17 Apr Ten Important Insights Into the Life of Christ Part III
By Doug Bookman
This is the third in a three-part series on ten insights into the life of Christ. The first two articles can be found here: Part I Part II
With Easter upon us, the child of God is much advantaged to come to grips with the life of the Savior we celebrate this season. As we reflect on that most wonderful of all lives, the believer is well advised to consciously and deliberately include the realities listed here in his conception of that life.
VII Although Jesus came to die, He never spoke explicitly of His death until almost three years into His three and one half year ministry. He hinted at the idea obliquely just once – the reference to the temple to be rebuilt in three days; but John states that His disciples did not understand this until after Jesus’ resurrection (Jn 2:19-21). Indeed, Jesus claimed to be Messiah, and according to the Hebrew Scriptures the Kingdom to be established by the Messiah is an eternal kingdom (Dan 2:44); it seemed to those who accepted Jesus’ claims that there is no room for a dying Messiah in that. When Jesus finally contrived to get the twelve to a place called Caesarea Philippi and for the first time told them that He was going to die (Mt 16:21), those disciples were scandalized (:22). Although Jesus foretold His death and resurrection at least four more times after Caesarea Philippi, nobody was willing to believe those words, especially the apostles (Lk 18:31-33, cf. :34). (The one possible exception: Mary, sister of Lazarus; cf Jn 12:7.) This unwillingness to accept Jesus’ plain and oft-repeated predictions of His death and resurrection seems to have been a function of two influences: first, the apostles were crippled by the popular rabbinic misperception of the Messianic hope, which had little or no room for a suffering or dying Messiah; second, the apostles were greedy for the chief places in the kingdom which Jesus had promised them, and they didn’t want to hear about suffering by Him or by them.
VIII Jesus remained a wildly popular folk-hero–the object of almost universal popular fascination–until the last week of His mortal life. Indeed, that popularity crescendoed until it imploded climatically on Tuesday of the Passion Week. This enduring and increasing popular fascination impacted Jesus’ ministry in three very important ways:
a. It deceived the apostles and disciples of Jesus, persuading them that in fact Jesus’ claims were being broadly accepted, and thus making it difficult for those disciples to accept His prediction that He would die at the hands of the leaders of Israel.
b. It enabled Jesus to escape the murderous hatred of His official enemies; they longed to take Him, but they could not because they “feared the multitude” (Mt 26:5; Mk 14:5; Lk 22:2). The dynamic here is somewhat distinctive to the Roman Empire and thus demands some explanation. Every Roman governor had two basic duties: collect the taxes and keep the peace. Although the Romans did not allow the Jews to exercise capital punishment [Jn 18:31], the officers in Judea had learned to look the other way if the Jews were to spirit away some inconsequential offender and put him to death [a la Stephen, Ac 6, 7]. Because Jesus was so wildly popular, the Jewish authorities could not simply seize him and stone Him. They were fearful that if they were to do so there would be riots; if there were riots the Romans would find and severely punish those responsible. Thus …
c. It forced Jesus’ enemies to involve the Romans in the execution of Jesus. Further, those enemies worked hard to get Him on the cross before the town woke up on Friday. (Remember that what Jesus’ enemies, as well as the Romans, had ringing in their ears was Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of the Passion week.) However, when the town did awake, the Sanhedrinists were amazed and delighted that the populace had suddenly turned against Jesus (see a. above).
IX Throughout His ministry, but especially as His Passion approached, Jesus demonstrated Himself to be “wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove” (Mt 10:16). In at least three specific and identifiable ways, Jesus orchestrated the events of His Passion so that it would unfold precisely how and when the Father intended.
a. By means of the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11:45-57) and then the route He took from the village of Ephraim (Jn 11:54) to Jerusalem (Lk 17:11), Jesus set the stage for the Triumphal Entry, exciting the city about His arrival (Jn 11:55, 56), and then alerting them as to the moment of His arrival (Jn 12:12).
b. By means of the second cleansing of the Temple on Monday of the Passion week, Jesus deliberately galvanized Pharisaic and Sadducean hostility; once those two sects had united in their murderous hatred of Jesus, it took them only five days to get Him on a cross.
c. By means of His carefully maintained popularity with the masses, Jesus insured that the Sanhedrinists would have to involve the Romans in His execution, and thus that He would die not by stoning but by being “lifted up” in crucifixion (Jn 3:14; 8:28; 12:32-34; 18:32).
X The prospect of the cross was horrifying to Jesus. Early in His ministry He could anticipate the cross with some measure of equanimity (Jn 4:34), but as it drew near it filled Him with terror (cf. Jn 12:23-38). Indeed, probably the most severe temptation faced by Jesus during His lifetime was the temptation to turn back from the cross (Mt 4:8, 9; 16:22, 23). This temptation is most graphically seen in the Lord’s Gethsemane experience (Lk 22:41, 42, cf. :43, 44). However, that which so terrified Him was not the physical sufferings of crucifixion (as awful as those physical sufferings were); rather, He was filled with dread at the prospect of being made the sin-sacrifice for men, of being judicially forsaken by the Father (Mk 15:34). Furthermore, in that temptation and during all the period of His mortality, Jesus had no more spiritual resources than you and I have; He was submissive to the Father, dependent upon the Spirit, obedient to the Scripture and sustained by prayer (Heb 5:7). It was thus that He “learned obedience” and was qualified to be the believer’s high priest (Heb 5:8-9).