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We are living during a time of confusion: Confusion about what is right and what is wrong. Confusion about what is true and what is false. Confusion about what is loving and what is hateful and what is neither. Even confusion about the meaning of words. It’s almost as if people have forgotten how to understand and how to reason. How is it possible? How did we get here?
Yet history points its finger and shows us other times of such – we might as well admit it – depravity. Times of dishonesty. Times of conspiracy. Times of complicity. Times of overwhelming wickedness. Times of sin.
Could it be that the crucifixion of Jesus took place during a time when people were willing to claim a lie was the truth? A time when some people claimed the truth was a lie? A time when the truth was considered ‘hate speech’? A time of ‘fake news’?
At this time of year, we are the witness.
We follow Jesus through His final hours. We witness how His words were twisted to accuse Him. We watch as people are confused, lose their ability to reason, and succumb to mob psychology. And we begin in the upper room.
Witness the Last Passover Meal
The last supper is a time of communion. Be willing to be uncomfortable; To examine your own heart truthfully and without excuse; To confess your sin: the big sins and the small sins, the sins you committed by doing the wrong thing and the sins you committed by doing nothing at all.
You are in the garden with Jesus. You see His struggle to sacrifice Himself for sin. And you realize the sin is yours.
Witness the Garden of Gethsemane.
After Jesus spent time with his closest disciples at the last supper, after Judas had lied about not betraying Jesus and Jesus had told the truth by affirming that he would, and after they had sung a hymn together, Jesus went to one of His favorite places, the Garden of Gethsemane. It was peaceful and held nature’s fragrance. Jesus spent a lot of time in such a place. He like to pray surrounded by nature.
Some of his friends had come with him, but they fell asleep. Jesus was left alone in the battle of His love of life and will to live – with His obedience to God and his will to die so we could be saved.
And Judas, a friend who had spent the last 3 years with Jesus, led a contingent of soldiers into that peaceful garden in order to arrest him. Betrayal. It isn’t an ugly word, but it is an ugly action. And it set in motion the most horrible event in history – an event that saved us all.
Witness the trial.
Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”
Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
They used the law to break the law.
Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there 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. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”
What is truth? That is the question Pilate asked Jesus at his trial. It might have been a sincere question or it might have been a sarcastic comment borne of a time when culture’s understanding of ‘truth’ was fluid, perverted, or situational.
Witness the mob.
And now we see citizens who only a few days before had hailed Jesus as king and waved palm branches and shouted ‘hosanna!’ – turn on him.
See how that happened? It was a result of a weak understanding of truth. It was the intelligentsia insisting on their way. It was a result of going along with what everyone else seemed to believe. And it was so very wrong.
They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.
Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Jesus was brutally beaten. A cross was put on his shoulders. He carried the instrument of his own death down the street – the way of suffering – while people watched. They watched while he trudged up the hill of Golgotha. There he was crucified.
Witness His final words.
“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”
“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? 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.’”
“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”
“It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. About 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?’”
“Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’”
“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’”
Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.”
We are the witnesses. We know what happened. We must tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The verdict comes soon enough.
Youtube video, The Passion of the Christ: <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/OcLZYiePvtU?rel=0&controls=0&showinfo=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>; Scripture references: John 18: 28-40; Luke 23:21; Luke 23: 32-34; Luke 23:39-43; John 19: 25-27; Luke 23: 44-45, Matt. 27:45-46; John 19:28; John 19:30; Luke 23:46