Summary: A look at the arrest, trial, torture and resurrection of Christ
The images of Mel Gibson’s film are still fresh in my mind. I can see him being arrested in the Garden. I can see his trial and the brutal beating. I can see the crucifixion. And I can see the final scene as Jesus walked triumphantly from the tomb. It was a movie that has profoundly impacted our nation, and is now is being shown around the world. It will be interesting to see the affect it has over time.
But it was hardly through its first week when the major television networks were busy putting together programs to debunk the Christian message of a Savior who came to redeem the world. Their attempts would be laughable if they were not the source of so much confusion. No less a New Testament scholar than Peter Jennings — oh, wait a minute, he is just a news anchor who may not have even read the New Testament — spent no less than three hours trying to figure out the success of Jesus and why he still impacts the world today as powerfully as he does. And in spite of the fact that he and others have tried to infect the real story of Jesus with copious doses of doubt, Jesus remains the victor and we are here to celebrate his life among us today. The skeptics are nothing to be concerned about, because as A. W. Tozer reminds us: “Our Lord died an apparent failure, discredited by the leaders of established religion, rejected by society, and forsaken by his friends. It took the resurrection to demonstrate how gloriously Christ had triumphed and how tragically the world had failed. The resurrection demonstrated once and for all who won and who lost.” The reality of Jesus’ life and resurrection will last long after all the arguments of the skeptics have been forgotten. And when he triumphantly returns to earth at this second coming there will be no doubt about who he is and what he has done.
Let’s look again briefly at the last week of Jesus’ life and then move on to his resurrection. I want to look first at his arrest in the garden. Do you remember the scene in the Passion where Jesus is in utter anguish as he prayed? His soul is in torment, but it is not because of the physical torture he was about to experience. He was sweating drops of blood as he thought about having the sin of the whole world poured out on him. He was remembering the words of the prophet Isaiah: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). The sins of all the murderers, abusers, sexual molesters of children, thieves, rapists and gossips of the world would be poured out on his innocent and sinless soul. Just my guilt and shame is more than I can sometimes bear; I cannot imagine what it would be like to bear all the sin of the whole world. The torture of the Roman flogging would be nothing in comparison. He is struggling with the will of God, as many of us have done, for the will of God is not always easy. Sometimes he calls us to difficult and painful places. He was struggling with the whole idea of being separated from the Father — something he had never experienced before. He knew that the words of the Psalmist: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me,” would not only be on his lips but become a reality during his atoning death.
One of the pieces that I missed in Gibson’s movie was one of my favorite parts of the story of the arrest of Jesus. Gibson failed to put in one of the most powerful segments of the account found in the Gospel of John. Imagine the scene. A humble country preacher who talked about love and never raised a hand against anyone, and they come for him with a detachment of soldiers. Some scholars believe there may have been as many as 400 - 600 troops and possibly a small calvary. The Gospels tell us that they came with torches, swords and clubs (John 18:3; Mark 14:43). Now remember that Jesus had never breathed a threatening word, and told his followers to love their enemies; that those who used the sword would die by the sword. But they came at him with swords and clubs. Now here is the part the movie left out. John tells us that Jesus approached them and said to them, “Who do you want?” (John 18:4-6). They said to him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Then he simply said, “I am he.” Actually that is an English translation that takes some liberty. The Greek actually only says, “Ego eimi,” or “I am.” You remember the great I AM. It is the name of God. He told them exactly who he was, and when he did, they drew back from him and fell to the ground. The sheer power of his presence had overcome an entire army. They fell down, stunned and overcome by the awesomeness of his divine bearing. He was in absolutely no danger except the danger in which he willingly placed himself. He was in total control at all times. He could have simply walked away, as he did when the crowd in his home town of Nazareth tried to throw him over a cliff (Luke 4:29-30). But he was not set on escaping pain and danger, he was set on doing the will of the Father.