Summary: This is the third message in a series that looks at Jesus final few days before He was crucified. This message considers the anxiety that Jesus was feeling and how He faced His fears on the way to the cross.
If you were given a choice, how would you Choose to Die?
-- In an accident - quick & relatively painless?
-- In your sleep?
-- Surrounded by your friends and loved ones?
Of course, none of us are given the choice of how we die -- we don’t know until the moment comes. Jesus, however, was aware of how He would die. For the past few weeks, we’ve been Following Jesus to the Cross...
-- To see not only WHAT Jesus experienced for us, but also HOW He approached His death -- What was Jesus’ Attitude like?
-- What did Jesus do on the Way to the Cross?
-- What was Important to Jesus as the Time of His Death drew closer?
Two weeks ago, we looked at how Jesus Prepared to die, seeing that He faced His death squarely with His Focus on the Future, and that He continued to carry out the Mission that His Father had given to Him -- a Mission of Teaching and Caring for those around Him.
And then last Sunday, we discovered how Jesus Drew A Line In The Sand -- how He chose to Confront the religious leadership of His day, condemning their outright hypocrisy; and how He Challenged His Followers to be faithful in the coming days.
But then, as the Cross begins to loom closer, we begin to see Another side of Jesus...
-- Jesus... began to be filled with anguish and deep distress. He told them, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death." (Matthew 26:37-38 - New Living Translation)
We’re not used to see this side of Jesus, are we? We’re used to seeing the confident Jesus who confronts and challenges. In some sense, many of us picture Jesus walking the road to the cross with a kind of John Wayne / Arnold Schwarzenegger type of attitude -- NO FEAR! Models of grit and determination.
And yet, that is not what we see! Instead, we find a man who is Vulnerable and somewhat Uncertain. Not the picture of a hero that we’re used to, is it? In fact, if we were writing the story, many of us would have left this passage out, choosing to present a strong, confident hero -- not one with doubts.
Why was Jesus so distressed? Well, consider this:
1. JESUS UNDERSTOOD WHAT WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN TO HIM.
Jesus had a strong sense of what was going to happen in the next number of hours. Look at what Jesus says to His followers:
-- While they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will BETRAY me..." (Matthew 26:21 - New International Version) Jesus knew that one of His own followers would deliberately turn his back on Jesus, betraying Him for money.
-- They went out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus said to his disciples, "During this very night, ALL of you will REJECT me..." (Matthew 26:31 - Contemporary English Version) Jesus knew that all of them would turn and run, fearing for their lives, leaving Jesus to face death on His own.
And in case someone thinks that Jesus just wandered into His fate, not knowing what was ahead, consider these words:
-- Jesus told his followers, "You know that the day after tomorrow is the day of the Passover Feast. On that day the Son of Man will be given to his enemies to be CRUCIFIED." (Matthew 26:1-2 - New Century Version) Jesus knew not only that He was going to die, He knew HOW He would be dying -- by crucifixion, which was the cruelest, most torturous way for a person to die. Death by Crucifixion was designed to produce the greatest degree of SHAME, and to Inflict the maximum amount of PAIN for the longest possible period of TIME. Jesus knew what was about to happen.
2. JESUS UNDERSTOOD WHAT WAS AT STAKE.
Jesus understood that this was more than just a physical struggle, it was a spiritual struggle. In his death, he would be taking on the guilt and sin of all humanity.
-- He was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on HIM the guilt and sins of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6 - New Living Translation)
These words by author Max Lucado from his book "And The Angels Were Silent" describes the scene well:
"The final encounter of the battle has begun. As Jesus looks at the city of Jerusalem, He sees what the disciples can’t... He sees the Evil One preparing for the final encounter... Hell is breaking loose... History records it as a battle of the Jews against Jesus. It wasn’t.... It was a battle of God against Satan. AND JESUS KNEW IT. He knew that before the war was over, he would be taken captive. He knew that before victory would come defeat. He knew that before the throne would come the cup. He knew that before the light of Sunday would come the blackness of Friday... AND HE IS AFRAID."