Which One Am I? Choices at Calvary
I want you to go with me now to the last night of Jesus' life on earth. Consider for a moment what it must have been like for those who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. If you would have been there, what character would you have been? What role, of those involved with the most important event of history, would you have played? Could the relationship I have now with Jesus be an indicator of who I might have been back then? Look with me at three sets of people whose lives were forever changed by the decisions they made that day. Then let us look at our own lives and the choices we must make today because of what occurred on Calvary then.
Two Disciples Mark 14:42-46 John 18:10-11
Mark 14:42 Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand. 43. And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead [him] away safely. 45 And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him. 46 And they laid their hands on him, and took him.
John 18:10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. 11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? 12 Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, 13. And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year.
Go with me to a garden it is nighttime and very late. As we enter the garden we pass by several men huddled together in the night air fast asleep. A little further up the path we see 3 other men also asleep and then there in the distance we see a lone figure. We can't quite hear what he is saying but you can see that he is praying and the prayer pours from his soul, like the beads of sweat that run from his forehead.
He finishes the prayer and walks back to the group of men sleeping now we see it is Jesus. He wakes them up them with a question. "Could you not tarry one hour in prayer?" They join the other group and they begin to walk back towards the entrance of the garden. Jesus senses others coming toward them in the darkness. Just as they approach the brook which marks the edge of Gethsemane a crowd of soldiers and guards from the temple appear. In their hands are spears, swords and clubs. A man is in front of the crowd, trying to act as if he is not leading them. Judas rushes to Jesus and kisses him in greeting. Jesus looks at his disciple and says, "Judas, betrayest the son of man with a kiss?" Judas knows he has not fooled the Lord. Not now with 30 pieces of silver in his money bag for betraying his Lord nor all the other times he had stolen from the bag instead of giving to the poor. One of the servants of the high priest steps forward to take Jesus away. Suddenly from the shadows behind Jesus a man leaps forward with a short sword and strikes at the man arresting his Lord. The blow was aimed for the man's head, but Peter is only a fisherman not a soldier and the blow is a glancing one that takes off the man's ear. Jesus steps between Peter and the wounded man before the crowd of soldiers can respond. "Put up thy sword, the cup which my Father had given me, shall I not drink it? This is their hour, and the power of darkness." Jesus reaches to the wounded man's head and with a touch heals him.
As you gaze at the scene in your mind’s eye, let me ask you a question. If you were there at this moment in time, which disciple would you be?
Would you be Judas, who betrays him with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver? Or Peter who leaps from the darkness to defend his Lord? Of course you say, I would not be Judas! I would not sell out the Lord, I would not betray the one who has taught me and whose power I have seen. Yet today as you sit in the real world and not the world of your imagination and you have never fully given yourself to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are just like Judas, the betrayer of the Lord.
Like Judas you cannot come to a full commitment of your life and heart to Jesus. Like Judas the things of this world have your devotion and loyalty instead of Him. Your 30 pieces of silver may not be the kind you can carry in a bag, they may be something else you treasure enough to refuse Jesus. It may be your pride, or your career, or you family or your friends. Whatever it may be you have given yourself to it and betrayed Jesus who longs to make you his own.
You say, "No, I would be Peter." Only if you could also be Peter when he stood on a mountainside with Jesus and when Jesus asked, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter confessed, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Until you can make that same confession you and I and all others will take our stand with Judas. Now in the garden betraying Jesus and later under a tree with a noose tied round my neck committing suicide. For rejecting Jesus is suicide, suicide of your soul.
Let us move on several hours into the future. Jesus has been convicted in an illegal trial, by an illegally assembled Sanhedrin. He is beat by their hands, ridiculed by their words and spat upon by their mouths. So violent is their anger they even tear out his beard with their hands. From here He is taken to Pilate the Roman governor, that the sentence of death might me carried out. The sentence is passed and Jesus is led through the streets of Jerusalem with a cross on his back, until he comes to a hill just outside of town.
Two Thieves Mark 15:22 Luke 23:39-43
Mark 15:15-26. And so Pilate, willing to content the people,
released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged [him],
to be crucified. 16 And the soldiers led
him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole
band. 17 And they clothed him with
purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his [head], 18 And began to salute him, Hail, King of the
Jews! 19 And they smote him on the head
with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing [their] knees worshipped him.
20 And when they had mocked him, they
took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out
to crucify him. 21 And they compel one
Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of
Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross. 22 And they bring him unto the place
Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. 23 And they gave him to drink wine mingled with
myrrh: but he received [it] not. 24 And
when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them,
what every man should take. 25 And it
was the third hour, and they crucified him. 26
And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF
Luke 23:39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Jesus walks on the road to Golgotha, weary without sleep and without food for several hours. The soldiers take the cross beam from His shoulders and grab a man from the street. Simon of Cyrene who is made to carry the cross behind Jesus. Finally, they arrive at the mount called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull in Hebrew, in Greek it is called Calvary. Here the cross is laid upon the ground and Jesus weary and worn is thrown prostrate upon it. His arms and legs are stretched out and cruel spikes are driven into his hands and into his feet. The bone underneath fractured and broken by the cruel blows of the hammer. Now the cross is lifted, just as Jesus predicted, lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. The cross is carelessly dropped into the hole which will hold it in place, jarring and tearing the nail pierced hands and feet again. Jesus is offered myrrh mixed with gall, a pain killer but he does not accept. He will not allow anything to deaden the pain and punishment of paying for our sins. The price must be paid in full.
On either side are thieves who have also been condemned to die by crucifixion. One thief joins in with the soldiers and the crowd hoping perhaps to be allowed to die a little faster. The other looks at Jesus and sees a righteous man, the Messiah of Israel, the savior of the world. He calls out for mercy and forgiveness, “Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” And Jesus said unto him, “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” In the midst of his suffering, in the midst of dying, Jesus still loving the lost.
Which thief am I? Which sinner am I? Paul writes in the book of Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." The issue is not whether I have sinned but what will I do about Jesus? Would I revile him, curse him, betray him? We say no not us, but to ignore Him and what he has done for you is to revile him, it is to curse him, it is to betray him. We count the precious blood of Jesus Christ of no effect and trample his sacrifice for us underfoot!
Which thief are you, the one who accepted Him as Lord and called out for mercy? Or the one which scorned Him laughed at him and died with God’s only son, a curse word on his lips. Will I accept or reject Jesus the Son of God who died in my place for my sin?
Mark 15:33 And when the sixth hour was come, there was
darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 and some of them that stood by, when they
heard it, said, behold, he calleth Elias.
36 and one ran and filled a sponge full of vinegar, and put it on a
reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will
come to take him down. And Jesus cried
with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.
38 and the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the
bottom. 39 and when the centurion, which
stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he
said, Truly this man was the Son of God.
Look at the soldiers around the cross. There is the one who swung the whip and struck the Lord thirty-nine times with a scourge, a cruel leather whip with several separate straps tied to a handle. The strands of the whip were braided with bits of lead, bone or stones, so that with each lash they tear, lacerate and shred the flesh, leaving muscle and even bones exposed.
Over there is the soldier who braided the thorns into a crown and put it upon the head of Jesus to mock and torture him. The thorns are from a desert thorn bush pointed two inch long, needle sharp shafts. He takes the mocking crown and forces it down onto the head and brow of Jesus. The thorns piercing down to the skull, tearing the scalp and embedding themselves.
At the very foot of the cross, under his pierced feet a group of soldiers are gambling for one of the few things Jesus owned on this earth, his clothing. One takes his shoes another his robe. Since his cloak is woven in one piece they gamble over it rather than tear it in pieces.
At the sixth hour, the world turns black, not an ordinary eclipse but God the father turning his back on the Son as the sin of the world is placed on him. Jesus cries out, "My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?" For the first time in all of eternity He is separated from the Father by our sin. He calls out with a loud voice, and he surrenders his life. The earth shakes as if in agony as its Creator dies and for three hours seemingly unending hours, the heavens and the earth are covered in blackness as they mourn His death.
The centurion in charge of the all the soldiers hears the cry of death from Jesus lips, he feels the earthquake and sees the blackness. He puts in words what his heart now realizes, "Truly, this was the son of God."
One final time let me ask. Which of those soldiers would you be? Would you beat the Lord who never did anything more than love sinners? Would you force the thorns down onto his head, laughing as the blood runs from his brow? Would you gamble for His clothes, while He hangs on a cross dying?
Surely, our minds cannot imagine that we would drive nails into His hands and feet. That we could be so cruel to someone who did so much good and taught such heavenly truths. Yet, I am just as responsible as they are. It was my sin that drove Him to the cross as much as any soldier whip. It was my sin that hammered the nails just as much as it was the arms of the soldier.
There is a story of a man who painted a portrait of this
very scene. In the painting we are draw to the Roman Soldier who is driving the
spikes into the hands of Jesus. As a
gift, he presented the work to his pastor. As the pastor looked at the painting,
he noticed the face of the Roman soldier looked familiar. He asked the painter, “Why does this soldier
seem familiar to me?”
The man replied, " I painted myself into that scene. I know that I was to blame for the death of Jesus."
All of us are as guilty as the soldiers but how many of us when finding ourselves at the foot of the cross, see Jesus dying for us and then as the centurion, seeing the darkness of sin, hearing the voice of Jesus cry out “Father, forgive them” and then confess, “Surely, this is the Son of God?"
So, which one of these players in the drama of Jesus last hours before His death are you? Which soldier, which thief, which disciple? They all made conscious choices about Jesus and His death, so must you. Do you choose to betray Him or defend Him? To mock Him or call out to Him. To ignore Him or to confess Him as truly the Son of God and Savior?