The Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
John 10:15 NIV
If you’ve followed this series, The LORD is My Shepherd, for any length of time, you’re probably well in tune with the rhythm of the past six posts of this blog.
But in honor of what’s known as Holy Week – those seven dramatic days that begin with Palm Sunday and end on the following Saturday – His Own Heart Ministries invites you what will be a different study method for Week 7. We also pray this post affords a refreshed and compelling look into the events leading up to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Here’s the caveat, though – and please hear me – this week’s post is not a standalone post. In other words, what you’re about to read is only a portion of a larger whole that we’ll conclude in our Easter Sunday post. Whatever you do, please come back for that conclusion. Yes I know – for some of us, those words of caution seem a moot point. For this blog not to include them, however, could potentially cause a gross misinterpretation for new readers of Scripture.
And His Own Heart would rather close its virtual doors than to create that potential.
Also, for the convenience of anyone who’s missed some past posts or just wants to review what we’ve covered thus far for a broader understanding, the following links will take you where you need to go: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5 and Week 6.
That said, we’re still pursuing the basic premise of this series – examining aspects of what our series states. What, in other words, do we mean when we say with heartfelt conviction and deliberate commitment that The LORD is My Shepherd? We also continue to watch for these three basic truths:
- Jesus is the perfect Provider; He provides all needs for one’s soul.
- Jesus is the perfect Protector; He defines and defends His flock.
- Jesus is the perfect Promise; He delivers on His Word at any cost.
The aforementioned truths have – and continue to – unfold beneath the proverbial umbrella of the three guiding questions of the series:
- The LORD is my Shepherd: Are You Pulling the Wool?
- The LORD is my Shepherd: What Does That Make Me??
- The LORD is My Shepherd: Oh No He DIDN’T!?!
We’ve seen in this series that since Christ is the ultimate Shepherd, believers are logically His sheep. This week, we move into the final section of out journey that ties everything together to reveal exactly the lengths our Shepherd has gone to in order to care for you and me – His sheep.
As I prayed about possible methods we might take for walking through this post together, I was reminded that no one reveals or teaches God’s Word better than God Himself reveals or teaches it. As a Father, after all, He relishes talking about His Son as much as any human parent does. Let’s read together, then, the inspired account of the original Holy Week as recorded in Matthew 21:1-11 and Matthew 26-27 ESV. At the conclusion of those passages, I hope you’ll join me for an illustrated opportunity to place ourselves right into the unforgettable scene at the cross of our Savior.
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them,Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once. 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, Who is this? 11 And the crowds said, This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee…
The Plot to Kill Jesus
26 When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2 You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.
3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus [privately] and kill him. 5 But they said, Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.
Jesus Anointed at Bethany
6 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying,Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor. 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.
Judas to Betray Jesus
14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
The Passover with the Disciples
17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover? 18 He said, Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’ 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.
20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, Is it I, Lord? 23 He answered, He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, Is it I, Rabbi?He said to him, You have said so.
Institution of the Lord’s Supper
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c]covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.
Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial
30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee. 33 Peter answered him, Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away. 34 Jesus said to him,Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times. 35 Peter said to him, Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!And all the disciples said the same.
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, Sit here, while I go over there and pray. 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me. 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will. 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done. 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.
Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, The one I will kiss is the man; seize him. 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, Greetings, Rabbi!And he kissed him.50 Jesus said to him, Friend, do what you came to do. Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so? 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples left him and fled.
Jesus Before Caiaphas and the Council
57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’ 62 And the high priest stood up and said, Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you? 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God. 64 Jesus said to him, You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven. 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.66 What is your judgment?They answered, He deserves death.67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him,68 saying, Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?
Peter Denies Jesus
69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, You also were with Jesus the Galilean. 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, I do not know what you mean. 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, This man was with Jesus of Nazareth. 72 And again he denied it with an oath: I do not know the man. 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, I do not know the man.
And immediately the rooster crowed.
75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times. And he went out and wept bitterly.
Jesus Delivered to Pilate
27 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 2 And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.
Judas Hangs Himself
3 Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, I have sinned by betraying innocent blood… 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. 6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money. 7 So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.
Jesus Before Pilate
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, Are you the King of the Jews?Jesus said, You have said so. 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, Do you not hear how many things they testify against you? 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
The Crowd Chooses Barabbas
15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ? 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream. 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, Which of the two do you want me to release for you?And they said, Barabbas. 22 Pilate said to them, Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ? They all said, Let him be crucified! 23 And he said, Why? What evil has he done? But they shouted all the more, Let him be crucified!
Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves. 25 And all the people answered, His blood be on us and on our children! 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
Jesus Is Mocked
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him.28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, This is Jesus, the King of the Jews. 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross. 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying,42 He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
The Death of Jesus
45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the landuntil the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? (that is, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, This man is calling Elijah. 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him. 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said,Truly this was the Sonof God!
55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Jesus Is Buried
57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away.61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
The Guard at the Tomb
62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first. 65 Pilate said to them, You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can. 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
Meanwhile, two millennia later…
The scene at Knox Chapel UMC thunders volumes through its quiet presence on Amity Hill Road, Cleveland, NC. In the front yard of the church – less than a stone’s toss from the highway – stands a still interpretation of the crucifixion of Christ…so striking, in fact, that we turned our vehicle around and drove back to the churchyard for a closer look. Initially, I thought I was getting out of the car to admire the craftsmanship of the project; the church had obviously put a lot of love and labor into it.
But with each step that drew me closer toward the church’s representation of that very first Good Friday, I realized that this was more than an admiring of art for me: it was in its own way a journey into the story of my selfish depravity and the selfless grace of Jesus.
Would you please walk with me through these pictures for a few brief moments?
I had been eager to see the scene up close, perhaps even to imagine myself somehow in the group of onlookers. As each of my steps took me closer to it, however, I grew a bit uneasy and lingered for a bit behind the three crosses. Was I really ready to be here?
I made my way toward the front of the scene, but continued to keep a good distance. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to look; truth be told I suddenly realized afresh the countless times I’ve seemingly let Jesus down over the course of my life. I thought of Peter and wondered if, in the aftermath of denying that he knew his Savior and Best Friend, he was reluctant to approach the cross as well.
Eventually I ventured closer to the scene. Each mannequin has his or her own story, even the two thieves who hang to the left and right of Jesus on their own respective crosses. The artists who fashioned them – and make no mistake, they are indeed artists – have situated life-size replicas of some of the more familiar people we know from the account of Christ’s death as reported in the Four Gospels of the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
A Roman centurion (seen here in his orange cloak) kneels on one knee, his headpiece resting on the ground. He seems troubled, torn perhaps between allegiance to his government and the unjust sentence that same government has just dealt Jesus in order to appease His fickle accusers.
Several feet away – on both knees and dressed in black – kneels Mary. mother of Jesus. Her face is turned with steadiness toward the center cross and the Son who likely holds her heart just a tad more tightly than do His siblings. In that moment, I was stricken by the level of strength God surely poured upon this mother on that day. Perhaps He stationed an army of angels (like the one on the far right) around her for support even as He asked John – His friend and confidant – to look after her (John 19:25-27). I wondered fleetingly whether, in the preceding days or weeks, Jesus might have found a quite place to sit and talk with her about His coming death and resurrection. Can you imagine the sheer joy of being chosen to bear God’s Son, then the emptiness and anguish of being there to helplessly watch Him die?
As I stepped closer to the center cross – the one I still hadn’t found the strength to face directly – a lady who perhaps represented Mary Magdalene or another devout follower of the Lord moved me deeply. Nearly prostrate and overwhelmed by her grief, she lies at the foot of the cross. Blatantly obvious is the fact that her attention is on Christ and Christ alone. If you listen closely, you can almost hear her sobs and feel the emptiness of her loss. Very likely, the Man on the cross had changed her life – saved her life – when no one else seemed to care. Indeed, her very posture indicated that, if Jesus’ life was over, her own life – and, it struck me like a dart, mine– would have been over as well.
Finally, I gathered the courage to lift my eyes to the figure hanging from that center cross: the wrists, the feet, the side, the nails, the thorns, the crown, the face…the blood. Lifting my eyes to that mannequin of Christ with all its markings of abuse turned out to be as overwhelming as I expected. Jesus gave Himself willingly, after all, to endure all this abuse and most importantly to pour out His blood for our sakes – yours and mine – in the most beautiful expression of love. He literally gave us His all. Does my life truly reflect that I’ve done the same for Him? Does yours? It’s a question worthy of no fathomable excuse, and it calls for a lot of serious soul-searching.
On the walk back to the car, I turned to take another look at the scene in its entirety for one last time. Which character would most likely have represented me on that first Good Friday, I wondered. Immediately I thought of the lady at the foot of the cross, but the truth is that while I hope I would’ve been right there with her I might just as easily have been swept up in the angry mob; or even somewhere in the middle like the centurion. The other truth – the amazing TRUTH – is that Jesus hung on that blood-stained cross as much for the angry mob and the centurion as He did for the lady at His feet. And for you. And for me.
Wherever we might have fit into the picture.
Before we left the churchyard, I wanted so much to kneel by Mary Magdalene, take the precious face of Jesus’ mother in my hands, and put an arm around the shoulder of the centurion. I wanted to tell them not to worry, that I know how the story ends and that:
It. Is. A-MAZ-ING!
At the same time, however, I realized that the characters may be frozen in this scene at this church as God’s means of bidding passersby to slow for a bit and, as we consider their stories, to turn our attention to the One whose Story is the overarching theme of Holy Week as well as the theme of this post…
“Draw me nearer, nearer, Precious Lord, to Thy precious, bleeding side.”
– Copyright 2019 Carole Anne Hallyburton. All rights reserved.