WITHOUT HOPE ON A SEA OF GRIEF
By Pastor Jim May
Last week we began a journey toward Calvary that began with Jesus standing on the hill weeping over Jerusalem. At that time we spoke about the preparations for the Passover meal that Jesus would enjoy with his disciples in the Upper Room in a message titled “Such a Man”. From the Upper Room we traveled with Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane with the 11 remaining disciples as he spent time in prayer, communicating with the Father in Heaven and ultimately winning the terrible battle with the flesh to face and he readied himself for the cruel time ahead. We ended that message titled, “The Lord’s Cup” with a look at what Jesus saw in the “Cup” that he was to bear at Calvary and why it was such a dreaded cup.
Now I want us to continue the journey to Calvary. Most of the time, we wait until Easter Sunday to talk about the crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus and end it with that great Resurrection from the dead. But I want to look at all of those events from a little different perspective as we journey onward.
Beginning in John 18:12 and reading through John 19:37 you will find the terrible story of the suffering and pain that Jesus had to endure in his last hours before his death. In past years we have dealt with this scenario in great detail but now I want to just mention a few things of interest concerning the crucifixion.
This past year there was a film made by Mel Gibson titled “The Passion of the Christ” that attempted to depict the sufferings of Jesus as Mr. Gibson saw it. All of us know of the controversy and the popularity of the film. Many of us have seen it: some more than once. I have heard many preachers put down on the film and some of them make some pretty good arguments against it, but overall I cannot bring myself to fully condemn the film.
I am persuaded that I should take the stance of the Apostle Paul when he talked about those who would attempt to wound the Apostle in his ministry. Here’s what he said in Philippians 1:15-18, "Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice."
I think, for the most part, that Mr. Gibson did the best he could, with the training and knowledge that he had, to portray the suffering that our Lord went through as he paid the debt for sin. But I don’t think that any Hollywood production, no matter how much they tried, could ever show the reality of what Jesus went through. All we can attempt to show is the physical punishment and the suffering of the body, but it’s impossible to for us to show the spiritual pain and great anguish of the spirit that Jesus suffered for our sake.
If there is one thing that I would have wanted Mr. Gibson’s film to do, it would be to emphasize the Resurrection and the message of the repentance unto salvation through the blood that Jesus shed.
If all we look at is the suffering, without ever seeing the reason and result of what Jesus did, then all we have done is killed a good man. But, if we can see that “man” rise again by his own power; take hold of the keys of death, hell and the grave; and then be given a name that is above every name whereby men can be saved, then we have seen the real story.
So in this message I don’t want to focus on the suffering Christ. I can never say enough to praise the Lord for what he suffered for me and for you. I can never describe the agony enough to make it as horrible as it was. I can never do justice to the great price that Jesus paid for my soul to be able to enter into Heaven’s gates one day.
I want us to look at the death of Jesus in another perspective tonight. I want us to see, from the minds and the eyes of the disciples, the hopelessness that engulfed them all in a sea of grief.
After several long hours of agony on the cross, the time finally came when the debt of sin was paid in full. At the very instant that Jesus cried out, “It is Finished” and gave up the ghost, allowing his soul and spirit to leave the body of flesh. At that instant, when Jesus drew his last breath, there were some mixed emotions for those around the cross, and those who followed afar off. Those who followed Jesus and loved him as a friend were glad to see the suffering come to an end but they also believed that this was the end of their hopes and dreams for the future.
For three years and one half years, the disciples had hinged their futures on this man called Jesus. During all that time they had hung on his every word, watched his every move and followed him wherever he went. Hope was burning in their hearts for freedom from oppression for their people. They looked forward with great anticipation to the day when Jesus would cast off the Roman rule and make all things right once again. They were convinced that “Messiah” had come, and they were expecting to see a free nation that would, once again, be blessed by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Israel looked upon Jesus as one of their greatest prophets. They were looking for a Deliverer, the likes of which had not been seen in Israel since the days of Moses when God had led Israel out of bondage with a mighty hand. It was time again for such a leader to appear. The prophets had foretold it for so long. So many generations had passed on, never knowing the feeling of being free; always living with a glimmer of hope, but never seeing that hope come to pass. Could it be that Jesus was the one? He had to be the ONE! The nation was expecting a king to arise and deliver them. That’s why they cheered for Jesus at the Triumphant Entry.
But in a moment of time, all of those hopes were crushed; dreams were erased; plans for the rise of a new king were abolished and the land of Israel fell into a sea of grief for their would be Deliverer had proved to be “cursed by God” because of his condemnation of the Jewish elders and the curse of the cross, and he was now dead!
Nearly every one of Jesus’ disciples had run away in fear. Peter had denied that he ever even knew Jesus. Only John and a very few followers went all the way to the cross. The events of that day had smashed all hope of freedom. Jesus was dead – and that was it!
John 19:38-42, "And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand."
This was the final act of kindness that Jesus’ followers could do on this terrible day. Joseph and Nicodemus, acting undercover for fear of reprisals from the Sanhedrin Council, dared to ask Pilate for the body of the Lord so they could give him a proper burial. They knew that they were taking their lives in their very hands by coming to Pilate but their love for Jesus constrained them to make the risk. All that Joseph had heard of and dreamed of, and all that Nicodemus had based his life upon, was gone. They took the body of Jesus, wrapped it in burial cloths and laid him in a tomb then closed the stone over the entrance.
In recent years there has been a storm of controversy over an artifact that many say was the actual burial cloth, or shroud, that Joseph and Nicodemus used to bury Jesus.
Just as a point of curiosity and interest, there is something that I want to show you! (Show pictures of shroud if available)
THE SHROUD OF TURIN – Fact or Fiction?
This burial shroud is proclaimed by many to be the actual shroud that covered the body of Jesus while it was laid in the tomb. There are some pretty convincing evidences that it could be real, but it has never been completely proven to be true.
Here are a few of the facts that point to its authenticity:
The body that appears on the Shroud is naked. Under Roman law criminals were whipped and executed in the nude. (These are facts that most artists, especially those who could have produced the shroud in the medieval times, would not have known, or if they had known, they would not have dared to publicly reproduce it.)
The man that appears on the Shroud was crucified with nails driven through his wrists. Although artists throughout the centuries have traditionally thought that Christ was nailed to the cross through his palms, it is now known that crucifixion victims were nailed to crosses through their wrists. This is supported both by archeological digs that discovered crucifixion victims with spike marks on their wrists (not palms) and also by studies that were conducted on corpses which proved that nails in palms will not support the weight of a body.
The life-size image on the cloth is NOT the result of pigment, stain, acid dye, or any applied material. The image itself is confined to the top-most fibrils of the cloth’s fibers. Whatever made the image did not penetrate the fibers of the cloth as all known artistic materials would.
The image on the Shroud is uniquely three-dimensional. Although most scientists believe that the image was made by the body emitting a burst of energy of some kind (which caused the body’s image to be lightly burned onto the Shroud), they have no idea how this could have been done. Efforts to lightly burn images into shroud-like fabrics have all failed to reproduce the extraordinarily delicate, detailed, three-dimensional effect found on the Shroud. The way the image was burned onto the Shroud is also flawlessly accurate in terms of how a body emitting energy would imprint itself on a cloth that was covering it.
The exact way the man was crucified closely matches biblical accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion. Among other things, there are 120 lesions, the shape of dumbbells, distributed over the back and running around the front of the body--probably caused by a Roman whip called a flagellum, whose thongs were tipped with bits of lead or bone. There is a deep wound on the right side of the body between the ribs that bled profusely (this is what Biblical records indicate happened when a spear was thrust into Christ’s side).
There are thorn-like marks on the victim’s head (possibly from a crown of thorns). And the victim’s legs were not broken (which is significant both because Roman-style crucifixions ended with their victim’s legs being broken. The New Testament account of Christ’s death indicates that this was a Roman custom that Jesus was spared from).
Whether you want to believe it’s real or not, the Shroud of Turin does give a good description of a crucifixion much like the way it was. I’ll let you decide whether you believe it or not. I make no case for its authenticity at all.
Joseph and Nicodemus took a great risk but they managed to get the body of Jesus and bury it until a proper burial could take place after the Sabbath had passed. They took the body, took a hundred pounds of aloe and spices used to preserve the body, wrapped it in the cloth and laid it in the tomb, then sadly, covered the entrance with a large stone, then slowly turned and walked away.
Then the unthinkable happened! To add grief upon grief, it is discovered on the First Day of the week that Jesus’ body was gone.
Could not the Romans have had respect for the dead? Could not the Jews leave him alone now? Jesus was dead, what more could they want from him?
John 20:1-10, "The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home."
Jesus’ body was gone! Oh how their grief overwhelmed them. Peter, John, Mary Magdalene, those who loved Jesus most of all, were lost in a sea of grief, all hope for the future smashed. Where would they go now? What could they do now? Nothing lie ahead but hopelessness and an empty road without direction!
What more was there to do but just go home and grieve? So they walked away, heads held low, without hope in a sea of grief, leaving Mary sitting by the empty tomb crying all alone as they walked away. And Mary sobbed, crying with sorrow for a long time. How long she cried alone, bearing the heavy load of grief we do not know. But it was long enough for Peter and John to make it all the way home. Mary could not stand the thought of losing Jesus so completely. She had to look one more time at the empty tomb, hoping beyond hope that somehow it was all a nightmare. Through eyes filled with tears, just one more time before she too would simply turn away and walk home in her own sea of grief, Mary turned to look inside just one last time.
All of the followers of Jesus felt nothing but numbness, sorry and grief. Their hope for a better life was killed completely! And that’s the feeling that the whole world has without Christ!
Without the Master, what meaning is there to all the teaching that Jesus had done? Without the Lord, what power was there in his words now? Without Jesus as their leader, who else is there to follow?
That’s the kind of hopelessness and grief that covers the whole world right now! Every day, men, women and children wake up to a day of hopeless and they live in a sea of grief. Families are falling apart. Parents are murdering their children and abandoning them on the street and walking away in hopelessness. Children are forsaking their homes and going out into the world, living like wild animals because there is hopelessness and grief in the home. Love is growing ever colder by the day.
On the day that Jesus died, hopelessness filled the land. On the day that Jesus died, grief seemed to replace joy in every corner of the land except in the hearts of those who wanted him dead. On that day, the whole of humanity became hopelessly lost in a sea of grief. What hope could there possibly be now? The Master is dead and his body is stolen. What could possibly be worse than that?
That, my friends, is the thought I will leave you with until we meet next time! For just a little while, that may seem like an eternity, you may sense the pain, the suffering, the hopelessness and the grief of a life without Jesus.
But the story isn’t over yet! Come back Sunday morning and Sunday evening for the rest of the story.