Matthew 26:36-27:46; Mark 14:32-15:41; Luke 22:40-23:49; John 18:2-19:30
It was so quiet. So dark. Not even a breeze stirred in the beautiful garden. And then Jesus heard the sounds... Softly at first, then progressively louder, came the sounds of feet... some walking, some running, hundreds marching. There were voices, too, shouting, angry voices. Jesus woke the others, telling them that His betrayer had arrived, that He was about to be turned over to His executioners. Within moments, the small group of sleepy men was facing several hundred soldiers and surrounded by a large mob of angry citizens waving torches and brandishing weapons. Out of the crowd came Judas. For thirty pieces of silver, this man who had once followed Jesus came forward and placed the kiss of death on the cheek of the One who could have been his Savior. And then Jesus stepped forward, saying, "Who are you looking for?" The crowd shouted, "Jesus of Nazareth." And Jesus said, "I am He." (John 18:2-5)
At the sound of His voice, both mob and soldiers fell to the ground... (John 18:6). Jesus' companions turned and ran, fearing for their lives. Back on their feet, the blood-thirsty mob surged closer. Jesus stood before them, abandoned, alone, reviled by His enemies and denied by His friends.
They bound Him and took Him first to Annas, who agreed with his son-in-law, Caiaphas, that the death of one man -- a scapegoat -- would be a good example for the people. Annas was always receptive to that which was beneficial in quelling an insurrection among the Jews. (John 18:12-14)
From Annas, they took Jesus to Caiaphas, the High Priest. Caiaphas asked Him questions. Many questions. But Jesus did not answer one. (Mark 14:60-61) So Caiaphas brought in the Sanhedrin... the council which had the power to invoke a sentence of death.
Already weary when this long night began, Jesus faced His third trial by the Jews. This time before the most powerful body of men that existed under Jewish law. Before this assembly came a long series of false witnesses, their tongues filled with deceit. But none of their stories matched. And, as the night drug on, with one conflicting testimony after another, Caiaphas was forced to honor the law by which he lived so strictly. He didn't have a case. Angered and frustrated, Caiaphas walked up to Jesus and asked, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" And Jesus said, "I am." (Matthew 27:57-68)
And Caiaphas said, "What more do we need? He has condemned Himself. For the crime of blasphemy there can be but one penalty - death." (Mark 14:63; Matthew 26:66)
Even with that, the council took until early morning to reach a decision... they would have the Romans try Jesus for treason rather than execute Him themselves for blasphemy. Pilate questioned Jesus briefly. When he learned that Jesus was from Galilee, Pilate had Him taken to Herod, the governor of Galilee who was visiting in Jerusalem. (Luke 23:6-7)
Herod, too, questioned Jesus with glee, hoping He would entertain his court by performing a miracle or two. When Jesus refused to respond, Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked Jesus, then dressed Him in an elaborate robe and sent Him back to Pilate. (Luke 23:8-12)
For the sixth time, Jesus was put on trial. But Pilate was in a dilemma. Neither he nor Herod could find any reason to execute Jesus. So Pilate told the crowd that he would merely flog Jesus and set Him free. But the chief priests had conspired to have the crowd turn on Jesus, and the people shouted, "No! Give us Barrabas!" The crowd wanted the freedom of a murderer rather than that of the Son of God. (Luke 23:13-25)
Pilate asked the crowd, "What shall I do then, with Jesus who is called Christ?"
And almost as one voice, the people cried, "Crucify Him!"
Pilate responded, "I find no fault with this man."
They cried louder, "Crucify Him!"
And Pilate said, "I am innocent of this man's blood. It is your responsibility."
All the people answered, "Let His blood be on us and on our children."
And Pilate said, "Take Him away then! Crucify Him!"
As was the custom, the Son of God was taken away and scourged, His flesh shredded and torn by the pieces of metal and bone entwined in the leather straps. The soldiers took Him into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company around Him. Stripping Him naked, they threw a scarlet robe on His bleeding shoulders, then wove a crown of thorns and jammed it down onto His head, ripping His scalp and face. They put a staff in His right hand and knelt in front of Him and mocked Him, jeering and laughing as they shouted, "Hail, King of the Jews!" They spit on Him and hit Him over the head again and again. Then, His body beaten, His bloody flesh hanging in shreds, His mind and spirit tortured beyond our ability to conceive, they led Him away to die the most shameful and painful death ever conceived by man. They led Him away to be crucified. (Matthew 27:22-31)
Jesus died that day. He walked right down that road, was crucified on a Roman cross, and He died. This child who had been born in a borrowed stable, rode into town on a borrowed colt, and now, was going to be buried in a borrowed tomb.
The very dreams which Jesus had so tenderly nurtured in the hearts of His followers for some three and a half years died at least for the moment, but were alive and well in the heart of His heavenly Father. For throughout the entire experience of the cross, Heaven's agenda had not missed a beat.
As misunderstood as it may have been - the cross was God demonstrating His love for us. In that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus did not die by some plot of the Gentile or Jew. Jesus Himself said, "No man takes My life, I lay it down of My own authority." He said, "I give My life as a ransom for many." And so He had. He who knew no sin took upon Himself the sin of all mankind and its judgment upon that cross that He might bring us to God.
It was love, the unerring love of God, which brought the many prophecies of scripture to precise fulfillment. On a specific day marked on heaven's calendar, and in a specific place marked on earth's map, the Son of God came to dwell among us. It was love that prompted the Son of God to show compassion to the sick, the distressed and the sin-burdened. It was love that enabled Jesus Christ to become "poor, that (we) through His poverty might be rich." It was love, divine love, that made Him "endure the cross, despising the shame," that made Him endure the contradictions of sinners against Himself.
It was love that restrained Him when He was falsely accused of blasphemy and was led to Golgotha to die with common thieves; He raised not a hand against His enemies. It was love that kept Him from calling legions of angels to come to His defense. It was love that, after such torture devised by degenerate man had been heaped upon Him, caused Him to lift His voice and pray, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) It was love which made Him, in a moment of agonizing death, give life to a repentant sinner who cried, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom." (Luke 23:42)
From Genesis to Revelation, from earth's greatest tragedy to heaven's greatest triumph, the dramatic story of mankind's lowest depths and of God's highest heights can be couched in 25 words: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life."
From Bonnie Ricks, Newsong Ministries