Nobody had expected this.
It was only five days ago that the people of Jerusalem had welcomed Jesus as their Messiah.
For three years Jesus had travelled throughout Israel. Preaching, teaching, healing the sick and feeding the hungry. He had quieted storms and cast out demons. During that time, he had won the hearts of the people and alienated the religious leaders of the day.
And if there had been those present the previous Sunday morning who were inclined to wager, they would be bet on Jesus as the winner.
Let’s read how John described the events of that day.
John 12:12-13 The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD! Hail to the King of Israel!”
Those in the know recognized Jesus’ entry that day as the fulfilment of prophecy. Hundreds of years before the prophet Zechariah had written in Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.
And while it was true that there had been a few hiccups during the next week, what with Jesus clearing out the temple courts of the merchants and money changers and condemning the religious leaders, popular opinion seemed to be in Jesus’ corner.
And when the time came for the Passover Dinner, the apostles felt that they were standing on the very edge of history.
That this would be when Jesus would announce his plans to overthrow the Romans and re-establish the Kingdom of David. Because that’s what was expected of the Messiah. And we pick up the story in Luke 22:7-8 Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread arrived, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John ahead and said, “Go and prepare the Passover meal, so we can eat it together.”
Song: The Table
Let’s join Jesus and the 12 for the meal.
It’s great to have Pastor Les Somers, Pastor Arron Birch and Pastor Rob McDowell assist with our communion service this morning.
Luke 22:14-18 When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.”
Les: For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.”
Rob: In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.”
Aaron For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.
Denn: That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself.
At Cornerstone we celebrate an open communion that is we don’t limit it to members of Cornerstone or of the Wesleyan Church. Instead it is a celebration for the Family of God. So this morning you might be a Christ Follower and when you hold the bread you will remember the day you decided to follow Jesus. Perhaps you haven’t made that decision yet but you are acknowledging that Jesus is the son of God and died for your sin and you are remembering his life and death and resurrection. He is offering the gift of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life, but it is a gift that is only valid when it is accepted.
And just as Jesus invited the twelve, we invite you to come to the Table.
Directions on coming and taking elements back to seats.
Song: Nothing but the blood
And then after dinner they went to the garden where we pick up the story in Luke 22:54-57 So they arrested him and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!” But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”
And so the weekend began when one of the twelve betrayed Jesus, the authorities arrested him and his best friend denied that he had ever known him. That wasn’t how anyone expected things to go.
So, the weekend had An Unexpected Beginning:
He hadn’t expected this when his day began. His name was Pilate and he was the Roman Governor of Israel. And like most of his days, on this day he would sentence some to die.
And into this ordinary day came a most extraordinary prisoner.
After Jesus had been arrested he had been taken before the high priests were he was charged with blasphemy, but they were powerless to actually do anything to Jesus, so they sent him to Pilate to be sentenced.
The problem was that blasphemy was a religious charge and Pilate couldn’t have cared less about religious charges.
And so we read in Luke 23:2 They (the Priests) began to state their case: “This man has been leading our people astray by telling them not to pay their taxes to the Roman government and by claiming he is the Messiah, a king.”
So, now the charge has changed from blasphemy to treason. And when Pilate said that he didn’t see any evidence of that they up the ante and tell him Luke 23:5 Then they became insistent. “But he is causing riots by his teaching wherever he goes—all over Judea, from Galilee to Jerusalem!” Riots? Seriously? Riots?
But it was here that Pilate saw an out, he didn’t want to execute the carpenter but he didn’t want to alienate the religious leaders. And he responds Luke 23:6-7 “Oh, is he a Galilean?” Pilate asked. When they said that he was, Pilate sent him to Herod Antipas, because Galilee was under Herod’s jurisdiction, and Herod happened to be in Jerusalem at the time. The old pass the buck trick.
This was the same Herod who had John the Baptist murdered, it was his father who had tried to kill Jesus when he was a new born. We are told that Herod had heard about Jesus and wanted to meet him and see him perform a miracle.
Comedians often tell how annoying it is when they meet someone and are asked to say something funny, and magicians say that they are often asked to perform a trick for people. Very seldom does the preacher get to eat in a group without being the person who is asked to say grace.
And so in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Super Star” Herod sings:
So You are the Christ
You’re the great Jesus Christ
Prove to me that You’re divine
Change my water into wine
That’s all You need do
And I’ll know it’s all true
C’mon King of the Jews
But we are told that Jesus doesn’t even grace Herod with an answer, and so Herod puts a purple robe on Christ and sends him back to Pilate. Saying that he just found Jesus annoying.
So, what is Pilate to do? He has the religious leaders and the mob they had incited demanding that Jesus be executed, but he can find no evidence to support a case against Jesus and neither can Herod. His wife has shown up in the middle of everything, telling him about a dream she had about Jesus and how Pilate should release him.
And Pilate tries, he tells the crowd that as a gesture of good will because it’s the Passover he will release one prisoner. And he stands Jesus up next to a known murderer named Barabbas and offers the crowd their choice of who should go free, he figured it was a no brainer. And the mob egged on by the authorities yelled, “Free Barabbas, crucify Jesus.”
Things are getting out of control and so Pilate has Jesus flogged with a steel tipped whip, but even that doesn’t satisfy the bloodlust of the crowd.
And finally in frustration Pilate turns to the crowd and says: “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”
“The responsibility is yours, what will you do with this innocent man?” he asked.
And they demand that Jesus being crucified, and in frustration Pilate gave into the demands of the crowd.
But even with that the Governor wanted people to know that he wasn’t happy. So let’s pick up the story in:
John 19:19-22 And Pilate posted a sign over him that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people could read it. Then the leading priests objected and said to Pilate, “Change it from ‘The King of the Jews’ to ‘He said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate replied, “No, what I have written, I have written.”
And so, on that day Jesus Had an Unexpected Champion
Song: Reckless Love
Lead Me to the Cross
He certainly hadn’t expected this.
The day began with all the usual clichés going through his head. “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime”, “if you’re going to play you have to pay”, “you made your bed, now you have to lie in it.”
He was called a thief and a criminal and while we don’t know what he did to deserve to die, death was his sentence. And not just any death he was one of the three who would die that day on the hill called Golgotha.
Cicero, the Roman politician described crucifixion as “. . . most cruel and disgusting punishment… To bind a Roman citizen is a crime, to flog him is an abomination, to kill him is almost an act of murder: to crucify him is—What? There is no fitting word that can possibly describe so horrible a deed.”
But there they were, stripped and beaten and nailed to crosses to be hung in the hot sun to die a drawn out and painful death.
That he expected, he had seen it before and he had always known that if his crimes caught up with him there would be no mercy shown by Rome.
But what was unexpected was what happened as he hung on the cross. Let’s pick up the story in Luke 23:39-43 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Nobody would have expected what happened that day.
We don’t know much about the thief who hung with Christ on that day.
We don’t know what he had done to deserve to be executed in this manner. His plea to Jesus is only recorded in Luke chapter 23 and his name, Dismas comes to us only through legend.
Was this a chance encounter or a divine appointment?
We may never know, but we do know that on that Friday afternoon that the choices of the world came down to the two men who hung next to Jesus.
One chose to scoff and ridicule Jesus to dismiss his claims and to take his own chances with eternity. The other man chose to accept the claims and grace of the one who hung next to him. And so, we remember the words of Dismas, “Jesus remember me.”
And the promise of Christ: “Today you will be with me in Paradise”
So, on that day we discover An Unexpected Convert
Song: You Give your Life Away
She hadn’t expected this but then again, she hadn’t expected the events that happened 33 years before either.
Mary was just a teenager when her life was turned upside down. Engaged to the village carpenter, Mary was committed to her God and to her faith, she was known as a “good girl” and so when an angel appeared telling her that she would carry the Son of God in her womb she had only one objection.
“How can that be” she asked, “since I’m a virgin?”
The answer of course was found in Luke 1:35 & 37 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. . . For nothing is impossible with God.”
And on that day Mary’s life was turned upside down. The promise was that the child she would carry, even though she was a virgin, would be the Son of God, conceived of the Holy Spirit and sent to save his people.
Mary knew that Jesus would make a difference and that he would change the world. Mary had watched as her son had fed the hungry, healed the sick and forgave the sinner. She didn’t know how the story would end but nothing had prepared her for this.
And again her world was turned upside down, as she watched her first born falsely accused, beaten and humiliated.
To have a crown of thorns shoved unto his head and to watch him nailed to a cross and left to die.
We find the end of the story recorded in John 19:25-30 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.
And so on that Friday afternoon, at 3:00 o’clock three things happened.
A priest would have stood in the temple overlooking the city and would have blown the Shofar, the Rams Horn announcing the offering of the Passover Lamb. Inside the temple at the altar the High Priest waited and as the sound of the horn faded he would kill the Passover lamb.
And, with his mother standing at the foot of the cross Jesus gave up his spirit and the day came to a conclusion with An Unexpected Ending