The Questor – Story of stories – Destiny!
Posted: 4th April 2015
After three years of travelling around northern Galilee and neighbouring areas, teaching and healing, Jesus had done all he could. The work was complete. He had demonstrated the awesome power of God through the miracles he had performed. And he had taught the people and his disciples all he could about the nature of God and what he expects of all of us.
Towards the end of this time, something amazing happened. He took three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, up a mountain. When they reached the top, Jesus went a few steps ahead of them and before their eyes, he became transformed. His face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as light. Then Moses and Elijah the prophet appeared alongside him and they had a conversation.
While they were still talking, a bright cloud enveloped them all and a voice from within the cloud said “This is my Son, whom I love; with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him”. The disciples were terrified and fell on their faces. But Jesus came and told them to get up and asked them not to tell anyone what they had seen.
As with the events of Jesus’ baptism, this was a means of confirming to Jesus, in the company of the three disciples, that he was God’s son and he was on track. It also affirmed that he must now go to Jerusalem and fulfil his destiny. Jesus knew this meant being betrayed, humiliated and crucified. That was the inevitable consequence of challenging the religious authorities on their own ground.
So they left Galilee and travelled south with the other people who were going to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. Most of them would have witnessed or at least heard about Jesus’ teaching and his miracles. And that had led them to believe that he was the ‘Chosen One’ – the Messiah. So there was much jubilation among them as they approached Jerusalem.
In their understanding, the Messiah would raise up an army, drive the Romans from their land and restore the country to the position it had been in a thousand years earlier when David was king. It’s not surprising therefore that they were all set to cheer Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. Jesus knew that would happen so he sent his disciples to get a donkey and he rode into Jerusalem on that rather than a war horse. They still cheered him though!
Once in the city, Jesus went straight to the Temple and tore into all the people who were changing money and selling birds and animals for sacrifice. He turned over their tables and threw them out, telling them that the Temple should be a place for prayer, not a marketplace for use by traders of dubious ethics. Then he healed the sick and began to teach the people.
The religious leaders came to confront him, but his response to them made them look silly in front of the people. They wanted to arrest him there and then, but were afraid of what the people might do. So they went away to plot how they might kill him; but first they had to arrest him when there was no one else around. Their solution was to recruit one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas Iscariot, who had become disenchanted with the way Jesus was doing things. They paid him to betray Jesus to them.
The Thursday of Passover week is when the Jewish people have a big party at which they celebrate the deliverance of their ancestors from slavery in Egypt. It’s the high point of the Jewish year and the disciples were looking forward to a good meal and a few drinks. Everyone was in party mood except Jesus. He knew what was about to happen to him. So he used the occasion to bring his time on earth with his disciples to a conclusion.
The first thing he did was to wash their feet. It was a customary for a servant of the host to wash the dust from the feet of guests as they arrived. The disciples knew that but none of them was prepared to do it for the others. So Jesus gave them a lesson in humility by doing it himself.
Next, at the end of the meal, he asked them to remember him whenever they sat down for a meal. When they broke the bread they should remember how his body was broken when he was crucified. And when they drank red wine, they should remember how his blood was spilled. Then he summarised the things he had told them over the past three years and tried to give them hope that the future was not as bleak as it seemed right then. Finally, he prayed for the disciples and for us who hear the Message through them, that we will all know God’s love and see his glory.
They went from the party to a place outside the city called the Garden of Gethsemane which Jesus liked to go to. There the disciples fell asleep, overcome by the excesses of the evening, and Jesus, in deep torment, prayed from the depths of his soul that he would not have to go through with being crucified. Even though he asked his disciples to stay awake with him, they just drifted off back to sleep.
Eventually, Judas arrived with the Temple guards. He pointed Jesus out to them and they arrested him. There was a noisy mob accompanying them and the disciples were scared. They disappeared into the dark, leaving Jesus on his own. The guards tied Jesus up and took him to the house of the High Priest. There he was interrogated about his teaching. They were finding it difficult to pin anything on him, in spite of bringing in false witnesses. Finally, they asked him if he considered himself to be the son of God. When he said that he did, his fate was sealed. The Jewish leaders said that this was blasphemy and should be punished by death.
Now they had a problem. Because they lived under Roman rule, they were not allowed to execute anyone. So they had to take Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor and persuade him to order the execution. Pilate interrogated Jesus himself and couldn’t see what the problem was. So he brought him out before the large crowd that had gathered and said he couldn’t find a reason for executing him. But the religious leaders had infiltrated the crowd and persuaded them to demand Jesus’ crucifixion. When Pilate heard the uproar, he saw there was potential for a riot so, to keep the peace, he went along with their wishes.
Jesus was taken from there by the Roman soldiers who mocked him and beat him up. They put a crown of thorns on his head and pretended to pay homage to him. Then they whipped him with an evil whip which had metal barbs fixed to it. The barbs bit into his flesh and tore his back open. By the time they had finished he could hardly stand.
They brought out a rough wooden cross and told him he had to carry it to the place of execution. He really struggled with it and collapsed several times until the soldiers roped in a bystander to carry it for him. The execution site was outside the city wall and the route led up hill through the main shopping area. Narrow streets with people crowding in and mocking him every step of the way.
When they got to the place of execution, the soldiers removed his outer garments Then they drove rough nails through his hands and feet to fix him to the cross as it lay on the ground. Finally, they raised the cross into the upright position and left Jesus to die one of the most agonising deaths known to man. For the soldiers, this was business as usual; a routine activity; just another execution. Criminals were ten a penny and the countryside was littered with crosses. In fact two other men, both criminals, were crucified at the same time, one on his right and one on his left.
Jesus’ mother and several others watched, heartbroken as all this happened. Others walked by and hurled taunts and abuse at him. At noon, the sky became very dark – like an eclipse of the sun. The darkness lasted for three hours until Jesus groaned from the depths of his being and cried out “It is finished”. When the Roman captain saw that he had died, he said “Surely, this was the Son of God”
At the moment that Jesus died, there was an earth tremor and the heavy curtain which separates off the most holy place in the Temple was torn in two.
Later in the afternoon, a wealthy man named Joseph of Arimathea, went to see Pontius Pilate and asked for permission to bury Jesus. Permission was granted and so Joseph took burial cloths and, aided by Jesus mother and the other women with her, took Jesus’ body down from the cross and laid it in a tomb he had had cut into the rock for himself. Then they rolled a big heavy stone in front of the entrance.
Next month – Rising Up!