An instrument of death transformed to hope
Every year we celebrate the various happenings during Holy Week. Our children often enter the church singing Hosanna and waving palm branches to depict Jesus' triumphant entry. We cheer as Jesus drives the traders and money changers from the temple. We might celebrate Passover with a Seder, watch a drama of the Last Supper, or have communion on Thursday. Friday, we cry over the horrific death of an innocent, divine man. And Sunday, we rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection. There is so much emotion, so very much to sort through this week.
One of my favorite views in the world is when we come over a hill in Kentucky to the city of Cincinnati at night. It’s such a beautiful sight, coming from out of nowhere because of that mountain. It also signifies home as we enter Ohio, and I know we are close.
When Jerusalem came into Jesus’ view during Holy Week, He wept. (Luke 19:41) If the Jewish people would have accepted Him, they would know peace - I think both spiritually and physically. Spiritually, the peace that we only find through Jesus and Holy Spirit. Physically, Jesus knew that their rejection of Him would result in God’s judgment when the Romans decimate the city in 70 AD. The rejection to come marred the beauty of that view, not because Jesus himself felt rejected, but because that rejection would hurt so many of God’s chosen people. So Jesus wept for what was coming.
My oldest son got into some pretty major trouble when he was 16. He was introduced to a world I would never choose for him by grown-up men. He was robbed of his teen years of sports, proms and time with buddies. To this day, my heart still breaks over this loss, even though he is now a hard worker and a good father. My Mama’s heart just can’t seem to forget.
Our humanity often finds us burdened by our emotions and the extra baggage we choose to carry on our own, even though we don’t have to. Jesus, as a human, felt those same emotions, but He isn’t burdened by the extra baggage He chose to carry. No, he is burdened by the extra bags WE chose to carry. That’s how much He loves us.
Jesus isn't burdened by His own baggage, He chooses to take up our extra bags.
Jesus knows Judas will betray Him on His last night with His disciples. (Luke 22:3-6) He is very much aware of the fact that Peter will deny Him, not once but three times before morning comes. (Matthew 26:69-75) He knows that the hours ahead will be literal torture and death for Him, along with rejection from those He loves most, as well as some major humiliation. So what did Jesus choose to do that last night with His friends and disciples? He washes their feet! (John 13: 2-17)
What do you do when you are anxious about something that’s coming up? I have several answers to that question, but I can tell you that none of them are humbly serving those I love. And let’s look ahead to the garden; all Jesus asks for is companionship and prayer. What does he get from those whose feet he just washed? Sleep! (Mark 14:37-42)
Jesus is afraid of what’s coming. (Mark 14:34-36) He is still human; he will feel all of this pain - physical and spiritual. I mean, He’s about to take on all of the world's sin! Heaven will turn away from Jesus for the next few hours. This sacrifice is His. And He is so afraid He asks God to take this task from Him, but almost in the same breath, He says, but I’m here to do Your will.
Friends, when Jesus takes His last breath on that cross, scripture tells us that the curtain of the temple was torn in two. (Luke 23:44-46) The world had gone dark; the earth trembled, and the temple curtain is torn. Could people hear the groans of a Father whose heart is broken from the suffering of His Son? Were there squeals from the enemy, knowing he lost the war? Was there even an inkling in the hearts of the Pharisees and Sadducees that maybe, just maybe, they were wrong about Jesus?
We can only imagine the darkness of Saturday, the Sabbath, for those who loved Jesus. We know there were questions, fear, and great mourning. Oh, but Sunday! An empty tomb, (Mark 16:1-8) a journey with a stranger, (Luke 24:13-32) and then their friend, their teacher, the Messiah feeds them food for their bodies (John 21:10-14) and promises an advocate giving them the same power as Jesus so they can witness to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:4-9)
Oh, how much Jesus loves us! He wept for Israel. He chose to be tortured and suffer, to take on our sins! He prayed for us. (John 17) And finally, He gave us hope, power, and peace for this side of heaven, so we can spend our eternity with Him.
Once an instrument of death, that cross is now a symbol of hope because of the greatest love known and the promise of life everlasting with Jesus.