2014-05-15 / Worship

The final days of Jesus’ walk on God’s path of grace

(Luke 23: 13-31)

Jesus was a popular but controversial figure. The religious authorities accused him of blasphemy and turned him over to Pilate, the local civil authority. Pilate, afraid of stirring up the populace, turned him over to Herod, the ruler of Jesus’ home territory Galilee. Herod, being in Jerusalem at the time and at a safe distance from the scrutiny of his own people, humiliated Jesus and roughed him up, then sent him back to Pilate (verses 1-11).

Herod’s treatment of Jesus gave Pilate a strong hint of the action he might be expected to take. But, still unconvinced of Jesus’ guilt, Pilate assembled the religious and civil leaders and the people to obtain their guidance in the matter. (verses 12-17).

It was Passover week, and the custom was to release a prisoner in honor of the festival. Pilate suggested that Jesus be released. But the people, led by the chief priest and unconstrained by Pilate’s judicial qualms, demanded that the seditionist/murderer Barabbas be freed instead, and that Jesus be crucified (verses 18-23).

“And Pilate gave sentence that it would be as they required” (verses 24, 25).

As the people led Jesus away they got Simon, a visitor from Cyrene in Libya, to carry the Cross (verse 26). Simon is symbolic of the coming Church, a body formed by gentiles, Jews, Samaritans and eventually all kinds of people, whose mission is to bear the Gospel to all the world.

As Jesus toiled toward Calvary and his death by crucifixion, a crowd of people followed behind and wept. But Jesus told them that they’d better weep for themselves, “For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” (verses 27-31).

The Jews were God’s chosen people, but their religion had become hidebound by legalism and corrupted by dishonest leaders. Their faith was like the dry wood of a dead tree. Jesus, their long-awaited but unrecognized Messiah, had offered them living faith, but now He was cut down, leaving behind a dead, dry Israel.

We the Church have been given the living Savior, and the Great Commission to spread his gospel to the uttermost parts of the world (Matthew 28:19-20). Let us not make the same mistakes that Israel made in rejecting Him or killing our faith with a straitjacket of rules.

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