The Bible calls Christians to live a separated life. Millions are now celebrating the fast called Lent&emdash;giving up chewing gum, cigarettes, alcohol, and other vices. While they shop for their new Easter outfits in preparation for the big sunrise service and the later Easter egg hunt&emdash;we should take a sober look at ourselves, and determine just what this season means to us personally. Are you ready to take up your cross, to be forsaken by all, and follow Jesus? Forsaken by all, He followed His cross all the way to Golgotha'a lonely hill. He submitted his body to his cross, and ultimately was nailed there upon. Christian, will you take up your cross and follow Jesus, even when you too are forsaken by all?
by Jerry Gentry
"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23).
It has been a long, long night. Jesus has not slept for some 18 hours now. As midnight approaches, the High Priest Caiphas makes ready to send Jesus away to Pilate, after a hastily and illegally called Sanhedrin has met together.
Just hours ago Jesus celebrated his Last Passover with his disciples in that upper room. He ate the roast lamb with his disciples and served them the new Passover emblems of the bread and the wine. He washed their feet and instructed them to do the same. Then He bid them all farewell, saying: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. . . I go to prepare a place for you" (Joh 14:1,2).
Leaving that upper room, He walked with them, reminding them "I have kept my Father's commandments" (John 15:16), and "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit." He reminded them of sure persecution: "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service" (John 16:2). He told them of the coming of the Holy Spirit, who would "convict the world" (v. 9) and "guide you [believers] into all truth," and even "declare unto you the things that are to come" (v. 13). What a night this has been, and there is much more to come.
As the evening had progressed, Jesus prayed for them: "Holy Father, keep them in thy name. . ." (John 17:11), and "Sanctify them in the truth: thy word is truth" (v. 17). He then walked to the Garden of Gethsemane, with Peter and James and John. There, He went a stone's throw away and "fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matt 26:39). Returning to the three disciples, he said, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (v. 42). Yes, how weak is the flesh.
Then He went a distance and prayed again, saying "O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done" (v. 42). And He prayed still again, a third time: "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.
"And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,
"And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation" (Luk 22:44-46). Judas soon betrayed him with a kiss. Thereafter "they all left him, and fled" (Mark 14:50).
He was seized and bound and led before Annas, father in law to Caiaphas, the high priest. Accusations and interrogations are now made, to which Jesus says nothing. Then Caiphas demands, "Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am" (v. 61-62). To this, "the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy" (v. 63-64).
They then spat on him, blindfolded him, mocking and beating him "with blows of their hands" (v. 65). Jesus answers back not a word. As the night further progresses, Peter denies thrice and curses, after which "he went out, and wept bitterly" (Matt 26:75).
An agonizing 6-9 hours have passed since the original arrest the evening before. A tired, battered Jesus now receives formal condemnation by the Sanhedrin. Judas returns the 30 pieces of silver, then goes out and hangs himself. Now Jesus is bound and carried away and delivered up to Pilate in his palace, for the first time. A curiously gathered mob makes further accusations against Jesus to Pilate, who ultimately confesses, "I find no crime in him" (John 18:38).
When Pilate learns that Jesus is a Galillean, he sends Him to Herod, who himself was in Jerusalem at that time. Herod questions Jesus. "The chief priests and the scribes stood, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers set him at nought, and mocked him, and arraying him in gorgeous apparel sent him back to Pilate" (Luke 23:10-12) a second time, who "called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people. . . [finding] nothing worthy of death hath been done by him" (v. 13, 15).
Pilate "perceived that for envy the chief priests had delivered him up" (Mark 15:10). Even after having been warned by his wife, Pilate yields now to the pressure of the chief priests and elders, who have stirred up quite a riotous mob. Pilate offers a choice: "Release either Barabbas or Jesus." The mob cries, "Release Barabbas! Crucify Jesus!"
Pushed beyond his own reasonable judgment and the warnings of his wife, Pilate yields further to the pressure of the unruly crowd, and "scourged him" (John 18:1). Pilate's soldiers thrust a crown of thorns into Jesus' bare scalp. Blood trickles in long streams down his face. The soldiers array Jesus in a purple garment, mocking him and striking him further with hands and clubs. The chief priests and officers yell, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"
The scourging continues with a Roman cat-o-nine tails. With a handle, and multiple long leather lashes fitted with metal spikes, tacks and nails, this torturous weapon brings its victim to his knees with pain beyond description. This device was designed to rip the flesh off the human body. A soldier now wields this whip of torture against Jesus, whose blood splatters the faces of nearby gawkers. Lashing after lashing of the cat-o-nine tails across his back and arms and chest and face and body inflicts such damage that most victims cannot survive such a whipping. They usually collapse in immediate death. But Jesus is again brought before Pilate, who is scared this time. He brings Jesus out to a place called the Pavement. It is now the sixth hour, Roman time, or about sunrise. As the tumult continues, Pilate "took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man: see ye to it. And all the people answered and said, His blood be on us, and on our children" (Mat. 27:24).
"Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" the maddened crowd continues to yell.
Pilate now releases Barabbas, "But Jesus he scourged [again] and delivered to be crucified" (Matt 27:26). The sharp, bits of metal imbedded in the leather lashes again rip and tear through Jesus' skin and flesh. Blood oozes forth, as His body is flailed and ripped and torn and defiled beyond recognition. Jesus is now exhausted. His muscles ache from the torture. His skin burns with the fire of a hundred hells from the cuts and slashes and bruises. His kidneys throb for relief. His bones stick visibly out through his raw, pummeled, and lacerated flesh. As the Psalmist prophesied, "I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me" (Ps. 22:17). Yes, Jesus' bones stared out through his torn, tattered, flagellated flesh.
Yes, "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isa. 53:4).
Still, even now, forsaken by all, Jesus must take up His cross and bear it.
"Then delivered he [Pilate] him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha" (Joh 19:16-17).
Jesus now so weakened and weary, one Simon of Cyrene takes and bears Jesus' cross for the remainder of the way.
"And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.
"But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.
"For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.
"Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.
" For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? (Luk 23:27-31).
"And when they came to the place which is called, The skull, there they crucified him. . . And Jesus said, Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46).
"Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost" (Mat 27:50).
Though forsaken by all, Jesus was faithful to the bitter end. Will you take up your cross daily and follow Jesus, when you too are forsaken by all?
The Apostle Paul tells us: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
Forsaken by all. Christian, will you today purpose to forsake your life of sin, take up your cross daily, and follow in the steps of Jesus?