Max Lucado takes us in for a closer look at the Cross and all that Jesus did there for us. Please check out my full book review and then read this book—you will be glad you did!
“Maybe you’ve never spit on anyone, but have you gossiped? Slandered? Have you ever raised your hand in anger or rolled your eyes in arrogance, have you ever blasted your high beams in someone’s rearview mirror? Ever made someone feel bad so you would feel good? That’s what the soldiers did to Jesus. When you and I do the same, we do it to Jesus too. ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!’ (Matthew 25:40 NLT). How we treat others is how we treat Jesus. …
“Allow the spit of the soldiers to symbolize the filth in our hearts. And then observe what Jesus does with our filth. He carries it to the Cross. Through the prophet He said, ‘I did not hide My face from mocking and spitting’ (Isaiah 50:6). Mingled with His blood and sweat was the essence of our sin.”
“‘He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s Cross’ (Colossians 2:14 NLT). Between His hands and the wood there was a list. A long list. A list of our mistakes: our lusts and lies and greedy moments and prodigal years. A list of our sins. Dangling from the Cross is an itemized catalog of your sins. The bad decisions from last year. The bad attitudes from last week. There, in broad daylight for all of heaven to see, is a list of your mistakes. … The list God has made, however, cannot be read. The words can’t be deciphered. The mistakes are covered. The sins are hidden. Those at the top are hidden by His hand; those down the list are covered by His blood. Your sins are ‘blotted out’ by Jesus (KJV). ‘He has forgiven you all your sins: He has utterly wiped out the written evidence of broken commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it to the Cross’ (Colossians 2:14 Phillips).”
“Seats at God’s table are not available to the sloppy. But who among us is anything but. Unkempt morality. Untidy with truth. Careless with people. Our moral clothing is in disarray. Yes, the standard for sitting at God’s table is high, but the love of God for His children is higher. So He offers a gift.… a seamless robe… a robe worn by His Son, Jesus.”
“What appeared to be the cruelty of man was actually the sovereignty of God. Matthew tells us: ‘And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn into from top to bottom’ (27:50-51). It’s as if the hands of heaven had been gripping the veil, waiting for this moment.”
“Why is the Cross the symbol of our faith? To find the answer look no farther than the Cross itself. Its design couldn’t be simpler. One beam horizontal—the other vertical. One reaches out—like God‘s love. The other reaches up—as does God’s holiness. One represents the width of His love; the other reflects the height of His holiness. The Cross is the intersection. The Cross is where God forgave His children without lowering His standards.”
“‘Just look what they did to me!’ we defy and point to our hurts. ‘Just look what I did for you,’ Jesus reminds and points to the Cross. Paul said it this way: ‘If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you’ (Colossians 3:13). You and I are commanded—not urged, commanded—to keep no list of wrongs.”
“Knowing His last deeds would be forever pondered, don’t you think Jesus chose them carefully? Deliberately? Of course He did. There were no accidents that day. Jesus’ last moments were not left up to chance. God chose the path; He selected the nails. Our Lord planted the trio of crosses and painted the sign. God was never more sovereign than in the details of the death of His Son. … The message: ‘I did it for you. I did it all for you.’”
…You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above… (John 19:11)
As Daniel says, “The Most High is sovereign over all the kingdoms of the earth, and He gives them to whom He pleases.”
God is sovereign. All of History is His story!
Pilate tried to change the story—twice he said, “I find no fault in Him” (vv. 4, 6). But still his caving in to the chief priests fulfilled His story.
The soldiers were looking for personal gain (v. 24), and yet their greed unwittingly fulfilled His story.
Jesus knew what was happening, and purposely let people treat Him a certain way to fulfill His story (vv. 28-30, 36-37).
The question is—am I willfully fighting against it (like Pilate), or ignorantly fulfilling it (like the soldiers), or obediently submitting to it (like Jesus)?
On what we now refer to as Palm Sunday, Jesus arrived in Jerusalem with the crowd shouting, “Hosanna” because they thought Jesus was going to set things right. In this, they were disappointed. Jesus knew that His time for reigning in Jerusalem hadn’t come yet, and Christ’s passionate journey meant He would not cut any corners!
Before Jesus left Jerusalem that Sunday evening, Mark noted that “He looked around at everything.” He didn’t respond right away to what He saw. This is very important to note because we shouldn’t think that His response on Monday was something spontaneous. No, it was planned out in specific detail.
On Monday morning, Jesus prepared to make the 2-mile trip from Bethany to Jerusalem. The Gospels note quite frequently the amount of time Jesus spent in prayer, including beginning His day in conversation with His Father (see Mark 1:35). On this morning, He must have talked with His Father about everything He had seen in Jerusalem the day before.
En route to Jerusalem, Jesus encounters a fig tree that gives every appearance of life and vitality. It looks like it’s ready to serve people, but upon closer inspection, Jesus discovers that there is no fruit on it. He curses the tree for its deceptive outward appearance. This is definite foreshadowing for what’s about to happen!
Jesus enters the temple and begins to drive out merchants, and moneychangers, and dove sellers. He roars at them, “God says this is to be a place of prayer for all nations, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!” (see Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; and Luke 19:45-48).
The phrases house of prayer and den of robbers are direct quotations from Isaiah and Jeremiah, respectively (Isaiah 56:3-7; Jeremiah 7:1-11), but what do they mean?
This buying and selling was undoubtedly happening in the Court of the Gentiles. As the Passover was approaching, people from all over the world were here—some purchasing animals to use as sacrifices, and some exchanging their foreign money for Israelite money for the temple tax.
There was a lot of hustle and bustle, but very little worship. This is what angered Jesus. The activity in the temple was like the fig tree He cursed—it looked like it was fruitful, but that was merely outward deception.
Were the merchants exploiting people? Perhaps. But they were certainly occupying the only space where non-Jews could worship. They were certainly becoming a distraction to any true worship activities. They were clearly becoming the main attraction.
There are two important lessons in this outburst that Jesus gives to all His disciples:
“Let the zeal of the house of the Lord ever eat you up. For example: do you see a brother running [toward sin]? Stop him, warn him, be grieved for him, if the zeal of God’s house has now eaten you up. Do you see others running and wanting to drink themselves drunk? Stop whom you can, hold whom you can, frighten whom you can; win in gentleness whom you can: do not in any way sit still and do nothing.” —Augustine
If you know God’s love, be zealous about those things that keep others from coming in to know God’s love for themselves. Not angry at people, but angry at practices and “religious shows” that hinder people from knowing God’s love like you know God’s love.
Jesus made His passion, crucifixion, and resurrection unmistakable.
He told us the Scriptures that He would fulfill (v. 18).
He told us the details of His crucifixion and resurrection (v. 19).
And He received the “stamp of approval” from His Father (vv. 31, 32).
When Jesus came into Jerusalem, was arrested by the religious leaders, condemned by Pilate, crucified by Roman soldiers, and resurrected three days after His death, no one should have been surprised because Jesus made it unmistakable!
Jesus also told us how to make our belief in all He did for us unmistakable too—“By this will all know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (v. 35).
Q—How unmistakeable is my belief in Jesus Christ?
A—It’s directly tied to how evident my love for others is!
To fully get the picture of what’s happening we need to turn back the calendar several hundred years. Ever since Jerusalem fell to invading armies, the Jews hung on to the promise that God would restore their king and their kingdom. They were awaiting a descendant from the line of King David who would drive out their overlords and restore Jerusalem to its rightful place.
They clung to a promise in Psalm 118 that included these words—“Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar” (vv. 25-27).
But Jesus was prophesied to come as the Prince of Peace, gentle and unassuming, the Servant of all people (Isaiah 9:6; 42:1-3). Jesus simply didn’t do things the way the crowds expected! He was born in a manger in Bethlehem (not as a king in Jerusalem), and hailing from Nazareth caused people to mock, “Nazareth? Can anything good come from Nazareth?!”
So on that Sunday as Jesus approached Jerusalem, it wasn’t as a conquering King but as a humble servant. As He came near, He wept a sobbing lament over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37).
The crowd took palm branches (as Psalm 118 suggested) and shouted, “Hosanna!” That word means “Save us,” but what they really meant was, “Save us NOW!” Jesus came riding a mule—a lowly work animal, not a war horse—to remove any fear people may have, and to show them His servant’s heart.
Even His disciples didn’t get this. But the Pharisees sure did: They wanted Jesus to rebuke the crowd for their insolence and blasphemy! Many of the worshippers were eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Lazarus, so Jesus said to the Pharisees, “They have to give praise to God for this!”
Jesus made His way to the temple but there were no sacrifices, no anointing, no coronation. Mark tells us Jesus simply “looked around at everything and then left.”
Have you ever noticed that Jesus never rushes? He’s never early. He’s never late. He’s never confused. He’s never trying to catch up.
This is because Jesus was in complete sync with His Father. Jesus said that everything He did was directed by His Father, and every word He spoke was given to Him by His Father.
We, too, should be able to move in that same unrushed pace. Because of what Jesus did for us on Calvary, we may have the same “oneness” with our Father as Jesus did (John 14:20).
Worry creeps into our lives when—like those cheering crowds in Jerusalem—we try to make our agenda happen on our timetable with our own resources. But when we look to Jesus, we see such a perfect peace as He relied on His Father.
Christ’s passionate journey was out of love for us, so that we could know peace with God as we journey through life with Jesus.
Join me this Sunday as we take a closer look at the Monday of Christ’s Passion Week.
Six days before His crucifixion and burial, Jesus was prepared for His burial by the most unlikely of people. This story takes place in Bethany, where Jesus spends a lot of time during His earthly ministry.
As was customary, the most influential men in the village would try to entice visiting guests to join them for dinner. Simon—a Pharisee and a former leper—was the one who extended the invitation to Jesus. Simon is a former leper because one who still had active leprosy wouldn’t have been allowed in his own home, let alone allowed to host guests. I think (as you will see in a moment) that Simon had been healed of his leprosy by Jesus.
Although it was customary for someone like Simon to host visiting guests, in this case, the religious leaders were scheming to arrest Jesus. In other words, there was an ulterior motive for Simon to have Jesus in his home.
Which is probably why Simon neglected his host’s duties: No welcoming kiss, no foot-washing, no anointing. All normal hospitality is ignored. Jesus appears to ignore the snub and simply recline at the table. But another guest takes Simon’s incredible rudeness personally.
Mary was standing or sitting along the wall in Simon’s house, as many common villagers would in that day. Luke tells us that Mary had lived a sinful life. But while sitting at Jesus’ feet earlier she heard the good news that Jesus could forgive sins, she placed her faith in Him, and her lifestyle changed 180-degrees
Mary is overcome by emotion at the inhospitable—rude!—way Jesus is being treated and tears began to well up in her eyes. Since Jesus is reclining at the table, His feet would have been pointed in her direction, and she began to use her tears to wash His feet. Then—horror of horrors—she uncovers and lets down her hair in public(!) and begins to dry His feet.
Simon the Pharisee judges Mary by her past. Simon twice says, “Does Jesus even know what kind of woman she is? Does He know she is a sinner?” Mary is in big trouble: she is publicly pointing out the rudeness of the host, she is touching a man that is not her husband, and she has uncovered and let down her hair in public.
Jesus responds not to Mary, but to Simon: “Simon, I have something to tell you,” He says and then shares a short but powerful parable of a creditor who had two debtors. One owed him the equivalent of a year-and-a-half’s wages, and the other owed about two months’ wages. Since neither could pay, the creditor forgave both of them.
Jesus asked Simon, “Which of the two forgiven debtors do you think would be most grateful?” Simon correctly responds, “The one who was forgiven more.”
Jesus points out that Mary’s acts didn’t bring her forgiveness, but that her acts were a loving response to the forgiveness she had already received. Jesus said things like, “You have been forgiven,” and “Your sins are forgiven,” and “Your faith has saved you.”
Jesus took the anger that was focused on Mary and redirected it to Himself, as Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would do (see 53:4-5).
At the same time He is also challenging Simon, “Don’t you have something to be grateful for? Weren’t you once a physical leper? Mary was a spiritual leper, but she has been forgiven and is now overwhelmingly grateful. What about you?”
Mary was forgiven. She gave all she had in worship. Her anointing oil was lavishly poured out. It was worth a year’s wages, but she spent it all on Jesus. She anointed Him for His burial. The aroma of the oil remained on Jesus throughout His Passion Week and through His crucifixion. The aroma remained on Mary’s hands and hair. The aroma remained in Simon’s house. The memory was fixed in the memories of everyone in that room.
What about Simon? Did he ever acknowledge his gratitude? Or was he more concerned with receiving praise from men?
Have you received the forgiveness Jesus offers you? Can people tell you’ve been forgiven by your willingness to stand up for Him? Can people tell you’ve been forgiven by your willingness to give up everything for Him?
I hope you can join me this Sunday as we continue of slow, deliberate walk alongside Jesus on His passionate journey to the Cross and the resurrection.