Easter: Victory for the Soul (Part III)

The detachment of soldiers with its commander, along with the Jewish officials, arrested Jesus and bound Him (John 18:12). All of the remaining eleven faithful disciples then scattered and left Jesus to be taken by Judas and those who desired to bring Him to death; just as Jesus had prophesied (John 16:32).

Peter followed at a distance with John, as Jesus was then taken to Annas, the father-in-law of the High Priest that year, who was Caiaphas. Time had become a blur for the disciples as each soul-wrenching step of Jesus’ sorry excuse for a trial unfolded. He was beaten, slapped in the face, mocked and spit on (Isaiah 53:5, Matthew 20:28, Matthew 26:28 & Mark 10:45). Jesus was humiliated as He was dressed up with a military robe, made to wear a horrible crown made from twisted thorns and had a reed placed within his hand—as soldiers mocked him while laughing and bowing to their idea of a false king. They struck Him in the head repeatedly (Matthew 27:29-30 Mark 15:17 & John 19:2-3).

Within this depraved display of the rebellion of the human heart against the One whom in fact created all things, Jesus had been sent to Caiaphas, then before the entire assembly of the Jewish leadership, known as the Sanhedrin, where they met at daybreak and brought Jesus before them. The mighty Sanhedrin questioned Jesus as to whether or not He was in fact the Son of God (Luke 22:66-71). The Sanhedrin, as powerful as it was, did not have authority under Roman rule to crucify. Thus, Jesus was sent to Pilate to officially protest for the crucifixion of Jesus the Christ. Yet, Pilate found no such cause for death of this “King of the Jews” (Luke 23:4). Pilate, after learning that Jesus was a Galilean, sent Him to be seen by Herod Antipas, seeing as he held jurisdiction there and resided in Jerusalem (Luke 23:6-7). As a result of the cruel treatment Jesus suffered under Herod, Pilate and Herod (whom had been hostile towards one another up until that point) became friends that day (Luke 23:11-12). The badly beaten Jesus was then sent back to Pilate where three times Pilate appealed to the people that he found no grounds by which to kill Jesus—even stating that Herod found no cause to kill Him, hence Jesus had been sent back to Pilate (Matthew 27:21-26, Mark 15:7-15 & Luke 23:13-17).

The Jewish leadership and outcry of the people for Jesus’ death had won out over facts. A terrorist of the day and known murdered, Barabas, had been released to the people—as they chanted and shouted for the death of Jesus and affirmed their desire to have Barabas back within their society in order to ensure the death of Jesus (Luke 23:18-25). Jesus had been led out of the city of Jerusalem to the Place of Skull to be crucified with a criminal on either side of Him (Luke 23:32-33). On the way there, the brutally beaten, whipped and bleeding humanity of Jesus was unable to carry His own death instrument. Thus, a man by the name of Simon, a Cyrenian, was made to carry the cross on which Jesus would momentarily be nailed and killed upon—until the final destination was reached (Luke 23:26).

Once at the Place of the Skull, large nails were then driven Jesus’ hands and feet. This was the most brutal and barbaric killing instrument of that day. And it was reserved for only the worst of criminals. Yet, here was Jesus the Christ, proven to be innocent by even Pilate and Herod, and he was experiencing a criminal’s death. It could not have even been carried out upon a Roman citizen. Thus Jesus, as an innocent substitute for each and every one of the human race, bore the brutal punishment of death upon a cross (Romans 8:28). To speed up the process, at the urging of the Jews, the Roman soldiers were instructed by Pilate to break the legs of those upon the cross to cause the arms to stretch higher above the head, ushering the arrival of death quicker—seeing as the following day was the Sabbath (John 19:31-32). Yet, this was not done to the Lord Jesus Christ as He was not a victim of His circumstances, but rather He had willfully determined to go through the brutal death of humanity in order to ransom His creations (Isaiah 53:9-11, Romans 5:18, Philippians 2:8 & 1 Peter 2:24).

 

“This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.” John 10:17-18 (HCSB)

 

While enduring the cross and continued atmosphere of satanic celebration, the soldiers divided Jesus’ clothing by casting lots (Psalm 22:18 & Matthew 5:44). Jesus had publicly cried out to His Father in heaven to “forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He had also assured the penitent thief on the cross next to Him that “today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). When all had been accomplished to fulfill the prophesies of the Old Testament of the Lord Jesus, He cried out in a loud voice “It is finished!” and gave up His spirit (John 19:30).

The crowd gathered below was a mixture of demonic taunting and agonizing screams of horror and pain. When it came time to break the legs of Jesus, He had in fact already died (John 19:33). This fulfilled the prophesy of the Psalms and the prophets (Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12 & Psalm 34:20). The rocks split and the veil within the Holy of Holies of the Temple split from top to bottom as a result of Jesus giving up His spirit (Matthew 27:51). The punishment for the depravity of all humanity had in fact been paid in full (Matthew 27:45-53, Mark 15:33-38, John 3:16, Galatians 3:13-14 & Titus 2:14).

“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  1 John 4:9-10 (HCSB)

It was still dark out on the morning of the third day since Jesus’ death. Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Salome were heading to the tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, where the body of Jesus had been laid three days prior (John 19:38). It was now the third day since His brutal death on the cross. The women, with heads covered and ash covered faces, walked towards the borrowed tomb. It was daybreak and they were coming to place the customary spices upon the body of Jesus (Mark 16:1). They began to ask one another whom would open the tomb for them to complete their task; seeing as a large stone had been rolled across the entrance and Roman soldiers had been stationed in front of it to ensure it stay closed (Mark 16:3). Yet, as the women approached the mountain from which the tomb had been carved, there was a violent earthquake! The large stone—which had been secured by the Roman soldiers to avoid potential body snatchers (Matthew 27:64-66)—was no longer in front of the opening of the tomb at all! No, in this hour of daybreak, still from a distance, it appeared to the women as if the massive stone door had been rolled away (Matthew 28:2, Mark 16:4, Luke 24:2 & John 20:1)! The women hurried to the tomb, not sure as to what had taken place. But as they entered the tomb, not one of them could locate the body of their crucified Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, two men in glowing clothes appear next to them and the women fall to the ground in utter fear.

Why are you looking for the living among the dead? ” asked the men6He is not herebut He has been resurrected!  Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee7saying‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful menbe crucifiedand rise on the third day’? ” 8And they remembered His words.” Luke 24:5-8 (HCSB)

Mary of Magdala, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women ran back to alert Simon Peter and John of this terrifying and exciting news.

“So she ran to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him!” John 20:2 (HCSB)

Simon Peter and John simply could not believe what was being shared and they set out for the tomb themselves. John outran Peter and looked inside, seeing the burial clothes and no body. Peter finally arrived and also saw the burial clothes and noted that the cloth used to cover the face of Jesus had been folded up and placed separately (John 20:3-7). At seeing this for themselves, both Simon Peter and John returned home (John 20:10). Mary of Magdala remained facing the tomb of her missing Lord. As she wept, she stooped down to see into the tomb and she was amazed at what her eyes beheld! In the place of the missing body of her Lord Jesus, there sat two angels; one where His head was and another angel where His feet were! The angels asked her why she was crying. Mary of Magdala explained that her Lord Jesus’ body was missing and that she didn’t know where to find Him (John 20:11-13).

14Having said thisshe turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not know it was Jesus.

15“Woman,” Jesus said to her“why are you cryingWho is it you are looking for? ”

Supposing He was the gardenershe replied, “Sirif you’ve removed Himtell me where you’ve put Himand I will take Him away.”

16Jesus said“Mary.”

Turning aroundshe said to Him in Hebrew“Rabbouni!”  — which means “Teacher.”

17“Don’t cling to Me,” Jesus told her“for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to My brothers and tell them that I am ascending to My Father and your Father — to My God and your God.”

18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord! ” And she told them what He had said to her.”

John 20:14-18 (HCSB)

Jesus Christ’s resurrection over death and the grave is essential to the heart and soul of every individual to ever tread this vast planet. It is the most passionate expression of unconditional love, unyielding loyalty and determined redemption in all of human history. The Creator of all things, was willing to ransom humanity out of the place of depravity and eternal condemnation by taking upon Himself the shame, guilt and suffering due for each foolish, manipulative and sinful thing each and every person on this spinning rock have ever done. And in return—what’s in it for us? A new identity—complete reset. Forgiveness and pardon from every twisted and even unspeakable things we have said, thought or did. It’s all covered by the brutal price He was willing to pay—to show you, and each person alive—that your life has eternal meaning, your days have infinite value, a you are deeply loved by the God who made you.

As Jesus ascends into heaven, the baton had been passed in a sense. Jesus had charged His disciples to now GO into all the world and tell everyone about Him and the NEW LIFE that is available to ALL PEOPLE from EVERY NATION by calling upon the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior for cleansing and redemption (Joel 2:28-32, Mark 16:16, Luke 24:45-47, Acts 2:21, Acts 16:31, Romans 10:13). And the beautiful thing—this message of radical redemption is still available for one and all for all time. If you have never made a decision to follow the Risen Savior, Jesus Christ, I encourage you to do so this very day and get cleaned, forgiven and eternally set right with Almighty God. You are worth it…Jesus Christ proved it (Revelation 5:12).

Happy Easter, one and all. He is risen! Jesus Christ is risen, indeed!

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Easter: Victory for the Soul (part II)

 

After Jesus had finished instructing His remaining eleven disciples and praying in their presence, it was time to leave. Jesus and His remaining disciples traveled across the Kidron Valley, via candlelight, to the Garden of Gethsemene and went into it. This was a place where Jesus and His twelve disciples had frequently come to pray and they all knew this location well (John 18:1-2). By this time, it was late at night. Judas, being one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, knew exactly where to find the One he had sold out for personal gain. And now, for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15), Judas took with him a company of soldiers and some temple police from the chief priests and Pharisees and came to ambush Jesus for His arrest and coming death (John 18:3).

 

36Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He told the disciples“Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37Taking along Peter and the two sons of ZebedeeHe began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed38Then He said to them“My soul is swallowed up in sorrow — to the point of death.  Remain here and stay awake with Me.” 39Going a little farther,  He fell facedown and prayed“My FatherIf it is possiblelet this cup pass from MeYet not as I willbut as You will.” Matthew 26:36-39 (HCSB)

 

As Jesus prayed, Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, tried to stay awake while Jesus prayed a little ways away. Yet, their own hearts were filled with such sheer fatigue, they soon found it impossible to stay awake. Three times Jesus awoke the disciples and three times they drifted back to sleep (Matthew 26:40-45).

 

45Then He came to the disciples and said to them“Are you still sleeping and resting?  Lookthe time is nearThe Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners46Get uplet’s goSeeMy betrayer is near.” Matthew 26:45-46 (HCSB)

 

With lanterns and torches illuminating the faces of those traveling into the garden, all of the eleven other disciples became keenly aware that multiple weapons had been brought against them by the hand of their long time friend; Judas Iscariot. Thomas and the others were shocked and quickly parted from their sleeping state. What was unfolding before their eyes was too horrible to be a nightmare—the body armor, swords, shields, clubs and overall appearance of the battle ready troop, standing with Judas, made clear to all that there would be no negotiations tonight.

 

4Then Jesusknowing everything that was about to happen to Him, went out and said to them“Who is it you’re looking for? ”

5Jesus the Nazarene,” they answered.

“I am He,” Jesus told them.

Judaswho betrayed Himwas also standing with them6When He told them“I am He,” they stepped back and fell to the ground.” John 18:4-6 (HCSB)

 

Thomas and the other eleven disciples all were struck with awe and amazement at this moment. The powerful and well-armed representatives of the Sanhedrin, had all fallen to the ground at Jesus’ words “I am He”! This very phrase “I am” had been used by God in the Old Testament, when speaking to Moses to assure the Israelites that freedom from the captivity in Egypt was soon to end (Exodus 3:14). And now, all twelve of the disciples were seeing God Almighty Himself on display. The very One who spoke all of creation into existence (Genesis 1:1), the very one who held all things together (John 1:1-5) was now staring face-to-face with the soldiers who wore the most recognizable insignias of power in their day; yet, it was these same soldiers who had all just fallen to the ground at the power of Jesus Christ’s words “I am He”.

7Then He asked them again“Who is it you’re looking for? ”

Jesus the Nazarene,” they said.

8“I told you I am He,” Jesus replied“So if you’re looking for Melet these men go.” 9This was to fulfill the words He had said“I have not lost one of those You have given Me.” John 18:7-9 (HCSB)

 

At this, Judas began to approach Jesus to greet him with a kiss, as was customary within their culture as a greeting. But, knowing what Judas was going to do, Jesus asked Judas if he was going to betray the Son of Man with a kiss (Luke 22:48). The eleven disciples, now fully aware of what was before them, asked Jesus if they should draw their swords and fight those who had come to seize and arrest Jesus (Luke 22:49). Suddenly, something glistening caught Thomas’ eye in the hand of Peter. Without wasting another second, Peter charged Malchus, the servant of the High Priest, and cut his ear clear off (John 18:10)! Malchus screamed and grabbed his head as panic gripped the man. Jesus, after touching the man’s ear and healing it (Luke 22:51) sternly corrected Peter for such an act as He reminded Peter that this entire process was in fact the will of His Father in heaven.

52Then Jesus told him“Put your sword back in its place because all who take up a sword will perish by a sword. 53Or do you think that I cannot call on My Fatherand He will provide Me at once with more than 12 legions of angels54Howthenwould the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way? ” Matthew 26:52-54 (HCSB)

 

(End of part II)