Today is Palm Sunday, the first day of holy week. I would like to talk with you about the suffering and death of Jesus for the sins of the world, for it tells us how much God truly loves us. He sent his Son to this earth to die in our place.
Jesus entered Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday. The first part of the week, he was primarily in the Temple telling the scribes, the pharisees and others who were there that he was the Son of God and the Savior of the world. When they heard his remarks, they decided he must be put to death. However, since they did not have the power to do this, they would have to send him to Pilate’s court first.
As the plot was being made of how he should be killed, Jesus ate the Passover meal with his twelve disciples in the Upper Room. He visited with them about the days that were ahead, then instituted the Lord’s Supper, where he took the bread and wine, blessed it and gave it to them saying, “Take and eat. This is my body which is given to you. This do in remembrance of me.”
It was through that bread and wine, in a way we do not understand, that Jesus imparts himself to us. The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament: a holy act, instituted by Jesus Christ, in which a visible means Ð the bread and the wine Ð is used to convey a spiritual blessing. We also celebrate it in remembrance of the suffering Jesus endured for you and for me.
During that supper, Jesus also said that one of the disciples Ð primarily Judas Ð would betray him. When Judas asked, “Is it I, Lord?”, Jesus replied, “Go and do what you have to do.” So Judas left the group. Then Jesus went with his remaining eleven disciples down to the Garden of Gethsemane. He then took Peter, James, and John into the inner garden while he prayed. “Father, if it is possible, let this cup be withdrawn from me.” (Remember, Jesus was a human being.) He was asking, If it is possible, may I escape this suffering. “Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.”
Three times Jesus returned to find Peter, James, and John sleeping. And soon Judas came along. He had made an arrangement that, in exchange for thirty pieces of silver, he would betray Jesus to them with a kiss. As he came back with the enemy carrying torches and weapons, Judas said to Jesus, “Greetings, Rabbi,” and kissed Jesus’ face. Jesus looked at him and said, “Friend, do what you came for.” Then the men arrested Jesus, and all the others deserted him.
Judas’ betrayal caused the Lord Jesus Christ awful suffering, for he had taught Judas for three years to be one of the leaders to take the Gospel to the world. However, Jesus was not the kind of Messiah Judas wanted, so he decided to profit from his experience.
In order for Jesus to be crucified, he must first be found guilty by Pontius Pilate. So they took him to the house of the high priest, Caiaphas. Peter followed to the courtyard, where a servant girl recognized him and said, “This man was with Jesus.” But Peter denied it and said, “Woman, I don’t know him.” A little later, someone else saw him and said, “You are also one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I don’t even know him.” About an hour later, another person said to Peter, “You also are one of them.” But Peter again denied knowing Jesus. Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed, and the Lord turned and looked straight at him. Peter then remembered what Jesus had prophesied: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” Peter knew he had denied his Lord, and he went outside and wept bitterly.
You may wonder why Peter denied Jesus after he vowed to stay with him even when all the rest had gone. Why then, even after hearing Jesus’ warn that Peter would deny him three times, did Peter still disown him?
The only thing that I can say about this is, we have lived with him for many years Ð why do we deny him? I have lived with Jesus for 88 years. So why do I, by silence, sometimes deny him? Why do some of our churches deny him? Is it so culture may be more apt to receive parts of the gospel?
The reason we deny Jesus is an individual matter, but the fact remains that all of us do, at one time or another, deny knowing him.
Jesus is led on to Pilate’s court, where Pilate argues with the leaders a bit. Believing this to be a religious matter, Pilate did not want to act as Jesus’ executioner. But the people threatened to report him as an enemy of Caesar if he did not take care of Jesus. So Pilate took Jesus into his house and questioned him. “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
Pilate then went back out to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Ôthe king of the Jews’?”
While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” But fearing what they might say to Caesar, Pilate quietly gave approval and handed him over to the crowd to be flogged and crucified. When the crowd got hold of Jesus, they pounded him, spit on him, and sent him on to Calvary.
As Jesus carried his own cross, he collapsed because he was so weak. So the soldiers forced a man from Cyrene, named Simon, to carry his cross. And when they came to Golgotha (which means, The Place of the Skull), they nailed his body to the cross. Just imagine the pain he felt when they put a nail through his hands into the wood of the cross. See his pain when he cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God the Father could have nothing to do with God the Son while our sins were upon him. Jesus was carrying the sins of the entire world, including yours and mine.
Then, on the sixth hour, darkness covered the entire earth until the ninth hour. Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Then he breathed his last. What a torturous time this was when he suffered and he died for you and for me.
We have a lot we can say about these events. The day of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem was Palm Sunday, for that was when Jesus began his walk to the cross. But Jesus relives Palm Sunday every day, for he realizes the price he paid for the sins of the world. Because of Jesus’ suffering and death, God forgives all those who confess their sins and trust Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. That is the important part to remember, friend, for if we turn our backs on him, then we are doing exactly what Judas and Peter did, as did the rest of the disciples when they scattered.
When we reduce Jesus to nothing more than a great teacher, when we overlook his suffering and his glorious resurrection that we will celebrate next Sunday on Easter, when we omit or call secondary that which is the very center of all of his coming, then we have denied him. Then we have sold him to a society that considers him a great teacher only. “After all, everybody’s going to be saved, aren’t they?”
No, according to Jesus, all will not be saved for he said, “No one comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6).
This is an important day for us to look at Jesus’ suffering and death in order that we may rejoice in the resurrection with our whole heart.