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Seven Contrasts of the Passion

James T. Batchelor

Lent 6, series A
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Fri, Apr 18, 2014 

John 11:38–53

This evening we will be contrasting words and actions of the people involved in the Passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  From the point of view of the people who said and did these things at that time and place, these words and actions have one meaning.  From the point of view of eternity, these words and actions actually mean something totally different.  This evening, we will meditate on the differences between these points of view.

And so it begins.  The ruling council came to the conclusion that Jesus must die.

The corrupt leadership in Jerusalem already hated Jesus.  He challenged their traditions, their culture, and their religion.  He has been a troublemaker ever since He appeared on the scene when John baptized Him in the Jordan.  Now, He has raised someone from the dead.  The only solution that makes sense to them is the death of Jesus.

How strange this thinking sounds to our ears.  Surely, if resurrection from the dead is involved, then the appropriate response is praise to Almighty God for this miracle.  What could be more wonderful than receiving a loved one back from the dead?  Never the less, the corrupt council schemes to kill Jesus.

Then to make things even stranger, even though the high priest, Caiaphas, was as corrupt as the day is long, God, never the less, saw fit to place a prophecy in His mouth.  “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” Even though this High Priest was corrupt, God still honored the office by placing a word of prophecy on the lips of this corrupt man.

Caiaphas was thinking about his place of power in Jerusalem as well as the political stability of the situation.  He did not understand that his words, “one man should die for the people,” were exactly what God had in mind.  The actual heavenly truth is that, through His death, Jesus Christ would save all people from their sins.

John 18:3–11

From the point of view of Judas and the guards, they appeared to have the upper hand.  There were more of them than there were of Jesus’ disciples.  The guards were trained to use their weapons properly.  From all appearances, the guard had the upper hand.

Never the less, when the guards came for Jesus, they were unable to take Him.  Jesus asked a simple enough question, “Whom do you seek?” Their answer was just as simple and straight forward, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Then things got complicated.  When Jesus identified Himself to them, they were unable to stand in His presence.

We look at the events of the crucifixion, and, throughout the entire process, Jesus appears to be a helpless victim of a trial and execution gone incredibly wrong.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The events that happened at Jesus’ arrest make it very clear that Jesus is the one who is truly in control.  He has the power and authority to stop these events at any time.  The events of the arrest make it very clear that Jesus volunteered for this mission.

When the torturers beat and flogged Jesus, He could have transferred that pain and injury back to them, but He didn’t.  When the crowds mocked Him on the cross, He could have come down.  He could have seen to it that the corrupt leaders in Jerusalem were hanging from the cross instead, but He didn’t.

God has the total right and power to punish us in hell forever, but He didn’t.  Instead, the Son of God took on human flesh and endured all the punishment our sins deserve so that we could live in eternity with Him.

From the world’s point of view, the world appears to be in charge and Jesus appears to be the helpless victim.  From heaven’s point of view, the world is helpless, and Jesus is the Almighty Savior.

Matthew 27:22-24

Pontius Pilate found Himself between a rock and a hard place.  He had investigated Jesus thoroughly.  His judgment was that Jesus might be crazy, but He was not guilty.  Pontius Pilate believed that crucifying Jesus would be a travesty of justice.

On the other hand, the Roman Empire put a great deal of pressure on its governors to keep the peace.  The Roman Empire was too big for Roman troops to be everywhere.  The easiest way to hold the empire together was to keep uprisings from starting in the first place.

Pontius Pilate already had two strikes against him.  He had already put down several insurrections.  Unfortunately for him, he had put them down in a manner that made things worse instead of better.  The corrupt leadership in Jerusalem knew this all too well.  They used Pilate’s political troubles to back him into a corner.

Pontius Pilate took refuge in symbolism.  He washed his hands before the mob.  By washing his hands, he hoped to transfer the guilt of killing an innocent man from himself to the mob.  He hoped that history would show that the true killers were the mob who cried out for crucifixion.

In the end, Pilate gave in.  He ordered the crucifixion of Jesus.  He is the judge of record on the case.

But who killed Jesus from the heavenly point of view.  As the hymn asks, “Was it for crimes that I had done He groaned upon the tree?” Is it our sin that is the ultimate reason for Christ’s death?  Are we the true cause of Christ’s death?

At first, the answer seems to be, “Yes!  It is our sin that nailed Christ to the tree!” But further consideration of the facts tells us that this is not so.

To take the blame for Christ’s death would be truly arrogant on our part.  We don’t have the power to force the Son of God to leave His throne on high and take up human flesh.  God had the perfect right to let us go to hell for our sin.  He didn’t have to do anything about it.

Instead, the answer agrees with the reply the hymn gives … Amazing pity … grace unknown … love beyond degree.  These are all the characteristics of our loving God.  God is the one who sent His Son into the world that all who believe on Him may have eternal life.  God, in His love for us, sent His Son to die on the cross that we might have eternal life.

Pilate could not get rid of his guilt.  Pilate’s water did nothing for him.  It was only symbolic.

From the eternal view of heaven, water can have a very different effect.  When water is combined with the Gospel according to Christ command, it is a holy washing away of sin for all who believe.  It is Holy Baptism.

Pilate’s water had no power.  The water of Baptism delivers the very Gospel that we remember this evening.

Matthew 27:24–26

The mob responded to Pilate’s hand washing with words that they perceived as a curse.  “His blood be on us and on our children!”

This event has caused a lot of controversy down through the ages.  Evil people have used this passage to justify persecution against the Jews.  “After all,” they say, “the Jews did call this curse down upon themselves.” Such an interpretation demonstrates the evil that can come when taking a verse of the Bible out of its context.

Yes, the mob in front of Pilate did call a curse down upon themselves with these words, but that mob did not consist of all Jews everywhere.  There were many devout Passover Pilgrims who had no idea what was happening that morning.

Second of all, this mob did not have the authority to make such a curse.  Such a curse violates the very teachings of Scripture.  As such, God would not honor such a curse.

Thirdly, God speaks of punishing the children only to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him.  Those generations have long since been born, lived, and died.

For these reasons and many more, this curse is totally invalid, illegal, sinful, and unenforceable.

There is something else about this curse that I want us to consider tonight.  Is it really a curse?  Consider what the Bible has to say about the blood of this man, Jesus Christ.

[Ephesians 2:13] Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

[Hebrews 9:13–14] For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

[1 Peter 1:18–19] You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

[1 John 1:7b] The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

[Revelation 1:5b–6] To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

These are but a few of the verses that speak of the blessings of the blood of Christ.  The mob who stood before Pilate meant these words as a curse upon themselves if they were acting unjustly in calling for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  Given what Jesus’ blood truly does for us, we can re-task those words.  We can turn them into a blessing.

May the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son be on us and our children, not as a curse, but as a blessing that gives us forgiveness of sins and eternal life in His name.

Matthew 27:27–31

A scarlet robe, a crown of thorns, and a reed for a scepter … these are the tokens that Jesus bore before the governor’s soldiers.  They mocked Him.  They called Him king of the Jews in derision.  They not only made fun of Jesus, but they also made fun of the nation they occupied.  The great Roman Army … see the world … and then get stuck in Judea of all places … the arm pit of the Mediterranean.

The soldiers took out their anger and all their frustrations on Jesus.  That is what you did to soften someone up before a crucifixion … to break their spirit … to make them more compliant and weak when it came time to drive the nails through the wrists and feet.  Resistance is futile.  You will be crucified.

Never the less, there is a pattern in this mocking.  This pattern will continue throughout the crucifixion.  Those who mock Jesus actually use words of truth to do their mocking.  As Jesus hung on the cross, His enemies mocked Him by saying such things as, “He is the King of Israel.” “He saved others.  He cannot save Himself” “He is the Christ, the chosen one.” The people who mocked Jesus used these words to ridicule and make fun of Jesus.  They hoped to shame Jesus with these words.

The words of the soldiers who beat Jesus were actually true.  Jesus really is the King of the Jews.  He really is the rightful king of Israel.  In fact, His rightful title is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16).  He is the ruler of all creation.

“He saved others.  He cannot save Himself.” We know that Jesus could have come down from the cross anytime He wanted to, but He didn’t.  He came to save us from our sin.  It is because He did not save Himself that He really did save others.  In fact, He earned salvation for the entire world.  Because Jesus chose not to save Himself, you can walk up to anyone anywhere and tell them that Jesus Christ is their savior and you would be absolutely right!

Jesus is the Christ, the chosen One.  The title Christ means the anointed one.  Jesus is the one anointed by God to save us from our sins.  He is chosen because God chose Him to rescue us from our sin.  As the Christ, He is anointed to be king, prophet, and priest.

As king, He not only rules and makes the law, but He also keeps the law for us.  As prophet, He not only speaks for God, but He also keeps the promises God made through all the prophets.  As priest, He not only offers up the sacrifice, but He Himself is the sacrifice … the sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world.

From the point of view of the world, the words of those who persecute Jesus are words that mock.  From the point of view of eternity, these words are actually true.

Matthew 27:45-54

There is a lot of tearing in the account of Jesus’ passion.  It begins with Caiaphas.  In mock horror over the words of Jesus that, the council will see Him coming on the clouds of heaven, Caiaphas tore his clothes and accused Jesus of blasphemy.  Tearing cloth was a very traditional way of expressing grief.  Caiaphas wanted to express his grief when Jesus claimed to be the God who would someday come to judge the world.  So he tore his clothes.

The council took Jesus to Pilate where some more tearing happened.  Pilate ordered soldiers to beat and whip Jesus in the hope that the mob would have pity on Jesus and let Him go.  The soldiers tore Jesus’ clothes from His body before they beat and flogged Him.  Then the whip lashed out and tore the skin from the body of Jesus.  The whip tore open capillaries and veins and blood began to flow from our savior.  He was indeed a pathetic mess.

Pilate’s plan failed.  The mob became more and more agitated until they began to tear their clothes and throw dust into the air as a sign of their displeasure with Pilate.  They cried out for Jesus’ death. They didn’t want a whipping; they wanted a crucifixion.

No doubt there was other tearing of cloth in grief that day as the Passover Pilgrims who praised Jesus on Sunday began to learn that Jesus was in the hands of the Romans and was sentenced to die on the cross.  They thought that Jesus would save them from Rome.  Now Jesus was the victim of Rome.  They tore their clothing in anguish.

When the soldiers finished whipping Jesus, they put His clothing back on Him.  The blood from His wounds soaked into His clothes and began to coagulate.  His skin, the clothing, the coagulating blood all came together as one.  When Jesus arrived at Golgotha for crucifixion, the soldiers tore his clothing off again and re-opened the wounds of the whip.

The soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross and the tearing of His body continued as the weight of His body hung on the nail holes in His wrists and feet.  As Jesus hung on the cross, He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus endured the punishment of hell for you.

Then Jesus died and another tearing sound filled the air around the temple.  The curtain that had hung between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies tore in two.  This curtain had hung there since God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai.  It was a constant reminder that God could not dwell openly with His people because of their sin.  Now it was torn.

That meant that God had come out to dwell with His people … not to punish them for their sin, but to bless them with salvation.  In contrast to all the tearing that happened before on this day, the tearing of the temple curtain is a cause for joy.  The death of Jesus did not mean defeat, but victory. His death tore apart the curtain of sin that hung between us and our God. No longer would creature and Creator be separated by a barrier of sin that could not be removed even by us trying our hardest. For in Jesus’ death, the powers of sin were torn asunder, and a new life with God was made available for each person. In Jesus’ resurrection, the gates of hell were blown off their hinges. Jesus is the Lord of all, and he grants freedom and new life to all who believe in him.

Genesis 2:18–22; John 19:31–37

The death of Jesus Christ on the cross happened on a particular day, at a particular time, and in a particular place.  It is a fact of history.

The results of that death are eternal.  The results stretch forward to the end of time and they also stretch back to the beginning of time as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus: [Ephesians 1:4] [God the Father] Chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world.

It should not surprise us that even before Adam and Eve sinned, God already had a plan in place to save you.  It should not surprise us that God placed object lessons of salvation into the very account of creation.  Here at the creation of man and woman, we find an object lesson that points forward to the salvation that Jesus earned for us.  In the very story of creation, we can contrast the creation of the bride of Adam, the woman, with the creation of the bride of Christ, the Church.

The Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man.  The Lord God caused the deep sleep of death to fall upon the Christ.

While the man slept the Lord God took one of the man’s ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  While the Christ slept in death, the Lord God opened His side using the spear of the soldier, and at once there came out blood and water.

And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  And the blood and water that flowed from the Christ are the baptism and supper that mark the church.  From these the Lord God makes the church and brings her to the Christ.

Just as the bride of Adam came from the side of Adam, so also the bride of Christ comes from the side of Christ.

The historical sacrifice of Christ that we remember on this day is the eternal creation of His bride the church.

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