Calvary Road Baptist Church

“JOURNEY TO CALVARY”   Part 3

 

 

7A.    THE LAST SUPPER

Sacred scenes unfold with amazing rapidity during this week of Passion.  Ah, during these holy hours of this holy week of wonders, we hear the bells of Heaven ringing—and at other times we hear the hissing of hardened and hideous hatred hatched in the horrors of hell!

Monday we see Jesus cleansing the Temple for the second time.  “My house shall be called the house of prayer,” declares the Master, as He moves toward Calvary.  Jesus still expects His house to be a house of prayer—not a house of hate—not a house for cheap politics—not a house of fund-raising socials—not a house filled with people who have become spiritual babies who whimper and whine when they do not get their own way.  No—on His way to Calvary Jesus said that it must be known as a house of prayer!

Tuesday we hear the Master as He confronts His enemies in the Temple who question Him:  “By what authority do you these things?... Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar?... Whose wife will she be in the resurrection?... What is the greatest commandment?”

Jesus was never caught on the horns of a dilemma.  He boldly answers His enemies with striking statements, and pointed parables, and cutting questions.

Then the Master brings His last public message.  In the twenty-third chapter of Matthew we hear Jesus preaching to His enemies.  How bold, and burning, and biting are His words of wisdom!  How scorching and scathing is His denunciation of hypocrisy!  His enemies would have killed Him in that moment, if they had dared.

Then Jesus sat over against the treasury and watched the people as they gave their offerings.  This was the last thing He did in the Temple.  In Mark 12.41-44 we read of His last act in the Temple.

Jesus will visit the Temple no more!  The last thing He did was watch the people as they gave.  He still watches people when they give.  Will a man rob God—even as God looks on?  Some do.  One measuring stick of love is found in what we are willing to give.  Oh, how much God loved us!  He emptied the bank of heaven—He gave all for us.

Wednesday sees Jesus back in Bethany.  He will come back to Jerusalem later to die.  And His enemies continue to perfect their plans and define His death.  Their plotting now becomes detailed planning.  Jesus must go!  Behold the deadly bacteria on their souls:  murder—hate—jealousy—pride!

(Jesus prophesied His death, but His enemies did not hear it, and His friends could not understand it.)

A touching incident now takes place.  It reflects firm faith, and lasting love, and undying devotion.  “There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat,” Matthew 26.7.

Here was one who brought flowers for the living.  On His way to Calvary, this touching scene meant much to Jesus— and He let His deep appreciation be known.

And now Judas sells himself for thirty pieces of silver, and all the time he thought he was selling Christ!

The shadow of Calvary is lengthening—the cross is drawing nearer.  On our journey to Calvary, from this moment on, we must walk with Him in deep solemnity.

Thursday has come.  The sand in the hourglass of this last week is running out.  Jesus holds His last cabinet meeting with the twelve.  There was contention among them as to respective capabilities.  They were in the shadow of the Passover and Jesus was in the shadow of the cross—and these men were fussing among themselves.  They were more concerned with self than they were with the Savior.  This is the deep spiritual problem with many people today.

Oh, these self-seeking hearts.  They could not understand that Calvary was so near.  They were unwilling to look from self to the Savior.  Oh, how their proud and selfish hearts did need the coming Pentecostal fires!  The Master mastered the moment with an unforgettable lesson in humility.  The Word says, “He took a towel.”  Like Niagara stopping and stooping before a drop of water in a gutter—like the sun pausing to light a tiny candle—like a giant oak bending to touch the acorn—so it was when God washed the feet of men!

Leaning on one arm on their reclining couches, their dusty feet behind them, these men witnessed an act of humility such as mortal eyes had never looked upon.  Jesus moved from one man to another, washing their feet.

O Peter—impetuous, unpredictable Peter—Jesus is washing your feet, and you shall deny Him!

O Judas—genius of hypocrisy—Jesus is washing your feet, and you shall betray Him!

O self-seeking men—Jesus is washing your feet, and you shall forsake Him!

What a scene!

At the table Jesus breaks the bread, and reminds them that it symbolizes His broken body.  Then He hands the fruit of the vine to them, reminding them that this is the symbol of His blood that would be poured out in redemptive power.  The Master asked each of them to drink it.  “Drink ye all [each of you] of it.”

In the shadow of the cross the Master speaks and says that there was one present who would betray Him.  No one knew who it was!  A revelation of their weakness is found in their question, “Is it I?”  They were not as sure of themselves as they wanted to be.  How they needed the stabilizing influence of the coming Pentecost!

Judas was the man—and he is now sent away.  “Judas went out and it was night.”

But Jesus had established His memorial which continues to this hour.  “Do this in remembrance of me,” said the Master.

Rock of ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee;

Let the water and the blood,

From Thy wounded side which flow’d,

Be of sin the double cure,

Save from wrath and make me pure.

 

Some people refer to the Lord’s Supper as “the sacrament.”  The word “sacrament” comes from the Latin word sacramentum.  The sacramentum was the binding oath each Roman soldier took when he was inducted into the army of the emperor.  It was a solemn and certain promise of readiness to live or die for the sake of Rome—a pledge of dedication without reservation to the cause of Rome and the emperor.

It takes totality to meet totality.  Neither a divided house nor a divided heart can stand.  We are called to complete commitment to Christ and His cause.  At the table of the Lord, let our hearts exclaim:

Must Simon[1] bear the cross alone,

     And all the world go free?

No, there’s a cross for everyone,

     And there’s a cross for me.

 

All the memorials of men fade into oblivion when compared with this memorial.

Man’s pyramids are paltry.

Man’s monuments are meaningless.

Man’s palaces are petty.

But this ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is a living memorial to a living King!

The Last Supper is over.  But each time Christians come to the table of the Lord in obedience to His command, they perpetuate His Passion—they observe His ordinance—they make His memorial.

Jesus, speaking to His own, commanded them to love one another.  Simon Peter, as though he would evidence his love for the Master, said he would be willing to die for Him.  “Peter said unto him... I will lay down my life for thy sake,” John 13.37.

And Jesus uttered the last thing Peter expected Him to say.  “Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake?  Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice,” John 13.38.

Then comes the masterful masterpiece of the Master—those words with weight recorded in John,

chapters 14, 15 and 16, that you should read yourself tonight.

And then He prays His high priestly prayer recorded in John 17.  Another chapter for you to read.

Calvary is just around the corner.  Soon His shoulders must bear the cross.

But, first, His heart must commune with the Father.  “Jesus . . . went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron,” John 18.1a.

He who has set His face toward Calvary now turns His feet toward Gethsemane.

 

8A.    THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE

The clouds had been gathering—and now the storm was about to break.  So Jesus entered the Garden of Prayer.

O ye flowers of Gethsemane, bow your heads.  Jesus is praying.

O ye olive trees, bend gently in reverence.  Jesus is praying.

O ye mighty mountains, work of His hands, look down upon that holy scene.  Jesus is praying.

O ye rolling rivers, move silently to the sea.  Jesus is praying.

O ye birds of the boughs, hush your song!  Jesus is praying.

O ye stars of the heavens, close your eyes.  Jesus is praying.

O queenly moon, fashioned by His fingers, shine softly, oh, so softly through the tired trees.  Jesus is praying.

“And he went a little farther, 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,” Matthew 26.39.

Behold the God-Man on His face!

Behold the theanthropic Christ in agony!

Angels looked down and wept.

Demons looked up and laughed.

Now the battle becomes so severe that Luke tells us Jesus began to pray “the more earnestly, and his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground,” Luke 22.44.

He prayed with such holy desperation until blood oozed through the pores of His skin and fell like “clots” (Moffatt) to the earth.

And all the while His disciples slept.  (Are we asleep when He needs us most?)

What conflict!  What struggle in prayer!

Why?  Why?  Not to be spared from the spear!

Not to be saved from the stigmata!

Not to shun the shame!

Not to detour the death!

But Jesus knew that—to take our place—He had to become sin, and the Father could not look upon sin.  To think of the Father turning His back upon Him seemed more than He could bear.

“Oh, this cup—this bitter cup,” He cried.

Silently I draw near and behold that cup.  Oh, I cover my face!  For I see my own reflection!

Did He devote that sacred head

For such a worm as I?

 

Should the Savior suffer for sinners—of whom I am chief?  Was the purchase of the sinful worth the price of the Sinless?

Should God pay Heaven’s Diamond for earth’s dust?  Could this worthless mass of clay called sinful humanity deserve every drop to be found in the blood bank of Heaven?  No!

I look into the cup again.  I see the slimy serpent of sin vomit his venom into the veins of his victims—and leave them to die.  There, in the cup, is sin in all its naked horror and exposed shame.

Oh, my beloved, we were in the cup—our sinful selves were in the cup!

We were lost!

Hell-bound!

Without hope!

Undeserving!

He could have dropped us into hell in that moment!  And we deserved it!

He could have called for angels to escort Him back to the Father.  He could have forsaken us.  And we deserved it!

But sweeter than the music of angels—more soul-moving than a symphony by the heavenly hosts are His words:  Nevertheless, thy will be done.  He would go to the tree of death that we might see the tree of life.  He would provide mercy for the miscreant and salvation for the sinner!  Omnipotence would exhaust itself in the act of atonement!  Calvary would make possible a spiritual metamorphosis that would cause a worm of the dust to become a worm with wings!  Calvary would become a door to Heaven—and grace would be the hinges on which the door would swing—and love the key that would open it!  And that divine opportunity would impose a human obligation.

Ah, my Beloved, He who knew no sin became sin for us.

He yielded Himself to the will of God.  Dr. George Truett said, “To find the will of God is life’s greatest discovery.  To do the will of God is life’s greatest achievement.”  God’s will was first with Jesus.

Someone has said that His will was crucified in Gethsemane; His body on Calvary.  Oh, let us find and do His will until our hearts can say, “I delight to do thy will, O my God,” Psalm 40.8.

The struggle is over.

The battle is won.

Jesus comes forth from the place of prayer firmly fixed in purpose.

This is the Father’s will.  Nothing else matters.

What a scene is that!

In the distance, glaring against the early morning sky, are the torches of an angry mob coming toward Him.  Judas, the trusted traitor, is leading them.

On a previous occasion another crowd came to crown him king—and He fled away.

Here come His crucifiers.

And He is going forth to meet them.

 

9A.    JUDAS ISCARIOT

“And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples,” John 18.2.

Judas was urging the mob toward Jesus’ favorite place of prayer.  Judas had left the door of his heart ajar—and Satan entered into him.

“Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with the lanterns and torches and weapons,” John 18.3.

The brightly burning torches, borne by men with the fire of hell in their hearts, cast eerie, flickering shadows across the face of Judas as he drew near the Master.

“Don’t seize the wrong man,” says Judas.  “The one I greet with a kiss—it is he!  Seize him and hold him!”  As though the hounds of hell could restrain the holy Heart of Heaven!

Armed for battle, they came to capture the Prince of Peace.  The wolves of hell surrounded the Lamb of Heaven.

And Judas stepped forth and kissed the cheek of Jesus—a typical Oriental greeting, much like our hand-shake.  It was as though Judas had said, “Arrest the man with whom I shake hands.”

So Judas betrayed Jesus with a sign of devotion, a token of affection.  Apparently the smirking high priest could not wait to arrest his prisoner, and he sent his servant, Malchus, to seize Him.  And Peter, now awake and somewhat bewildered, drew his sword.  He must have told Malchus to get his dirty hands off Jesus.  Peter was so violent that he tried to cut his head off.  Malchus dodged—but the cutting edge of

Peter’s sword severed the ear of the high priest’s servant.

Then Jesus rebuked Peter and told him to put the sword away.  The Master did not fight His battles that way.

And Jesus touched and healed the ear of Malchus!  This was His last miracle.  But this display of power had little or no effect upon His enemies.  They had come to arrest Him—and arrest Him they did.

O Judas—how could you betray the best Friend you ever had?  What tragedy!

A writer of tragedies could not ask for better source material than is recorded in Holy Writ concerning Judas Iscariot.  There have been other tragedies recorded in literature, but none so infamous as this.  Shakespeare, whose prolific pen was capable of moving from comic wit to deep, searching pathos, tells us of some stirring tragedies.  In Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, and others, Shakespeare vividly portrays some characters with noble qualities who failed in spite of their attributes.  This conforms to the early Greek idea of tragedy.  The Greeks did not believe that a tragedy consisted merely of a villain getting his just deserts.  Rather, they believed that a tragedy centered around a character who failed in spite of his noble aspirations and enviable attributes.  This is a perfect picture of Judas Iscariot.

Judas must have been a likable, winsome, and intelligent man.  He was a man who was held in high regard, both by the members of the apostolic band and by those to whom he ministered.  Judas had to possess these attributes to be able to do the things he did.

Proof that Judas was held in high regard is found in the fact that he was appointed the apostle of finance.  His was the responsibility of the purse strings of the disciples.  Only a man trusted and loved would have been delegated this important task.  Then, too, none of the other disciples knew the Master was referring to Judas when He announced that one would betray Him.

Why did Judas fail?  We must always remember that the devil is constantly probing every recess of the heart.  He is trying to find the weakness in the make-up of the individual.  When two armies meet on the battlefield, each sends out one thrust after another, trying to find a weakness in the enemy line.  Once found, every reinforcement is employed to gain a foothold.  That is exactly what Satan does to every life.  He probes until he finds a weakness, and when he finds it, he is determined to gain a foothold.  Satan is perfectly content to let our strong points grow stronger, so long as our weak points grow weaker.  Just as a chain is no stronger than its weakest link, neither is a man stronger than the thing it takes to pull him down.

Ah, but Judas had a great opportunity.  He walked and talked with the Lord!  But great opportunity is no guarantee of success.

Dr. Joseph Parker used to say, “If a man seeks a door to hell, he will find it.”  And Judas found it.  For thirty dirty, paltry pieces of sordid silver he sold his Friend.  Some tell us that Judas was not a materialist, but rather that he tried in this way to coerce the Lord into a premature establishment of His kingdom.  There might be an element of truth in this, but the Gospels certainly do not credit him with such a motive.  He had simply fallen into Satan’s super snare.  He was caught in the web of materialism, and selling the Lord for thirty pieces of silver proves that a million dollars would not have to be at stake for a man to become a materialist.  It was not the amount that prompted him to betrayal. His betrayal simply stemmed from the Satanic attitude that now governed his heart.

No one loves a traitor.  Call the roll and Brutus, Benedict Arnold, Aaron Burr, Jr., Judas, and the other traitors step forward with shameful hearts.  In a weak moment each succumbed to a wrong desire, and now he suffers an eternity of regret.  Oh, the treachery and remorse of a traitor!

Pathetic Judas!  Jesus wrote the epitaph for him when He said, “It would have been better if this man had never been born.”

O Judas, your name will always be written on the blackest page of human history!

O Judas, your deed of infamy shall always remind men that Satan binds the heart with chains forged in the fires of hell.

On our journey to Calvary we have met Judas, the traitor.  Our hearts ache each time we remember how he betrayed our blessed Lord.

But—Judas had as much right to betray Jesus as you have!  Are you guilty of betrayal?

Are you long on testimony and short on works?

Do you blush to speak His name?

Are lip and life in holy harmony?

Do you make personal opinions applicable to universal Christian experience, while you attempt to hide and cover your own inconsistencies?

“O consistency, thou art a jewel.”  When we can find you!



[1] Originally Shepherd’s hymn contained Simon rather than Jesus, as we are accustomed to singing it.

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