Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
April 14, 2017
Jesus has died.
It was a horrible death. It started when he was betrayed by Judas, one of his own disciples. Peter denies him three times. He is arrested, scourged, mocked, and crucified.
How could this happen?
He was supposed to be the Messiah, an heir to the throne of David. Any good Jew knew that David had been a great king and built up the political kingdom of Israel. God had promised a Messiah that would sit upon the throne of David so they naturally assumed the Messiah would be an earthly king like David. Thus, they expected the Messiah to get rid of the Romans. Instead he was killed by them on the Cross.
Well… first, as to blaming the Romans, yes it was sanctioned by the Romans through Pilate’s order but it happened because the Jews demanded it. Pilate himself said three times he found “no guilt in him.” Pilate only had Jesus crucified to satisfy the crowds.
As to expecting Jesus to defeat the Romans, yes, Jesus was the heir to the throne of David but his kingdom is not in this world. If it were, his “attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.”
The Jews were looking for a Messiah to suit what they wanted. If we read the prophets like Isaiah, we can see the Messiah foretold as a “suffering servant.”
Today we hear Isaiah’s fourth and final “suffering servant oracle” where he describes the servant as one marred so badly that “his look” was “beyond human semblance.” Does this not fit how Jesus was beaten?
Isaiah describes the servant as one with “no stately bearing.” Jesus is never described as having a royal or stately bearing.
Isaiah describes the servant as one who was spurned, a man of suffering. Jesus suffered greatly during his trial and Crucifixion.
Read any of Jesus’ Passion narratives and you will hear of many prophecies fulfilled. You will also hear how Jesus knew everything that was going to happen. Throughout it, Jesus remains calm. He remains in control. Even when they come to arrest him, Jesus orders them to let his men go.
Rather than deny his accusers, he tells the high priest to ask those who had heard what he said about him. Jesus stands by his words.
When Pilate asks what charge they bring against him, their only response is “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” In reality they have no charge against.
Then why was he scourged, mocked as a king with a purple cloak and a crown of thorns? For the answer we go back to the second half of today’s passage from Isaiah.
“Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured…he was pierced for our offenses.”
So, you see, the crimes that led to Jesus’ death were not his crimes. It was for our sins that “the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.”
Jesus died for our sins. It was “through his suffering” that he justified many and “won pardon” for our offenses. It did not start with Judas’ betrayal. It started with the sins of us all.
For Jews, hanging on a tree was a humiliating way to die. For the Romans, crucifixion was the most humiliating way to die. Yet this is what Jesus did for us.
The final words of Jesus today are “It is finished.” What is finished? His life. It might seem so. He died on the Cross and his dead body was laid in a tomb.
Why did Jesus submit to all this? Because he loved us. I think we can be confused about what love is today. Some people think that if they just find the right spouse, love will be easy. The truth is love takes effort. Jesus’ love for us led to great suffering.
Again, what was finished? In his death Jesus fulfills his mission to save us. But it is not the end. The tomb is not the end of the story. There is still Easter to come.