What do you think defines a hero? I’m sure that somewhere in the process, many of us will land on the idea of “being willing to risk your life to save someone else." And rightfully so! For me, it’s easy to think back to the men and women in uniform who either risked or offered their lives trying to save the people trapped in the Twin Towers in New York on September 11th, 2001. I can vividly remember the news reports and the stories of how innocent lives were saved because of many heroic acts. So many people were inspired by such acts.
But, what if? What if a prison nearby to the towers would have been impacted by the explosions? What if many of these same hero’s would have rushed into that burning prison in an attempt to save “society’s worst," only to die in the process? Would we be so quick to honor them as hero’s? Or, is it more likely that we would question why they would do such a thing? Why risk their life for people who are undeserving, when these hero’s had so much to give?
By now, you probably know where I’m going with this. Romans 5:6-10 reads:
Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble and lovable and generous benefactor someone might even dare to die. But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us. Therefore, since we are now justified (acquitted, made righteous, and brought into right relationship with God) by Christ's blood, how much more [certain is it that] we shall be saved by Him from the indignation and wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is much more [certain], now that we are reconciled, that we shall be saved (daily delivered from sin's dominion) through His [resurrection] life.
And before we get too comfortable, I invite each of us to be real with ourselves. Take a second and read Matthew 27:11-26:
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer. Then Pilate *said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so the governor was quite amazed.
Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the people any one prisoner whom they wanted. At that time they were holding a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when the people gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that because of envy they had handed Him over.
While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. But the governor said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate *said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all *said, “Crucify Him!” And he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Crucify Him!”
When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
What is mind blowing is how just days before, as we read in Joe’s devotional, people are cheering and praising Jesus for the miracles that they have seen. Yet, soon after, their cries turn from praise to hatred when they demand for the release of Barabbas - a known murderer - and demand that Pilate “Crucify Jesus!”
But, should it be that mind blowing? Should we really be that shocked? Sure, when we read a story like this we are filled with emotion and are left scratching our heads in an attempt to understand how the people could be so stupid. But in life do we not do the same thing? I know for me personally, I am so quick to sing the praises of Jesus and to identify with Him. However, when faced with temptation, how quickly I turn my song of praise into a song of hatred by my choices and actions.
And this defines the LOVE of Jesus. Though He had every chance to state His case before Pilate and the people, Jesus knew our need for a Savior. He stands in silence while false accusations are cast at Him. He takes the beatings & mockery that we deserve. Jesus walked the road lined with antagonists, the same people that He was dying for; you and me. He walks the road all the way to the cross where He allows Himself to be nailed to it and raised upon it to die. All in order to meet our needs.
He does all of this while we were yet ENEMIES of God.
Prayer: Jesus, I acknowledge that there is nothing good in me that is apart from You. As we celebrate Your love for us today, may I continually be reminded of the extremes that You went through in order to provide me with LIFE. In times of temptation, may I remember how you laid down your life [Your will, Your dignity, Your body] and find strength in You, in order to overcome. Thank You for loving me enough to die for me, even while I was your enemy.
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
1 Peter 2:24
Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him. They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.
As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they pressed into service to bear His cross.
And when they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink.
And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots. And sitting down, they began to keep watch over Him there. And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
At that time two robbers *were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words.
Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, “This man is calling for Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. But the rest of them said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave.
Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.”