At last, surely the story is building to its climax? Jesus’ band of followers are waiting for him to make his move. Here we are – intrigued by this rabbi, drawn by the miracles and wonders, ready for the revolution.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
Then he asked them, “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you.”
Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothing became dazzling white. Then two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared and began talking with Jesus. They were glorious to see. And they were speaking of how he was about to fulfil God’s plan by dying in Jerusalem.
Peter and the others were very drowsy and had fallen asleep. Now they woke up and saw Jesus’ glory and the two men standing with him. As Moses and Elijah were starting to leave, Peter, not even knowing what he was saying, blurted out, “Master, this is wonderful! We will make three shrines – one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But even as he was saying this, a cloud came over them; and terror gripped them as it covered them.
Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.” When the voice died away, Jesus was there alone. They didn’t tell anyone what they had seen until long after this happened.
They were now on their way to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them…
Taking the twelve disciples aside, Jesus once more began to describe everything that was about to happen to him in Jerusalem. “When we get to Jerusalem,” he told them, “the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. They will mock him, spit on him, beat him with their whips, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again.”
Jesus went on toward Jerusalem, walking ahead of his disciples. As they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany, on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them, “and as you enter it, you will see a colt tied there that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ”
So they went and found the colt, just as Jesus had said. And sure enough, as they were untying it, the owners asked them, “Why are you untying our colt?”
And the disciples simply replied, “The Lord needs it.” So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on.
Then the crowds spread out their coats on the road ahead of Jesus. As they reached the place where the road started down from the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.
But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to cry. “I wish that even today you would find the way of peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from you. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you. They will crush you to the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you have rejected the opportunity God offered you.”
So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the temple. He looked around carefully at everything, and then he left because it was late in the afternoon.
The following morning, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the merchants from their stalls. He told them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a place of prayer’, but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
After that, he taught daily in the Temple, but the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the other leaders of the people began planning how to kill him. But they could think of nothing, because all the people hung on every word he said.
Every day Jesus went to the Temple to teach, and each evening he returned to spend the night on the Mount of Olives. The crowds gathered early each morning to hear him.
As Jesus was walking through the Temple area, the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the other leaders came up to him. They demanded, “By whose authority did you drive out the merchant from the temple? Who gave you such authority?
“I’ll tell you who gave me authority to do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. “Did John’s authority to baptise come from heaven, or was it merely human? Answer me!”
They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask why we didn’t believe John. But do we dare say it was merely human?” For they were afraid of what the people would do, because everyone believed that John was a prophet. So they finally replied, “We don’t know.”
And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t answer your question either.”
One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realised that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
The Festival of Unleavened Bread, which begins with the Passover celebration, was drawing near. The leading priests and teachers of religious law were actively plotting Jesus’ murder. But they wanted to kill him without starting a riot, a possibility they greatly feared.
Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, and he went over to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted that he was ready to help them, and they promised him a reward. So he began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus so they could arrest him quietly when the crowds weren’t around.
Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees. Judas, the betrayer, knew this place, because Jesus had often gone there with his disciples. The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove.
When the other disciples saw what was about to happen, they exclaimed, “Lord, should we fight? We brought swords!” And one of them slashed at the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear.
But Jesus said, “Don’t resist any more.” And he touched the place where the man’s ear had been and healed him. Then Jesus spoke to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard and the other leaders who headed the mob. “Am I some dangerous criminal,” he asked, “that you have come armed with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the temple? I was there every day.”
At that point, all the disciples deserted him and fled.
Then the people who had arrested Jesus led him to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the religious law and other leaders had gathered.
The high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God that you tell us whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
Jesus replied, “Yes, it is as you say. And in the future you will see me, the Son of Man, sitting at God’s right hand in the place of power and coming back on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror, shouting, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”
“Guilty!” they shouted. “He must die!”
Then they bound Jesus and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.
Matthew 26:57,63-66, 27:2
Pilate called together the leading priests and other religious leaders, along with the people, and he announced his verdict … “Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty. So I will have him flogged, but then I will release him.”
But they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
… “Why? What crime has he committed? I have found no reason to sentence him to death. I will therefore flog him and let him go.”
But the crowd shouter louder and louder for Jesus’ death, and their voices prevailed. So Pilate sentenced Jesus to die as they demanded.
Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with Jesus. Finally, they came to a place called The Skull. All three were crucified there – Jesus on the center cross, and the two criminals on either side.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive these people, because they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.
The crowd watched, and the leaders laughed and scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Chosen One, the Messiah.”
One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself – and us, too, while you’re at it!”
But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you are dying? We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
By this time it was noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the thick veil hanging in the Temple was torn apart. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.
When the captain of the Roman soldiers handling the executions saw what had happened, he praised God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.” And when the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw all that had happened, they went home in deep sorrow.
As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who was one of Jesus followers, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance as he left.
The next day – on the first day of the Passover ceremonies – the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will be raised from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he came back to life!”
So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.
Matthew 27:57-60, 62-64,66
How quickly things fall apart; how fragile even the best of us turn out to be. His disciples scattered, Jesus the long-awaited saviour fails. The revolution is over.
After centuries of waiting, Israel’s second chance comes to nothing.
We are here, full of doubt, confusion, and questions.