

No one likes to be mocked. Many times the accusations come a little too close to home. You know what I mean, being laughed at for being fat after you have put on a few pounds. Or maybe someone laughing at your outfit (you thought it looked pretty good). I can remember the smirks and whisperings in the back rooms with famous preachers I used to hang around with. Our church in New Orleans was never big enough or rich enough and after all we were one of ‘those’ kind of churches. You know the kind, not only were the poor there, there was way too much of those Pentecostal carryings on. That brings us to today’s passage, Jesus was very familiar with being mocked, as a matter of fact He was beaten, spit on, and laughed at because of His ministry. The last straw was raising Lazarus from the dead. The audacity of actually calling out to a dead body that had been in the tomb for four days. The catch was this, the body listened and Lazarus came out of the grave. Here is how Spurgeon describes this cruel behavior.

 

“Ridicule is very painful to bear at any time, and soldiers have been masters of that cruel art when they have been encouraged in it by their leaders. Remember, brethren and sisters, who it was that bore all this shameful treatment from these brutal men, — your Lord and the angels’ Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, who had designed, for a while, to veil his Deity in human flesh. And there he stood, to be “set at nought,” — to be made nothing of, — by those rough Roman legionaries, the creatures of his own hand, whom he could have destroyed in a moment by a word or a wish. What matchless condescension our gracious redeemer displayed even in his own deepest degradation and agony!”

Christ bore my ridicule, the Creator was mocked and beaten unjustly. He humbled Himself and forgave. It was this incredible love that began to win His enemies. Lord, strengthen us, strengthen me, to walk in your steps.

KING OF THE JEWS

Jn. 19:19,20 – Pilate had them post a sign over the cross, which was written in three languages—Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. Many of the people of Jerusalem read the sign, for he was crucified near the city. The sign stated: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.

There were so many supposed coincidences that day. Jesus just happened to be killed on Mount Moriah, the same mountain that Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar of sacrifice. Jesus was also executed at the time of the Passover sacrifice fulfilling the prophecies as the Lamb of God. He was also killed the same year that Daniel prophesied that Messiah, the Prince would be cut off.

At Calvary we have the most unthinkable scene, God the Son, the Creator of all things, being offered as a sacrifice for the sins of all men. The mystery of the incarnation was coming to its peak, God in the form of a man was being offered as a sacrifice for our sins to God our Father. In the note on this verse in the Passion Translation another divine coincidence is explained. Check this out.

“Aramaic was the language of the common people in Israel. Hebrew ceased to be their spoken language after 450 BC, after the Jews returned from Babylon. Aramaic remained the language of Israel for nearly one thousand years. Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire. The inscription was also in Greek, for the Alexandrian Jews who had come to observe the Passover in Jerusalem would be unable to read Aramaic. The words were, “Jesus, the Nazarene, King of the Jews.” The first letters of each of the four words written on the sign in Aramaic (Hebrew) were: Y-H-W-H (Y’shua Hanozri Wumelech a Yehudim). To write these letters, YHWH (also known as the tetragrammaton), was the Hebrew form of writing the sacred name “Yahweh.” No wonder the chief priests were so offended by this sign and insisted that Pilate change it. This was a sign given to Israel, for over Jesus’ head on the cross was written, Y-H-W-H! God, the Savior, bled to death for you.”

So, as we remember the Lord’s death again this Good Friday we are drawn to the power of Christ’s death. Yahweh Himself, in a human body, was being offered for the sins of the world. The part that is most devastating, YHWH was dying for me.

KING OF OUR HEART

John 12:12-15 ¶ The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!

What a strange way to conquer a city. Make no mistake, this King of Peace came in to Jerusalem to conquer. His conquest was not like any other invading king. There was no swords, horses, or armies and no arrows piercing the sky. His conquest was different from all the others. He came to conquer our hearts. His entrance on a young donkey, hardly a great military maneuver. Jesus had His sights set on our hearts all along. He would cleanse the temple, heal the sick, and prophesy about the coming of the Holy Spirit. No threats, no blows, just the love of God pouring out of Him into all who were thirsty. Here is how Barclay describes this scene.

“It was not the kingship of the throne which he claimed; it was the kingship of the heart. He came humbly and riding upon an ass. We must be careful to see the real meaning of that. In western lands the ass is a despised beast; but in the east the ass could be a noble animal. Often a king came riding upon an ass, but when he did, it was the sign that he came in peace. The horse was the mount of war; the ass was the mount of peace. So when Jesus claimed to be king, he claimed to be the king of peace. He showed that he came, not to destroy, but to love; not to condemn, but to help; not in the might of arms, but in the strength of love.”

So…..has He captured your heart yet? Have you been captured by His agonizing prayer as He prayed for us in the garden? Maybe your heart was touched when He was whipped beyond recognition carrying our sickness and pains. Or was it the crucifixion that got you, He was wounded for our transgressions and the chastisement of our peace was upon Him. His entrance to Jerusalem was all about His choice to suffer and die for us. He is the conquering King, He has captured the hearts of His sons and daughters.

EVERYMAN

JN.18:39,40 – “But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?” So they cried out again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a robber.

The story of Barabbas powerfully pictures the gospel message. The Bible says Barabbas was a robber and a murderer (according to other gospel accounts). He had been sentenced to death by the Romans. The Romans would always release one prisoner for the Jews at Passover. Pilate wanted to release Jesus, the jewish leaders chose Barabbas. Barabbas is a picture of all of us. We are all guilty headed toward a just sentence from a holy God. Just as Barabbas was freed and Jesus took his place, we have been set free from our sentence and Jesus took our place. You can say Barabbas is Everyman. Here is a powerful song by Rich Mullins that tells this story of gracious substitution.

EVERYMAN

Well he was out on a limb he was sitting in the shade

He’d led a hundred men and lived alone among the graves

He had a thousand questions and a million heartaches

He was everyman he was everyman

She was caught in a sin she knew the well was so deep

She threw her last pennies in and poured oil upon His feet

She touched the garment’s hem she had only been asleep

She was everyman she was everyman

And the Lord looks down and He understands

The world draws up it’s lines

But at the foot of the cross there’s room for everyone

And love that is not blind

It can look at who we are and still see beyond

The differences we find

But with thorns in His brow and a spear in His side

Nails in His hand He died for you and I

For you and I and everyman

He had nets to mend he gave his fish and his loaves

He had to wash his hands and ran away without his robe

He couldn’t understand until on Damascus road

He was everyman he was everyman

She brought the world a lamb and took warning from a dream

From an empty tomb she ran for her children she would weep

In her womb a baby danced she’d been waiting for a King

She was everyman she was everyman

So I am Barabbas, you too are Barabbas. The good news, Barabbas ran free. You and I are also free from our sins. I want to spend my life in grateful appreciation for what Jesus has done for Everyman.

I THIRST

John 19:28 – After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, *said, “I am thirsty.”

Toward the end of the crucifixion Jesus cried out, “I thirst”. He had remained silent through the beating, the mocking, and the crucifixion; why cry out now?

There are two things we can see from those simple words spoken from the lips of the dying Savior. First, He really became a human. He was not an angel or a spirit floating about. He was flesh and blood. He became a real man to redeem fallen man. He suffered beyond imagination as He took our place on the cross. Here is how Bishop Ellicott describes this.

“If he was ever to redeem man, he must become man. He had to become what we are in order to make us what he is. That is why John stresses the fact that Jesus felt thirst; he wished to show that he was really human and really underwent the agony of the Cross. John goes out of his way to stress the real humanity and the real suffering of Jesus.”

Secondly, maybe Jesus was expressing a different kind of thirst, maybe He was crying out for the kingdom of God and the redemption of fallen man. I believe He was and we can see a clue to this in the scripture. When they offered Him the vinegar to drink He turned His head. He didn’t try to quench His thirst or relieve the suffering, He was drinking the Father’s cup, He was crying out for fallen man. Here is how Matthew Henry describes this.

“But the reason of his complaining of it is somewhat surprising; it is the only word he spoke that looked like complaint of his outward sufferings. When they scourged him, and crowned him with thorns, he did not cry, O my head! or, My back! But now he cried, I thirst. He would thus express the travail of his soul. He thirsted after the glorifying of God, and the accomplishment of the work of our redemption, and the happy issue of his undertaking.”

God displayed His love for us through His Son’s death on the cross. He bore the full cup of God’s wrath against our sins, He literally suffered from the ramifications of my sin when He suffered and died on the cross. What incredible love! What an incredible Savior.

HORRIBLE BUT BEAUTIFUL

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I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.
Psalms 22:14

It’s impossible to understand the suffering of Christ without understanding what happened at Gethsemane. Jesus was facing suffering the next day, but He was facing much more than the horrific suffering associated with crucifixion. This form of capital punishment was incredibly painful but Christ was facing something even more unthinkable. The cross for Jesus was not only about physical suffering, it was experiencing the wrath of His Father against man’s sin that was the most troubling to Jesus. The prayer in Gethsemane was Jesus saying yes to that horrible fate with eyes wide open. At Gethsemane He saw the ramifications of His sacrificial death, that night He said yes to suffering beyond imagination. Charles Spurgeon explains a little of Christ’s suffering in his comments on today’s verse.

“In soul and body, our Lord felt himself to be weak as water poured upon the ground. The placing of the cross in its socket had shaken him with great violence, had strained all the ligaments, pained every nerve, and more or less dislocated all his bones. Burdened with his own weight, the august sufferer felt the strain increasing every moment of those six long hours. His sense of faintness and general weakness were overpowering; while to his own consciousness he became nothing but a mass of misery and swooning sickness. When Daniel saw the great vision, he thus describes his sensations, There remained no strength in me, for my vigor was turned into corruption, and I retained no strength: how much more faint must have been our greater Prophet when he saw the dread vision of the wrath of God, and felt it in his own soul! To us, sensations such as our Lord endured would have been insupportable, and kind unconsciousness would have come to our rescue; but in his case, he was wounded, and felt the sword; he drained the cup and tasted every drop.”
Spurgeon saw the two types of suffering Jesus endured in His death, the physical suffering of crucifixion as well as the agony of being a sin offering for fallen man. As we remember His death this Holy Week, it does us good to see the horrible results of our sins, it was my sin and your sin that caused the suffering of Christ. Of course His death has given us total forgiveness and access to God, it shouldn’t give us an excuse to make light of sin. His death was horrible and beautiful at the same time.

Crucified

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live,but Christ lives in me.

Gal. 2:20

Crucifixion was a horrible way to die. You actually died of suffocation. The Romans were quite barbaric. For us today, the cross has become more of a religious symbol. We wear crosses as symbols of our faith on necklaces (I wear one). I guess I am guilty at times of looking past the power of the cross and the effect it can have on our lives. If you ask most people about Christ’s death on the cross they will speak about the forgiveness of our sins. Now don’t get me wrong, Christ’s death on the cross purchased forgiveness for us. But is there more about the cross that many are missing? I believe there is. The Bible says we ourselves were also crucified with Christ. This tells me I needed much more than forgiveness, I needed to do away with the sinner himself. I needed to die with Christ to do away with sin once and for all. Can you say with Paul, ‘I have been crucified with Christ’?. Here is how Andrew Murray describes this death.
“When Adam died spiritually, all his descendants shared his sin and died with him. The power of that sin and death still works in every one of us today. But then Christ came as the second Adam, and in His death on the cross every believer likewise has a share. We can therefore say with absolute conviction, “I have been crucified with Christ.” As the representative of His people, He took you and me to the cross with Him, and now gives us His life—the life with which He entered heaven and was exalted to the throne. The power of His death and life is active in me. As I hold fast the truth that I have been crucified with Him, and that it is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me, I receive the strength to overcome sin. The life I have received from Him is a life that has been crucified and freed from the power of sin.”
So there it is, we get forgiveness at the cross but we also receive more than that; way more. The power of sin is in the sinner himself. Forgiveness alone does not prevent future sin. The only solution, the sinner must die. So when I look to the cross and see Jesus, the last Adam, dying on it, I also see myself. I must die so that He may live in me. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.