“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.” -Apostle Paul
THE Passion. “And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly.” (Luke 22:44 ESV) The Garden. A place where Jesus had come many times before to pray. But this time was different. This time He was in an agony. What’s interesting is that this is the only time this phrase is used in all of scripture. It was not just agony. It was an agony. A battle… a fight… a struggle in deep anguish. “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me…” Lying on His face, prostrate before His Father. Crying out in such deep distress that the capillaries under his skin burst and “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (vs. 44). Typically this kind of agony can cause brain damage, or even death. But Jesus lived on… to die…
THE Punishment. “But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV) Being hung on a cross to die was common in those days. But this was different. Before the actual crucifixion, Jesus was brutally beaten. Burly Roman soldiers used their clenched fists and pounded His face over and over again “we esteemed Him stricken” (vs. 4). Handfuls of His beard were yanked out. Onlookers walked up to him, cleared their throats, and spit in His face. A crown of thorns was placed on His head, and then driven deep into His skull with wooden reeds “He was afflicted” (vs. 7). Stripped naked, He was scourged with a cat of nine tails — so named because there were nine strands, and on the end of those nine strands were pieces of metal or bone, designed to dig into the skin and rip it open. Normally a man was whipped with 39 lashes. 39 lashes with 9 strands. Do the math. When they were done Jesus’ lacerated flesh hung from His body in long strips, exposing muscle, sinew and even bone — “with His stripes we are healed” (vs. 5) After all of that, He was then made to carry His own cross “Surely He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows” (vs. 4). Nailed to the cross, the One who knew no sin, became sin for us “and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (vs. 6).
THE Proclamation. Hours of wretched suffering. One last time Jesus pushed up against the nail in His feet to take the pressure off of His diaphragm so He could take His final breath. Burning lungs filled with air, and then from a parched throat, through swollen, broken bleeding lips, the very Son of God cried out, “It — Is — Finished!” Every Jew within earshot knew those words. They were the words the high priest used every year to proclaim that their sins had once again been atoned for, by the sacrificing of a spotless, unblemished lamb. But this was different. The Lamb of God — the perfect Passover Lamb — who came to take away the sin of the world, (John 1:29) was proclaiming for all to hear, that once and for all, the final sacrifice had been made. “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by the means of the blood of goats and calves, but by the means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12 ESV) Then He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit…
THE Promise. A few days before, Jesus had told His disciples that He was about to die. Sensing the fear and anxiety that they were experiencing, He gave them this promise, “I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3 NASV) A dead god could never keep that promise. Surely He couldn’t mean that He would actually die. But then, albeit from distant hiding places, they watched Him do just that — die. Now what? Hopes, dreams and promises dashed upon the stone placed and sealed at the entrance of His borrowed tomb. Hear these words. In them you will find the hope of His promise — “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James… came to the tomb… and looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away… they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, ‘Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here!!‘” (Mark 16:1-6 NASV) Up from the grave He arose… with a mighty triumph o’er His foes! We do not believe in a God who was once alive and now He is dead. We follow after a God who once was dead and now He is alive. Life is no longer a hopeless end… it is an endless hope.
The death, burial and resurrection of Christ were a moment in time – no, it was THE moment in time — that changed the course of humanity. A perfect offering presented. That which had been spoken of by the prophets in Scripture, fulfilled. God’s gift of love, freely given to all who will receive.
In the great “Resurrection Chapter”, Paul presents the gospel — “…Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures… and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain…” (1 Corinthians 15 ESV). These words are not a defense of the resurrection. They are in effect a declaration of the most important words in Christianity… He is risen! Words that turned the world around.
Our response? He is risen indeed! Our opportunity? To “know Him… and the power of His resurrection…” (Philippians 3:10 ESV)
Hope you enjoyed this devotional from the American Association of Christian Counselors.