Christ’s Passionate Journey

In some of our favorite action movies, when the crucial moment for our hero has finally arrived, filmmakers will often switch into slow motion filming. They want you to feel the tension. They want you to see the emotion etched on the face of our hero. They want to make sure you don’t miss a single detail of this pivotal moment in the story. 

The same thing happens in the life of Jesus.

The four Gospels record 3+ years of the life of Jesus on earth. But when Jesus is approaching the Cross—the crucial moment of His ministry—all the Gospel writers go into slow motion. 

For example, Mark doesn’t mention anything about the birth of Jesus and only gives us one verse to tell about satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. But he uses nearly 40% of his writing to describe the last week of Christ’s life. The numbers are similar for Matthew and Luke, with John devoting almost one-half of his account to Christ’s Passion Week. 

Clearly, there is something happening here that the Gospel writers want to ensure that we don’t miss a single detail! 

Jesus knew all that was about to happen to Him. When Peter swung his sword at the soldiers that came to arrest Him, Jesus said, “Do you think I cannot call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way” (Matthew 26:53-54). 

Every step that Jesus took toward the Cross was a step of love. Every word He spoke in His final moments before His death was calculated to sink deep into the memories of all who observed this story. 

We are going to go into “slow motion” as well as we look closely at each day of Christ’s final week of ministry. From His dinner in Bethany to His resurrection, we’ll slow down and ponder deeply the love message Jesus is still conveying to us. 

Join me this Sunday as we begin this passionate journey. If you cannot join us in person, we will be broadcasting each message on Facebook Live.

Here are the days we have already explored on this journey:

What Jesus Did Because He Loved You

“Want to know the coolest thing about the Incarnation? Not that the One who played marbles with the stars gave it up to play marbles with marbles. Or that the One who hung the galaxies gave it up to hang doorjambs to the displeasure of a cranky client who wanted everything yesterday but couldn’t pay for anything until tomorrow. Not that He, in an instant, went from needing nothing to needing air, food, a tub of hot water and salts for His tired feet, and, more than anything, needing somebody—anybody—who was more concerned about where He would spend eternity than where He would spend Friday’s paycheck. Or that He resisted the urge to fry the two-bit, self-appointed hall monitors of holiness who dared suggest that He was doing the work of the devil. Not that He kept His cool while the dozen best friends He ever had felt the heat and got out of the kitchen. Or that He gave no command to the angels who begged, ‘Just give the nod, Lord. One word and these demons will be deviled eggs.’ Not that He refused to defend Himself when blamed for every sin of every slut and sailor since Adam. Or that He stood silent as a million guilty verdicts echoed in the tribunal of heaven and the Giver of light was left in the chill of a sinner’s night. Not even that after three days in a dark hole He stepped into the Easter sunrise with a smile and a swagger and a question for lowly Lucifer—‘Is that your best punch?’ That was cool, incredibly cool. But the coolest thing about the One who gave up the crown of heaven for a crown of thorns: He did it for you. Just for you.” —Max Lucado, On Calvary’s Hill

A.L.I.V.E.—The “I” Is For It Is Finished

Throughout history, lots of martyrs have died for what they believe. But only One had been resurrected from the dead to prove that what He believed and taught was true.

Jesus, however, is not a martyr. His life and His work weren’t cut short. Calvary didn’t happen to Jesus, but He came specifically to die on a Cross. He knew what was going to happen to Him. Check this out…

So we can know Jesus is alive by His “It is finished” declaration from the Cross—

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” … When He had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”

Actually His “It is finished” wasn’t just a statement, it was a yell that reverberated throughout the countryside. The Greek words Mark uses are megas phōnē, which sounds a lot like our word megaphone. Jesus wanted to make sure everyone heard Him, and then look at the result:

Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed His last. And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

The curtain that separated God’s presence from mankind was torn in two. The writer of Hebrews notes, “Our High Priest offered Himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then He sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.”

What do you conclude from all this? C.S. Lewis offered this challenge:

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great man or a moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool… or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

Jesus told us that He would die, how He would die, when He would die, why He would die, and that He would be resurrected. If you heard all of these claims before His crucifixion, you might think He was a lunatic or a braggart. But after His It Is Finished! declaration, we have only one logical conclusion: Jesus is exactly who He said He was. It was out of love for you that Jesus laid down His life and picked it up again. Will you put your faith in Him today?

We are working our way through 5-parts of this series: “I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of….” We’ve already covered:

Come And See

Survey after survey, and personal interview after personal interview all report the same indisputable truth—the #1 reason unchurched people don’t come to church is no one has invited them!

Wow! Christians have the life-changing truth of what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can do, and they are for the most part keeping it to themselves.

The Easter season is upon us, so we have a golden opportunity to reverse this stat. There is something about Easter and Christmas where even those that don’t normally attend a church service feel like this season might be a good time to do so.

I want to present a very simple way to invite people to hear about our Risen Savior, and it’s just three simple words:

Come and See

No pressure. No promises. No gimmicks. Just this: “Come and see for yourself what a relationship with Jesus is all about.”

Over the next two Sundays we’ll be looking at some obstacles we church people may have to overcome, and some excuses many unchurched people use. But all of this will help us to simply and clearly say to our friends, “Come and see!”

Please join me in person or watch on Facebook Live.

Look How Deep Christ’s Love Is!

For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from My Father. (John 10:17–18)

“Why does Jesus say this? Why does He stress His willingness to die? Because if it weren’t true—if His death were forced on Him, if it weren’t free, if His heart weren’t really in it—then a big question mark would be put over His love for us.

“The depth of His love is in its freedom. If He didn’t die for us willingly—if He didn’t choose the suffering and embrace it—then how deep is His love, really? So He stresses it. He makes it explicit. ‘It comes out of me, not out of circumstances, not out of pressure, but out of what I really long to do.’ …

“Anybody who makes a statement like that is either mentally deranged, or lying, or God. ‘I have authority from inside death, as a dead man, to take life back again, when I please.’ Now what’s the point here? Well, which is harder: to control when you die, or to give yourself life again once you are dead? Which is harder: to say, ‘I lay my life down on my own initiative’? Or to say, ‘I will take my life back again after I am dead’?

“The answer is obvious. And that’s the point. If Jesus could—and did—take His life back again from the dead, then He was free indeed. If He controlled when He came out of the grave, He certainly controlled when He went into the grave.

“So here’s the point. The resurrection of Jesus is given to us as the confirmation or evidence that He was indeed free in laying down His life. And so the resurrection is Christ’s testimony to the freedom of His love. …

“‘My resurrection is a shout over My love for My sheep: It was free! It was free! I chose it. I embraced it. I was not caught. I was not cornered. Nothing can constrain Me to do what I do not choose to do. I had power to take My life from death. And I have taken My life from death. How much more, then, could I have kept My life from death!

“‘I am alive to show you that I really loved you.” —John Piper

Passover And Communion

Last Sunday we began a new series called BC / AD, which is helping us discover how Jesus fulfills all of the “hints” we see of Him throughout what we now call the Old Testament. In truth, there is no such thing as “BC,” as there has never been a time before Christ. He always IS.

Yesterday, Jeff Hlavin shared with us a marvelous look at the foreshadowing of Christ’s work on Calvary in the institution of the Old Testament observance of Passover. In the “AD” period, Christians now remember what Jesus did through the observance of Communion.

Watch the video of Pastor Jeff’s message to learn more.

And if you would like to download the handout from his message, please click here → Passover and Communion

If you don’t have a home church in the Cedar Springs area, I invite you to join me on Easter Sunday as we continue to see how Jesus fulfilled in the “AD” all that was promised about Him in the “BC.” It’s going to be a fantastic morning!

Book Reviews From 2016

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