From the stable to the empty tomb, Christ’s life reveals the power of God
He was welcomed with shouts, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
As he entered the city on the last Sunday of his life, he knew that the leaders of the Jews were determined to put him to death. He focused his attention on the important works of his life as he steadily moved toward that final hour when he would be raised on the cross.
As the week passes, Jesus is teaching in parables about being prepared, cleansing the temple, defining the difference between authority of government and God, clarifying the greatest commandments and warning the scribes and Pharisees that they are following false ways. He laments Jerusalem that killed the prophets. “Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called. And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple.” (Luke 21:37-38)
Through all these activities Jesus is near his disciples, loving them and preparing them for the loss they would suffer without understanding its point until much later as the Holy Spirit comes on Pentecost, showing God’s mission in sending his son to ministry in the world with miracles and the greatest miracle — his resurrection.
Every Sunday of my life since I was 12, I have meditatively reconsidered the events of Jesus’ last hours. Periodically through these decades I have asked myself, “Was there no other way God could have saved the world? Why did the Son have to leave the purity and immortality of his place by God’s side to become flesh and blood, experiencing humanity’s dark ways?” The weekly mental exercise of recreating the images of beatings, a crown of thorns, spit, insults, false judgments and degradation in its worst forms has gradually led me to understand the significance and power of those events.
The idea that becomes increasingly important to my understanding is that God’s nature has such unity and integrity that He cannot forgive sin without atonement. There is no shadow in his being, and he abhors sin. The history of mankind from Adam and Eve is blemished by endless sin. Only the greatest sacrifice can cover the flood of evil that clings to humanity. Only the death of a god could make mankind pure. The blood of Jesus touched me at my baptism — and it works still to cleanse my daily transgressions.
The second idea has emerged as I have regularly read and studied the gospels. Jesus has increasingly provided wisdom about holy living, and his teaching rings of truth. The wisdom of God being man and living as you do and I do is astounding.
I see clearly that the language describing Jesus as knowing all our thoughts is not mere rhetoric. In ways beyond my comprehension Jesus knew temptation and desire. He lived and worked with ordinary people so that he could easily have become like them. Instead he taught them a better way to be and live. He stood against his human nature to reveal God living in flesh and being divine.
Before the eventful evening in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus and his disciples observed the Passover early. John’s gospel provides a detailed account of the last supper.
Jesus begins with an object lesson as he takes a bowl and towel to wash the feet of all the disciples, ending with “You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also … should do as I have done for you.”
Then he talks about his betrayal and predicts Peter’s denial. He comforts the disciples with observations: “Trust in God; trust also in me. … I am the way and the truth and the life. … Anyone who has seen me has seen the father.”
At that point he promises them the gift of the Holy Spirit, stressing the importance of obeying his teaching. Finally, he prays for the disciples and those who will believe because of their testimony.
The prayer in the garden shows how deeply pained he is as he anticipates the ordeal of the coming hours.
But the empty tomb reveals the power of God, the Father and Son. The power and glory of God speaks to us from a stable where baby Jesus lay and from the empty tomb. Praise God.