Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Story of the Passion of Jesus Christ

Arrest at the garden
It was on Thursday night that Jesus was apprehended in the valley of Kedron (on the mount of Olives), just outside of Jerusalem. The place was called, “the garden of Gethsemane”. It was in this grove that Jesus underwent His most intense psychological and spiritual anguish moments before His arrest. He prayed fervently that this horrific hour would pass from Him, and thus pass the cup of His sufferings. But it was for this very purpose that He came into this world. And at that knowledge, Jesus submitted wholeheartedly to the will of His Father. Truly it was here that His “heart melted within Him like wax”. He now accepted the very thing that His Father had sent Him for, because He did nothing apart from the Father's will.
As His disciples slumbered, suddenly, in that quite night, lanterns and torches lit up the peaceful garden. What appeared to be a great crowd, all came with one accord to take Jesus by treachery. At this, Jesus was seized by the “great multitudes” of the representatives of the Sanhedrin, the Temple police, a detachment of a Roman cohort, and officers of the Jewish chief priests. They came with clubs and swords, as if intending to arrest a common criminal. A whole army descended upon the lowly Nazarene who had ridden triumphantly into the city on a donkey not so long ago.
After some commotion, the disciples fled the scene and deserted their Lord to His fate.
Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin, who had imposed a death sentence on charges of blasphemy, for He had claimed to be that “Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven”. He was brought before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, and there he was tried....

The Passion

Mockery of the Roman soldiers
Now, after Pilate's soldiers took Jesus away into the governor's palace (which is called the Praetorium), they called together the whole Roman cohort (which consists of 600 soldiers) around Him. And they stripped Him of His own clothing, scourged Him very violently until he was drenched entirely in blood and dressed Him up in a scarlet purple robe. Meanwhile, they twisted a crown of thorns from a bush, put it on His head, and placed a reed in His right hand. They then knelt down in front of Him, as they made fun of Him, and began to acclaim Him saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they took the reed, and kept on beating His head with it, spitting at Him in the process, and bowing down before Him as if in obeisance. All this was only a beginning of what was written by the mouth of David, “For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me”. The scripture signified well, when the gentiles are the “dogs” and “synagogue” are the congregation of the children of Israel. Both of which had hearts that were not circumcised.

Pronouncement of the death sentence
Then Jesus came out into the presence of His accusers and before Pilate, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, then Pilate declared, “idou ho anthropos!”, (“Behold the Man!”), but the chief priests cried out, “Get Him out of here! Get Him out of here at once! Crucify Him”. Then Pilate, (as he sat on the judgement seat, called the Bema, or a high platform) said to the frenzied crowd, “Do you really want me to crucify your King?”, but the chief priests said to him in response, “The only king we acknowledge is Tiberius Caesar!”. At this, Pilate gave Jesus into their hands to die. Then they apprehended Him and led Him away from the court, which was located at the Antonia fortress, where a Roman garrison was stationed. This was when “the kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers gathered themselves together against the Lord and against His Christ”.  

Journey to Golgotha
After suffering such a humiliating charade by the soldiers, Jesus was finally ready to face His impending death.  The soldiers stripped Him of His purple robe, and put His own clothing back on Him. They then took Jesus away and led Him out to crucify Him, while He bore His own cross on the way. Being silent and obedient to His Father's will, “He was led away like a sheep to the slaughter, even then he did not cry out for mercy”. And as they were proceeding to the place of his execution, they found a passer-by coming from the country, a man of Cyrene, (a Greek colony in Libya) named Simon. He was a father of Alexander and Rufus. Therefore, when the soldiers Saw that Jesus was demoralized by the severe scourging he had received, since he no longer had the strength to bear that heavy cross, and the fact that he was extremely dehydrated: they laid hold of Simon, and pressed him into the service to carry the cross for Him. It was here that Jesus was “poured out like water,” His strength being, “dried up like a potsherd” and “brought to the dust of death”. So they went away to the site of the crucifixion while Simon bore His own cross on the way for Him. This was to fulfill what He said to His disciples, “He who desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me”.
And there followed Him great crowd of the people, and also the women who were deeply lamenting for Him. And as Jesus turned to them, He said, “Oh, Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but rather weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming upon this city and this people when they will begin to say, 'Oh, how fortunate are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'fall on us,' and to the hills, 'cover us'. For if they do these things in the green tree, what will happen in the dry?” And there were two other criminals, who were being led away to be put to death with Him. Finally, they had brought Him to the place called the Skull, which is translated in Hebrew Golgotha, (or Calvary in Latin), located just outside the city. And they tried to give Him wine (it was more like vinegar) mixed with gall and seasoned with myrrh; but after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink. This was an intoxicating drink designed to stupefy and numb His pain as He would hang on the cross, but He refused to partake of it.

First three hours of crucifixion
And they pierced his hands and his feet unto the wood and fixed the cross into the ground, after which it became erect. Now, with Him were crucified the two criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.  And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And he was numbered with the transgressors”. Then Jesus as He hung there, pleaded, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” The soldiers therefore, after they had finished crucifying Jesus, took His outer garments and made a division into four parts out of it, (a part to every soldier) and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. They said therefore to one another, “Let's not tear it to pieces, but let's gamble for it, to decide whose it will be”; this happened in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled that prophesied, “They divided up my garments among them, and gambled for my clothing”. That was why the soldiers were doing these these things to Him. Afterwards, the soldiers sat down, and began to keep watch over Him there as they were ordered. And it was nine in the morning when they nailed Him to the cross.
Now, Pontius Pilate wrote an inscription of the charge against Him and put it on the cross above His head. And it was written, “This is Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews”. Many of the Jews read this inscription, since the place where Jesus was crucified was near Jerusalem; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek. As a result the Jewish chief priests complained to Pilate, “Don't write, 'The King of the Jews'; but that He said, 'I am King of the Jews.'” But, Pontius Pilate answered, “What I have written stays written”.
And those passing by were hurling abuses at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Ha! You who said that you are going to destroy the temple, and rebuild it in three days! If you really are the Son of God as you claim, come down from the cross.” In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes (professional interpreters of the law), the rulers and the elders sneered at Him and said, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. Let this Christ of God His Chosen One, the King of Israel now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe in Him. He trusts in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He takes pleasure in Him, for He said, 'I am the Son of God.” And the soldiers also mocked Him, as one of them ran up to Him, and offered Him sour wine, “save Yourself if You are the King of the Jews” the soldier said.
And one of the criminals who hanged there also joined in the abusive crowd, “Aren't You the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”. But the other rebuked him for that disrespectful remark and said, “Don't you fear God, since you are under the same penalty? Since we're obviously suffering justly, and now we're receiving what we deserve for our misdeeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he turned to Jesus and said to Him, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom!” And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise”.
In the meantime there were standing by the cross of Jesus His mother Mary, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw Mary His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, he said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that moment that disciple took her into his own house.

The Last Three Hours
And now it was, at around noon, as the sun was obscured, that darkness fell over the whole land until three o'clock in the afternoon. And right about that time, Jesus cried out with a loud voice in Aramaic, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”, which is translated, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”
And when some of those bystanders who were standing about, heard the cry, began saying to one another, “Look, this guy is calling for Elijah.” After this, Jesus, knowing that all things have already been accomplished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I'm thirsty.” Now, a jar full of sour wine was sitting at the foot of the cross; and immediately, one of them ran, taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine, put it on a branch of hyssop, and as he brought it up to His mouth, Jesus took a drink from it. But the rest of them remarked, “Wait, let's see if Elijah will come to rescue Him and take Him down from the cross”. When Jesus had drunk the sour wine, He declared, “It is finished!”. Thus he has completed what he set out to do before he came into this world.
Then again a little later,  Jesus, cried out once again with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands, I commit My Spirit”. And having said this, He breathed out his last breath, then He slowly bowed down His head as it dangled from His outstretched shoulders, and finally gave up His Spirit.
Then suddenly upon His death, the veil of the holy temple in Jerusalem was torn in two: from top to bottom, and the earth shook violently; the rocks were split, and the tombs of the cemeteries were opened; and many bodies of holy men who had died long ago were raised up to life again; and as they proceeded out of their graves, they entered the holy city and appeared to many people.
And now, there was a certain centurion (a commander of hundred soldiers),  who was standing right in front of the cross, and with him were those who were keeping guard over Jesus. When they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening around them in the event of His death and the way He miraculously breathed out His last breath, became very frightened, “Truly,” he declared, “this man is the Son of God”. Then the centurion began to praise God.
And all the multitudes who came together for this spectacle, also observed what had happened, returned to the city, and they beat their breasts on the way in grief, “Woe to our sins. The judgment has approached and the end of Jerusalem” they declared. And all His acquaintances were there, and also many women who were looking on from the distance. Those were the ones who had followed Jesus from Galilee, financially assisting Him, among whom were Mary Magdalene,  with Mary the mother of James the Less and Joseph, and Salome the mother of the sons of Zebedee. And when He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and assist Him on His travels; and  many other women who had come up with Him to Jerusalem, standing at a distance, saw these things.   
The Jews therefore, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away, this was an ancient practice that was called crurafragium, the "breaking of the legs." The soldiers therefore came, and broke the legs of the first man, and of the other man who was crucified with Him; but as they came to Jesus, they saw that He was already dead, and did not break His legs; but one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately  blood and water gushed out from His wound. (And the disciple who has witnessed this, testified to this, and it is certain that his testimony is true; and he knows that he is giving us the whole truth so that you also may believe). For these things happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled, “Not a bone of Him shall be broken”. And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they have pierced, but after the suffering of His soul, He shall see the light of life”, and be raised to life the third day as he had declared, because it was not possible for Him to be held by death.
It was then that he appeared in His own flesh to His disciples, after seeing and handling Him, they believed in Him at last. And as He was taken up to His Father in heaven, Jesus gave them power to proclaim forgiveness of sins in His name to all nations declaring “The Son of Man is risen indeed!”. This is that hidden mystery, which God prepared before the ages for our glory, and which was proclaimed through the prophets by the Holy Spirit, namely that Christ had to suffer and die, in order to fulfill the Scriptures, that He was buried and that He was raised to His glory and is to come judging the living and the dead.

This is the Gospel that will be preached in all the world until the end comes.

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