Feb 1, 2011, 1:16 PM
Thoughts on the Sufferings of Christ, Easter Morning and the Glorious Resurrection
“But on the week at early dawn they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, when they entered they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened that while they were perplexed about this, behold two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling apparel. And as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, why do you seek the Living-One among the dead. He is not here, he has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, Saying that the Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and third day risen again”. (Luke 24:1-7)
The Easter is not only about the triumphal resurrection of Christ even though it is the capstone of Easter Celebration but there are other events that leads up to Easter. These events can not be treated in isolation. They are what made Easter possible. The events are loaded with eternal lessons for the Christian believer, lessons that could be applied in our daily lives.
The means and manner that Christ handled His suffering which includes The Betrayal, The Denial and The unfair trial and His eventual crucifixion, demonstrates to us invaluable lessons on human relationship. The need to put one’s trust more on divine judicial system rather than the unfair system of the world.
The crucifixion taught us forgiveness and the need to put others first before self and when necessary to offer our self for the betterment of society. In this lesson we shall examine the following subheadings and conclude with the applications and lessons learned.
1. The betrayal
2. The Denial
3. The unfair trial
4. The crucifixion
5. Easter Morning and the Glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“Then one of the twelve named Judas Iscariot, went to the Chief Priests and said, what are you willing to give me to deliver Him up to you. And they weighed out to him 30 pieces of silver. And from then on he began looking for opportunity to betray Him”. (Matt 26:14-16) “And immediately while He was still speaking Judas one of the twelve came up accompanied by a multitude with swords and clubs from the Chief Priest and the Scribes and elders. Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal saying. Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one size Him, and lead Him away under guard. And after coming He immediately went to Him saying; Rabbi and kissed Him. And they lead hands on Him and sized Him”.( Mark 14:43-46).
The man Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve disciples”, what an introduction. In fact other gospel account also stated that he was the Treasurer of the group. That means he must have been trusted and respected among the group. Judas Iscariot did not betray his Master for nothing. He asked for money and was paid handsomely according to the value system of their days. Normally, it would be shocking to realize that one of your own whom you trusted with your purse is not only thinking of stealing from the purse but rather planning to sell off the sole signatory to the account of the organization, his Boss, the Director General.
How ever, our Master Jesus Christ even though was aware beforehand of Jude Iscariot’s clandestine plans refused to express hatred or anger towards him. He refused to treat him with disdain. He still extended his love and possible forgiveness to him had he repented.
Lesson learned: No amount of negative information available to us regarding our acquaintances should pressure us to express hatred, bitterness and angry outburst on them. Rather we should beware of them and carefully study their moves so that they do not take us by surprise. Jesus told Judas Iscariot as recorded by St John 13:27 “what you would want to do, do it quickly”. He also said the Son of Man goes as it is written of Him………..
“Now Peter was sitting outside in the court yard, and a certain servant came to him and said, You too were with Jesus the Galilean. But he denied before them all saying, I do not know what you are talking about. And when He had gone out to the gate way, another servant girl saw him and said to those who were there, this man was with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied it with an oath. I do not know the man. And a little later, the bystanders came up and said to Peter, Surely you too are one of them. For the way you talk gives you away. Then he began to curse and swear, I do not know the man. And immediately a cock crowed. And Peter remembered the words which Jesus had said “before a cock crow, you will deny me three times” and he went and wept bitterly” (Matt 26:69-75)
The denial of Peter that he never knew his master is a lesson in history that can never be forgotten. Peter was expected to lead the rest of the Apostles in the event of Jesus demise. He was not only outspoken but appear very dedicated and committed to the cause of the gospel, but Jesus understood that Peter’s denial was not ordinary but rather a satanic attack. He had earlier warned him but Peter seem to be over confident of himself.
Lesson learned: This lesson is for those who trust in their flesh and human ability instead of the grace and mercy of God. We shall all meet at the foot of the cross. As for God, the standard for measurement and acceptability in His sight remains the same for all mankind and at all times. It is Divine Grace and mercies and nothing more. Grace is the bestowment of undeserved favor while mercy is the forgiveness of deserved punishment. Whether it is Apostle John or Mary Magdalene, or Apostle Peter or Judas Iscariot or Matthew the publican or Zacchaeus, the meeting place is the foot of the cross. “Man’s Righteousness is but a filthy rag in God’s sight”.
As in the case of Judas Iscariot or that of Peter, the knowledge that Peter would deny Him or the actual act of denial or betrayal never changed Jesus’ love or positive thoughts towards any of His own. This was clearly demonstrated few days after His resurrection. He met Peter and some of His disciples fishing in the Lake. In this occasion Jesus, after having performed another miracle of multiple catches of fishes. He called Peter aside and personally commissioned him. Thus “Peter son of Jones, do you love me more than these, feed my sheep”. That instruction to feed the sheep or to shepherd the sheep of Christ was communicated to him 3 times which emphasis the uniqueness and great importance attached to the commission.
Please dear listener. Would you ask the Lord Jesus to grant to you the grace to love, forgive and trust those who at one time or the other may have betrayed or even denied that they ever knew you. And also, those who bear false witness against you for monetary gains or who just would want to see you suffer and fail in life’s endeavor.
The Unfair Trial
“The high priest therefore question Jesus about His disciples and about His teachings” ………”Annas therefore sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest”…..”They led Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early, and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium in order that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover. Pilate therefore went out to them and said, what accusation do you bring against this Man. They answered and said to him if this Man were not an evil doer we would not have delivered Him up to you”(John 18:19, 24, 28-30).
“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him and the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on His head and arrayed Him in purple robe…… and Pilate came out again and said behold I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him”. …….”Pilate made effort to release Him but the Jews cried out, if you release this Man you are no friend of Caeser, every one who makes Himself out to be a king opposes Caeser. When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out, and sat on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha”…….. “So the he delivered Him to them to be crucified” (John 19:1, 2, 4, 12-13, 16)
In talking about the unfair trial of Jesus Christ the son of the living God. I will like to quote Robert B. Thieme Jr, in his book titled the King’s of King and the Lord of Lords.
He wrote thus, “The fourth Divine Institution, the national entity is sanctioned by God and regulated under the authority of human government. Government’s responsibility for law enforcement requires the proper function of jurisprudence both in the courtroom and with the policeman on the beat. However there was a time in human history when this very important function completely broke down and of all things, with the only person who was absolutely perfect. There were six trials for the Lord Jesus Christ, not one, but six with the exception of one short interrogation. Every one of these six trials was unfair, fallacious and unjust in every way. Yet the one being tried was the unique person of the universe, the undiminished deity and true humanity combined in one person forever, the Lord Jesus Christ”.
Time and space will not permits us to discuss in details all that went wrong in Christ’s unfair courtroom trials, however we shall mention very few that are fundamental to good jurisprudence which was missing during the trial. Let us also note that Christ was tried under the Jewish and Roman law which are two of the greatest jurisprudence the world has ever known. During the trials of Christ those concerned who were tasked with the protection of these systems allowed it to malfunction. They used it to condemn the one who was not only innocent but absolutely perfect. This was a travesty of justice.
1. There was no witness for the defense.
No one came into the courtroom to testify during the trial on Christ behalf.
2. Annas the first judge who cross examine Christ was not an official judge.
Annas was deposed as High priest by the Romans in AD 15, but the Jews continue to recognize his authority, he acted more as a political boss and mafia leader. All judicial matters pertaining to the Jews are first referred to him and cleared before going to court and so Christ was brought to him for a preliminary hearing.
3. The first trial before Caiaphas the High Priest was held at night which was contrary to Jewish jurisprudence.
4. There was no defense attorney, neither was there a presumption of innocence. Jesus was already considered guilty in these trials. The courts were prejudiced.
5. They sought false witness and permitted violence in the courtroom all of which are obviously illegal, not one aspect of this trial conformed to Jewish law. Matt 26:59
6. Many witnesses were brought in to testify against Christ, but the Jewish law permits only two or three witness Deut 19:15. Matt 26:60-61 and the witnesses must agree among themselves in the statements they present before the court.
7. In the Roman Court, Pontious Pilate the Governor/Judge who tried Jesus found Him not guilty. He announced his plans to release Jesus but yet succumbed to blackmail from the Jews and so thwarted the cause of Justice. He turned around and condemned Jesus Christ the sinless Son of the Living God to the ignominious death of crucifixion, a death reserved only for the vilest of criminals in the Roman Empire.
Personal application and lessons learned. No earthly system of governance or jurisprudence is perfect. We shall always find inequality, unfairness and miscarriage of justice deliberately or mistakenly in the cause of seeking for justice. Sometimes we are victims and at other times we may be the beneficiary of the anomaly in the system. For the believer our trust and confidence must be unwavering on God Almighty. He alone is infallibly perfect, just, and eternally righteous. He is Truth personified. His integrity cannot be question. He is faithfully and He keeps His promises at all times. Our trust therefore must be on God who has the power to ensure that justice is done to the poor and the common man even when the societal odds seem not to be on their side.
Jesus Christ our Lord during His Court room trials if He had wanted would have used His omnipotence to swerve and force the entire process to work in His favor. He would have walked out free with no scratches and His reputation intact and not to be crucified publicly along with the worst kind of criminals. But instead He allowed God’s will to be done. He said during His prayers in the garden of Gethsemane, “not my will but thy will be done”.
May God grant us the grace to allow Him who watches over our lives at all times to be given the chances to work out His good pleasure in us. May we not feel proud because of what we are or whom we know in the system of this world but rather in the God who knows us and will save us, deliver and will protect us at all times.
“And when they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. And they cast lots dividing up His garment among themselves. And the people stood by, looking on and even the rulers were sneering at Him saying, He saved others let Him save Him self, if this is the Christ of God the Chosen One. And the Soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him offering Him sour wine. And saying if you were the King of the Jews save Yourself”. (Luke 23:33-37).
The Crucifixion was a slow agonizing and painful experience leading to death. Christ was nailed on a wooden cross. It was also the most shameful form of deaths reserved for the worst of criminals in their days. Christ’s crucifixion took place at Golgotha a location outside the city walls where intercity high ways connect.
There were usually travelers journeying to and fro on these ways. The crucifixion took place during one of those traffics. Insults and verbal abuses were rained on Him by those passersby. His clothes were removed from his body and shared among the guards. His naked body was thus exposed to the excruciating heat of the Arabian deserts.
While hanging there on the cross, He stated that He was thirsty and sour wine was served Him instead of water. Even after giving up the ghost yet still a spear was thrust by his side which pierced through to His heart forcing blood and water to gush forth. The scriptures say that He was led out like a lamb to the slaughter but He opened not his mouth. Christ endured the Cross. He despised the shame in other to obtain eternal salvation for all those who would believe in Him.
Easter Morning and the Glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“Now after the Sabbath as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a sever earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said to the women, Do not be afraid; do not be afraid for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.” (Matt. 28:1-6)
I will not conclude this message on Thoughts on the Sufferings of Christ as it relates to Easter without mentioning the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from death that Easter morning. I will like to quote Robert B. Thieme Jr. in his book King of Kings and Lord of Lords, he wrote.
“Did this Jesus who died on the cross, rise from the dead? This is the greatest issue the world has ever raised, for the salvation of the human race depends on this answer. Without resurrection our faith is in vain. (1Cor.15:13-14). However, the word of God settles the issue once and for all, yes, He did rise – literally and physically”.
“Jesus had already risen and was out of the tomb when the Angel rolled away the stone. The stone was removed so that the world could see that the grave was empty!”
For the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ the significant of His resurrection is captured by Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, he stated thus. “………….He was raised because of our Justification.” Romans 4:25. Just as Christ’s death has so much to do with our salvation so also does His resurrection. The resurrection of Christ been the first fruit from the dead gives us hope that those who died in Christ will some day be raised back to life by God the Father.
Lessons learned. In resurrection we see the triumph of light over darkness. We see that the best of human machinations and scheming cannot measure up or match with the least if any of God’s plans and ways when in confrontation with Divine programs. At the end of it all the only robe Satan and his cohorts will be seen clothed with are failures, disappointments and total bewilderment.
May God help us to use the Lessons that you have learnt from Jesus’ experiences during His suffering which includes His betrayal, trials, denial, Crucifixion and the glorious resurrection to teach us, temperance, forgiveness, love, wisdom and above all total dependence on divine omnipotence to see us through in all the intractable issues of this life that we may face as it relates to fellow human beings and institutional establishments.
My prayers for you is that as Jesus rose from death to die no more so shall you rise from your fears, worries and failures to a triumphant new beginning. Amen.
Have a Happy Easter Celebration.