Summary: The parade of praises from Palm Sunday has been replaced by the cries coming from Calvary, as Jesus dies on the cross and despair begins to set in among the disciples.

A little boy was sick on Palm Sunday and stayed home from church with his mother. When his dad returned from the service he was holding a palm branch. The little boy was curious and asked his father, “Why do you have that palm branch, dad?” He explained that when Jesus came into town, everyone was waving palm branches to honor Him. The boy thought for a minute and said, “Wouldn’t you know it? I miss church one week and Jesus shows up!”

Today is Palm Sunday, the day we remember Jesus making His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. By the way, none of the gospels say that the people “waved” branches before Jesus. Rather, they spread garments and branches in His path, a practice that was done in Bible times at the coronation of a king (see 2 Kings 9:13). When Jesus rode a donkey, He fulfilled the prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9 that the Messiah would arrive “gentle and riding on a donkey.” Interestingly, it wasn’t called Palm Sunday then, but each Israelite family chose the lamb they would sacrifice for Passover on the tenth day of the month, which would have been this day. As the people shouted “Hosanna,” they didn’t know that the Lamb of God was about to be offered as their final sacrifice.

We’re coming to the conclusion of our series called, “Experience the Passion” as we’ve honed in on what happened to Jesus during the final twelve hours of His life. The parade of praises from Palm Sunday has been replaced by the cries coming from Calvary, as Jesus dies on the cross and despair begins to set in among the disciples.

False Claims

Over the years there have been at least three false claims about the death of Christ.

Jesus wasn’t supposed to die. Some groups, particularly the Moonies (the Unification Church), claim that the plan was for Jesus to get married and establish a righteous family on earth. According to Rev. Moon, “Jesus did not come to die on the cross” (“Divine Principle,” p. 178). This is easy to refute because Jesus himself said in Matthew 20:28: “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Someone was substituted for Jesus. Another false theory is that it wasn’t actually Jesus who was crucified. Some orthodox Muslims have proposed that “God made someone else look like Jesus and that this person was crucified instead” (Josh McDowell, “Islam,” p. 107). This view also flatly contradicts the Bible. The religious leaders and Roman officials would not have allowed a mistake at this crucial point. Even Pilate declared that it was Christ on the cross when he nailed the title, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (John 19:19). Actually, no one took Jesus’ place because He in fact, took our place by dying as our substitute.

Jesus “swooned” on the cross. This view was popularized about thirty years ago in a widely-read book called “The Passover Plot.” This myth, known as the “swoon theory,” suggests that Jesus was crucified and came very close to death, but really just fainted on the cross. He then revived in the tomb and appeared to the disciples. This supposition has been soundly refuted by many people and few hold to it today. As we’ll see in our Scripture text this takes more faith to believe than what actually happened. For those of us who’ve seen the Passion movie, one wonders how Jesus even survived long enough to be crucified.

One church member was troubled that her pastor believed this theory, so she wrote this letter to a radio Bible teacher: “Dear Sirs, our preacher said on Easter that Jesus just swooned on the cross and that the disciples nursed Him back to health. What do you think? Sincerely, Bewildered.” She received this reply a few days later: “Dear Bewildered, Beat your preacher with a cat-of-nine-tails with 39 heavy strokes, nail him to a cross; hang him in the sun for 6 hours; run a spear through his side and then put him in an airless tomb and see what happens.”

Friends, no one doubted that Jesus died on the cross because His death was a public execution! The religious leaders knew He was dead, the professional executioners knew He was dead, the Roman officials knew He was dead, the crowd knew He was dead, and His friends and followers knew that He was dead.

A Righteous Rich Man

This morning our focus is on the burial of Christ. We’ll look at this in two sections of five verses each. If you have your Bibles, please turn to Matthew 27:57-61: “As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.”

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