Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses twenty-six through forty-three of the twenty-third chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find the betrayal of Jesus by one of His own having already been completed and carried out. As you come near this portion of the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke you will find Jesus having already been brought unto the house of the high priest and asked by those who had seized and laid hold of Him whether or not He was indeed and in fact the Son of God. As the day broke and the following day emerged on to the scene all the chief priests, all the scribes and all the elders of Israel were assembled together in their council and they asked Jesus two very important questions—questions which have been asked throughout the years by curious souls and searching and seeking men and women. The first questions that was asked was whether or not Jesus was indeed and was in fact the Christ—the kingdom awaited anointed one and messiah whine Moses and the prophets spoke about and foretold. The second question that was asked if Jesus was in direct relationship to His relationship to God—the one of whom it was written in the Law, saying, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one.” It’s actually quite interesting and astonishing to think about and consider the two questions which were asked of Jesus the Christ before the chief priests, before the scribes, and before the elders of Israel, for the questions which were asked of and concerning Him weren’t being asked by publicans, nor were they being asked by sinners. The questions which were being asked of Jesus on this very morning were questions which were being asked by those who knew the Law and those who in fact studied both the Law and the prophets. Essentially, the questions which were being asked of Jesus on this morning were questions which were asked by religious folk who not only studied the Law and the prophets, but those who also knew and taught it. The questions being asked of Jesus concerning His being the Christ and concerning His being the Som of God we’re questions which were being asked by the religious mind and leaders which were present during those day’s and at that time. In all reality, this is quite the indictment toward and against the entire leading religious community and system of that day, for those who studied and knew the Law and prophets should have had the clearest understanding concerning the Messiah, and yet they completely and utterly missed it.
As it sit here this morning I can’t help but be gripped and captivated by and with the tremendous reality that the questions which the religious minds and leaders asked Jesus the Christ on this day were questions which pertained to two distinct realities which surrounded and were present within and upon His life. If you study the questions which were asked by the religious leaders and minds of that day, you will quickly come face to face with and encounter the reality that what they were asking Jesus directly pertained to His relationship to God, as well as His mission and assignment within and upon the earth. The question which they asked Jesus concerning His being the Son of God was indeed and was in fact a question centers upon the claims that He made of and concerning Himself and His relationship to the living God. There were times when Jesus would speak unto the crowds—and even speaking unto the religious community themselves—and would suggest and hint at the reality that God was indeed His Father. Through various comments made within the teachings of Jesus the Christ throughout His ministry we find Jesus directly linking and connecting Himself to God as Father. What’s more, is that even the prayer which He taught His disciples and the crowd in His Sermon in the amount speaks to this reality, for the opening line of the prayer speaks to the reality of God nor only being His Father, but also God being our Father. The question which the religious leaders asked of Jesus on this particular day were questions which centered upon the reality of whether or not He was in fact the Son of God, and the relationship He professed to and with the Lord, the God of Israel. What’s more, is that if you continue reading and studying the questions which were asked of Jesus the Christ by the religious leaders and thinkers of that day, you will find that the second question—the question concerning His being the Christ—not only pertained to whether or not Jesus fulfilled that which was written within the scriptures, but whether or not Jesus was in fact the long awaited Messiah and anointed one whom the Law and the prophets spoke about. This particular question centers upon the reality of whether or not Jesus did in fact come as the One who would fulfill that which was spoken in the Law and the prophets concerning the Servant of God who would be manifested within and upon the earth. In all reality, the question concerning Jesus being the Christ was not a question concerning Idenity as we would think of Christ as potentially a last name, but in the sense of Jesus indeed being the fulfillment of that which was spoken by the prophets and in the Law concerning the One who was to come. This question both touched the realm of identity, as well as the realm of mission and assignment, for if He was indeed and was in fact the Christ, He would come to fulfill that which was written and spoken by the prophets.
If you continue reading within this particular chapter you will find that immediately after the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel launched their interrogation and question of Jesus concerning His being the Son of God, and concerning His being the Christ, they brought Him unto and before Pontius Pilate who was in fact the governor of Jerusalem at that time. After leading and bringing Jesus forth from the house of religion, the religious leaders and community decided to bring Him before and into the place of government to extend the trial, and to allow the trial to continue in a manner that could potentially lead to and and result in the death of Jesus the Christ. Once their own questioning and interrogation was finished and completed, and once they enacted their own punishment and opposition against Jesus the Christ in the house of religion, the religious leaders of Israel then sought and desired to bring Jesus the Christ before and unto the government of that day, which was indeed and was in fact the government of Rome. By bringing Jesus before Pilate on this day, the religious leaders sought to not only accuse Jesus before Pilate, but also to try Jesus in the court of the Gentiles, and to try Him according to the law of the Romans, for they could not themselves execute anyone during those days. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this tremendous reality, for once religion had finished with Jesus the Christ in their own house, they sought to bring Jesus before and into the house of earthly, natural and worldly government as manifested by the Romans which governed and ruled the entire known world at that time. The twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke begins and opens up with Jesus the Christ having been led out and away from the council of the religious leaders and community, and now being led unto Pilate who alone had the power to decree that one who was perceived as being guilty could be put to death. Once Jesus was brought before Pilate He immediately began being accused by the religious leaders and the community during that day as those before and around Him began to declare of Him that He perverted the nation, and forbid the giving of tribute unto Caesar, declaring that He Himself was in fact Christ a King. It’s worth noting that the words which were spoken against and concerning Christ before Pilate were nothing more than false accusations which were being lobbied and hurled against Him by His opponents and those who vehemently opposed and hated Him. While before Pontius Pilate, Jesus began to be accused by those who had previously asked Him whether or not He was indeed and was in fact the Christ, and whether or not He was in fact the Son of God. While before the religious system and community during that day Jesus chose not to answer the questions which were being asked of Him and chose to remain silent before His accusers and adversaries—“Like a lamb led to the slaughter, He opened not His mouth.” It’s worth noting that even when Jesus was being questioned by the religious leaders and community during that day, He chose to remain silent, and chose not to respond to their questions, nor the accusations which they hurled against Him.
Once before Pontius Pilate Jesus began to be accused by the whole multitude of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel concerning Him perverting the nation with His teaching and miracles, and even forbidding to give tribute to Caesar since He alone was Christ the King. It’s worth noting that this was in and of itself a baseless and false accusation spoken against Jesus the Christ, for when one came unto Him seeking to tempt Him concerning whether or not it was lawful to pay tribute unto Caesar, Jesus asked for a coin within the currency of that day and then proceed to ask whose name and whose superscription was found inscribed on the coin. When they responded by declaring that it was Caesar’s seal and superscription found on the coin, Jesus then proceeded to declare unto them that they were to render unto Caesar those things which were Caesar’s, and unto God those things which were God’s. What’s more, is that if you consider the words and accusations which the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel spoke against Jesus the Christ before Pilate, and even within their own council, you will find that within and throughout His public ministry, Jesus never once made the declaration that He was in fact the Christ. Though it was alluded to, and though to the wise and discerning souls it would be obvious that He was referring to Himself as the Christ, He never came out and emphatically and decisively proclaimed that He was indeed and was in fact the Christ. Even when Simon Peter boldly proclaimed and asserted that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus instructed them not to tell anyone that He was the Christ. If you search the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry which were written concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, you will not find it written at all that Jesus ever publicly proclaimed Himself to be the Christ. Though Jesus knew exactly who He was, and though Jesus knew that He was indeed and was in fact the Christ, and the Son of the living God, He never emphatically asserted, nor did He ever publicly proclaim and declare Himself to be the Christ. This isn’t to say that Jesus didn’t know and was somehow unaware of the reality that He was in fact the Christ, but that He did not go about in the streets of the cities, towns and villages proclaiming Himself to be the Christ. Instead of proclaiming Himself to be the Christ, Jesus simply went about doing that which was spoken of concerning the Christ within the Law and the prophets. Oh dear reader, there is a vast and fundamental difference between needing and having to proclaim something of yourself, and simply doing what you were called and sent to do. If you need to proclaim of yourself that you are indeed something, there is something seriously and drastically wrong, for there should be no need to proclaim and speak anything concerning yourself if you are simply living out that which you have been called and sent to do. This reality is especially true of all those who would call themselves “bishops,” and “elders,” and “prophets,” and “apostles,” and other titles which are so prevalent in our culture and society today. If you have to proclaim yourself to be that which your gift and calling should naturally reveal and display, then there is something seriously and drastically wrong with your perception, your line of thinking, and how you carry and present yourself in the culture and society of this day.
While Jesus stood before Pilate who was in fact an extension of the most powerful government in the world, as well as an extension of the most powerful ruler in the known world at that time—Caesar—Jesus stood accused of perverting the nation of Israel, and even forbidding to pay tribute to Caesar by declaring and speaking of Himself as a King. It’s interesting and worth noting that after hearing the accusations which the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel hurled at and spoke against Jesus the Christ, Pilate proceeded to ask Jesus whether or not He was in fact the King of the Jews. This question is in and of itself one that is incredibly important, for not only does this question speak of authority, dominion, power and government, but it also speaks to Jesus’ association to the Jewish people, and even His identity as a Jew Himself. As you read and study the entire public ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find that He continually spoke of a dual reality which was not only manifested within the earth, but also one which was manifested in heaven and the world which was to come. Within and throughout the public ministry of Jesus the Christ, He regularly spoke of the kingdom of heaven, as well as the kingdom of God, and declared that this kingdom was manifested before and among them within the earth. Though Jesus never came out and declared of Himself that He was King of the Jews, He did regularly speak of the reality which was the kingdom of heaven, and which was the kingdom of God. IF you read the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will discover reference after reference concerning the kingdom of heaven, as well as the kingdom of God, and in fact, Jesus spoke many parables concerning the reality and presence of the kingdom of heaven, as well as the kingdom of God. I have previously written concerning this concept of kingdom when I wrote about the Sermon on the Mount how Jesus came to establish a kingdom within a kingdom, for there was already a government and kingdom and empire that was present within and upon the earth during that time—namely, the machine which was the Roman Empire. What Jesus came to do was in fact set up and establish a kingdom within a kingdom. What’s more, is that the kingdom which Jesus came to establish and set up within the earth was not meant to destroy or overthrow the existing government and authority that was present within and upon the world at that time, but to influence and impact it from within. In fact, when you read the words which are found within the Sermon on the Mount, you will not only find and discover the attitudes of the kingdom of heaven, but you will also discover the righteousness of the kingdom—those attitudes, those behaviors, and those actions which were to be displayed and carried out in the midst of the government and authority which was present at and during that time. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that the kingdom which Jesus came to set up and establish upon the earth was not meant to overthrow the Roman empire during that day, and it was upon this reality that many stumbled, for if you were a Roman you thought that Jesus came to overthrow the Roman Empire, and if you were a Jew you were disturbed by the claim and felt duped because Jesus did not come to overthrow the existing rule and reign of the Roman Empire.
KINGDOM: THE STUMBLING BLOCK OF BOTH THE JEW AND THE ROMAN! I cannot escape the tremendous reality that the reality of the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God, for it was this concept of kingdom that also stood trial before Pontius Pilate on this day in which Jesus would ultimately be crucified upon a cruel Roman cross atop Golgotha just outside Jerusalem. If you read and study the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you will find that the reality of kingdom—the reality of the kingdom of heaven, as well as the reality of the kingdom of God—stood on trial before Pilate on this particular day, for the question which was asked before Pilate was not whether or not Jesus was the Christ, nor whether or not Jesus was indeed the Son of God, but whether or not Jesus was the King of the Jews. The reality of Jesus proclaiming Himself to be the Christ, and even proclaiming Himself to be the Son of God would be a baseless and worthless accusation before Pilate, so the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of Israel sought to accuse Jesus concerning the matter of kingdom, and concerning Jesus being the King of the Jews. I am convinced that it is absolutely necessary for us to recognize and understand this, for this concept of kingdom not only stood on trial before Pilate on this particular day, but this reality of kingdom was both a stumbling block to the Roman, as well as a stumbling block to the Jew as well. For the Jew the reality and concept of kingdom was a stumbling block because if Jesus did in fact come to set up and establish a kingdom within and upon the earth, He did not come to set up and establish a kingdom that would overthrow and replace the existing Roman Empire which ruled and governed the earth during that time. For the Jew, they thought and believed that the Messiah would come and throw off the tyranny of oppression and occupation during that time, and when Jesus came speaking of the reality of the kingdom of heaven, as well as the reality of the kingdom of God, they thought and assumed that He would overthrow the oppression and occupation of the Roman government and empire during that day. The truth of the matter is that even though Jesus did in fact come to set up and establish a kingdom within and upon the earth during that time, He did not come to set up and establish a kingdom that would overthrow and somehow replace the existing Roman Empire, nor would it overthrow the Roman government. Jesus never came to the earth speaking of Himself as a King who would overthrow the power of Caesar, and He never declared Himself to be ruler instead of and in place of Caesar during those days and at that time. Even though Jesus did in fact come speaking concerning the reality and manifestation of kingdom within and upon the earth, Jesus never declared that the kingdom of heaven, nor the kingdom of God would overthrow the Roman government and empire during that day. Please don’t miss, and please don’t lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for it is necessary and imperative to understand concerning Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate on this particular day.
I mentioned how the reality of kingdom was indeed and was in fact a stumbling block for both the Jews, as well as the Romans, and we must understand that it was a stumbling block for the Romans, because anyone who came speaking of a kingdom within and upon the earth might very well be suggesting and speaking of potentially overthrown the power of Roman rule and Roman occupation during that day. For one to speak concerning a kingdom—and not only a kingdom, but also a kingdom of heaven and of God—that particular individual might very well be labeled as one who was seeking to incite an insurrection, and perhaps even some sort of riot during those days. For one to enter into the picture and come on to the scene speaking of the reality of a kingdom—especially a kingdom that was of both heaven and of God—that particular individual might very well be labeled as one who would seek to gather unto themselves followers in order that they might lead an insurrection against the existing government and rule that was present during that day. Please don’t miss this tremendous and important reality, for to do so would be to miss out on why the reality of kingdom and Jesus being the King of the Jews was so incredibly important during this trial. Jesus standing trial as King of the Jews not only put the reality of the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God on trial before Gentiles on this particular day, but it also put the reality of Jesus being King at all—not only and not just King of the Jews, but King in general. For Jesus to stand trial as King of the Jews, that which was being put on trial was essentially Jesus’ right to authority, and His right to govern and rule over those whom He came to seek, save and to serve. Pause for a moment to consider the reality of a King who not only came to seek, but a King who also came to save and to serve. It is unheard of to think about and consider the reality of a King who would come to and among their people in order that they might serve them, seek and save them. Very rarely will you find a King who will come unto and among His people, and rather than rule over them as we think of the reality and concept of ruling, they come to seek those which are lost, they come to save those which are lost, and they come to serve all those who were before them. When Jesus stood on trial before Pilate on this particular day He was standing trial—not as the Christ, nor as the Son of God, but rather as the King of the Jews. In fact, if you read the words which are found later on in this chapter you will find that the inscription which was written above Jesus’ head upon the cross was in fact the label and title “King of the Jews.” The question(s) we must ask ourselves is not only whether or not Jesus is in fact the Christ, and whether or not Jesus is in fact the Son of God, but whether or not Jesus is indeed and is in fact King. The question and matter we must establish and settle within our minds is whether or not Jesus is in fact King, and whether or not he has the authority to rule, reign and govern within our hearts and lives.
Asa you continue to move forward within the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke you will find that Jesus not only first appeared before and stood trial before Pilate, but he would also stand trial and appear before Herod, for once Pilate heard that Jesus was in fact from Galilee, he ordered that Jesus be sent unto Herod in order that Herod might try Him to see whether or not He was guilty of that for which He was being accused. Luke writes and records that when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad, for he had been desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him, and hope to have even seen some miracle performed by Jesus the Christ. Luke goes on to write and record how Herod questioned him with many words, but Jesus proceed to answer him not a single word. The silence of Jesus must have infuriated the chief priests, the scribes and elders of Israel, for Luke writes how they stood vehemently accusing Jesus before Herod on this day. Despite the fact that the chief priests, the scribes and elders of Israel accused Jesus before Herod, Herod found Jesus guilty of absolutely nothing, and sent Him back unto Pilate. Before sending Him to Pilate, however, Herod with his men of war set Jesus at nought, mocked Him, and even arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe. After Herod had found no wrong, nor any fault within Jesus the Christ, he sent him back to Pilate in order that He might stand trial before Pilate once more. It’s worth noting that even when Jesus stood trial before Pilate this second time, Luke writes and records how Pilate found Jesus guilty of absolutely nothing, and even found Jesus not to be guilty of that which the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of Israel were accusing Him of. Instead of condemning Jesus to death, Luke writes and writes how Pilate sought to release Jesus and to keep Him no more for questioning, nor accusations. Pilate found absolutely no fault and no wrong in Jesus the Christ, and he certainly didn’t find Jesus guilty of that for which He stood accused by the chief priests, the scribes and elders of Israel. When He suggested unto the people—essentially the Jewish mob—that he would release Jesus once more, and choose not to keep Him for further questioning and trial, the crowd and mob insisted on Jesus being crucified. Pilate still determined to release Jesus rather than keeping Him further insisted that he found no fault, nor wrong in Jesus the Christ, and yet the crowd and mob insisted and persisted on His being crucified. Unwilling to allow a riot and possible insurrection to break out during those days, Pilate not only consented to Jesus being crucified, but Pilate also released Barabbas back unto the people instead of Jesus the Christ. When the twenty-fifth verse of this chapter draws to a close, it does so with Pilate releasing Jesus unto them Barabas, and delivering Jesus up in order that they might do their will unto Him.
As you approach the twenty-sixth verse of the twenty-third chapter of this New Testament gospel which was written by the beloved physician Luke, you will find that when Jesus was led away to be crucified, they laid hold of one whose name was Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming out of the country. It was this Simon the Cyrenian whom they compelled to carry and bear the cross of Jesus the Christ unto the place where He would be nailed upon it and crucified. It would be this man named Simon whom they would urge and compel to help Jesus carry the cross unto the place where He would in fact be crucified outside the city of Jerusalem. It’s worth noting that not only did Luke write and speak of this Simon the Cyrenian being compelled to help Jesus carry His cross, but it was also written and recorded by the apostle Matthew, as well as John Mark. In fact, I would dare say that it is worth presenting each of the statements written and recorded by these New Testament authors and writes concerning Simon the Cyrenian, for there is something truly remarkable concerning this one whom they compelled to carry the cross of Jesus the Christ. Consider if you will the words which were written by these three New Testament authors and writes concerning this man being compelled to carry the cross of Jesus the Christ:
“And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear His cross” (Matthew 27:32).
“And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus to bear His cross” (Mark 15:21).
“And as they led Him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on Him they laid the cross, that He might bear it after Jesus” (Luke 23:26).
Each of these New Testament authors and writes wrote concerning this man named Simon the Cyrenian, and how this man was urged and compelled to carry the cross of Jesus the Christ unto the place where He would in fact be crucified. What’s so incredible about this reality is what you find and read in the New Testament gospel of Matthew concerning Jesus speaking of carrying and bearing the cross. If you begin reading with and from the twenty-fourth verse of the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the following words: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26). If you turn back just a few chapters in the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find another reference concerning the reality of taking up the cross and following and coming after Jesus the Christ. Beginning with the thirty-eighth verse of the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the following words which were spoken by Jesus the Christ concerning taking up the cross: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her moth, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that liveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followers after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that lose the his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-39). It’s also worth noting that when speaking unto the rich young ruler Jesus spoke the following words unto him when he asked about what good thing he must do to inherit eternal life: “Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lack East: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me” (Mark 10:21). It is necessary that we recognize and understand that which is found within these verses, for I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are two distinct temptations which surround the cross which we have been called to bear and which we have been called to carry. If you study the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you will find that when we are confronted with the reality of carrying and taking up the cross, there are indeed and in fact two distinct temptations which we must overcome if we want to be a true disciple and follower of Jesus the Christ.
THE TEMPTATION TO REFUSE THE CROSS! THE TEMPTATION TO COME DOWN OFF THE CROSS! If you read the words and account of Jesus the Christ—not only beginning the act of carrying the cross, but also His hanging upon the cross, you will find two distinct temptations which we as the disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ must understand and come face to face with. The first temptation which we as the disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ must face is the temptation to abandon and forsake the cross altogether, thus not picking it up and carrying it at all. Jesus made it perfectly and abundantly clear that those who refused to and those who would not carry the cross would not be worthy to be called one of His disciples, and we must recognize this, for one of the greatest temptations the ancient serpent will seek to thrust and hurl against us is the temptation to forsake, reject, and ignore the cross, thus leaving it behind in order that we might live our lives the way we desire and the way we see fit. The other temptation is in fact one that is perhaps more sinister and one that is more vile, for if you read this passage of Scripture you will find that those who were present on this day—those who stood by mocking Jesus, and even one who was crucified next to Jesus—tempted Jesus while on the cross, saying, “If you are the Christ, save yourself and come down off the cross.” There were those who were present on this day who declared of Jesus that He could save others, but He could not save Himself from being nailed to and hanging upon that cruel Roman cross. Please don’t miss and lose sight on this powerful and incredible reality, for this is one of the greatest temptations we as the disciples of Jesus Christ will face, for there are those who have agreed to take up and carry the cross which is and was before them, however, they continually face the temptation to come down off the cross, and even to leave the cross behind in order that they might save themselves. Please don’t miss this tremendous and awesome reality, for to do so would be to miss out on the incredible reality concerning the cross which we have been called to take up and bear. It’s not enough simply to take up the cross, and to bear the cross, for the cross must also be the instrument of our death in order that we might be crucified with Christ, so that we might no longer live, but instead He live in us. Dear reader, please note and please be aware of the temptation—not only to forsake the cross altogether, but also to abandon the cross once on it, to come down off the cross in order that we might save ourselves. In all reality there are two ways of avoiding the cross—the first is to completely forsake the cross and never take it up, and the second is to take up the cross, and even allow ourselves to be nailed to it, but we desire to save ourselves, and so we abandon the cross and choose to come down off the cross. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we will forsake the cross altogether, whether we will abandon the cross once we have committed ourselves to be crucified upon it, or whether or not we will not only take up the cross, but also remain upon the cross in order that we might be crucified with Christ so that it is no. longer us that lives, but Christ who lives in us.