For all who had gathered around the Cross at Gethsemane, this was not what they had been expecting. They wanted Jesus to miraculously come down from that Cross and claim His Kingship over Roman rule. But instead, He died like any other man would, leaving them stunned and confused. Raw emotions started spilling out of them. Sorrow in seeing their Lord die in such a horrible way. Despair in feeling abandoned and alone. Regret in following Jesus only to have this happen. As they turned their backs on the Cross and went away, all these emotions were compounded by fear…fear that the Roman Guard would be coming for them next. A song by Don Franciso starts with these words, “The gates and doors were barred and all the windows fastened down, I spent the night in sleeplessness and rose at every sound, half in hopeless sorrow half in fear the day would find the soldiers crashing though to drag us all away…” As the COVID19 virus has us all hunkered down in our homes, admittedly, we are all dealing with these same types of emotions…sorrow, despair, regret, anger, and fear. But we must also remember what tomorrow is Resurrection Sunday, and with it comes hope…hope for tomorrow through our Lord Jesus!
In reading these verses you can’t help but notice the use of the impersonal pronoun “it” in speaking about the body of Jesus. It was no longer His body, for in verse 50 of this Chapter as He hung from that Cross, “When then Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit.” The Greek word for “gave up” literally means to permit, allow, or hand over. Jesus was in complete control…even to the point of having total dominion and power over His time of death…He let His spirit pass, and the body that remained behind was just a empty shell.
This very intimate moment happened during the Last Supper when Jesus and His disciples were eating the Passover meal together. There must have been gasps and awkward silence as the disciples watched their Lord take on the role assigned to the lowest of lowest servants. For the washing of dusty, dirty feet was a part of hospitality and custom of the time… a generous and gracious way to receive guests into your house…and usually done by a lowly, and young servant. It says that when He had finished, He said, “Now that I, Your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” But what was Jesus trying to tell us? First, Jesus was teaching us by example. In Matthew 20:28 He explained, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” So what He’s telling us is that we need to follow His example by having a servants heart. And in doing so, we can show others recognition and gratitude that’s steeped in humility and love. For it says He washed the feet of all the disciples…including the feet of Judas.
In this verse Jesus has made His way into Jerusalem that Palm Sunday only to look upon the Temple area in disgust. It tells us in verse 15 that the next day Jesus entered the Temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling, not only quoting Isaiah 56:7, “My house will be called a house of prayer.” but also Jeremiah 7:11, “Has this house, which bears My Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.” So today, I’m going to ask you to examine your own Temple. For our body is a Temple of the living God. (I Corinthians 3:16 & 6:19, II Corinthians 6:16) and it’s very easy to allow things into our Temple that shouldn’t be there…especially during this uncertain and difficult time with the COVID19 virus. So I just want you to ask yourself – “Have I permitted negative emotions such as fear, worry, and doubt to now take up space in my Temple…Have I allowed frustration, irritation, and exasperation to take over my house of prayer?” Today’s the day to clear the Temple.
It could have been me doubting the unbelievable story the women were recounting about the empty tomb, the angels, and their words – “He is Risen!” Now we usually just give the apostle Thomas the bad rap of doubting the resurrection…but in Luke 24: 9-11 it tells us that when the women came back from the empty tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others…but no one believed them, for their words seemed like nonsense. How many times had Jesus told the apostles about what was to happen? How He must suffer, die, and then be raised from the dead three days later. Still they did not believe it when it really happened. Yes, I could have easily been among those doubters when the words, “He is risen!” echoed across that room.
It could have been me speaking with such irreverence towards Jesus. The Greek word for “hurled insults” in this verse is Blasphemeo, where we get the word blaspheme from. The robber who reviled Jesus, mocked Him by saying, “If You call Yourself the Messiah, then show us by rescuing Yourself from Your own impending death!” So any time I operate in disbelief and mistrust of the Lord…I’m basically hurling insults His direction also. Yes, it could have been me.
It could have been me among that group of dosing disciples. There they were in the Garden of Gethsemane, having just been warned by Jesus to watch and pray as He moved off to pray alone. Coming back to them, Jesus was dismayed to find them all sleeping and asked, “Are you sleeping? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you won’t fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Mark 14:38) Yes, it could have been me that Jesus found asleep. For how many times have I started to pray only to have my mind wander and become distracted after only a few minutes?
That could have been me in place of Peter. How can I self-righteously think that I would have behaved any differently? Peter had followed Jesus for three years, watching as He preached, healed, and performed miracle after miracle. But despite all Peter had been part of, he still denied he even knew who Jesus was. Yes, it could have easily been me disowning the Lord. For any time I allow fear to mute my voice in speaking the truth of God…I’m silently renouncing Him…more afraid of possible retribution or embarrassment than speaking up. That’s because when I’m silent instead of standing up for what’s right and good and godly…I’m quietly condoning sin.
Man has always willfully rebelled and rejected God. But God looked past that rejection and sent His Son into the world to save it. Jesus Christ took upon Himself the punishment for the sins of all mankind…He willingly was broken, wounded and killed that we might live. Romans 4:25 tells us, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Today we have that blessed assurance of righteousness through Christ Jesus…and as we look at the empty cross and tomb, we can with confidence proclaim…He is not there, He is risen!