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THE ORDER OF EVENTS LEADING TO
(SERMON #4 ON THE FINAL DAYS OF CHRIST’S EARTHLY MINISTRY)
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
As we have done with the first three in this series of sermons, we will follow Jesus through the days of Passion Week, leading up to His crucifixion. This will be a “Bible Reading” rather than an exposition, to give an overview of the final days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. I am following Dr. A. T. Robertson’s A Harmony of the Gospels (Harper and Row, publishers, 1950 edition).
Last week I preached three sermons on the last days of Christ’s earthly ministry. We began with Jesus telling His disciples very plainly that He was going to Jerusalem to die on the Cross,
“And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again” (Matthew 20:17-19).
Then we followed Jesus and the Disciples to the small city of Bethany, where He raised Lazarus from the dead. This was a major miracle, and a turning point in our Lord’s ministry. Many Jews believed on Jesus as a result of the miracle of the raising of Lazarus. But others went to the Pharisees and reported that the masses were turning to Jesus because of this miracle.
“Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death” (John 11:53).
After this, Jesus left Bethany and made a circular trip with His Disciples northward to the edge of Galilee, then east to Perea, and then back south to Jericho, a short distance northeast of Jerusalem. When He reached Jericho He healed two blind men. One of them was Blind Bartimaeus. He also came to the house of a prominent tax collector named Zacchaeus, who was converted and began giving back much of the tax money he had wrongly taken. News of these dramatic events spread quickly among the thousands of Jewish people who were pouring into Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. Then Jesus and the Disciples travelled south, back to Bethany, about two miles south of the city of Jerusalem. Again, the chief priests plotted to “take him” out of jealousy and fear (John 11:57).
When Jesus and the Disciples arrived back at Bethany, they were served a lavish meal by Martha in the house of Simon the leper. At the end of the meal, Martha’s sister Mary anointed Jesus with a pound of very costly spikenard, a fragrant ointment used by the ancients, often to anoint a body for burial. Jesus said plainly that she was anointing Him for His burial the next Friday afternoon. This happened on the Friday before His crucifixion.
The next day was Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. Jesus remained quietly at Bethany on Saturday. On Sunday (which is now called “Palm Sunday”) there were thousands of pilgrims in the city for the great Jewish feast of Passover. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a little donkey. Many of the people thought highly of Him. They spread palm branches on the road so His donkey’s feet would not have to touch the ground. He was coming into Jerusalem on a donkey as King David and King Solomon had done. He was openly proclaiming Himself as the Messiah, the King of Israel, by doing this. The people cried out, “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel,” as He passed by the crowds gathered at the sides of the road (John 12:13).
When Jesus reached the temple, He went in and “looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve” (Mark 11:11). During this last week in Jerusalem, Jesus and the Disciples seem to have returned each evening to Bethany, to spend the night, either with Simon the leper, or, more probably, with Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazarus.
On Monday Jesus cursed the fig tree, as a picture of the fruitlessness of the religion of that time. Then Jesus went into the temple that Monday morning,
“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves”
They were overcharging the pilgrims for the doves they needed for sacrifices. They were cheating the people by charging them too much to exchange their foreign money (for many of them had come from long distances to worship at the temple). Jesus made it very plain that it was wrong for them to cheat the people this way. He said, “My house [the temple] shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”
On Tuesday, Jesus came back to Jerusalem and walked in the Temple. The chief priests, and the scribes and elders strongly questioned His authority to do what He had done the day before, in cleansing the temple. Tuesday was a day of controversy with these religious leaders. Speaking of Himself, Jesus said to them,
“Whosoever shall fall upon that stone [Himself] shall be broken” (Luke 20:18; cf. Isaiah 8:14-15).
“And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; [but] they feared the people” (Luke 20:1),
because most people saw Him as a great prophet, and perhaps the very Messiah Himself. Jesus was asked many questions by the scribes and Pharisees and high priests. He confounded them by giving simple answers from the Bible.
On Tuesday afternoon, sitting on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem, Jesus gave a series of prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and His own Second Coming. Most of this is given in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew. He warned them of the coming of false Christs and false prophets at the end of this age.
On that Tuesday night Judas went to the chief priests and plotted with them to betray Jesus into their hands. They paid him thirty pieces of silver in advance for doing this evil deed.
We are told nothing of what happened on Wednesday. He probably went back to Bethany to rest at the home of Mary and Martha, to prepare for the ordeal He was about to go through.
Thursday afternoon was the day they were to prepare for the Passover meal. The Disciples found a man who was willing to let them use an upper room in his house for Jesus and the Disciples to eat the Passover meal. It was possibly a room owned by the Disciple John Mark’s father. They prepared the Passover meal to eat together in that room.
That Thursday evening Jesus and the twelve Disciples ate the Passover meal together in that room. During the meal, Jesus washed the Disciples’ feet, and a little later Jesus pointed out Judas as the one who would betray Him. They all denied that they were the traitor, but Judas slipped away into the night to go to the chief priests and do the awful deed of betraying Jesus to them. After Judas left Jesus warned the eleven Disciples against deserting Him, but they all protested their loyalty.
At the end of the Passover meal that night Jesus took a piece of the unleavened bread, and a cup, and instituted the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, showing them that the broken bread represented His body, which would be broken on the Cross the next day. He then told them that the cup they drank represented the Blood He would shed for the forgiveness of sins. Then Christ gave them a sermon, recorded in John 14. After they had sung a hymn, they left the room where they had celebrated the Passover and the Lord’s Supper, and went out into the night to a place where Jesus often prayed.
“Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder” (Matthew 26:36).
He took Peter and James and John and went deeper into the darkness of the Garden. He left them a little way off and went farther into the Garden of Gethsemane.
“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
He prayed for this cup to be removed from Him. I do not believe that He was praying for God to save Him from the Cross. He had deliberately come to Jerusalem to die on the Cross (Matthew 20:17-19). I believe, with Dr. John R. Rice and Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, that He was praying to be delivered from death there in the Garden, which would have kept Him from going to the Cross the next day, as God had planned. God heard His prayer, and sent an angel to strengthen Him. When He felt stronger, He woke the Disciples and said that it was time to go, for His enemies were coming to take Him.
I personally believe that Jesus nearly died in Gethsemane, because it was there that the sins of the world were placed on Him. But God heard His prayer and prepared Him for the ordeal He would go through the next day (cf. Hebrews 5:7).
Now the high priest’s men and the soldiers break into the Garden and arrest Jesus. Judas had led them to Him, telling them that the one he kissed would be Jesus. They arrest the Saviour and drag Him away to be interviewed and tried by the high priest. This was actually illegal, for it broke many of the laws that were required for a normal trial. The arrest and trial of Jesus happened on early Friday morning, long before dawn.
“And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled…Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” (Matthew 26:57, 59-68).
Peter was outside during this trial. He denied Jesus three times. Jesus had told Peter that he would deny Him three times before the cock crowed. When the rooster crowed, Peter wept bitterly. About this time, on Friday at dawn, Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin, the religious court, and was condemned to death.
“When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death” (Matthew 27:1).
Then Judas, who had betrayed Him, went outside the walls of Jerusalem and hanged himself. The rope broke and his body fell down the hill and “burst asunder” (Acts 1:18).
The religious leaders brought Jesus before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Pilate questioned Jesus.
“Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all” (John 18:34-38).
When Pilate heard that Jesus was from Galilee, he sent Jesus to Herod. Herod wanted to see Jesus perform a miracle. Jesus remained silent as Herod questioned Him.
“And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate” (Luke 23:11).
Pilate was willing to release Jesus. At the Passover, he customarily released a prisoner. He asked the crowd if he should release Jesus or Barrabas, a notable prisoner, a murderer. The crowd, led by the chief priest, called for the release of the murderer and the crucifixion of Jesus.
“Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it” (Matthew 27:22-24).
Pilate then scourged Jesus, and delivered Him to be crucified at about 9:00 AM on Friday.
“Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there” (Matthew 27:26-36).
From 9:00 AM until noon on Friday, the soldiers gambled for the garment of Jesus. Jesus was scoffed at by the crowd, the Sanhedrin, the soldiers, and even the two thieves who were crucified on the right and left side of Jesus.
Between noon and three in the afternoon, on that Friday, “there was a darkness over all the earth” (Luke 23:44). One of the thieves turned by faith to Jesus, and Jesus said to him, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Then Jesus cried out,
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
An earthquake shook the ground and the vail of the Temple ripped in two. Then Jesus said,
“It is finished” (John 19:30).
“And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. 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” (Mark 15:37-39).
“And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre. And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid” (Mark 15:42-47).
After 6:00 PM, the new day started, according to Jewish time. Matthew said,
“Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch” (Matthew 27:62-66).
Thus, we leave Jesus, sealed in that tomb all day Saturday.
“And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment”
But never forget, He will rise bodily from the dead on Easter Sunday morning!
(END OF SERMON)
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