In the shadows of Gethsemane, he said to his three friends, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death”. The Son of God, who could still the fury of wind and storm, was now engulfed in a storm of a different kind: a storm of grief and heartbreaking sorrow of mind. In the turmoil of his mind he felt the full horror of rejection and loneli­ness. Under that dreadful prospect, Yahweh’s suf­fering servant meekly submitted to his Father’s will and fell to his knees. It was terribly dark down there in the valley of the shadow of death. He pleaded, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39). Sweat like great drops of blood broke out on his fevered brow. The struggle was intense, yet in love to his Father he wanted to do his Father’s will. He was a son whose constant delight was to be about his Father’s business, to honour his Father, to walk humbly with his God. But in the coming hours he knew he would walk without Spirit protec­tion, except for the lifeline of prayer – that never failed! He meekly submitted to his Father’s will and tenderly the Father sustained the Son of God in prayer. An angel’s presence brought welcome reas­surance and strength.

Armed men came to arrest him but he was the one who said, “rise up and let us be going”. He made sure his friends could safely leave and then allowed rough hands and rough ropes to bind him for sacrifice. Now it was their hour of brutal power unleashed against a meek and lowly lamb. Justice was trampled in the streets. His accusers shuttled him backwards and forward to Annas, to Caiaphas and to the Sanhedrin. Our reading of Isaiah 53 is a vivid portrayal of a lamb led to the slaughter yet he opened not his mouth. Desperate men played their high stakes game of deceit, trumped up charges and power politics. The Jewish preparation day for the Passover was dawning and soon crowds would be aware of the turmoil surrounding the man from Nazareth. Finally, they got what they wanted – a confession that he truly was the Son of God (Matt 26:63,64).

He Opened not his Mouth

Clinging to his temporal power, Caiaphas sen­tenced Jesus to death and gloated as weak, base men spat upon and buffeted the meekest of all men. The Lord knew the blows were coming. We shrink back from the scene and wince as we feel the cowardly blows. We shield our eyes from the sight of spit­tle running down his noble face. The prophet so graphi­cally paints that horrible word-picture (Isa 52:14; 53:3-5). The Lord knew those same Scriptures would come true and he didn’t shy away from the horror of their fulfilment. Psalm 69 expresses his acute anguish: “Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in trouble; hear me speedily … Reproach has broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness” (v17-20). Isaiah has another prophecy of the same shame and ignominy: “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide my face from shame and spitting” (50:6). The apostle Peter shares our astonishment that the Lord could have such self-control. When quoting Isaiah 53, he writes of Christ’s example, “Who committed no sin nor was guile found in his mouth, who when he was reviled, did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but committed himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet 2:22,23). That’s where his mind was focused! His soul rested secure in the knowledge that his heavenly Father was in control and would judge righteously. Hebrews tells us that we should “consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, lest you be­come weary and discouraged in your souls” (12:3). “Consider him!” Yes, we have much to learn from his endurance against such hostility for can there be any greater example of an overcoming faith? We marvel that with trust in his Father he was not confounded or ashamed.

He who was the Lamb of God was led away into the Sanhedrin courtroom and there, before his foes, he solemnly declared himself to be the Son of man about to sit on the right hand of power. The high priest pressed him, “I adjure you by the living God that you tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God”. Jesus calmly replied, “It is as you said” (Matt 26:63,64). Yes, it was true, though his ap­pearance belied the claim. It was true and after three days it would be undeniably true! He would be raised and sit on the right hand of power!

An ugly roar of triumph swept his claim to one side. Out into the brightness of the rising sun they led him to Pilate. As Passover preparations were un­der way, self-righteous men refused to enter Pilate’s Judgment Hall – lest they be defiled!! Murderers were thus conscious of their ceremonial holiness! They desperately tried to find a way to satisfy capital charges against Roman and Jewish law. Finally, they had to admit his claims to be the Anointed One, the Messiah. How those words must have stuck in their throat! And Pilate, so conscious of powers bestowed by the Emperor, in wonderment said, “Are you the king of the Jews?” And to this battle-hardened ex-soldier, Jesus gave a wonderful confession: “My kingdom is not of this world … You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice” (John 18:33-37). Calm, dignified, gracious words elevated his right to God’s kingdom. That made all their claims to temporal power weak and pretentious by comparison.

A howling mob overruled the verdict of Pilate that Jesus was “faultless”. Pilate was forced to send him to Herod. That depraved adulterer, the murderer of John the Baptist, wanted a miracle from Jesus but all he got was stony silence. Again his adversaries in frustration set him at nought, mocking his claim to be king. A purple robe was brought to add to the cruel play-acting, ridiculing his role as king.

Through the noisy crowd Jesus was led back to Pilate. Was it but four days ago that loud hosan­nas rang in the streets of Jerusalem, garments and palm branches were strewed before him, and the acclaimed king rode into his city upon a colt, the foal of an ass? Or further back – it seems years ago – the feeding of 5,000 was enough for them to press him to be king! But that was all forgotten as the crowd was whipped up by the chief priests to reject him in favour of a terrorist. And not just put him to death by stoning but to crucify him. Why crucify him? The desperate Jews knew their Scriptures. They wanted him hung on a stake, cursed by the law, thereby negating his holiness. Even his follow­ers would have a sense of disillusionment. And to make sure their plans succeeded they would break his bones and cast him as a criminal into the fires of Gehennah! He cannot be the Messiah! With his Stripes

The weak, harassed Governor buckled under the pressure. He ordered Jesus to be scourged. The Scriptures are silent as to the details but there would be no doubt about the revulsion felt in heaven as the angelic host beheld the brutal, barbaric lashing that was meted out to the Son of God’s love! In the worst possible way, he was “bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed” (Isa 53:5). Brethren and sisters, how much suffering did he endure for our healing?!

“Behold the man!” To them he was an object of derision, rejection and shame. To us, what do we behold? A suffering saviour, yes; and if we look into the man, what do we see? A steely resolve, a mind that never faltered in his desire to complete his Father’s will. And in his mind he saw a great multitude redeemed by his blood – and, yes, he saw us in that great multitude!

Then from the crowd came the shocking, self-fulfilling prophecy, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Pilate tried in vain to wash his hands of innocent blood but no amount of washing could absolve his guilt or that of Jews and Gentiles. A crown of thorns was rammed on the head of Jesus as rough soldiers made sport and tormented the lonely figure.

They led him away to be crucified. Back in his bloodstained clothes they lumped upon him a heavy stake and forced him to carry it through the crowds. Understandably, he stumbled and fell. Exhausted, he could not rise up. They seized one called Simon and commanded him to carry the stake – and taking up the cross and following Christ forever changed that man’s life!

Even so must the Son of Man be Lifted up

The mind needed to be focused. Out of sympathy, wine mingled with myrrh was offered but refused. The mind, whilst ravaged by stabbing pain, needed to be clear with prayer and awareness maintained. Heavy-duty nails were belted into the hands and feet and the body slumped as the cross was roughly dropped into place on Golgotha’s hill. The Lord’s freedom to walk, to talk and to heal was now no more. But by the Roman Governor’s decree, the sign over his cross declared in three languages for all to see that he was, “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews”. “As the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, so too was the Son of man lifted up” (John 3:16). John says that, “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”, but that’s particularly to those who understand and believe that, in him, flesh was condemned and the Word of God glorified. What a special understand­ing we all have that the “seed of the woman” was literally and figuratively bruised in the heel. What an amazing first promise!

First century crucifixion spikes

Two other thieves were crucified with him. As prophesied, “He was numbered with the transgres­sors”. Crazed curses and screams of pain filled the air but not from the mouth of the lowly Nazarene. From that bleeding figure came the amazing words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). No one crucified ever spoke like this man! “Love your enemies” has never been so sorely tested. But what a lesson in forgiveness! Those words were spoken with strong, intense feeling. He was willing to forgive. Are we prepared to forgive the undeserving for far less injury or hurt done unto us by others?

First century crucifixion spikes

Again Scripture was fulfilled when the soldiers parted his garments and as dogs they encircled him and waited for him to die (Psa 22:16,18). Jewish leaders joined the soldiers and threw their taunts in his face, mocking his sonship with the Father. Yet the faith of one of the thieves was rewarded with the promise of the Lord that when he returns he would be with the Lord in paradise (to partake of the tree of life – Luke 23:43). And the Lord, ever showing love and compassion, said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son”, and to John, “behold your mother”.

Mercifully the Lord was spared prolonged suffering. Something like six hours of acute pain was enough. Thick darkness descended from mid­day through to 3pm and then in his desolation he cried to his Father. In his last conscious moments he cried out, “It is finished”, and in an act of loving submission he gasped out, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). The Temple veil was rent from top to bottom signifying an opening of a new and living way into the holiest (Heb 10:19-20). A terrible earthquake shook the earth as a sign of God’s anger at their treatment of His beloved Son.

Soldiers went about their heartless task and broke the legs of the two thieves to hasten their death. But the centurion verified that Jesus had already died. Previously, blood had oozed from his wounds but then, blood and water gushed forth as the soldier pierced his side. Scripture was again fulfilled. Not a bone of this “Lamb” was broken and in the future another generation of his people will humbly acknowledge that they had pierced their Messiah (). Two brave and discerning men made provision for the Lord’s body to be laid in a new sepulchre. He died with the wicked but was buried with the rich (Isa 53:9), who honoured him with a burial worthy of a king!

In conclusion, we know that the Father gladly accepted the offering: a life devoted, a pure and unblemished sacrifice. At his baptism he declared his intention to fulfil all righteousness and that was wonderfully completed, even to his dying breath. God had been glorified and honoured by the Son of His love, His only begotten Son. His resurrection from that garden tomb after exactly three days was now sure and certain just as is his return in glory. He will wear the scars of terrible suffering but he is alive for evermore and will yet celebrate his victory over the grave with his beloved bride – if we truly appreciate, like the Roman centurion, that truly this was (and is!) the Son of God!