May 8, 2009, 5:40 AM
At his death, Jesus’ disciples were dispersed; some returned to their home towns, others to their former professions. Two of them heading for Emmaus were discussing with a stranger (Jesus whom they did not recognise) the recent events that had taken place in Jerusalem. They were downcast and stunned that the chief priests and rulers had arrested “a prophet powerful in words and deeds before God and all the people” - Jesus of Nazareth – “and sentenced him to death, and they crucified him.” (Luke 24:19-20)Jesus rebuked them with these words.“How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:25)
The hope of the people of Israel was placed in the coming of a Saviour, called the Messiah, who they pictured would, with a sweep of his sword, put an end to all their troubles particularly with regard to the occupation by a colonial power of the day, the Romans. However, God did not intend it that way. Even from the first book of the Bible he had warned, addressing the devil: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
The prophets of old had foretold that the coming Messiah would have to suffer many things. Though a king, he needed no army to fight for him. Instead he had come to suffer. It is through his suffering that liberation for the whole of humanity would be gained. This clearly depicts that God’s ways are not our ways. And so, the world would be conquered through the weapon of humility; victory would be won not through the sword but by the two-edged sword of the Word of God and through his atoning sacrifice on the cross of Calvary.
In summary, the life and work of our Lord Jesus would climax in his death. The humiliation, the wickedness and maltreatment Jesus would suffer at the hands of his adversaries would expose the heart of man at its worst. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3) He was going to be subject to ridicule, mocked, scorned and be rejected. What is more, we learn that this was how God designed it. “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, ... “ (Isaiah 53:10)
The established order of the day saw Jesus, as his popularity increased, as a threat to the power they wielded and therefore they sought to eliminate him. He had a large following as people from all walks of life thronged him. More than an obstacle, Jesus’ teachings and miracles challenged the status quo and demonstrated that God was with him. As they schemed to get him out of the way, his popularity soared all the more.
Peter had revealed to his colleagues by the revelation of the Holy Spirit that Jesus was the Messiah. He himself confirmed it. “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31) The authorities of the day called him names - yes, this Jesus, the King of kings!
In the parable of the tenants in the book of Mark, Jesus alluded to himself as the Son, “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.” (Mark 12:6-7) The Pharisees and Sadducees might have wrongfully claimed victory over his arrest and crucifixion as a means of not only silencing him but getting him out of the way definitively. Little did they realise that they were doing God’s will.
We are called to “...share in his sufferings in order that we may share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17) As we retrace his steps to Calvary this week and as we contemplate the beatings, the humiliation and mockery that he endured, let us not forget that he did it all for you and me. “... we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him...” (Isaiah 53:4-5)
Christ’s sacrifice is not in vain. Today, he is seated at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. “... Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)