We Can Follow Jesus - The Biggest Swap Ever
Matthew's Gospel, chapters 27 and 28 (The same story is in Mark, Luke and John's Gospels too, in the Bible).
This is a true story that happened 50 years ago. A smallish boy, who wore glasses and was a bit of a nerd, was standing in the school playground with some other boys his age, when one of the really big older boys came up, and punched very hard! That was NOT FAIR! Just then, a teacher came along and saw them. "You two! You know fighting is against the rules - off to my office now!" The teacher didn't believe what had happened, and punished both boys. That was even more NOT FAIR, and the smaller boycried.
I know its true, because I was the smaller boy!
There is another true story that is much more "NOT FAIR!" Jesus was the best man that ever lived on Earth. He never did any wrong. He went about doing good, healing people of many awful sicknesses, and telling the good news that God's promised King, Who would fix all wrong in the world, had come at last.
The leaders of the people should have been glad at such good news, but they weren't. They hated Jesus. "We won't have this king to rule over us!" they said (Luke 19, verse 14). They hated Him because he was popular with the common people. They hated Him because he showed them up as pretending to please God when they were really greedy for money and power over the people. They would rather have the Romans than Jesus! They even plotted how they could kill Jesus. (Luke 22, verse 2)
But the leaders were afraid of the people - "If we arrest Him, the people will be angry, and riot, and the Romans will take our jobs away and rule by force."
Now the next NOT FAIR thing happened. One of Jesus's 12 disciples, one of His closest friends, went to the leaders, and said "How much will you give me if I lead you to Him when no one is looking?" They gave the traitor, whose name was Judas, 30 pieces of silver (about $10,000). He knew a lonely garden where Jesus often went to pray at night. "That's it! The man I greet as a friend will be Jesus - grab Him then!"
One night, while Jesus was praying in the garden, there came the sound of voices and footsteps coming near, and the flicker of lamps on shiny steel. A mob of men with swords and clubs and ropes surrounded Jesus.
Judas appeared, and went up to Jesus, greeting Him as a friend (Luke tells us he kissed Jesus - it was common then for a man to kiss another on the cheek as a sign of friendship, much as we shake hands today). The mob closed in on Jesus.
"Jesus, quick! Call an army of angels to rescue you!" But He would not. He said to the mob, "Who do you want?". "Jesus" they said. "That's me" He answered, and they all fell to the ground terrified. Jesus said the same thing again, going forward to them, giving himself to them.
Peter, one of Jesus' friends, pulled out a sword and swung wildly with it, cutting of a man's right ear! "Stop!" said Jesus, and touching the man, healed his bleeding head instantly.
Then the mob tied Him up and laughed at Him, and led Him off to the leaders.
The leaders blind-folded him, beat Him up, and laughed at Him "Na! Na! Na! - if you are God's son, tell us who hit you!". But they could not kill him - only the Romans could do that, so they made up lies about Him, and dragged Him to the Roman Governor. The Governor listened to their lies, knew them to be lies, and told everyone, "This man has done nothing wrong".
The Governor, Pilate, sent him to Herod, whom the Romans had made a puppet-king. Herod laughed at Jesus, and sent Him back to Pilate - "He's done nothing wrong."
The leaders stirred up their mob crying out "Kill Him!". The Governor said "Why, what has he done wrong?". The mob yelled for blood saying "Jesus wants to be king - Caesar, the Roman King, is our only king!" The Governor got worried ("I'll lose my job if Caesar hears this, maybe lose my head!"), and said, "OK, let him be killed".
The Roman soldiers flogged Jesus with a many tailed whip with bits of bone stuck in it, until His back was slashed and bleeding. They made a crown of razor sharp thorns and jammed it on His head, so the blood ran down his face. Then they made fun of Him, bowing down and saying "Long live your Majesty!"
The soldiers then marched Him away to be killed, and He had to carry a big, rough, wooden cross.
It was all so horrible and so UNFAIR.
When Jesus could carry the cross no further, the Roman soldiers grabbed a man from the crowd and made him carry the cross out of the city, to a hill where they used to kill criminals.
The soldiers stripped off Jesus' clothes, pushed Him on to the cross and hammered big nails through His hands and feet. They lifted the cross with Jesus and jammed it into a hole in the ground, leaving Him to hang for hours for hours. They called this cruel killing "crucifixion".
"Jesus, why don't you curse them, and call an army of angels to rescue you?". But He prayed "Father, forgive them - they don't know what they are doing." (Luke 23, verse 34)
Why Jesus, why?
It became dark at midday - even the sky hung its head in sorrow. Then in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice and died.
It is as if there hangs over every one of us, over you, and over me, a huge block of iron, very heavy, and held only by a thin string. Any time it may break, and we will be crushed. It is called SIN, and is made of all the bad things we have done, the bad words we have said, and the bad thoughts we have had. Its made of the things we are ashamed of, and would rather die than have our friends know. Our stealing, lying, cheating, hating, hurting, name-calling. All our NOT FAIR things.
God is FAIR, and must punish all our sins. He would not be fair if He did not.
But God is LOVE too. That is WHY Jesus, God's Son, gave His life IN MY PLACE. He did it out of love for me, and for you. The enormous weight of my sin fell on Him, and He was crushed to death for me. Will you say "and for me!"
"God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who trusts in him will have eternal life." John's Gospel, chapter 3, verse 16
"But God shows his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ (Jesus) died for us." Romans, chapter 5, verse 8
Many graves have a headstone, or tombstone, to mark the grave and tell us who is buried there. But the stone on Jesus' grave was there for quite another reason. After Jesus died on the Roman cross, one of the Roman soldiers stabbed Jesus' body in the side with his spear, and out came blood mixed with water - a sure sign that he had been long dead. His cold body was taken down and put in a borrowed tomb - that is, a grave like a cave, cut out of solid rock. It was unused, and nearby, and probably the body would have been moved after the weekend.
A big round stone, as big as a door, was rolled down a sloping groove to seal the entrance to the tomb. It was there to keep the body safe from wild dogs and other scavengers. But God allowed it to be there for another reason. It was to prove that no one had come and taken away Jesus' dead body. There were not going to be any tricks. All the world must know that He had really and truly died.
God controls even the bad deeds of bad men, to work out His own good end. The leaders are worried - "This liar said he would come back to life!". They went to the Roman Governor and begged him to let them put a seal on the stone, and set guards. "If his friends try any tricks, like stealing the body and pretending he has come back to life, this will stop them." The Romans would have their heads off if they tampered with the Roman seal.
Jesus' friends were as sad as you can be. Utterly miserable, and with NO HOPE left. "We had hoped that he was the one going to redeem Israel" Luke 24:21. The men said "What's the use of anything now?" He had been their best friend and all their hope.
Well, God bless the women-folk. They were just as sad, but work has to be done, even gloomy and sorrowful work, so they got ready a large amount of spices and oils to wash and anoint Jesus' poor dead body. "He shall have a decent burial" They waited all day Saturday, which was the Jewish special day of complete rest, then early on Sunday morning, as soon as it was light enough to see, they set off sadly to walk to the tomb.
Suddenly one of the women said "Oh, we'll never be able to move the stone aside to get in!" It was far too big for them to lift. How many of us would have given up there and then, and trudged back home? But they kept going anyway.
As they came near to the graveyard in the dim early light (brave women!) they were startled by a loud rumble and a blaze of brilliant light. They could hardly believe their eyes! The big stone had been rolled aside, and an angel in dazzling clothes was sitting on it! The guards were terrified at the sight of the angel and fainted on the spot. The way was clear now. No stone! No guards! (Matthew 28:2 to 4)
One of the women looked inside the tomb. She was stunned - there was no dead body at all, just the burial clothes neatly folded. And then she saw a second shining angel. She and the others were overcome with fright. The angel said to them "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is NOT HERE, but has risen. Remember how He told you ... the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified and on the third day rise." (Luke 24:5 to 7) Then they remembered, and ran like mad to tell the others.
That very day, two of the disciples (Jesus' friends) were walking along a country road not far from the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus had been killed. They were so sad. A stranger caught up with them and asked why they were so sad, and they told him about Jesus, and all their grief and shattered hopes. The stranger laughed gently at them, and told them they should have expected it. He told them that all the older part of the Bible (what we call the "Old Testament", which was all of the Bible they then had) said this would happen. He told them that God allowed it to happen, and that the third day, Jesus, the Son of Man and Son of God, the promised King and Saviour, would spring back to life again. As they listened, they saw that it was all true. They wanted to hear more and asked the stranger to come and eat with them. As they sat down, they suddenly saw that it was Jesus Himself. He vanished!
They ran back to back to Jerusalem to tell the others "He's ALIVE!", and when they got there, Jesus appeared before them all. "I'm not a ghost" He said, and had them touch Him, and ate a meal with them. Then they were filled with GLADNESS). No wonder they told everyone they met that Jesus was no longer a dead friend, but a living Saviour. He IS able to forgive all our badness, and keep us safe through all the hard parts of life, until He comes to take us home at last.
Jesus said "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies" John 11:25
Will you trust Him to be your Forgiver, and your Living Saviour? He IS your only HOPE. Oh, why be punished for your own bad things, and be thrown into endless darkness and sadness, when Jesus the Saviour calls you now. Trust in Him, and do not delay. There is no other way to be SAFE, and no other way to be truly HAPPY
(There are sad times on the Christian road, following Jesus, but they are like the rough waves that trouble the sea at times. Deeper down, all is calm and peaceful, and that deeper happiness grows day by day, until it is made complete, perfect, on the day when an angel comes to carry you to Jesus. Trust Him, be patient, for He knows all about your troubles. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the JOY set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2)
This page tardus.net/kk3-weCanFollow.html Last updated: 29 Mar 2022