Leading a Rebellion: Jesus Meekly Endured the Cross
Matthew 26:47-53; John 18:1-8; 19:5-11
Intro: What’s the difference between “meekness” and “weakness”? Meekness is restrained power. Weakness is absence of power. For example if I punch a lion in the head and he doesn’t eat my face off it is because it is meek. If I punch a kitty cat in the head and it doesn’t eat my face off it’s because it’s weak.
Tonight we are finishing off our Leading a Rebellion series by discussing how Jesus meekly endured the cross. We could go into great detail of all of the anguish and suffering Jesus endured with every aspect of His flogging, mocking, beating, and eventual crucifixion, but that is not the focus of our study tonight. We do have to understand what Jesus went to in order to know what Jesus could have avoided.
How many of you have ever been in excruciating pain? The word excruciating literally is translated “out of the cross”—pain that is comparable to what Jesus suffered on the cross. Pilate, in attempt to not have Jesus executed, handed Him over to be flogged, hoping this would satisfy the Jews. Jesus was flogged with a whip known as the “cat with nine tails.” This was a long leather whip with nine additional strands of leather. Each of those strands had something sharp tied to the end like a rock, piece of metal, shards of pottery—anything that would rip the skin. It’s traditionally believed that Jesus was whipped 39 times because according to Jewish custom, 40 times was known to kill people. But it was the Romans whipping Him, not the Jews.
After the flogging they wrapped a purple cloth on Him and jammed a crown of thorns into His head. Every had a band-aid ripped off of your skin? When they put that purple cloth on Jesus, it would have gotten really sticky on His open wounds and would have hurt extremely badly when they pulled it off. Then they made Him carry His cross about a half of a mile to the place of His execution suffering beatings and being kicked the whole way. Finally they nailed Him to the cross buck naked, through the wrists and feet. The reason the crucifixion killed people is because one could not breathe. The cross was leaned slightly forward putting more strain on the body and separating the shoulders. While hanging from the nails in your hands, you could not breathe. You had to make a choice between breathing and excruciating pain because the only way to breathe was by pushing up from the nail in the feet and taking as deep of a breath as you could under the extreme pain. The condemned would push up and down over the course of what could be several days before their lungs would finally fill up with fluid and they would die of asphyxiation. Also remember Jesus’ back was as raw as hamburger from the flogging and He was slowly rubbing it up and down a rough-hewn cut piece of wood.
Now…all of that being said, Jesus could have avoided it all.
The Rebellion: Short and sweet—Jesus endured all of that when He didn’t have to. The only reason He did it was because of his great love for you.
The next three passages of scripture very clearly indicate that Jesus in meekness endured it all for our sake, not because He was trapped, imprisoned, or at the mercy of man.
Scripture: Matthew 26:47-53 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?
A Roman legion was 6,000 fighting men. Twelve legions would be 72,000 angels. Do you think just maybe, Jesus went with them voluntarily?
Now John’s account of the arrest scene.
John 18:1-8 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.”
When Jesus asked who they were seeking and He responded with “I AM” He was using the name God gave Himself to Moses at the burning bush. It was a name that Jesus used to refer to Himself when debating with the Jews in Jerusalem. When He said, “Before Abraham was I AM,” they picked up stones to kill Him on the spot. They weren’t just fans of good grammar, they recognized that Jesus used the very name of God to refer to Himself which would have been blasphemy unless it was true. Just by speaking the name of God, Jesus made these arresting soldiers fall backwards. Do you think, just maybe Jesus went with them voluntarily?
And finally, when standing before Pilate, Jesus let him know who was in charge.
John 19:5-11 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7 The Jews[a] answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.
Pilate had no authority over Jesus. Caesar had no authority over Jesus. The high priests had no authority over Jesus. All of the military men in the entire world gathered together could not restrain the power of Jesus. No, Jesus was restrained through the betrayal, beatings, trial, and crucifixion by meekness.
Application: Why did Jesus go through all of that? He went through all of that because the sacrifice of bulls, goats, and sheep were never enough to cancel out our sins. We are sinners. We sin every day. Romans 3:23 says that all have fallen short of the glory of God. And Romans 6:23 says that the wages, or what we deserve for those sins is death. 2nd Peter 3:9 says that God is not willing that any should perish, and so according to Romans 5:8 while we were still sinners Christ died for us. He died as the perfect sacrifice to end all other sacrifices. He did what bulls, goats, and sheep could never do—cancel out all of our sin (past, present, and future). The only catch, as with any gift, is that we have to accept it. If I wrap up keys to a brand new Ferrari and give it to you, but you never take it and open it, the gift is useless. Jesus died as a gift to you, giving you something that you could never earn, but you have to accept the gift offered to you.