Lesson 26: “To This End Was I Born”,
Matt 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 18
The lesson discusses the betrayal, trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Each event is a tragic comedy of errors as the ensuing events represent not only Jesus being betrayed, but all things good.
First, as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane in one of his most difficult times, he asked his disciples to pray with him. Yet they slept.
Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, which is a key symbol of love, devotion and trust.
Trial by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court, was supposed to be done in the day time, as a public event. The importance of a fair trial was set in stone as part and parcel of the law set down by Moses. The accused was not to be mocked nor hit, nor was the high priest to rent or rip his clothing. No one asked Jesus if there were any witnesses for him. False witnesses were supposed to be rigorously questioned to ensure their charges were not drummed up.
Jesus, the literal Son of God, was found guilty of blasphemy. Since the Jews were not allowed by the Romans to pass the death sentence, they sent him to Pontius Pilate. In bringing Jesus to the Roman procurator, they changed the charge from blasphemy (not against Roman law) to treason. Yet Jesus had not been tried originally for treason.
Pilate ruled an unruly people. In normal times they were difficult to control with his small Roman contingency. This occurred in the middle of Passover, when perhaps a million or more people were in Jerusalem. His troops were already overwhelmed trying to keep the peace.
In questioning Jesus, he finds that Jesus is not seeking to topple Caesar, but calls himself the king of an other worldly realm: not a treasonous offense. To prevent the Jewish mobs from erupting, he chooses to send Jesus to his neighbor, King Herod Antipas.
Herod was not only Jewish, but also reigned over Galilee, where Jesus was from. Previously, Herod was responsible for John the Baptist’s death, even though Herod feared and believed John’s prophetic call. He had heard much concerning Jesus and his miracles, and now hoped to see a miracle performed. Rather than finding a bold and outspoken prophet like John, Herod found Jesus to be quiet, timid, and less than inspiring. Herod mocked him and returned him back to Pilate for trial.
Pilate tried to convince the mobs to release Jesus. Traditionally, the Roman procurator would release one prisoner to the people on Passover. He offered a choice between Jesus and Barabbas. Barabbas was on trial for treason. As a member of the Zealot sect, he sought to violently overthrow the Roman occupation using murder and mayhem as his weapons. It is possible he was viewed as a militant messiah, as many Jews believed the coming Messiah would free them from Roman bondage. Meanwhile, Jesus was the Prince of Peace, the true Messiah. Instead of leading uprisings and rebellions with murder, he healed the sick and preached love and repentance.
The name Barabbas can be read as Bar Abba, or Son of Father (God). So, Pilate offered the Jews a choice between the Son of God and the literal Son of God. The Jewish mobs chose the imitation Savior.
Jesus was led away to be brutally whipped, mocked and tortured by the Roman soldiers, prior to crucifixion. The soldiers beat him, placed a crown of skin-piercing thorns on Jesus’ head, and placed a purple robe of royalty upon him. They mockingly bowed before him, then slapped him many times. Little did they know that the day would come when every knee would bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Lord.
In being crucified, the perfectly harmless and innocent Son of God was given the capitol punishment reserved for the most wicked and evil. Crucifixion was not the only form of death given by the Romans. It was the most severe and public, so as to show the people what happened to those who committed heinous crimes.
While soldiers selfishly divided his clothes at his nailed feet, he focused his attentions elsewhere: “Mother, behold thy son”, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The two thieves on either side of Jesus seemed to magnify the disparity between good and evil occurring on that fateful day. One thief mocking him and demanding to be saved, not understanding that Jesus was virtually saving him as he cursed. The other thief recognizing his own sins and that through faith he would be saved. Even as with the young Alma, this thief had experienced hell, but through repentance and faith would escape torment and hell, being saved in Jesus Christ (Alma 36).
Finally, after hours of pain, thirst and suffering, Jesus would meet his most difficult moment. Throughout his ministry, Jesus had God’s strength and power with him. God pronounced his Son at Jesus’ baptism, and again on the Mount of Transfiguration. Even while praying in agony at Gethsemane, God sent Jesus an angel to strengthen him. While Jesus was always there for his apostles, and is always there for us, he would not be given the same in return.
His apostles having deserted him and his mother sent away, only the disbelieving Romans and the apostate Jews remained to watch him on the cross. Still, God remained with him up to the last moments.
But now, he would be absolutely alone. “Father, why hast thou forsaken me?” A necessary step in bringing to pass the atonement was for Jesus to face the pains and sins of this world all alone, and without the spiritual guidance or strength of Heavenly Father. God fully withdrew his presence.
No longer protected by his Father’s love and strength, the utter most depths of hell roared up to meet Jesus. But for a few moments he needed to endure this. To rise above all, he first had to descend below all things. In order to save any of us from the blackest of eternal nights, he first had to go there. Alone.
Moments of agony passed. He endured and triumphed. Reaching the climax of his mission, he simply said, “Father, it is finished. Thy will be done.”
And he died.