A Curtain Torn in Two
After sharing the last supper, Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn. “Which one?” William asked us! It was probably one from ‘The Great Hallel’, Psalms 113-118, traditionally used after a Passover Meal. Jesus is likely to have sung, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever.” just before his trial and death.
Onward to Gethsemane, where olive groves overlooked Jerusalem, just three miles away. There is still an olive grove there to this day. Jesus prayed. What can we learn about prayer for our prayer life today?
· Prayer is to be persistent – don’t give up or fall asleep (like the disciples);
· Prayer is to be submissive - to God’s will;
· Prayer in necessary – Jesus prayed and so should we;
· Praying together as there is value in shared prayers – Jesus asked his disciples to pray with him.
Everything then goes at double speed! Events happen rapidly. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested, as his disciples ran away. An illegal trial followed, while Peter denied Jesus. Jesus is questioned by Pilate. Pilate asked the crowd, “Who do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas a criminal or Jesus who is called Christ? Jesus was a popular name then and now, in certain parts of the world, including being the name of several football players! Barabbas means ‘son of the father’ and Jesus the Christ is the son of Father God. What a choice! The fickle crowd demanded Barabbas whereas a few days before, had hailed Jesus as the saviour. Rob mentioned that the authorities might have forced or bribed the crowd; certainly, false witnesses came forward to speak against Jesus.
Pilate then said to the crowd, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” they shouted to crucify him.
William asked us to reflect on Pilate’s question, not just to the crowd, but to everyone. What is our response to Jesus? William told us about John Stott and this very question. John attended a Christian meeting and heard the speaker ask, “What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” John didn’t realise that he had to do anything with Jesus. He had been brought up in a Christian family and knew about Jesus, but he did not know that he had to make a personal response to Jesus e.g. to become a follower by asking for forgiveness. This question led to John becoming a Christian.
Rob said one response to Pilate’s question is that we are to glorify Jesus. William agreed and added that we are to acknowledge Jesus and live our lives for him.
Continuing the rapid story, Jesus is then crucified. One Christian understanding of the death of Jesus is called penal substitution. This means that humankind has done wrong and a just God demands death but lovingly and graciously allowed Jesus to pay the price for our misdoings. Sin is not ignored by God but is dealt with on the cross. Jesus died to take on himself the consequences of our actions. He is the only way back to God.
Two supernatural signs accompany Jesus’s death. The sky became dark at three in the afternoon and the curtain in the Temple was split in two from top to bottom. This symbolises that God was at work and the way to God is open for everyone. It caused the centurion to exclaim, “Truly this was the Son of God.”
Next week we will study the resurrection of Jesus that tells how Jesus conquered death.
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