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Through the Eyes...

Through the Eyes…

Lent 2018



What an interesting week we are beginning. The celebration of the time between Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on what we know as Palm Sunday and the discovery that the tomb in which Jesus was placed following His crucifixion was empty, that happening on Easter Sunday.


During that week, Jesus spent a lot of time teaching both His disciples and others. He had a meal with His disciple. He was arrested and put on trial. He was sentenced to death on a cross.Before the sentence was carried out He was whipped and beaten and mocked. Then He was crucified. After being pronounced dead, He was buried.


What an eventful week it was. A week we will see, in this message, through the eyes of four of the people involved. People told about in the four New Testament Gospels, beginning with something recorded in the last part of Mark 12.


Sometime after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, Jesus was once again in the Temple. 


Remember He had been in the Temple on Palm Sunday, shortly after His arrival in the city. Remember Jesus had cleansed the Temple, chasing away money-changers, sellers of sacrificial animals, and those who were using the Temple merely as a short cut.


That had been a violent time for Jesus. It was followed by a quieter time of teaching, healing, and being praised by children. 


Now Jesus was once again in the Temple, once again teaching. 


At one point Jesus sat down near where people were putting money into a Temple treasury container. As He sat, He noticed how the money was being given. It is at least implied there was something bothersome about how some of the money was given. The wording in verse 41. Many rich people put in large sums. 


Actually, nothing specific is described, so how do you suppose Jesus knew large sums were given? I see in my mind the givers walking slowly to the container, their heads held high, the money they were going to give held so it could be noticed, the givers looking around to make sure they were seen.


Plus, it was a metal container. The offerings were coins. They no doubt threw the coins into the container, causing a lot of noise. In that way, anyone watching would also hear how much generosity was being displayed.


The rich people Jesus watched exhibited considerable arrogance and pride.


Then someone else entered the area. A poor widow. No doubt the clothes the woman wore were like those that poor people owned. Maybe there was something in her countenance that described her as a widow.


Suddenly a poor widow entered the area. She, too, wanted to make an offering, but instead of walking tall, she must have been hunched over. While the rich wanted to be seen, the poor widow did not. While the rich wanted to show how generous they were, the poor widow tried to hide what she had, which was just two copper coins, which were the equivalent of a penny. The way I picture it, she did not throw her two coins into the container. She quietly put them in, trying to hide the paltry amount she gave.


The rich people that day gave a lot. The poor widow gave a very little. But listen to what Jesus said to His disciples. “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has just put in more than all the others who are giving to the treasury.” Why? “For they all contributed out of their abundance.” And yes, their giving had been great. It was impressive. “But the poor widow gave everything she had.” She gave her whole living. That was most impressive to Jesus.


The introduction to this message was that we will be considering what happened during Holy Week, doing so through the eyes of some of the people who lived it. Maybe the poor widow does not fit that criteria since there is no indication she saw much of anything that day. But maybe, if she happened to look up for just a second, she saw Jesus. What a kind, compassionate, loving expression He would have had for her. He was pleased with her gift. It was small in amount, but gigantic in spirit.

 

That incident is part of what happened between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Later in the week, on what we know as Good Friday, someone else became involved in the drama. His name was Barabbas. He became involved one of the times that day the Roman governor Pilate met with Jesus.


Following His arrest, one of the places Jesus was  taken was to Pilate by Jewish leaders. Twice Pilate announced he found no guilt in Jesus. He suggested Jesus be released.


But - this is recorded in Matthew 27, beginning with verse 15 - the religious leaders, along with many common Jewish people who were incited by the leaders, insisted Jesus not be released. The reason the religious leaders had taken Jesus to Pilate was because Pilate, not they, could pronounce a sentence of death. The leaders were not going to give up their goal of getting rid of Jesus. They were not going to be defeated by a mere “technicality” of innocence.


The Jewish leaders, with a huge crowd of common people, kept insisting Jesus not be released. However, knowing of the Lord’s innocence and being warned by his wife to not deal harshly with Jesus, Pilate still wanted Jesus released. To accomplish that, he came up with an idea.


Each year at Passover - all this happened during that year’s Passover celebration - it was the custom for Pilate to release one Jewish prisoner. Pilate asked the Jews a question. He knew the demand was for Jesus to be held, but there was someone else in prison who truly was guilty. His name was Barabbas, a notorious man in prison for insurrection and murder.


Pilate said to the crowd, “Instead of keeping Jesus, why don’t I keep Barabbas, who everyone knows is evil?” Pilate asked the crowd, “Which of the two - Jesus or Barabbas - shall I release for you?” 


Pilate knew the decision would be to release Jesus. The Lord was definitely the better of the two. Imagine Pilate’s shock when he heard the people’s response. They shouted, “Barabbas! Release to us Barabbas!”


Then  this. Pilate asked, “What shall I do with Jesus, who is called the Christ?” Imagine the gut-wrenching shock that came when Pilate heard the people demand, “Crucify Him!”


“Why?” Pilate asked. “What evil has Jesus done?” The answer was not a charge, but simply louder shouting. “Let Him be crucified!”


Barabbas, in prison during all this, had to have heard the shouting nearby. He must have sensed the unrest in the crowd. 


It is at least suggested Barabbas was the most notorious of all the prisoners. So suddenly, when Barabbas saw a crowd of soldiers approaching the prison, knowing the hyperactivity of the situation and probably having been unable to hear the exact words spoken - except for maybe the two words, “crucify Him” - he must have been frightened. It appeared to him the people must have demanded his execution that day.


Barabbas had to have been terrified as the soldiers arrived at the prison, as they grabbed a key and went to his cell, as they opened the door and unlocked his chains, as they then grabbed his arms and dragged him out of the cell, as they escorted him out of the prison.


What terror. Then, what sudden confusion. As soon as he was outside the prison, the soldiers left. 


And what was that off in the distance? Other soldiers were surrounding Jesus. He was being led away to the barracks of the Roman soldiers. That most certainly would not turn out well for Jesus.


I wonder if Barabbas lingered for a while. If so, he would have heard what happened in the barracks as the soldiers stripped Jesus and mocked Him and put a crown of thorns on His head and mocked Him some more before spitting on Him and hitting Him. All of that done before they put His clothes back on, then led Him away to be crucified.


Wait, Barabbas might have thought. The calls for crucifixion were not aimed at him. They were intended for Jesus.


Jesus? The one even Barabbas had to have known had healed people and performed other miracles and had a wonderful reputation of being a great teacher. A teacher giving lessons about love and good, wholesome living. Barabbas had to have known it was not Jesus, but him who deserved to die, yet Jesus was taking his place.


Was there joy in Barabbas? Was there relief. I hope there was no mocking, like “Glad it’s Him and not me.” 


What did Barabbas see that day through his eyes? The Bible does not give that information, but that day he did see someone die in his place. I hope he appreciated what was happening - Jesus dying for him.


When Jesus began His walk from the Roman barracks to where He would be crucified, He was forced to carry the cross on which He would die. However, all that had happened in the barracks, along with other examples of mistreatment earlier, had taken a toll on His body. That, plus the fact Jesus had been without food, water, and rest for many hours left Him in such a weakened state, Jesus came to the point He could no longer continue on.


That happened in front of many people who had gathered along the route. At least most in the crowd ridiculed Jesus, further mocking Him. That day, two others were also crucified. They, too, were mocked as criminals. But most of the verbal abuse was directed at Jesus. The Jewish leaders saw to that.


I imagine at least most in the crowd near where Jesus fell laughed at Him. But the journey had to continue. So it was that, in Luke 23:26, the soldiers accompanying Jesus saw Simon of Cyrene. Cyrene was a town in north Africa. The part that is now Libya.


I imagine Simon had arrived at Jerusalem for the last part of the Passover celebration. I imagine he was looking forward to a good time of spiritual celebration. But he happened upon the crowd along the road where Jesus was. There were three on that road being led to their crucifixions. One of them was bloodied. It was that one who had fallen.


I doubt Simon had any intention of getting involved, but a soldier noticed him. The soldier ordered him to go help Jesus. 


Simon must have resisted because it is worded that Simon was seized. The soldier was not going to take no for an answer. He forced Simon out of the crowd. He pushed him to Jesus. He forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. To carry it behind Him so the Lord would still receive the mocking of the people.


I wonder what Simon saw through his eyes. As with the widow and with Barabbas, the Bible does not say, but did he see an expression of thanks from Jesus? Did he see Jesus’ love for the people mocking Him? Did he see Jesus’ innocence?


If so, how interesting those sights were to Simon. To see a man so abused, still loving the very people who had been and were mistreating Him. 


Simon had to have seen that Jesus was someone special. As horrible as the situation was, I wonder if Simon was happy he had been chosen to be part of the day. Spiritually glad he was able to help the Lord.


Jesus was taken to Golgotha. A spot outside the city. A spot called The Skull, either because the rock formation looked like a skull or because that is where lots of skulls could be found. Skulls of those who had been crucified before, the bodies not claimed.


There Jesus was laid on the cross Simon had carried for Him. Jesus was nailed to the cross. The cross was raised up. Six hours later, Jesus died.


At that very moment, a number of things happened. Back to Matthew 27, the curtain in the Temple - the tall, thick, heavy curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple - was torn in two. Not by human hands, but by God. The curtain was torn from top to bottom. Then the earth shook. In the earthquake, rocks split. Then tombs were opened.


Hearing and viewing all this, a short distance from the cross, was a centurion. A Roman soldier. His assignment was to watch Jesus. He did that, which gave him a chance to see and hear all that happened.


What did the centurion see through his eyes that day? He explained it with the words, “Truly this was the Son of Go.”


The centurion saw that Jesus was exactly who He had said He was. The Son of God. The Savior. I wonder. If the centurion had known that earlier, would he have tried to stop the crucifixion? Of course, he likely lacked the authority or the ability to even slow the process. And of course, Jesus dying as the perfect sacrifice was God’s plan. It had to happen for us to be saved.


But at least after the fact, the Roman centurion knew who Jesus was. What a wonderful sight that was through his eyes.


*       *       *       *       *


There were others who saw the happenings of the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. They, too, witnessed important parts of the sacrifice of Jesus. But for today, let’s remember the four people discussed in this message.


The widow who gave her two coins in an offering saw understanding and compassion from Jesus. Even if she did not see those qualities in a physical way since her head was down, she saw them in a spiritual sense. Is that what we see in Jesus? He has understanding and compassion for us, too. Will we keep looking for those things, loving Him more and more because of them?


Barabbas saw a substitute. One who took the punishment he deserved. Barabbas was a criminal. He, not Jesus, deserved to be beaten and then crucified. Is that what we see in Jesus? He is still the substitute for people. If you have not accepted Jesus as your substitute, will you do so? For those of us who have, will we keep loving Him more and more because of that gift?


Simon of Cyrene saw a beaten man who still loved. Such love, I cannot comprehend, but Jesus showed it. Is that what we see in Jesus”? He still loves, even today. Will we keep seeing that quality? Will we love Him more and more in response to His love?


The centurion saw the Son of God. In one way, that recognition was too late. It came too late to save Jesus. But what a lesson that spiritually, it is never too late to know Jesus as Savior. Never too late as long as we live. Is that what we see in Jesus? That He truly is the Son of God? Will we love Him more and more, knowing He still wants people to accept Him?


And one more thought. We do not know what the widow or Barabbas or the centurion did after Holy Week. We of course hope they accepted and followed Jesus from that time on.


But Simon. In Mark 15, we are told that the day he was pressed into service, he had two sons with him - Alexander and Rufus. Listen. Twice in Acts, there is mention of an Alexander being involved in a Christian church. In Romans, there is mention of a Rufus in a Christian church. Could it be that the Alexander and Rufus mentioned later are the same ones who were with Simon the day Jesus was crucified? If that is the case, it means Simon likely, not only accepted Jesus himself, but shared his faith - taught his faith - to his sons.


Will we also share and teach Jesus to others?


Thursday is Maundy Thursday. A day to celebrate Jesus’ last meal with His disciples before His crucifixion.


Friday is Good Friday. A day to celebrate Jesus’ crucifixion - celebrate in the sense of being thankful for His sacrifice.


Next Sunday is Easter. A day to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. 


But for today, may we remember His death for us as we sing Lamb of God, which will also be the benediction.


Your only Son no sin to hide,

But You have sent Him from Your side

To walk upon this guilty sod

And to become the Lamb of God.

O Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God,

I love the holy Lamb of God.

O wash me in His precious blood,

My Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.


Your gift of love they crucified,
They laughed and scorned Him as He died,
The humble King they named a fraud

And sacrificed the Lamb of God.

O Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God,

I love the holy Lamb of God.

O wash me in His precious blood,

My Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.


I was so lost I should have died,

But You have brought me to Your side

To be led by Your staff and rod,

And to be called a lamb of God.

O Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God,

I love the holy Lamb of God.

O wash me in His precious blood,

Till I am just a lamb of God. 


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