The New Testament - The Good Shepherd
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So quick recap so far - God sent His Son to live as fully God and fully man. So yes, it's a miracle Jesus came and Jesus died for our sins, but dear friend, oh dear friend... Jesus lived!
This means when we pray, we're not praying to a distant God. We're praying to a God who knows firsthand what we're seeing and feeling and enduring because Jesus saw it. He felt it. He endured life on earth. What a comfort it is to know Jesus knows what it is to be human.
While the Old Testament is all about adhering to the law to be righteous before God, the New Testament is the fulfillment of the law. Jesus came to do what we could not. We can never be good enough to earn eternal life. God knew this so He sent His only Son to pay the price of sin and death once and for all so we don't have to.
But before we get going, let's pause to pray together.
Father God, thank You for Your Son, Jesus. Thank You for sending Him as the light of the world to save us from darkness. As we study today how Jesus paid the price we could never pay and served as the atonement for our sins, we ask for the Holy Spirit to help us understand the weight of what this means for us personally. We love You and praise You. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.
Just as He Said
Throughout His ministry, we see Jesus continue to say, "My time has not yet come." (Sometimes He even pairs this with some super stealth moves and gets away from those who sought to arrest Him in the sea of crowds.)
Every time Jesus says this, it allows us to see the oneness He shared with God the Father. Though Jesus was on earth and God in heaven, they were in perfect unity. He plainly tells them,
"I and the Father are one." - John 10:30
Jesus knew the Father's plan and explains He is the way to eternal life, saying,
"I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." - John 10:10-11
Remember how we said Jesus spoke so those in His audience who believed in Him could understand most fully? He knows they know the tendencies of sheep to stray and how a good shepherd goes after them and feeds then and cares for them. If Jesus were walking on earth modern day, I wouldn't doubt He would teach through smart phone analogies. He was connecting with His audience.
Lays down His life for the sheep. Did you catch that? This is clearly stating what is coming. Jesus will lay down His life for us. We're getting there.
But before this, Jesus performs another miracle. This time, His friend Lazarus has been dead for four days. There was no earthly means for revival. This miracle is incredible because we see the compassion of the Lord - He is moved to tears and weeps over the loss of His beloved friend - but we also see the power of Jesus as He raises Lazarus from the dead.
Indeed, Jesus has power over death!
The Plot to Kill Jesus
Many saw what Jesus had done and the news spreads. The chief priests and Pharisees gathered and agreed He must be killed. But, something very, very interesting happens in this conversation. Let's take a look:
“Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” - John 11:47-50
One man die for the people than the whole nation perish. John goes on to explain that Caiaphas didn't even realize it, but as high priest that year in saying this, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation and also the scattered children of God. He wanted them to be one again.
The religious leaders were wrong in their response but still, it was very natural. They knew the power of Jesus was not something to be managed or controlled. It was greater than anything they'd ever known.
And then, remember how we talked about the wilderness last week and how the Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness to be strengthened before being tempted by Satan? Well, now where does Jesus go before the Passover? Knowing it's not safe to walk openly with many plotting to kill Him, He goes with His disciples to the wilderness! In a region known as Ephraim, Jesus intentionally seeks solitude with His closest friends to be strengthened for the journey ahead.
His Time Has Come
Jesus knows His time has come and out of love for His disciples, He shares one final meal with them. Being one with the Father, He knows the details of the Father's plan. One of His disciples will betray Him, and still Jesus brings him in close and allows Judas to sit near Him during their last meal together.
Maybe it's just me but when people hurt me and trust is fragile or broken between us, my natural response is to get as far from them as possible, but not so for Jesus. Instead, He comes closer still.
Maybe the last supper was Jesus giving Judas another chance to step into the light. But instead, the events unfold and Judas takes to the night, walking further into darkness with each step, bringing the Roman soldiers to arrest Jesus in exchange for money.
An innocent life for for 30 pieces of silver.
Before His arrest, Jesus knows the agony and pain and separation from God He is to endure and takes time in the garden of Gethsemane to pray for God to take this cup of suffering from Him. It's such an honest and vulnerable prayer. Yet, in His next breath, He pivots to faith and surrenders,
"...Not my will, but Yours, be done." - Luke 22:42
The religious leaders know Pilate doesn't want to get involved in the religious affairs but they expect He will not want someone to steal His throne, so they appeal to Pilate, accusing Jesus for being the "King of the Jews."
Pilate doesn't want to kill an innocent man so he gets Herod involved since Jesus is in Herod's jurisdiction, but Herod sends him back with no guilt. Pilate's wife even has a dream that he is not to be involved in the murder of an innocent man, but the people cry out to have Jesus killed. They released a man found guilty of murder and deliver an innocent man, Jesus, over to be crucified.
Quick note: The murderer's name was Barabbas. "Bar" means "Son of" and "Abba" means "Father." His name literally meant "Son of father." Pilate presented a choice to the people that day - do we crucify the Son of father, Barabbas, or Jesus, the Son of God?
The details! I'm telling you! The Bible is rich and it is so worth our time!
Jesus is bruised and beaten, as the prophet Isaiah foretold:
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter... He was assigned a grave with the wicked... though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin... After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities... For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. - Isaiah 53:7-12
He was hung on a cross on the hill of Golgotha, which meant "The Skull," and placed in the center between two criminals. In the midst of all the undeserved hatred, mocking and violence, Jesus says,
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." - Luke 23:34
One of the criminals hanging beside Him joins in the mockery saying, "If you really are who you claim to be, save yourself and us with you!" The other interrupts, acknowledging his own wrongdoing yet knowing Jesus is enduring this though He has done nothing wrong.
This criminal turns to Jesus and says, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Indeed, Jesus came to save the lost - the broken and criminal alike - in need of a Savior. He tells the man,
"Truly, truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise." - Luke 23:43
Before breathing His last breath, He says in a loud voice,
"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" - Luke 23:46
As Jesus died, the sky went dark though it was not yet night. The curtain in the temple meant to separate us from the Holy of Holies (which only the high priest could enter) was torn in two, meaning there is no longer separation from us and God. Jesus, our High Priest, has gone before us.
It is altogether uproariously and gloriously absurd. It’s wildly unreasonable that there’s a God who bleeds and weeps…
There’s a God who reaches across the great divide - the divide which my sin created - a divide I could never reconcile on my own.
There’s a God who reaches arms wide - stained with innocent blood - to a cross - because of His great, undeserved, forever unfathomable LOVE for me.
Again, it’s wildly unreasonable to think if I was the only one who needed to be saved, if you were the only one who needed to be rescued - Jesus would go through it all again - the mockery, the agony, the pain, the lonely separation from God, the death, the ultimate humiliation - to finish it once and for all, but it’s true.
Because He is passionately for us and loves us and longs to be with us more than we will EVER understand.
No greater love than this.
Hallelujah to the Son of Suffering!
Let's chat more next week!
May we find strength in the Word of God. May our joy for reading scripture grow as we intentionally choose to set aside time to spend reading it each day. May our peace overflow as the Word of God reads us and changes us from the inside out. Then, we will know rest this world can't give.
Remember how we said 5 minutes a day can change your day, your life and even your eternity? Well, here's what I'll be reading this week. I really hope you'll join me!
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
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