It was the final week of Jesus on earth.
The Son who had been sent from the Father to save all of mankind from their sin was now on the last leg of His earthly journey. Jesus was about to complete what He had come to accomplish.
He had been born of a virgin.
He had healed the sick and had raised the dead.
He had calmed storms and had multiplied meals.
He had taught us how to pray.
He had laughed … taught … cried … discipled … and had dug the very fabric of His heavenly heart into the rich soil of humanity.
He had been a friend.
He taught us all how to believe.
Jesus went about doing good. Day after day. In every way possible.
He confronted sin and pride.
He also confronted injustice and religion.
He had gone to weddings and to funerals. He had accepted dinner invitations and had gone on boat trips with friends.
He threw money-changers out of the temple yet partied with tax-collectors.
And He loved. My! How that Man could love!!
He loved children and He loved prostitutes.
Jesus loved His band of brothers and He loved John the Baptist.
He loved lepers and short people and women with issues.
He loved the demon-possessed and starving widows.
He loved because He is Love. He knows of no other way to be.
But there was yet more for Jesus to do. His task on earth was not yet complete. It was time for Jesus to die.
Jesus went into Jerusalem on the back of a borrowed donkey and the crowds went wild. They cheered and threw their cloaks in front of him.
They waved palm branches and danced along the way. It was a ticker-tape parade in first-century style.
On that day … on the day that we now call “Palm Sunday” … Jesus was the talk of the town and there was a parade thrown in His honor.
These crowds, however, were fickle crowds. On Sunday they cheered … and on Friday they jeered.
On Thursday night, Jesus needed some time with the Father. He went to a garden to pray. He took with him his closest earthly friends. Peter, James and John were with him in the Garden of Gethsemane that night.
Jesus prayed and they fell asleep.
Jesus cried out to the Father and they snored.
Jesus sweat great drops of blood while they drooled.
Some friends, huh?
His band of brothers was nowhere to be found on Friday. Matthew tells us that they all ran away.
“All of Jesus’ followers left Him and ran away.” – Matthew 26:56
I wonder if Matthew wrote those words slowly with tears running down his cheeks.
I wonder if Matthew argued with the Holy Spirit if this one particular detail should be included or not.
You see, Matthew wasn’t merely pointing his finger at others … he was indicting himself. No one stayed.
Matthew didn’t stay.
Although Judas had sold Jesus and Peter had denied Jesus, what Matthew knew was that no one in the entire group of 12 had stayed faithful to Jesus to the end.
“All of Jesus’ followers left Him and ran away.”
The band of brothers had become a bunch of cowards. Yellow bellies. Chickens.
“If we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself.” – II Timothy 2:13
While everyone else ran and hid … Jesus remained true to the Father’s call and to His purpose.
Have you seen yourself in the Easter story yet? Do you cheer when others are in agreement but run and hide when the going gets rough?
Do you enter into worship on Sunday morning with the roaring crowd but then turn and walk away because you are disappointed with the way your life has turned out?
Do you intend to pray but fall asleep instead?
Those are the questions that we all must respond to during the week of Palm Sunday … of the Last Supper … of the Garden of Gethsemane … and of the Cross of Calvary.
What was Jesus experiencing as He walked through His last week on earth?
His beautiful Body was scourged and whipped. This was why He came.
A crown of thorns was forced upon His head. He came for this.
He was hung on a cross between two thieves. His purpose was being fulfilled.
His side was pierced. The prophets said it would be like this.
What was Jesus thinking about when He hung on Calvary’s Cross?
Let me just submit to you today that I believe that Jesus was thinking about you and He was thinking about me.
You and I were what kept Him on that cross. You see … He really could have called 10,000 angels to get Him down.
He really could have arranged a miracle and never felt the violent blast of a nail piercing His hands and feet.
The Man Who raised the dead, healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, forgave the prostitutes, multiplied food, calmed the storm, turned water into wine and set the captives free from demons...
… that Man chose to stay on the cross.
That Man named Jesus chose to die.
The Roman government didn’t murder Him.
The Jewish people didn’t crucify Him.
Jesus chose to stay on the cross.
And while He was hanging there … suspended between life and death … between earth and heaven … between good and evil … between light and darkness … between His Father and hell …
That man was thinking about you and He was thinking about me.
We kept Him on the cross. Our sin put Him on the cross but His love for us kept Him there.
“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5
When Jesus was coughing up blood … you were on His mind.
When Jesus was engulfed in searing pain … He was thinking about you.
When Jesus was struggling for one last breath … His dying thought was of you.
As His eyes were rolling back in His head … He was picturing you.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us … Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1 & 2
I have often wondered, “Jesus, what was the joy that was set before You? What was the joy that you were focused on?”
And the answer that He gave to me was so rich and so rare that it drove me to my knees, “Carol … you are my joy! I was focused on you!”
You were the joy set before Him! I was the joy set before Him!
You were the reason that He stayed on the cross … you were on His mind while He hung there … and you are the reason that the tomb was empty!
Happy Easter, my friends! He is risen indeed!