I’m not one who believes in making pictures of Christ. But I always found it interesting what Mel Gibson said regarding the production of his movie The Passion of Christ.
In an interview prior to its release Gibson said that as they went about trying to depict all that Christ went through, they had to think about how they would do it. He said that there were some things they simply could not portray on the screen. It was not because they didn’t have the ability. He said they couldn’t show certain things because the audience would find it too disturbing. Some of the things would have been so graphic the people watching would not be able to stand it. They had to find ways to convey how horrid Christ’s crucifixion really, but tone it down so that people would not be repulsed to the point of sickness.
And this is so true. What Christ endured during those last two days of his life was an immeasurable amount of agony. What his flesh endured is enough to make a strong stomached man swoon.
In this season we have the opportunity to remember the passion of our Lord. And if we take time to study his execution, or if we meditate on the events surrounding it we will be faced with some of history’s most disturbing details. And if we focus on these events and consider his sufferings, there is a chance that we might become distressed or unsettled by them.
That is why it is important that we consider our passage this evening. In this passage our Lord prepares us for his execution with divine insights into its reality. Even before we enter into the last two days of our Lord’s life, our Lord prepares us for what lies ahead. Our Lord comforts us with hidden details concerning the execution of our Passover Lamb.
I say that we have here divine insights because we are given details about Christ’s death that only God could know. The first insight we have concerns…
I. The meaning of Christ’s death
“When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, "You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified."
Jesus has just finished a long discourse concerning future events. And he turns his disciples attention away from the distant future to focus on the imminent events. He reminds us that the glory of his final conquest will only come through the gore of his cross. There will not be a people to gather together unto himself if he does not first atone for their sins.
The Passover was a feast that the Jewish people celebrated annually. It commemorated their release from bondage in Egypt. It was called Passover because the angel of death would pass over certain houses as it came through Egypt. The people of God were commanded to slay a lamb and put its blood on their doorposts. That would be the signal to the angel of the Lord that He was not to enter that house. And so it was that the blood of the lamb protected the people of God, it covered them so that they would not face God’s judgment.
In our passage Jesus equates the death of that lamb, and the shedding of his own blood. Jesus was telling his disciples that his crucifixion was Passover protection. It is his blood that makes God’s judgment to pass by us.
During the heights of the cold war there were times when America thought it was on the brink of attack. The people of America were so afraid of missiles landing on our turf that schools held drills in case of just such an emergency. Children were instructed by their teachers that they were to climb under their desks and cover their heads.
Looking back it seems so silly. That they would find protection under such flimsy structures is about absurd. But that is how some people will react to God’s judgment when it comes. In the book of Revelation we are told that people will flee to find cover in mountains. They will even go so far as to wish that the mountains collapse upon them to hide them. But even the bowels of a mountain will offer no comfort.
But there is comfort in the blood of Christ. If this lamb’s blood covers you then you will be protected. God’s judgment will pass over you when the day of reckoning comes. It will be like a secure bunker in which you can take refuge. Just like the people of God in Egypt, you will be safe from the righteous destroyer. The Lord will not see any of the wrong you have ever committed. Instead He will see the perfect and spotless blood of Jesus Christ. So he will pass by.
It might be good to pause here and ask, “Have you been covered with the blood of Jesus Christ?” If you have not asked for it, but realize that you are exposed to God’s justice, then you must ask to be covered with His blood. After having done so you may rest in the comfort of Christ’s blood. You may rest knowing that you will no longer liable to God’s wrath. And on that Day when He calls man to account for what he has done you will be safe.
Christ offers us comfort by giving us insight into the nature of His death. But he also comforts us by giving us insight into…
II. The timing of Christ’s death
You may have noticed in the second verse that Jesus predicted the exact day of his death. He said to the disciples, “You know that the Passover is in 2 days. But I know something you do not. I know that in 2 days I am going to die. I’m going to be betrayed and then crucified.”
You would think that if someone knew when, where, and how they were going to die, they would do everything possible to avoid it. If you knew that there was a conspiracy to kill you here in Ashland, most likely you would pack up your things as discretely as possible and move to another town.
But Jesus didn’t do that. Despite his divine foreknowledge, this insight into the future, he did not back away from it. He just as well could have left Jerusalem and returned to Gallilee (or gone to another country for that matter), but he doesn’t. He remains in Jerusalem. And as a result, He continues to advance towards the cross.
It shows us how Jesus willingly undertook this mission. Of His own free will and without any hesitation he stepped into the hands of men. Compelled to offer himself up as a sacrifice, he remained where he was.
Doesn’t this highlight the wonder of Christ’s love for His people. Jesus willingly became the sacrificial lamb because He knew that His people needed to have a blood canopy over them. Without that umbrella the he knew that we would be swept away in the day of Judgment. Jesus has just spent the last two chapters talking about how terrible God’s judgment will be, and now, despite the terror, he makes himself its target.
You must wonder how the Jewish people of old felt when they brought their animals to the temple to be slain. Though sheep aren’t the smartest animals, when they see a knife pulled toward them they probably get the idea of what’s going to happen. I would assume that they wouldn’t take kindly to that, and begin to squirm & squeal.
But here is the Lamb of God, not putting up any fight. He submits willingly to His Father’s bidding. Thus, we have a Lamb greater than any other. He offers himself as a sacrifice that would be most pleasing to God.
Because his submission so pleases God we can have comfort knowing that God will not and does not demand anything more from us. And this should be good news to those of us who might have a Catholic background. Catholics make much of the death of Christ, but yet the death of Christ does not provide great comfort. For they believe that they still must suffer more after death in purgatory until their sins have been fully penalized.
And we cannot blame the Catholics only, for all of us in some way think that something must be demanded from us. When we do something wrong its almost instinctive. We think we have to make it up some way. We have to pay for it. If we steal something and we are sorry for it we try to do something to make it up. But sometimes that’s not enough, we think we need to go through some sort of suffering in order to really make up for it.
It seems absurd to us that God would have it any other way. But Christ tells us that his death satisfies all God’s demands. His sacrifice pleased God because He was most willing to undergo all its pain. And he was willing to do it so that we who are His disciples might be comforted in the fact that we do not have to go through it.
ØBut our Lord comforts us not only by revealing the full meaning and the precise timing of his death. He comforts us by revealing the frivolous planning of his death.
III. The planning of Christ’s death Divinely ordered
In verses 3-5 we have another divine insight. In a sense we peek behind the closed doors of the High Priest’s palace. We are told that the various religious leader convened a secret meeting about this same time. And we are told what their agenda was: They came together to discuss how they might kill Jesus. We are not told much about their council, but we are told one very important fact: They didn’t want to carry out their wiles during the Passover feast. They postponed their plans because they didn’t want to instigate a riot.
During the Passover there would have been tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of people in Jerusalem. Added to the regular traffic of a busy, metropolitan city would have been the thousands who made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Adult males were required to attend this feast, and most likely many of them would have brought their families.
From the rest of the Bible we know that Jesus was loved by the masses. Great crowds followed him most of his earthly ministry. And this is most evident from his entrance into Jerusalem just a few days earlier. The throngs virtually declared him to be the Messiah. Of course, the people were looking for a Messiah who would establish the kingdom of God by running over the Romans. So the temperature would have been just right for insurrection. The religious leaders loved their place of prominence, and they didn’t want to lose it. That’s why they didn’t want to be the spark that started a raging mutiny.
So when we read our passage we are presented with a paradox. Jesus clearly testifies to the precise day when he would be crucified by his enemies. But while his enemies want to kill him, they don’t know when they can.
So we come to see that Christ’s crucifixion was not primarily man’s doing. Jesus did not go to the cross because he was compelled by the schemes of men. He went to the cross because of the decree of God. It was God’s plan that was unfolding. Christ’s execution was divinely ordered. Men were merely the instruments God used in carrying out His plan.
So true is this that Peter could stand up on the day of Pentecost and say that Jesus, “was handed over by God’s set purposes and foreknowledge.” (Acts 2:23)
You may think, “What kind of God is this that He would kill His own Son?” It almost sounds like a madman. But it is not. It’s a God who is madly in love with His people. He’s a God who would spare nothing to have the companionship of His people, not even His only Begotten. You might think this odd, but that is where we find our comfort. That God, from the beginning of time, ordained an acceptable offering for himself.
You don’t need to worry about doing anything. You don’t have to make it up to him, you don’t have to bring him any sort of gift that will make him happy. He has taken care of everything. You need only rest in the fact that He has.
Before he proceeds into the height of his sufferings Jesus paused to prepare his disciples for the things that were about to happen. In essence he prepared them for what lay ahead by telling them that he was fully prepared for it. Jesus willingly proceeded toward what he had been ordained. The Old Testament rites spoken of in the Scriptures, the shadows of the Passover were coming to fulfillment. He would present himself as his people’s Passover lamb. We need only to rest in that truth.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.