THE LAST DAYS OF JESUS’ (EARTHLY) LIFE
Brother Phil Hayworth
It is the year 33 of our Common Era in the month of Nisan which is March/April according to our Gregorian calendar…….we take ourselves back to March/April in the year 33………………..and we come to a Tuesday, and for a few days Jesus had been in the temple and he’d been watching what was going on.
He’d been watching the racket that was being carried on in the Court of the Gentiles of Herod’s temple- where a big business was being carried on-it was being made into a house of merchandise. The Courtyard of the Gentiles was about as large as Yankee Stadium and Polo Grounds in New York City in America and it was just packed with animals and it stunk of animal dung!!! This was the temple of worship of Jehovah and animals just packed everywhere and tables just laden down with money. Money greedy Jews behind them were selling animals for sacrifice-selling inspection tickets.
Jesus would watch as the Jews and Jewish proselytes would come into the temple precinct to buy an animal and perhaps a Jewish proselyte would come from as far away as Spain and naturally he didn’t have any Jewish money with him-he would only have Spanish currency and to put money into the temple treasury or contribution box he couldn’t use Spanish money. It’d have to be Jewish money and so he would go to one of these tables where a money changer sat and there was Jewish money and money there in every sort of currency in the known world of that time.
The Spanish brother would hand over his money and the Jew would give him the half-shekel- the Jewish currency that he would put in the contribution box BUT AT A PRICE!!! NOT FOR NOTHING!!! He had to hand over far more Spanish money than was handed back- half Jewish shekels.
And then this Jewish proselyte from Spain would select his animal- he’d go to one of the salesmen in the courtyard and select a little lamb-for a pretty price- he would buy it-then he’d take the lamb to an inspector and the inspector would inspect the lamb very closely and perhaps there would be a tiny microscopic spot on it that would make a blemish and he’d say “Reject”. So this Jewish proselyte-this worshipper of Jehovah would have to go back to a salesman in the courtyard again and buy another lamb and incidentally you’d have to pay for the inspection.
He’d have to buy another lamb, bring it back to the inspector, pay the inspector AGAIN, and the inspector would perhaps inspect the second lamb, pass it, and then it was handed over to the priest-then it was offered up as a sacrifice to Jehovah on the altar.
But it was extortion. Everything cost money in connection with the worship of Jehovah in the temple courtyard, and Jesus watched this going on.
Jesus watched this going on for days until his spirit was so aroused within him that he made a whip- a cord of rope- and he stepped into the Courtyard of the Gentiles and started swinging everywhere at the animals. And animals started running everywhere-bulls in one direction-sheep in another direction-- goats over here, doves flapping around, and Jesus took hold of the heavy tables that were just laden down with money and overturned them.
There was money everywhere and Jews on their hands and knees scrambling after the money and shaking their fists at him and cursing him at the top of their voices amidst the noise of the animals and then Jesus shouted out from the middle of the courtyard, “You make my Father’s house into a shop- into a den of merchandise.” “Clear out of here!”
Not one of those Jews dared approach Jesus because they knew they were doing wrong in the eyes of Jehovah- they knew they were commercializing their position in the truth as a part of true worship in the temple.
But that action of cleaning out the money changers cost Jesus his life. It signed Jesus’ death warrant.
Because at that time the temple of Herod in Jerusalem was under the control of a Jewish sect or religious group called the Sadducees- and the leader of the Sadducees was a man called Joseph Caiaphas, and Caiaphas, a shrewd politician, a priest and a very good businessman stood to benefit by all the money that came through the temple coffers of that time. And he and his select group of aristocrats based in Jerusalem benefited from this extortion racket that was going on in the temple in Jerusalem. So when Caiaphas and his group of priests saw what Jesus did, they said, “This man has to die.”
This man has to die by the end of this week. Jesus had to be nailed to a stake-executed- by the end of that week, Nisan. And so Caiaphas and his inner circle began to make definite plans for the murder of Jesus. And Jesus knew that this was going on.
For the rest of that day of Tuesday, Nisan of the year 33, Jesus spent in the temple preaching and giving sermons, even talking to children. In that Tuesday evening he walked for 2 miles to a little town called Bethany-which was about 2 miles from Jerusalem- because he’d been invited for an evening meal to the home of Simon the leper- just a few months earlier Simon was a man who had a sickness that the rabbis believed couldn’t be cured. Leprosy!!! He was doomed to death from this horrible sickness- no doctor could cure him- Jesus had touched his flesh- the leprosy had vanished miraculously and this man, Simon, had no doubt whatsoever that this man was the Messiah, the Son of God. So he had invited him into his home this Tuesday evening, and all of the brothers went with Jesus-the apostles and disciples and Mary and Martha were there.
What do you think Martha was doing….getting everything nicely prepared……and Lazarus was there- Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, who just a few days previously had spent 4 days dead in the grave, but now he was alive again. And these two sisters Mary and Martha had absolutely no doubt that this man was the Son of God that had such power to bring back the dead to life.
Anyhow, everyone was happy…..informal atmosphere….they were all eating at the table…..and incidentally the Jews didn’t sit on chairs to eat in those days- they used to recline on couches or divans at the table- and Jesus was reclining at the table on his elbow and would pick up the food with the other hand and eat that way.
They were all sitting around the table and talking and having a good time, but some of the perceptive of the apostles could see that Jesus wasn’t the same. They could see that his face was a little more drawn- lines of anxiety were beginning to form on his face and he was a little quieter- more reflective than usual because he was anticipating what was going to happen to him that coming Friday, Nisan 14.
But everyone else was laughing and telling experiences and many folk had come out from Jerusalem to look at Lazarus who had come back from the dead and everyone was having a good time……and all of a sudden the door burst open and Mary rushed into the room. She had bought a casket of perfume that cost her about $50-in those days $50 was about 10 months wages as a laborer!!!
Imagine 10 months as a laborer, and there was this casket of perfume in her hands and she broke the top off it, and while Jesus was eating at the table, Mary poured the perfume over Jesus” feet!!!!!
This was the most expensive stuff you could buy-it was from the East Indies!!!
And imagine the brothers-they just gasped at Mary’s extravagance-all this money!! Ten whole month’s wages just spent on pouring it all over his feet!!! What is she doing?? And they were all whispering among themselves and the room just stunk of perfume and Jesus just watched Mary as she knelt down at his feet and undid her hair and started to gently wipe the oil from his feet with her hair.
And Jesus watched her as though he was expecting something….and above all the whispers of the brothers….imagine her doing that….and all this sort of thing….Jesus heard the voice of Judas Iscariot, one of the apostles say, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for 300 denarii and the money given to the poor? They would’ve benefited more!”
And that was what Jesus was waiting for- Jesus knew that the man who spoke was a hypocrite because Jesus knew that this man, Judas, wasn’t interested in the poor. He was interested in his own pocket. Judas was the treasurer-the accounts servant of the little group that surrounded Jesus, and for months now Jesus had known that Judas was appropriating money from the contribution box for his own purposes, and Jesus also knew that Judas was allowing pride to get the better of him as well.
Judas was the only apostle from Judea. All the rest were from Galilee, and the Judeans always looked down on the Galileans. The Galileans were the riff-raff-the country people-the laborers from the industrial area- the people who didn’t know how to speak Hebrew properly-they spoke it with a lisp-they were country bumpkins.
The Judeans were well educated-they spoke Hebrew perfectly. Judea was where the doctors of Law were educated, where the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court came from.
The Judeans tended to look down on the Galileans, and apparently Judas hadn’t gotten rid of this proud, haughty attitude, and Jesus knew that it was getting the better of him.
So Judas said, “Why wasn’t this sold for 300 denarii, and the money given to the poor?” And instead of looking up, Jesus just continued to watch Mary wipe his feet, and Jesus said to Judas (without looking up), “Leave her alone, Judas, she does this to observe my burial-besides you’ll always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me with you.”
And without looking at Judas’ face, Jesus could sense Judas’ heart stiffen. He could feel the sting of the words go right into Judas’ heart, and he could almost hear Judas saying in his heart, “How dare you, how dare you speak like that to me in front of all these people- a roomful-how dare you humiliate me like that.. I’ll get even with you.”
Jesus could sense all this going on in Judas’ heart without even looking at his face.
And at that moment Judas determined in his heart to betray his Master, and at an appropriate time that evening, Judas, while the rest were talking, slipped out of the room, walked the 2 miles back to Jerusalem, through he dark streets of Jerusalem to the home of Joseph Caiaphas, the High Priest, knocked on the door- the servant let him in- Caiaphas came out- let Judas into his anteroom-the two made a deal- a bargain- that Judas would that very week at an appropriate occasion and at a good time betray his Master, the Son of God into the hands of Caiaphas and his men for the price of 30 silver pieces. (Thirty pieces of silver in those days was the price you would pay for a Hebrew slave- a male Hebrew slave.) So Judas was going to betray his Master for that much money.
But while the two men were talking, neither of them realized that what they were doing and what they were talking about had been forecast hundreds of years before in the Hebrew Scriptures.
In the book of Psalms it said that one of Jesus’ best friends, a man who ate with him at the same table would lift up his heel against his own Master, and in another book of the Prophets, it said 30 silver pieces would be the price, but neither of the men realized that all that had been forecast.
The rest of that week Jesus spent giving talks to his apostles building them up for the end of that week- the time of trial that was to come.
And then came the last day of the week- Nisan the 14- and of course the Jewish day began at sundown- 6 o’clock in the evening- and this Nisan the 14 was Passover day in Jerusalem-the biggest celebration of the Jews.
And Jews and Jewish proselytes for days now had been pouring into Jerusalem from all over the known world of that time under the domination of the Roman Empire. Jews came from Cappadocia and Pontus, Asia Minor and Galatia and Ethiopia, Rome and Egypt and from all over the known world.
In they came to worship Jehovah at this special Passover occasion. And Jesus being a Jew would celebrate the Passover as well, and he asked Peter and John if they would prepare the Passover for him, so Peter and John hired an upper room in Jerusalem- it wasn’t easy to find a room in those crowded days, but they found an upper room, hired it from the landlord, they prepared a lamb, they roasted it whole, they prepared a salad, some flat unleavened bread, they took some wine and they set the table.
The table, incidentally, in this upper room was in the shape of a horseshoe, and around the horseshoe stood a divan, and the divan at the top of the table-at the closed end- would be where the host would recline- the host on this occasion would be the Master, Jesus.
Six o’clock, Nisan the 14!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
All of a sudden SILENCE came over the city, and a silence came over the temple courtyard because this was the time for the beginning of Passover.
To inaugurate the Passover celebration, the High Priest, Joseph Caiaphas stood in the Courtyard of the Priests. In front of him were three little lambs.
In his left hand, Caiaphas held the scroll of the Book of Exodus-the Second Book of Moses to him, and in his other hand, he held a very sharp slaughtering knife. And Caiaphas, over the heads of the three little lambs, read the 12th chapter of the book of Exodus, laid the scroll aside, and then passed the blade of the knife through his lips to make sure there were no sharp edges, and then he slit the throat of the first little lamb and it died without a sound. And he did the same with the other two lambs.
And these were the first three lambs of 200,000 lambs-200,000- that would be sacrificed in the next few days at the Passover celebration in Jerusalem.
But, interestingly, the value of the blood of those 200,000 lambs sacrificially, didn’t even start to equal the value of the sacrificial lamb, Jesus, who at that moment was reclining on a divan in the upper room in Jerusalem starting the Passover meal with his apostles.
During the meal, they talked, they shared experiences, and everyone seemed to be in quite a good mood. They talked about how Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt in 1513 B.C.E.-because this is what the Passover celebrated- the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. And they were all talking- all of a sudden, Jesus said, “One of you is going to betray me.”
And the apostles were silent. And Jesus said, “True, the Son of man is to be betrayed, but woe to the one through whom it comes.” And the apostles were just dumb. One by one they started to say, “Master, what are you saying- it couldn’t be me, could it, Master?” “It’s not I, is it, Master?” “Master, don’t be silly, none of us would ever do that to you.”
And Judas with wide eyes leaned across the table and said, “It’s not I, is it, Master?” And Jesus looked at Judas right in the eye and said, “Judas, that was for you to say.” In other words, “You said it- you know what you’re talking about, don’t you, just you and me.”
None of the others knew what was going on between the two men. But Peter-Peter, the one who always wanted to find things out and be quick about it- gestured to John- John was reclining on the divan next to Jesus and all John had to do to whisper to Jesus was to tilt his head back and his head would be on Jesus’ chest so noone else could hear what he was saying, and Peter gestured to John, “Find out, find out who is it, who is it, who’ll betray the Master.”
And John leaned his head back onto Jesus’ bosom and said, “Master, who is it?” “Which one of us will betray you?” And Jesus whispered to John, “It’s the one I give the morsel to.”
It was the custom at the Passover feast for the host to break the bread, dip the first piece in the gravy in the middle of the table and hand it to the favored guest.
And John’s eyes watched Jesus break the bread- the flat bread- dip it into the bowl of gravy in the middle of the table and just paused for a moment above the bowl as John, as John was thinking in his heart, “Who is it, who is it, which one of us?”
And then, Jesus stretched his hand across to the favored guest…….Judas Iscariot, and said, “Judas, what you are doing, get done more quickly.” (Get it over with, in other words) And the Bible says that at that moment, Satan entered into the heart of Judas Iscariot. Judas then left the room to make definite plans with Caiaphas for the betrayal of his Master into his hands that very night.
But the others didn’t know-they just thought he’d just asked Judas to go out and buy more provisions- we’re running out- because Judas was the treasurer. And then when Judas had gone, Jesus inaugurated the Memorial of his death- the Last Supper, as some call it. They sang some praises or hymns to Jehovah, and then they went out to the Mount of Olives, and by this time, it was 11 o’clock, Nisan the 14.
For the next couple of hours, Jesus talked to his apostles, but they kept falling asleep, and Jesus couldn’t seem to impress enough on them the need for love, the need for staying awake, the need to stand up under pressure.
It seemed as though they were just too tired to get the sense of what he was saying and at 1 o’clock in the morning of Nisan the 14 Jesus turned to John- and he was beginning to feel the tension now and he said, “John, my heart is almost breaking.”
He could feel the anxiety and tension beginning to rise for what was to happen to him in the next few hours. And he went a little way away from the rest of the apostles, knelt down on the ground and started to pray and he said, “Father, if it’s possible, let this cup pass from me, yet not as I will, but as you will.” “Let your will be done.”
And as Jesus prayed, he started to sweat, and the sweat started to come out all over his body-perspiration- and as he prayed earnestly, the sweat started to drip from his brow onto the ground, and Jesus could see it was red.
He was sweating his own blood, and perhaps…perhaps ….some doctors feel he was perhaps suffering from a disease called hymentrydrosis-that’s the disease some people get when one tension is piled on top of another tension until the body can’t take it anymore, and the capillaries in the blood vessels burst, and they mix with the sweat in the body and they come out in the form of perspiration all over the body.
The doctors say that this sickness has an interesting side effect- it tends to numb the nerves a little- and Jesus’ father, Jehovah, was deliberately making his son sick to prepare him for the ordeal that was to come in the next few hours-when the nails would go through his hands and feet.
And as Jesus rose from the ground it was moving towards 3 o’clock in the morning, and as he started back toward his apostles, he noticed lights in the garden all around, and it seemed all of a sudden the garden was ablaze with lights, and in the flickering torchlight he could see Roman soldiers and Pharisees and Sadducees and guards from the temple and there at the head of this mob- this mob that you’d never see together under normal circumstances- Romans hated Jews- but here on this occasion they were all together to accomplish the one purpose- the Serpent had lifted up his head to strike the heel of the seed of God’s woman-at the head of this motley crowd, Jesus could see the face of Judas Iscariot.
And as the apostles pitifully moved behind Jesus, Jesus said to the mob, “Who are you looking for?” And Judas stepped up to Jesus and he took hold gently of Jesus’ arm, and he tenderly kissed Jesus on the cheek, and he said, “Good day, Rabbi.”
And Jesus looked at Judas and said, “Judas, you betray the Son of Man with a kiss.” And that was the last Jesus saw of Judas as he faded back into the crowd and a couple of soldiers stepped forward and grabbed hold of Jesus’ hands, twisted them up behind his back in a painful fashion, bound his wrists tightly with a sharp cord and then bundled him off to the home of Joseph Caiaphas later on that morning, and by the time he got there, it was about 4 o’clock.
Caiaphas had been busy- Caiaphas was the President or Presiding Minister of the Jewish Sanhedrin- the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court was the highest court in the whole of Palestine- no one was higher- and these were the men into whose hands Jehovah had entrusted justice- to see that justice was thoroughly dispensed in the land of Palestine.
And this night of Nisan 14, Caiaphas, realizing that everything had to be done legally, had summoned a hurried night meeting at the Jewish Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court. He’d gathered the 70 men together- the Sanhedrin was composed of 70 men- the 70 cleverest men in all Judea. Their brains were like razor blades-they knew the Mosaic Law back to front, upside down and every which way and there was nobody that could fool those men. They were the doctors of law, the professors, and Caiaphas had sent messengers to everyone (at their homes) of the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin and gathered them together hastily that night when he heard that Jesus had been arrested in the Garden of Gethsemene.
And there they were, all hurriedly dragged out of bed- all of them had been assembled in the anteroom of the home of Joseph Caiaphas in Jerusalem, and they still had their night clothes on, and over their night clothes they had bundled on outer garments to make it look good, and they were still bug-eyed and crazed from lack of sleep and there they were sitting on the floor cross-legged in three horseshoes-one behind the other. In the center was the president or the presiding minister of the Sanhedrin, Joseph Caiaphas, the High Priest that year. Jesus was bundled into the anteroom of Caiaphas- a beautiful room with marble floor- beautiful tapestries hung on the walls- the frying pan on the fire sizzling just waiting fro the chicken to go in.
Jesus knew before any one of the members of the Supreme Court opened their mouths, that the trial was illegal. It was wrong according to the Mosaic Law. The Jewish Law said that the Supreme Court was not allowed to meet at night. Nighttime was for sleeping, not for thinking, the Jews said, which was reasonable.
And Caiaphas had broken the Law-he’d broken the traditional Jewish Law to get things over with. Jesus knew that Caiaphas was in a hurry- to get him out of the way, because 6 o’clock the next evening began the Sabbath day of the Sadducees, and Caiaphas was a Sadducee, and most of the members of the Sanhedrin were Sadducees, and the Sadducees were not allowed to execute anyone on their Sabbath day, so Jesus had to be dead by 6 o’clock the next evening, and so the whole thing had to be gotten over with quickly.
The Sanhedrin had to be called at night. For that reason, Caiaphas broke the Law and held a night meeting at the Supreme Court. But Jesus said nothing- he didn’t say, “Caiaphas, you’re wrong, it’s all wrong, you know it’s all illegal- it’s a big sham- a big fake.” He said nothing. He just stood there--Hands bound behind his back and looked at the marble floor in front of him. Caiaphas stood up as the President of the Supreme Court and read the charge-- Blasphemy according to the Law of Moses.
Jesus was being arraigned on the charge of a false prophet, and if he was convicted, the charge carried the death penalty. Jesus wasn’t asked how he would plead, but Caiaphas called on Jesus three times to defend himself. Jesus said nothing. He just continued to look at the floor in front of him. And then Caiaphas gave the okay for the 70 members of the Supreme Court to start the questioning- the cross examination and the 70 started talking all at once it seemed.
It seemed as though the whole place was a bedlam of noise- one would ask- “Is it true that you said you’d throw down the temple and in three days raise it up again?” “Is it true that you were here at a certain time- is it true that you said this- is it true that you did that at a certain time….” Seventy men all screaming and questioning him at once, but Jesus said nothing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jesus just ignored it- he kept silent- and then Caiaphas called on Jesus to call his witnesses- 4 o’clock in the morning- so it was big joke. But Caiaphas had to go through with the procedure just to make everything legal and nice. “Where are your witnesses?” Jesus said nothing. Caiaphas said, “Call the witnesses for the prosecution.” The first witness for the prosecution was called in- a temple guard- a Levite guard- and he said, “Yes, I heard this man say that he’d throw down the temple and in three days raise it up again, yes, I heard him, there’s no doubt about it.” “With my own ears, I’d swear to that.”
The next witness was called in and he contradicted the first, and the next witness was called in and contradicted the first two witnesses, and Jesus without looking up, could start to feel Caiaphas’ face getting red- he could feel the embarrassment and Jesus knew, although he didn’t say anything, he knew that Caiaphas’ charge had to fail because according to the Mosaic Law, it was only at the mouth of two or three witnesses that every matter could be legally established, but Caiaphas couldn’t get even two of his witnesses to agree, so the charge had to fail.
As long as Jesus kept quiet, as long as he said nothing, he was a free man, and Caiaphas almost desperately pointed a finger at Jesus and said, “What do you have to say against all this evidence against you?” Jesus could have said, ‘what evidence, Caiaphas, you haven’t got two of your witnesses to agree.’ ‘You know the Mosaic Law as well as I do- you get three of your witnesses to agree, and I’m a dead man.’ ‘But you know that as long as I don’t say a thing, I’m a free man, and I walk out of this courtroom a free man.” But Jesus said nothing. But he knew that Caiaphas was thinking that, and Caiaphas knew that Jesus was thinking that!!!
Perhaps Jesus may have started to smile a little bit now that the tables were turned, and it was as if Jesus was the fisherman and he had Caiaphas on the end of the hook now-legally. As long as Jesus kept his mouth closed, he was a free man. There was only one man in that courtroom who could put Jesus to death, and that was Jesus himself.
If he opened his mouth, whatever he said, they would use it against him!!! Silence-Life!! A word on his part-Death!!
And Caiaphas in desperation shook his fist at Jesus and said, “I put you under oath, tell us outright by the living God, are you the Messiah, the Son of God?”
If Jesus said nothing, he was a free man, but if he opened his mouth, he was dead. And at that moment when Jesus’ life just hung in the balance, where a word meant death, silence meant life, and answer to Caiaphas putting him under oath, “I charge you, I put you under oath, by the living God, are you the Messiah, the Son of God?” Jesus said, “I am.” “And what is more, you’ll see the Son of Man coming at the right hand of power and glory.”
You could almost hear the sigh of relief from Caiaphas-that he’d got what he’d wanted, and Caiaphas took hold of his garments at the breast, and ripped them apart, and he said to the Sanhedrin, “What more evidence do you need to hear- you heard the blasphemy with your own ears.” “What do you say?”
And Jesus knew that Caiaphas was jumping the gun because the High Priest was only allowed to rip his garments apart after the death penalty had been handed down.
But what was Caiaphas doing?? He was saying to those 70 men in that room- -“You want to know what I think- I think he’s guilty of death- what do you say?” And these weak minded puppets entrusted with justice in the land by Jehovah, one by one started to say, “He is guilty of death.” The death penalty- execution.
And then, about 5 o’clock in the morning, one by one, the members of the Sanhedrin stood up, and one of them came up to Jesus and put his hands over Jesus’ eyes, and another one came up and spat in his face, and said, “Come on you, Christ, are you the Messiah, the Son of God, then tell me what my name is-who was it that spat in your face,” and another one came up and punched him in the stomach, and said, “Who was it?” “What’s my name, you Christ?” “Tell me, if you can see, you should be able to if you’re the Christ.”
Another one came up and kicked him from behind, another punched him in the stomach, another spat in his face, and it was as though they were playing ring around the rosy-around Jesus- these 70 intelligent men entrusted with justice.
But Caiaphas knew there wasn’t much time to lose-this man had to be dead by 6 o’clock the next evening, and to have the man executed, the Sanhedrin had to get the official permission of the Roman Governor or Procurator in Jerusalem at that time because the Jews were under Roman jurisdiction in the year 33. The Roman government, at that time, was represented in Palestine by a politician by the name of Pontius Pilate.
Pontius Pilate was a very good politician- a very canny politician. And Caiaphas, who was also a good politician- only in a different way, knew that if he was going to get Jesus executed, then the charge of blasphemy wasn’t good enough, because Pilate was an atheist, Pilate didn’t believe in Jehovah, even if he believed in his own Roman gods, and so Caiaphas gathered together the Sanhedrin again for another meeting. They handed Jesus over to the guards in the temple precincts and the guards were all too happy to abuse and kick Jesus around till dawn.
Meanwhile, the Sanhedrin reconvened and Caiaphas put the case before the 70 men. “Now, look, we can’t go to Pilate and say, ‘This man is guilty of death on the grounds of blasphemy. ‘Pilate is an atheist, but he is interested in only one thing as you know- he’s interested in his own political career, and so if Pilate wants to get ahead in the political world, he’s got to guard jealously the interests of Caesar in our land, so perhaps we could colour the charge with sedition.” “That would be better- that would sound better in the ears of Pilate than blasphemy, because Pilate was under oath of Caesar to squash any sedition, any insurrection, any uprising against Caesar in Palestine. “So, we’ll say that this man is a King-he is guilty of sedition- that will be our case.”
In the next few hours before 8 o’clock, the time for their meeting with Pontius Pilate, which was his official hour for things- for hearing Jewish cases in Jerusalem- in the next few hours, Caiaphas gathered together a cheer squad, bribed some of the riff-raff in the streets of Jerusalem and got the agreement to the charges that would be brought against Jesus before Pilate so that they could get his okay to have Jesus put to death.
Blindfolded, Jesus could hear the blast of 3 silver trumpets in the distance, and he knew that dawn had arrived and he knew that the sun was coming up over the hills of Judea. And he knew, even though he couldn’t see it that the big gates of the temple were being thrown open and worshippers were beginning to pour into the temple courtyard to worship his Father, Jehovah, while, he, his own son, was being condemned to death for blasphemy just a few yards away.
The mob was made ready, and they marched Jesus in front of the headquarters of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem- a big castle that was adjoining the temple area, called the Castle of Antonia, and Pilate, inside the walls, would come out onto a balcony and look down upon the Jewish gathering below.
At 8 o’clock in the morning, Caiaphas, his cheer squad with Jesus pushed in front of them- there they were----waiting for Pilate to appear. They wouldn’t go inside the walls of the Palace of Antonia because this was Gentile ground- it wasn’t Jewish ground, and if Caiaphas and his fellow Sadducees stepped onto Gentile ground on the eve of their Sabbath day, this would defile them-it would make them dirty in the eyes of Jehovah. They wouldn’t touch anything belonging to Pilate or any Gentile thing at all on that day. It was good enough for them to condemn an innocent man to death. But they wouldn’t touch anything that would defile them religiously.
So they stood outside waiting for Pilate. At 8 o’clock in the morning, Pilate came out onto the balcony and looked down.“Yes, what charge do you bring against this man?” (Get it over with quickly, in other words, what is it?)
And Caiaphas looked up, and he didn’t want to mess around and he said, “If this man wasn’t a criminal, we wouldn’t have brought him here, would we?” In other words, don’t you trust our judgement- don’t you trust that we are the Jewish Supreme Court-we’ve already judged the matter- all we want is your permission to execute the man- we don’t want you to hear the matter all over again- just say the okay and have him executed. And Pilate, who was also feeling a little bit niggly that morning and hated Caiaphas anyway, said, “Alright, judge the man according to your own law.” And Caiaphas called out, pointing at Jesus, “This man claims that he’s a king- he sets himself up against Caesar and opposes the paying of taxes to Caesar.” “Alright,” says Pilate, “bring him in for questioning.”
Two Roman guards stepped outside of the gates of the Palace of Antonia, roughly took hold of Jesus, and led him inside. Jesus stood in front of Pilate with a Roman soldier on either side. Pilate looked at Jesus and something inside Pilate said, “What’s all the fuss about?” “This man is innocent-what’s all the noise about?”
Something inside Pilate said “This man must go free.” There was just something about the man- there was just the atmosphere about the man- he didn’t know whether it was his face, his manner, his bearing-what it was, but something said that the man was innocent.
Pilate said to Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “Did the others tell you about me, or do you say this of your own initiative?” Pilate said, “I’m not a Jew, am I- I don’t know about all the political affairs of your nation and all the uprisings and squabblings. Your own nation handed you over to me- what did you do?”
And Jesus said, “You’ve got no worries, my kingdom is no part of this world-if it were, my attendants would have fought and I wouldn’t be standing in front of you now. But as it is, my kingdom is not from this source. I’m not a political king- I’m no enemy of Caesar.”
Then Pilate said, “Well, are you a king?” Jesus said, “That was for you to say. For this purpose I came into the world and for this reason I was born, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is on the side of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said, “What is truth?”
It was obvious that the man was innocent-there was just something about the man- just the way he spoke- the ring of conviction in the man’s voice, and Pilate thought-well, I’ve hard the case, they’ll be satisfied with my judgement-took Jesus out onto the balcony and there was the mob anxiously waiting below, rubbing their hands together. This man had to die by 6 o’clock that next evening-why didn’t Pilate just get it over with?
And Pilate called out, “I find no fault with this man.” And all of a sudden there was a roar- a scream of protest from the crowd and the crowd started throwing dust up into the air, and tearing their clothes apart, and Pilate thought, “What’s going on?”
Caiaphas says, “He stirs up the nation to revolt-he started up in Galilee and now he comes down here preaching his sedition.” Pilate asked, “Where did he start?” “Up in Galilee, now he comes down here.” “In Galilee”, Pilate said, “Well, look, if he started in Galilee, that’s not my jurisdiction.” “You see, Herod is the ruler of Galilee – you’ll have to go and talk to Herod about this.”
And it suited Pilate to just get the matter off his hands. He knew the Jews, he knew how nasty they could be, but not only that, but something kept on saying to Pilate- This man is innocent, he’s got to go free, and not only that, but Pilate and Herod were enemies- political enemies. Pilate thought if I show a little bit of favor toward Herod, and respect his judgement in this matter, then perhaps we’ll get along just famously!!
And so at 9 o’clock in the morning, Jesus was taken before Herod who at that time was down in Jerusalem hypocritically celebrating the Passover. Herod pretended to worship Jehovah just so he could get along with the Jews, and Jesus had no respect whatsoever for this man. Because this man, Antipas, Jesus had called him, “that fox.” Antipas- Herod Antipas not so long previously had put Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist to death. Jesus had no respect for the man.
So Jesus was led before him-9 o’clock in the morning, Herod was a very superstitious man. Herod thought that perhaps John may have been reincarnated in this man, Jesus. Here was Jesus standing right in front of him- could this be the man that I chopped the head off????
So Herod said to Jesus, “Look, just perform one miracle-just prove who you are, and I’ll set you free.” Jesus said nothing. Herod said, “Just a little miracle- just a little one, and I’ll set you free. I’m on your side.” Jesus said nothing- he couldn’t be bothered with the man. And Herod quickly lost his temper- he wasn’t a man of control- he had very little self- control. So he lost his temper all of a sudden, and said, “Alright, you make a fool of me, you make a mockery of me- we’ll make a mockery of you.” “Bring out a robe for him.”
The attendants brought out the robe which was normally put on the shoulders of a clown in the Roman Circus, where the Roman gladiators fought in those days, and they dropped it over Jesus’ shoulders and Herod packed him off to Pilate. From that day on Herod and Pilate were firm political friends.
It was now 10 o’clock in the morning, and Jesus was now weary- he hadn’t slept all night. He had been punched around and spat upon and now dragged back in front of Pilate. Pilate was by now quite pleased with himself that Herod had agreed with him. Ten o’clock in the morning, Pilate said, “You see, I found no guilt with the man, neither did Herod. I’ll discipline him and set him free.”
Roars of protest from the mob again-dust up in the air- clothes being torn apart, tearing their hair out in rage. Pilate thought, “What’s all this about?” Obviously the man is innocent, what have they got against him?” And to add insult to injury, while Jesus had been away being questioned by Herod, Pilate’s wife came up to him and said, “Be careful with this man- I had a dream about him last night. He’s not an ordinary men- he’s innocent. He must go free.”
So Pilate had all this playing upon his mind as the mob was screaming and jumping up and down and yelling in front of him. And Pilate, knowing the man must go free remembered a custom that the Roman government had with the Jewish nation at Passover time that the Roman government would release any Jewish criminal in the Jewish prison at that time that the Jewish nation asked for.
So Pilate thought, “I’ll bring the worse criminal out of the prison hole, and I’ll stand him next to this…..whoever he is…..this gentle teacher from Nazareth……..this innocent man, and I’ll give them a choice and surely they’ll pick…..they’ll pick the innocent one…..surely they’ll…..surely….” Pilate thought.
So Pilate had brought up from the prison hole a man who ironically was called Jesus Barrabbas. He was an insurrectionist, a criminal of the worst kind, a pervert, a murderer, and he was dragged up from the prison hole- a horrible looking brutish man.
And Pilate called out to the mob, “Who would you have me release, Jesus Barrabbas, or Jesus, the King of the Jews.” The mob roared out with one voice, “Barrabbas, Barrabbas, release Barrabbas!”
Pilate, incredulously said, “And what would you have me do with Jesus?” “Impale him, impale him, take him away from the earth, execute him, impale him.”
And Pilate thought, ‘How can you say that- the worst criminal in the prison hole- you know what this man has done- and Pilate knew there was one last resort and that was- if he was going to free this man, it was to appeal to the pity of the mob, and the only way he could do that was to literally make a mess of this man- torture him to the point where he was just physically wrecked- and then bring him before the mob and appeal to their pity.
And so Pilate ordered that Jesus be dragged back inside the walls of the Palace of Antonia, and undergo what was known as the half-way death- a flogging where a Roman soldier took three strips of leather with sharp animal bone attached to it, and Jesus was stripped and stretched over a log of wood. And time and again the Roman soldier laid the leather with the sharp bone across Jesus’ back, until………until it was just raw and bleeding.
Jesus was almost unconscious. They dowsed him with water and dragged him to his feet, and while he swayed in front of them, one of the Roman soldiers said, “The man is a king, he must have a crown.” While the flogging was going on, one of the soldiers had plaited a sharp crown of thorns and came forward and jammed it down tightly onto Jesus’ head, and another one said, “If he’s a king, he must have a scepter,” and put a heavy stick into Jesus’ hands.
Another one came forward with a robe and said, “If he’s a king, he must have the robe of a king,” and put a scarlet purplish robe over Jesus’ bleeding shoulders. And as Jesus stood there swaying from side to side in front of them, one by one, the Roman soldiers stepped up in front of him and said, “Good day, you King of the Jews,” and spat in his face. And another would say, “Hail, you King of the Jews,” and took the scepter out of his hand and bashed him over the head with it. Another one would punch him, and another one would spit at him, until each one of the Roman soldiers would have their fun.
Then at 11 in the morning, Jesus was dragged back out in front of the waiting mob- he was barely recognizable as the man he was before- his hair matted, his face bloodstained and Pilate lifted up Jesus’ hand, and Pilate said, “See, the man!” (In other words, this is the man you must release-have pity on him.) But the crowd roared out with one voice again, “Impale him, impale him.” And Pilate very angrily said, “Impale him yourself, I find no fault with this man.”
And Caiaphas shouted out above the roar of the crowd, “Our law says he must die because he declared himself a Son of God,” and Pilate thought, “Oh no, first of all he’s the King of the Jews, my wife had a dream about him, I have premonitions about him, and now he’s the Son of God-who is this fellow??” ‘Bring him back in!’
Jesus was dragged back inside the walls of Antonia again, and just the two men faced one another privately now. Pilate sat down on his Judgement chair with Jesus standing in front of him swaying from side to side, and Pilate looked into Jesus’ face and said, “Who are you-what’s your origin…..what’s….where do you come from….what’s all this about?” And Jesus said nothing. And Pilate said, “Don’t you know that I have the authority to impale you and authority to release you.” ‘Just say the word, and I’ll do it.’
But Jesus shook his head and said, “You would have no authority at all, if it wasn’t given to you from above.” Pilate took Jesus back outside in front of the mob and appealed to the crowd to release him.Caiaphas, above the shouting of the crowd said, “If you release this man, you’re no friend of Caesar. Every man making himself a king speaks against Caesar.” And Pilate said, “But there is your king!” And the crowd shouted out, “Impale him, impale him.” And Pilate shouted out to them, “Do you want me to impale your king?”
And then came the words that condemned the whole Jewish nation. With one voice they screamed out, “We have no king but Caesar!”
Pilate thought, “You hypocrites, you hypocrites, I know how much you hate Caesar- I know the way you spit on my Roman soldiers when they walk past you in the streets of Jerusalem.”
So Pilate called for a bowl of water to be brought out, and he washed his hands in it, and said, “I am innocent of the blood of this man. Let his blood be upon your heads.” And the crowd shouted out, “Let his blood be upon our heads and upon the heads of our children.”
AND THAT WAS IT………………………………………..
It was nearing 12 midday-of Nisan 14-and Jesus was to be impaled at Golgotha, just outside the walls of Jerusalem. And Jesus was made to shoulder a 30 lb. torture stake. Imagine that cutting into his bleeding shoulders as he tried to drag it up the narrow streets while the crowds up above on the flat roofed houses abused him and spat down on him and blasphemed him, and little children kicked him as he staggered along up the narrow roadway, and eventually he arrived at Golgotha-the place of execution.
The stake was laid on the ground and a Roman soldier offered Jesus customarily a bowl of wine that was drugged with myrrh. They offered it to every victim just to make things fuzzy while they were nailing them to the stake, but Jesus wouldn’t touch it.
So they laid Jesus down on the stake on the ground, and laid one hand on top of the other, and planted the nail against his flesh- a long nail- and took a heavy wooden mallet and drove the nail into the flesh into the wood. And they did the same with the feet.
And then they raised the stake into an upright position and a hole had already been dug for it. And they maneuvered the stake over the hole and dropped it into position. Can you imagine what that did to the bones in the hands and feet.
It was 12 midday- Nisan 14.
And then began three hours of agony…………Jesus’ whole weight was through that nail- his rib cage was pressing in on his lungs and he was starting to suffer from asphyxia, and he found it hard to breathe, and so to breathe freely he had to take the weight from the nail through his hands…..he shifted his weight to the nail that went through the insteps of the feet…..just so he could breathe freely for a few moments, until he couldn’t bear the pain in his feet anymore and then he shifted the weight back to the hands, and then back to the feet……and that went on for 3 hours. Up and down, up and down, and he couldn’t go unconscious. It was that type of execution where you had to stay awake right to the end.
And some of the crowd at Golgotha started to notice that the light began to fade-it wasn’t an eclipse because the longest eclipse in history has lasted for 7 minutes, but this lasted for 3 hours- and there were no sounds- no dogs barked and no birds sang- everything was just still as the darkness increased, and every vein in Jesus’ body just throbbed with agony, gangrene, tetanus, asphyxia and the horror and anticipation of death- knowing that he had to die.
And Jesus at 1 o’clock in the afternoon as he looked down from the torture stake could see a little group of soldiers playing a gambling game, casting lots for his garments-dice, as it were. And he nodded to himself and realized that was the fulfillment of prophecy that the Hebrew Scriptures had said that his enemies would cast lots over his garments.
And as time wore on and as the pain increased, Jesus had two evildoers impaled on either side of him, and one of them could feel death starting to come on, and he started to panic and he screamed out to Jesus in panic, “If you’re the Messiah, the Son of God, save yourself and us-get us out of this, will you?” And his mate on the other side of Jesus said, “Why don’t you keep quiet, we suffer justly, we deserve what we got, but this man did nothing to deserve death. He’s innocent.” And the evildoer said, “Jesus, will you remember me when you get into your kingdom?” And Jesus looked across at him and Jesus nodded and said, “Truly I tell you today, you’ll be with me in Paradise.”
It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon-Jesus’ vision would have been getting misty by this time. He looked down at the foot of the torture stake, and he saw the face of his mother and John, the beloved apostle.
And Jesus’ foster father, Joseph, had died and Jesus was responsible for his mother, Mary, and he nodded to Mary, and he said, “Mother, your son,” and nodded to John and said, “Son, your mother.”
Look after her while I’m gone, in other words, and he fulfilled his last responsibility toward his family in that way.
Jesus’ heart was breaking- he was suffering from a burst heart artery, and the blood was starting to flow into the lungs, and Jesus, all of a sudden, cried out, as he felt almost tangibly the spirit drain from his body- he called out into the darkness, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”
He felt just for a moment as though his father wasn’t even there- he felt abandoned by everyone, as though he was all alone, as though for that moment all the sins and anxieties and depressions and miseries of the human race rushed in upon his soul and he bore all of our sufferings in his body at that moment.
They all rushed in upon him, and it was almost too much for him to bear- it was as though he were undergoing an operation without anesthetics, and he felt what it was like to be cut off from the Father, as though an imperfect man, although he was perfect. He was feeling what imperfection was like- cut off-severed from a relationship with God, and AT THAT MOMENT HE BORE ALL OF OUR SINS AND ALL OF OUR ANXIETIES AND ALL OF OUR MISDEMEANORS IN HIS OWN BODY AND TOOK IT UPON HIMSELF.
As time moved on to 3 o’clock in the afternoon, Jesus knew that there was one last prophecy to be fulfilled, and he saw a little bowl of wine at the foot of the torture stake, and he nodded to the soldier and said, “I’m thirsty-give me a drink.” And the soldier dipped a piece of a sponge into the sour wine and put it to Jesus’ lips, and that was the last prophecy that had to be fulfilled.
And Jesus could now feel death coming on, and he said,….he looked out into the blackness---by this time, everything was still and black, and Jesus said into the blackness, “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit. It has been accomplished.”
And he bowed his head and he died.
AND THAT IS WHAT JESUS DID FOR YOU.
THAT’S WHAT JESUS DID FOR ME.
HE DIDN’T JUST DIE………WE SAY JESUS DIED FOR US, DON’T WE……BUT HE DIDN’T JUST DIE……HE SUFERED FOR US. HE SUFFERED-HE SUFFERED EVERYTHING FOR US, BROTHERS.
He was abused and mocked and spat upon and sworn at- all unjustly for you and for me.
Brothers, that’s why for a little while this evening to try and see- visualize what happened to Jesus- it’s alright to read it in the Bible, isn’t it, but we’ve got to feel these things and we’ve got to see them for ourselves, and truly appreciate what our Master went through. You know why??
Because the apostle Peter said, “This man suffered (He didn’t just preach, brothers), he suffered, leaving you a model for you to follow in his footsteps closely.” That’s what Peter said- he set a pattern or a model in suffering. And brothers, I’ll mention this, because I don’t know about you, but I find myself at times drawing the line in my worship, do you?
Do you find yourself-I’d never say this to Jehovah- and you never would either, but, brothers, I’m guilty and you’re guilty of it. Drawing the line means not saying to Jehovah but our attitude saying to Jehovah, “Jehovah, I’ll go so far but no farther- Jehovah, you wouldn’t expect me to suffer that, would you? Jehovah, you wouldn’t expect me to put up with that brother in the congregation for much longer, would you?”
This man suffered, leaving you a model for you to follow in his footsteps closely-did Jesus draw the line- did Jesus say, “Father, AHAHAHAA, right on, Father, I’ll suffer a little bit, but not nails through the hands and feet.” “Oh, no.”
Where’s that in the Bible? It’s not, because Jesus didn’t draw the line- because Jesus loved his Father, and he loved us, and that’s why he went through with it. And, because he went through with it, you can live-you can live forever, and you can see your brothers and sisters and your mother and your father come back from the graves. He loved them too, and that’s why he went through it.
But do you find yourselves, brothers, drawing the line in your worship-do you find yourselves, brothers, drawing the line in your worship-do you find yourself saying, “Father, I’ll give so much to you, but I need this time for myself.”
Do you find yourself doing that? Did Jesus? Do you find yourself drawing the line as far as affection for the brothers in the congregation is concerned-I’ll love him, but I won’t love him? Because I can’t stand his personality- do you find yourself doing that? Did Jesus? When they put those nails through Jesus’ hands, what did Jesus say, “You wait….you wait….I’ll get even with you.” “When I get into my glory and Kingdom power, I’ll get back at you. “Where is that in the Bible? It isn’t there-you know what’s in the Bible??? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
And the apostles-the night when he needed them- the time when he needed his brothers to give him encouragement-what happened?? They fell through on him. They left him. They deserted him. And what did Jesus say when he was resurrected- did he line them all up against the wall and say, “AAAHHAAA, you bunch of hypocrites, you reckon you’re my followers, and you, Peter, step out here.” “You said you’d never deny me-three times you denied me-you reckon you’re a Christian- you’re not a Christian.”
Where is that in the Bible?? It’s not-do you know why it’s not in the Bible- because Jesus never said it. You know why he never said it?? Because he was too big-hearted, that’s why. He could take suffering. He could take suffering from anybody-even from his own brothers.
Brothers, I can’t do that yet-I haven’t learned- I’m learning-are you learning to take suffering from your brothers? Are you learning to take it when brothers tread on your toes- are you learning to take the pressures and problems of this time with its materialism or do you find like Brother Wilson said on Sunday- did you hear Brother Wilson’s final talk- wasn’t it a good one at the Showgrounds- when Brother Wilson said, “Brothers,” he said, “do you find yourselves settling into a comfortable way of life?? Oh, I’ll give you so much each month, Jehovah, in the door to door ministry- I’ll go out for an hour each Sunday morning and that’s it-that’s your little portion- don’t ask for anymore. Then over here I’ll have my life, and I’ll live it my war. I’ll do what I want to do. I’ll enjoy what I want to enjoy.”
“I’ll go to my meetings- I’ll do my preaching- but I’ll do it when I want to do it, how I want to do it- I’ll do it my way.” Do you ever find yourself saying that?? You’d never admit it, and I’d never admit it to myself, but I’m like that. Brothers, you’re like that. We’re all like that. And we’ve got to watch that, haven’t we?? And that’s why we’ve got to look at Jesus and that’s why we’ve got to say, where did Jesus draw the line- where did Jesus say, “Well, Father, I’ve gone so far- no further?”
There were no limits- he went to the limit- he was big-hearted-he gave everything-he gave his life- he gave his blood- he gave his emotions- he gave everything for you and for me.
And that’s what you’ve got to do and that’s what I’ve got to do. Not easy, is it??? It’s not easy to be in the truth.
Remember what Jesus said, “If you want to be in the truth, pick up your Portable stereogram, TV set?? Pick up your torture stake and follow me- in other words, it’s a hard road- do you find your life easy in the truth- do you find it convenient- do you find it convenient to preach at that time and you’ve got everything into nice little bundles here and there, and everything is just so nice and you’ve got your little seat in the Kingdom Hall, and you’ve got your time to do this and you’ve got your time to do that- is everything nice and convenient for you and comfortable???
THEN IF IT IS, WATCH IT, WATCH IT!!! YOU’RE IN DANGER-
YOU’RE ABOUT TO GO OUT OF THE TRUTH, BROTHERS. YOU’RE ABOUT TO LOSE WHAT YOU’VE GOT-- IF THINGS ARE BEING SO COMFORTABLE AND EVERYTHING IS JUST SO NICE.
BUT IF YOU’VE GOT PRESSURES, IF YOU’RE BATTLING, IF YOU’RE SUFFERING, IF YOU’RE PUTTING UP WITH ANGUISH, THEN YOU’RE A FOLLOWER OF JESUS- YOU’RE IN THE TRUTH. YOU’VE GOT THE TORTURE STAKE ON YOUR BACK, ON YOUR BLEEDING SHOULDERS LIKE JESUS DID!!!!!!!
SO BROTHERS, IF THE TRUTH IS A CONVENIENT WAY OF LIFE FOR YOU AND FOR ME, WE’VE GOT TO START RETHINKING, HAVEN’T WE???????
We’ve got to start thinking, well maybe I did my pioneering in the past or maybe I was good in the old days, and I did my work back there-but Jesus is not interested in that- Jesus wants to know, what are you doing now??????!!!!!!
JESUS WANTS TO KNOW, IF THAT’S WHAT I DID FOR YOU, WHAT WILL YOU DO FOR ME????????????
Well, brothers, just a few little thoughts to think about, anyway, and it was nice having a little chat with you this evening. Maybe we can give some thought to prayer about that when we go home to make sure we’re not leading a convenient way of life in the truth, but rather we’re really giving everything we’ve got to our heavenly Father, Jehovah, in the circumstances and according to the limitations that we’ve got.
Good, brothers….well….we’ll thank Jehovah with a song- an appropriate song- 118.
That’s what Peter said- he set a pattern or a model in suffering. And brothers, I’ll mention this, because I don’t know about you, but I find myself at times drawing the line in my worship, do you? Do you find yourself- I’d never say this to Jehovah- and you never would either, but, brothers, I’m guilty and you’re guilty oTop of Form