Who Is Jesus?
This evening we focus on the cross. But let me go back to Palm Sunday, the day Jesus entered Jerusalem in great fanfare with throngs of people shouting Hosanna and laying down palm branches and coats in His path. We talked briefly last Sunday how that many people saw Jesus as the coming conquering King, not the Lamb being led to slaughter as prophesied in Isaiah. That is why there was so much excitement on Palm Sunday. They saw Jesus as the One who would conquer and free them from Roman oppression.
From the time Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday until the eating of the Passover meal with His disciples on Thursday night, after sundown, Jesus was teaching His disciples about many things. For four days, Jesus taught people through parables and prophesies of the future. Jesus tells about what will happen to Jerusalem in the near future and about the coming Kingdom in the distant future. Matthew’s gospel records the fullest account we have of Jesus’ teachings during these four days in chapters 21-26.
It was also during this time that Jesus cleansed the Temple area of marketing and money exchanging businesses. You see, many business owners saw this as an opportunity of buying, selling, and making money off of people who traveled to Jerusalem to do sacrifice. Jesus accuses them of making God’s house of prayer into a den of robbers. Jesus’ authority is challenged several times during these four days. Jesus pronounces seven woes on the Scribes and Pharisees who had turned worship into a ritual rather than something that comes from the heart.
But even after the Passover meal with His disciples on Thursday night, in a more personal and intimate setting, Jesus teaches His disciples at length before they go to the Garden of Gethsemane in the middle of the night to pray. John’s gospel gives us the fullest account of Jesus’ teachings after the Passover meal that night, before His arrest in the early hours of Friday morning in John chapters 12-18. I mention this simply because the time Jesus spent in Jerusalem before His crucifixion, He spent teaching people.
It is in the Garden, after spending some time in prayer, that Jesus is betrayed by one of His disciples. Jesus is arrested and brought before the Council of the Sanhedrin. You may remember, that in this kangaroo court situation, Jesus was charged with blasphemy, a charge that the High Priest and the religious leaders said was worthy of death. But they did not have the authority to put someone to death under Roman law, so Jesus was taken before the Pilate, the Roman governor.
After Pilate examines Jesus and finds no cause worthy of death, he offers to crucify Barabbas, a notorious criminal that was worthy of death. Pilate asks the religious leaders and the crowd that was with them who he should release, Jesus or Barabbas, probably thinking in his mind they would release Jesus since Barabbas was a notorious criminal. Listen to what it says in Matthew 27:21-26.
21 The governor again said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas." 22 Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said, "Let him be crucified!"
23 And he said, "Why? What evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified!"
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves."
25 And all the people answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
Jesus was condemned to death by a crowd of Jewish people who became convinced by their religious leaders that Jesus was not God, though that is what Jesus claimed to be. As you and I look back at all that took place, from our perspective, we say, “What was the matter with those people?” They saw His miracles and they heard His teachings; how can they not know that Jesus was the Son of God, that He was the Messiah who was the fulfillment of prophecy? But instead, Jesus was condemned to death under the false charges of blasphemy.
Even Pilate recognized that Jesus was innocent, and he washed his hands of the bloodshed of Jesus. But notice again, what the people said in verse 25, “His blood be on us and on our children!” The Jewish people, and in particular, the religious leaders said they will take the blame for the death of Jesus. The Romans will not be held responsible. Thus, they were claiming to be responsible for the death of Jesus and any repercussions will be upon them and their children. It seems pretty clear what they were saying doesn’t it?
Now jump ahead about 2 months after the crucifixion of Jesus. Peter and the Apostles were preaching and doing miracles in the Temple area. The religious leaders and the Sanhedrin had them put in jail for preaching about Jesus. When they brought them before the Council of the Sanhedrin, listen to what they asked Peter and the Apostles in Acts 5:27-28:
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us."
Two months earlier they had no problem taking the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus, but now they don’t like it that the Apostles were teaching that the Jewish people killed Jesus. Jesus was certainly condemned to death by a crowd of people and the religious leaders that stood before Pilate that day. But is that the condemnation that Jesus really faced on the cross? Was His death simply about being falsely accused and wrongly crucified?
Turn with me to Acts 3. After Peter and John heal a man lame from birth at the Temple gate called Beautiful, Peter preaches his second sermon about Jesus. Peter asks them why they are in awe and wonder about the healing of the lame man. He explains that it is through the power of Jesus that they are able to heal the lame man. Jesus, the One they crucified.
13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.
14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,
15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.
16 And his name-- by faith in his name-- has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
17 "And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.
18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.
Clearly, Peter says they killed Jesus. But they acted out of ignorance because what they did was a fulfillment of prophecy. Certainly, the religious leaders and the crowd before Pilate that day condemned Jesus to death, but Peter tells them that this was foretold by the prophets. Turn back to Acts 2. In Peter’s first sermon he says something similar.
"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know -- this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
At first appearances, Jesus seems to be condemned by the people and the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Certainly, there is some truth in that, but Peter makes it clear that something much bigger is taking place. Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” They may not have realized it, but God’s plan was being fulfilled. Not that what they did wasn’t sinful, but Jesus asked, as He hung on the cross, that this particular sin not be held against them in Luke 23:34 "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
To be condemned, means that Jesus was sentenced to a punishment for a crime. But what crime, what sin, why did Jesus suffer and die? Even Pilate saw Him as an innocent man.
So, if Jesus is the Condemned, who or what condemned Him to crucifixion and death? Certainly, it was not any crime He committed that condemned Him. We might say that the Jewish religious leaders condemned Him with false accusations. We might even venture to say it was the crowd of Jewish people that stood before Pilate that day condemned Him. Or do we dare to be so bold as to say the God condemned Jesus. After all, we just read that it was God’s definite plan. But I think that something else condemned Jesus to death on a cross. Let me read some verses that may sound familiar.
16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
You see, we are already condemned to a death physically and spiritually because of sin. But Jesus took our condemnation, suffered and died, so that anyone who believes in the name of the only Son of God is no longer condemned. In other words, Jesus took my condemnation. He took your condemnation. Why? Because of the love of the Father for us. We might say that it was the love of the Father that brought about Jesus’ condemnation for our sin. But in reality, it was our sin that condemned Him.
Yes, religious leaders and Jewish people put Jesus to death with the help of the Roman soldiers. But it was not the Jews or the Romans that condemned our Lord, it was my sin and your sin. Because of the Father’s love for us, Jesus died for our sin as a condemned man. You see, the blood of Jesus is the evidence of God’s love for you and me.
Written in Red – Choir
This evening as we take communion, may we remember that Jesus took what we deserve. He took our condemnation as a sinner. On this day we have called Good Friday, referring to not just to the fact that it was a good thing Jesus died for us, but that there is a since of holiness about what He did, we want to take time to remember what Jesus did to redeem us from our sin. He took our condemnation.
Self - Examination
Jesus says, remember how much I love you!
 . . . “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Jesus says, remember My love demonstrated in My sacrifice!
 . . . “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26