Tuesday, April 18, 2006

April 16

John 20:24 – 27
Remembering Jesus: What Happened?

It has become fashionable to follow and create theories denying the death and resurrection of Jesus. So what really happened? We are going to follow the testimony of the witnesses. One of them, John was an eye witness to the events. Mark, a teenager at the time, recalls what he and Peter knew of the events. Matthew, tells us what he knows. Luke was the investigator who questioned witnesses and examined the medical evidence, C. S. I. like.

1. On Tuesday night, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

Mark, who barely escaped that night testifies, “Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” [Mark 14:44]

The thing about Judas was that he was a close follower of Jesus. In fact, he was numbered as one of the special group known as “disciples” and later to become the authoritative “Apostles.” Why did he do it? Nobody knows. John tells us he was a thief [John 12:6], so maybe it was for the 30 pieces of silver. Church mythology has theorized it was to force Jesus to begin a rebellion.

2. On Friday before dawn Jesus is illegally tried twice.

The first trial was before Annas who was the Father-in-law of Caiaphas, the current High Priest. At this trial Caiaphas prophesied, “that it would be good if one man died for the people.” [John 18:14]

The second trial was the formal trial before the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was the ruling body of that time, made up mostly of religious leaders. This trial was held at Caiaphas’ home [Luke 22:54]. MANY false witness were brought against Jesus [Mark 14:55 – 56, Matthew 26:59 – 60] but they were not able to convict Him. In fact, He was convicted on his confession: Matthew tells us, “But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." “Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Mark witnessed, “The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?" They all condemned him as worthy of death.” [Mark 14:63 – 64]

It is here that Jesus is first beaten, “Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, "Prophesy!" And the guards took him and beat him.” [Mark 14:65]

Peter is present at this trial, but has his own problems. In fact, Peter ends up denying knowing Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times. It was a sad night for Jesus’ followers. One disciple betrays – leads a mob – to arrest Jesus. Another, one of the leaders, denies knowing Jesus. It sure looks like the enemy is winning the war at this point.

3. Friday, just after dawn.

Jesus is formally condemned by the Sanhedrin [Luke 22:66 – 71]. It appears to be an attempt to put a legal stamp on the events of the night.

Seeing the conviction, it appears that Judas repents. Matthew tells us, “When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. [4] "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood." "What is that to us?" they replied. "That's your responsibility.” [Matthew 27:3 – 4] Now that’s cold. Judas is “seized with remorse” and he admits to having “sinned.” The religious leaders of the day respond with “that’s your responsibility.”
People do not have the power to pardon sin. Judas went to the wrong place, to the wrong people, when he should have gone to the only source of forgiveness... Jesus. That is really hard to do after you’ve betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

After the formal trial, Jesus is then sent to Pilate. [John 18:28 – 38] Pilate is the Roman governor. The Jews were allowed all forms of punishment, except the one the religious leaders wanted this time – death [John 18:31]. Before Pilate, Jesus is accused of “perverting” the country, opposing paying taxes, and claiming to be King [Luke 23:2]. Pilate finds Jesus innocent [Luke 23:4, John 18:34].

Pilate sends Jesus to King Herod Antipas [Luke 23:6 – 12] because Jesus is from Galilee. Luke, the historian, notes that day, two bitter enemies became friends [Luke23:12]. Sadly enemies join in a common cause, against Jesus.

Jesus, failing to provide entertainment for King Herod, is shuffled back to Pilate and sentenced to death [John 19:14]. Apparently this was not done without considerable stress on Pilate. For instance Matthew relates this detail, “While Pilate was sitting on the judge's seat, his wife sent him this message: "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” [Matthew 27:19].

In what may have been a cruel piece of amusement or an attempt to free Jesus, Pilate puts the crowd to a vote. Mark gives us this detail, “Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.” [Mark 15:6 – 8]. Here is an “insurrectionist” and “murder” who is placed next to Jesus. To put this in modern context, Barabbas is a terrorist who has viciously murdered innocent people. He’s not a soldier, he’s not a freedom fighter, he is a simple terrorist.

Before the vote, Jesus is “flogged.” John, who was there said it went down this way, “With this he went out again to the Jews and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him. [39] But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release `the king of the Jews'?" They shouted back, "No, not him! Give us Barabbas!" Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion. Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. [John 18:38b – 19:1] After the flogging, Pilate has another vote: Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him." [5] When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" [John 19:4 – 5]

Flogging is very brutal. Typically the victim was whipped 39 times with a whip that included stones and sharp objects. The idea was for the stones to bruise and tenderize the skin and cause bleeding. The sharp objects were there to tear away the flesh. A crown of thorns was put on Jesus head [John 19:2] and a purple robe was added for the mocking effect of royalty [John 19:2].

John observes that Pilate is struggling with his role in the matter. “From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar." When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge's seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha)” [John 19:12 – 13]

After the sentence of death Jesus is handed over to the soldiers who administer the third beating of the day. The crown was then crushed down with a staff [Matthew 27:30] and the purple robe is ripped off Jesus’ raw back [Matthew 27:31].

4. Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to noon.

Jesus is lead away to be crucified. This becomes a circus of sorts. The soldiers “cast lots” to see who got Jesus clothes [Mark 15:24 – 32]. Pilate put an inscription on the cross that was in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. The inscription? “King of the Jews.” [John 19:19 – 20]. Jesus is mocked by the crowd [Mark 15:29], mocked by the religious leaders [Mark 15:31], mocked by the soldiers [Luke 23:36].

An interesting turn of events hints at the victory the cross would bring. In Matthew [27:44] we are told the two thieves, being crucified with Jesus, railed on Jesus. However, Luke discovered that one of the thieves had a change of heart. Luke writes, “But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? [41] We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” [Luke 23:40 – 43]

This criminal recognizes who Jesus is, asks for salvation, and gets it.

Jesus’ mom was at the cross when Jesus died. Also there was, Cleopas’ wife, Mary Magdalene, and John. [John 19:25 – 27]

5. Friday, from noon to 3:00 p.m.

Lots of things happened at this time. Maybe the most ominous was the darkness. [Mark 15:33, Matthew 27:45, Luke 23:44]. This was an unnatural event that has been explained various ways. Certainly, this could not have been part of any human plan.

Mark tells it this way: “At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. [34] And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” [Mark 15:33 – 34] (A quote from Psalm 22:1)

A thousand years before this event, David, the ancient King of Israel wrote Psalm 22. Psalm 22 described the details of a Roman crucifixion long before there was a Roman empire.

Listen to these remarkable details:

* PS 22:6 But I am a worm and not a man, SCORNED by men and DESPISED by the people.
* PS 22:7 – 8 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."
* PS 22:14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. [Out of join is consistent with the jolt from dropping the cross into the ground. Heart has turned to wax, would have defined the burning sensation in the chest area as the victim struggled to breath.]
* PS 22:15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. [The intense thirst.]
* PS 22:16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. [“Dogs” would have been the common mispronunciation of the word for “Gentile” and refers to the Roman soldiers. The piercing of the hands and feet the nails that were used in the crucifixion.]
* PS 22:17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. [The humiliating exposure of hanging on the cross.]
* PS 22:18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
* PS 22:30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. [We see the hope found in our Easter celebration.]

John then describes the last moments on the cross with these words, “Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." [29] A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. [30] When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” [John 19:28 – 30]

Notice that Jesus laid His life down, it was not taken or stolen. For the mere mortal it would have been the end. But this is Jesus, the Christ, the King of Glory, the son of God. There is more to the story. Much, much more.

6. In Jerusalem at the time of His death.

Matthew describes the scene this way: “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. [52] The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. [53] They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” [Matthew 27:51 – 53]

The veil in the temple is torn from TOP to BOTTOM. The veil had been on thing separating God’s Holy of Holies from the rest of humanity. It was a symbol of the separation between God and Man due to sin. Since it was torn from top to bottom, we can only understand this as God the Father tore it open Himself... it was not the effect of the earthquake. The mass resurrection was also another supernatural event.

These events are beyond what any conspiracy theory can begin to explain away.

7. Friday afternoon before 6:00 p.m.

The body had to be disposed of quickly. John described what happened this way, “Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. [32] The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. [33] But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. [34] Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. [35] The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. [36] These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," [37] and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced.” [John 19:31 – 37]

Remember this was a professional Roman soldier, not an idiot. The Romans were as efficient at their work as any US Marine. They were the best. The knew death when they saw death. This soldier sees that Jesus is dead and makes sure that Jesus is dead. The flow of water and blood would have been consistent with the fluid build up in the lungs of a person who had been crucified.

Joseph of Armathea is given the body to be buried.

8. Friday after 6:00 p.m. before sunset.

Jesus is buried. He is placed in a tomb that is sealed with a sizable stone. The stones were custom cut and put into groove then rolled down-hill in the grove. Each of these stone weighed around 1 ton. They could be moved only with considerable effort.

It is sad that people could think that a man who had lost the kind of blood Jesus would have in his beatings and crucifixion, not had any water for this long, had spike size nails run through his hands and feet, and had a spear puncture a lung and major artery (if not heart) could recover enough to escape the tomb by rolling away a 1 ton stone and beating 4 Roman soldiers. It’s not going to happen.

The women begin a watch of the tomb. [Matthew 27:61] Around sunset they returned to prepare spices and ointments. [Luke 23:56]

9. Saturday morning.

The religious leaders when to Pilate and demanded a guard. [Matthew 27:62 – 66] You see they remembered Jesus saying He would rise from the dead. Oddly enough, the disciples seemed to have forgotten. So they sealed the stone with a Roman seal and set a guard. Again these were the finest soldiers in the world who would have forfeited their lives if their charge escaped. They would not have sealed an empty tomb, nor would they have moved the body. If they did, then they would have produced it when rumors of the resurrection began to fly.

10. Sunday before sunrise.

Matthew gives us these details: “There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. [3] His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. [4] The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. [Matthew 28:2 – 4]

By the time the women are able to return to the tomb, the stone is rolled away so that everyone could see that it is empty!

Jesus has died Friday, probably around 3:00 p.m. and was buried before sunset. He laid, dead, in the tomb all of Saturday and about 10 hours of Sunday. That makes 3 days, and counting the supernatural night of Friday, 3 nights.

11. Sunday just after sunrise.

The women didn’t find the body. Instead they found a stone that had been rolled away, an empty tomb, and an angel announcing Jesus’ resurrection. Matthew tells this part of the story like this: “The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: `He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you." So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.” [Matthew 28:5 – 9]
Jesus made 5 appearances that day. To Mary Madgalene [John 20:11 – 18, Mark 16:9 – 11], to the women [Matthew 28:9 – 10], to the two on the road to Emmaus [Mark 16:12 – 13, Luke 24:13 – 32], to Peter [Luke 24:34], then to the 10 other disciples [Mark 16:14, Luke 24:36 – 43, John 20:19 — 25]. In the next 40 days, Jesus would make 5 more appearances and be seen by more than 500 people.

12. Finally we get to Thomas.

How many of us have said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” [John 20:25b]?

Ok, we haven’t said it out loud. But do you really believe?
* Is it believing when you don’t say something to someone who needs to hear about the life changing encounter with a living Jesus Christ?
* Is it believing when you knowingly and deliberately do something you know is wrong or avoid doing something you know is right?
* Is it believing when you find other things to do than come to the place God has chosen to meet His people at the appointed time?
* Is it believing when you don’t experience the life changing resurrection of Jesus Christ for yourself?
Today is the day for you to end your doubt and declare, along with Thomas: “My Lord and my God!” Will you do so now?

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