When we think of Jesus going to the cross we often focus on his actions, his emotions, and his sacrifice, right? And though there is nothing wrong with that because he did endure so much for our sake the fact remains that his Father did and experienced much of the same—just from a different perspective.
One of the most quoted verses in all the Bible is John 3:16. It states…
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (NLT)
God the Father was not merely a passive bystander in Jesus’ sacrifice but a willing participant. He gave us his son to stand in our place and die for our sin. He sent his son into the world, not to condemn it but to save anyone who would put their faith in him.
And, before you start thinking that Jesus was the only one who experienced pain as a part of this plan to redeem mankind, remember that when Jesus took our sins upon him and was separated from his Father for the first time in all eternity that the Father ached as well.
Imagine, as a parent, watching your only son be tortured, mocked, and nailed to a cross and then hearing him cry out…
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).” (Matthew 27:46b NIV)
A little over 18 yrs. ago, the day before our daughter Ashlyn’s 2nd birthday, we were staying at a friend;s place and where she fell and cracked her head open on the corner of a coffee table. As young parents we were overwhelmed with emotion as we rushed her to the E.R.
Eventually we were told that she would need staples to hold the wound together so that it would heal and, inexplicably, they told us that we would need to hold her down while the doctor did it. TALK ABOUT TRAUMATIZING!!! And I don’t just mean for her.
Our hearts broke as she cried out for us to help her—not understanding that what we were doing was for just that reason. As she cried we joined in and to this day I do not understand why we were made to participate in that way.
What I do understand though is that it must have been just as heart-wrenching for God the Father to watch all that his son went through and not step in and stop it. For the same reason though that Jesus didn’t save himself so that he could save others, God watched without intervening out of His great love for us. A chance to be reconnected with His creation.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:28-39 NLT)
Imagine the night before Jesus’ arrest, before Judas’ betrayal, before Peter’s denials, and before the disciples desertion.
Imagine what it must have been like for Jesus.
Imagine knowing in advance that those closest to you in the good times would be furthest from you in the bad.
Imagine washing your friends’ feet, serving them food, and praying for their protection and perseverance—even as one plotted to kill you, two vied for position, and three would fall asleep as you poured your heart out in gut-wrenching fashion at the Garden of Gethsemane.
Imagine knowing that you were about to experience an unimaginable amount of pain—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually—but allowed yourself to be arrested all the same.
Imagine knowing that death was waiting for you in the form of a cross but still choosing to walk toward it—not because you deserve it but because you have great compassion for those who do.
Imagine every difficult choice Jesus made just to give us the opportunity to choose him, to choose life, to choose eternity.
Imagine how much he must have loved us to leave heaven, to become human, to live a sinless life, and to die a sinner’s death, for our sake.
Imagine what our lives could look like if we chose to follow him and his example of loving others unconditionally and unflinchingly.
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:6-8 NLT)
Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, and so I want to take a look at not only Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem but also what led him there in the first place. Let’s start by reading…
Matthew 20:1-11 “As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.” This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said, “Tell the people of Jerusalem, ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.’” The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it. Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God in highest heaven!” The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked. And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”” (NLT)
This seems like a pretty good first day in the city but, as we know all too well, it kind of went down hill from there at least from an earthly point of view. The fact though was that Jesus knew what was coming all along. He knew that even though there were those now crying “Hosanna! Hosanna!” And throwing Palm branches at his feet that a mere five days later others would be crying, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” and pressing a crown of thorns into his head. We know that he knew this because he had already told his disciples as much. If you go back four chapters Jesus says in…
Matthew 16:21-24 “From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” (NLT)
Jesus knew what would happen by going to Jerusalem and yet he kept going in that direction. Why? My friend Pastor Mike Rivera shared in his message yesterday morning that it was because Jesus was heading home and the way was through Jerusalem… through the pain… through the cross. I would argue that you can look back to the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry and see that he had been going in this direction the entire time as he followed GPS (God’s Positioning System).
Jesus chose to go to and through the cross for us. On this first day of Holy Week I would encourage you to take some time and consider where you would be willing to go and what you would be willing to do for him, remembering that he said…
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”