Friday, May 2, 2014


                                       For the week beginning Sunday May 4, 2014                                       

(Appreciating the suffering that JESUS endured)
John 18

After JESUS finished praying, HE and HIS disciples crossed the “Kidron Valley” to the east. The Kidron Valley, now the “Wodi en-NAR”, is a valley, which begins north of Jerusalem and passes between the temple mount and the Mount of Olives, and then ends at the Dead Sea. Ironically, it is the same place where David learned that he had been betrayed by his trusted friend, Ahithophel and his son Absalom, some 950 years earlier (2 Samuel 15:23. 30-31). And now, as it turns out, it would be this same site where Judas Iscariot was about to betray JESUS, on this, the eve of HIS crucifixion.
The Olive grove was a place where JESUS often came with HIS disciples whenever they were in Jerusalem, and so, it was a place that Judas Iscariot was also very familiar with. He knew exactly where to lead the band of Roman soldiers, who were dispersed there by the religious leaders to arrest JESUS, and put HIM on trial. Judas had already sold JESUS out to them for thirty pieces of silver (the price of a common slave), and now he was there to complete his deal with the Pharisees, by betraying his MASTER’s love for him, with a kiss.
As the battalion of 600 soldiers arrived at the olive garden of Gethsemane with torches blazing, lanterns glowing, and weapons drawn, JESUS fully realized what was taking place. Stepping forward HE asked them anyway, who was it that they were seeking? The mob replied “JESUS of Nazareth” and JESUS responded that, “I AM HE”.
When HE said these words, every single one of the men in the battalion fell backwards to the ground. Perhaps what we see here is a manifestation of JESUS’ divine power and majesty, or, it could have also been a fulfillment of the statement of David in Psalm 27:2-3. However, it is more likely that we see here, is both of those scenarios being played out. JESUS then suggests to the soldiers that they take HIM, and leave HIS disciples alone. HE was willing to protect them by giving over HIS OWN life instead of the lives of HIS friends.
And even after Simon Peter draws his sword and cuts off the ear of Malchus, one of the servants of the high priest who had come with the soldier to take JESUS, JESUS still rebukes HIS disciple and commands HIM to put up his sword. And then, in the true sense of the statement, “Love your enemy”, another gospel account (Luke) tells us that JESUS picked up the ear of Malchus, and miraculously restored it to his head. At this point JESUS was ready to go forward to HIS “Passion”, and was determined to drink the cup, that HIS beloved FATHER, had already set before HIM.

John 18:15-27

After JESUS allowed the soldiers to arrest HIM, Peter and one of the other disciples followed them back into the city. The unnamed disciple here, was known by the high priest, and thereby, had access to the high priest’s courtyard. He was also able to gain permission for Peter’s entrance into the courtyard, from the lady who kept the door. However, the lady recognized Peter as one of JESUS’ disciples, and when she inquired this of him, for the first time, he denied that he knew JESUS.
Here we see a very human, but somewhat complicated side of Peter. Only moments earlier he had been this brave, defiant defender of JESUS, while in the garden of Gethsemane. Now, we see him cowering down under the pressure of the reality of what courage a man has to have in order to follow in the footsteps of CHRIST.
Throughout the history of the Church, Christians have often faced martyrdom bravely, but there are perhaps even more times when they buckled under at the threat of death. Ironically, the other disciple didn’t seem to have a problem with being known as a follower of CHRIST. He was well known by the lady at the door, and the high priest, yet, he did not try to hide, or play the role of a secret Christian, but rather, he entered boldly into the temple to be near JESUS.
Peter went on in and stood at the fire with the guards and household servants, and began to warm himself as the high priest, Annas, begin his questioning of JESUS. He was now gripped with fear and perhaps, having second thoughts as to why he came there in the first place. This questioning of JESUS, by Annas, one of three religious trials, and was the first of the six total trials, that JESUS would endure on that night before HIS crucifixion.
Annas, according to record, was high priest from A.D. 6 to A.D. 15. He was then deposed by the Romans, but managed to keep control of the post through his four sons, and his son-in-law Caiaphas for a number of years after his disposal. Caiaphas, was the official high priest from A.D. 18 to A.D. 36, which covered the time period of JESUS’ public ministry. However, we see the power still wielded by Annas, in that JESUS was brought to him first.
Annas begins his questioning of JESUS by asking HIM about HIS followers and what HE had been teaching them. JESUS responds to the question by defending the transparency of HIS doctrine, which HE had been teaching openly in the temple and synagogues for three years. One of the temple guards, who did not like the way JESUS answered, struck JESUS in the face. After this, Annas sent JESUS over to see Caiaphas for further questioning.
In the meantime, Peter, who was still standing by the fire, was asked again, if he was one of JESUS’ disciples, and again, he denied that he was. Then, one of the household servants, who was a relative of Malchus, the man whose ear was cut off by Peter in the olive garden, thought he recognized Peter as one of JESUS’ followers. But when he asked the frightened disciple if this was true, for the third and final time, Peter denied even knowing JESUS. And then immediately, true to JESUS’ words, Peter heard the prophetic sound of the rooster’s crow.

John 18:28-40

JESUS’ second religious trial, the, trial before Caiaphas, ended in the early morning hours of the day of JESUS’ crucifixion. HE was then taken to the headquarters of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. JESUS’ accusers, the Jewish religious leaders, did not enter into the governor’s headquarters, because they were “self-forbidden” from entering into the house of a Gentile, especially during Passover. So apparently they must have sent JESUS in alone, while they stood outside and awaited Pilate’s decision.
Pilate’s apparent wavering, during JESUS’ “first civil trial”, should not be mistaken for virtue. For a quick look at Pilate’s personal history with the Jews will show us how he used the path of least resistance, in order to save himself from his own, “self-imposed” troubled career.
When Pilate first entered into Jerusalem as Procurator, he got off to a very bad start with the Jews and their religious hierarchy by entering into the city wearing the “standards” of the Roman Emperor on their helmets. The Jews considered these standards to be idolatrous, because the Romans worshiped the Caesars as gods. Every Roman governor, before Pilate, had respected their wishes and removed these emblems from their headgear while they were in Jerusalem. Pilate, on the other hand, steadfastly refused to do so, despite being constantly dogged by the Jews.
Finally, in a showdown at the amphitheater in Jerusalem, Pilate surrounded a group of protesting Jews with armed soldiers and told them that if they didn’t put an end to their requests, they would be killed right there on the spot. The Jews, however, called Pilate’s bluff, forcing him to reconsider. They knew that Pilate would come under fire from the Emperor, Caesar Tiberius, if he found out what Pilate was trying to do. And so Pilate, to his own dismay, had to buckle under and admit defeat.
A second incident involved Pilate’s taking of money from the temple treasury, in order to help finance a new aqueduct system for Jerusalem. When some of the angry Jews protested, Pilate planted some of his soldiers into the crowd, and upon his signal, they attacked the Jews, injuring many, and even killing some innocent bystanders.
It was these two incidents that the Jews used to blackmail Pilate into doing their desired will, of giving JESUS the death sentence. They knew, and Pilate knew, that if Tiberius found out about either one of these incidences, Pilate would be driven from office, or perhaps, even killed by his Roman superiors.
One might ask himself, “Why didn’t the Jews just take JESUS out and kill HIM themselves?” Well, the truth is that, about forty years before the destruction of the temple by the Romans, Emperor Julius Caesar took away the right of the Jews to make decisions of judgment that involved the life and death of its citizens. Since that time, only the Roman government could give a person a death sentence and carry it out (John 18:31).
In addition, it was important to the Jewish religious hierarchy that JESUS, die, by Roman method, “hanging from a cross”, and here’s why. According to Deuteronomy 21:22-23, anyone who has committed a crime worthy of death, and is executed and hung on a tree, it is an indication that that person was cursed of GOD.
And so, not only did the religious leaders want to convince the people that JESUS was “not the SON of GOD”, as HE had claimed, they also wanted to send a message that HE was even “cursed of GOD”. However, ironically, from a GODly perspective, this manner of death would be in line with the prophetic statement of JESUS, where HE says, “When HE is raised up, HE will draw all men to HIM”.
After Pilate’s questioning of JESUS had ended, he once again went out to the people and declared that “he could find no fault in JESUS”. He even tried to compromise the truth of his finding, by offering to release JESUS as result of their customary rule, where they would release one prisoner from custody each year at the Passover. But instead of using that opportunity to free JESUS from custody, the Jewish people chose instead, to release a convicted robber by the name of Barabbas.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website


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