Have you ever wished someone “good luck”, and felt slightly guilty about it? Being Christians, we understand that there is no such thing as “luck”. We believe that God guides the events of our lives, down to the smallest details. If we say, “good luck”, I think what we’re really expressing is our hope that things will go well for someone.
Proverbs 16:33 is a great passage dealing with “luck”. Listen to this:
“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33 NIV).
This reminds us that God isn’t playing a cosmic game of roulette with the human race. He is wisely moving people and events according to His grand and loving plan.
Throughout my short life I’ve seen God’s preserving hand at work.
A devotion reading or a sermon topic unexpectedly addresses a problem that I’ve been struggling with - like it was written specifically for me.
An unexpected expense is suddenly resolved when an unforeseen check arrives in the mail. A check from the government, or a late birthday card from a friend that supplies almost exactly what was needed.
Little gifts like these have been continual reminders to me that my God is a great God. And He is not only watching over my life, but actively tending to my needs. Chance and luck are really just illusions constructed by my cloudy sinner’s mind.
And this truth applies to the suffering of Christ Jesus as well. It was no chance happenstance that put the Son of God into the hands of sinners to be condemned and crucified. He chose to do in time, what God the Father had planned from eternity.
When a soldier courageously throws himself on a live grenade to save his friends, his death is no unfortunate stroke of bad luck, it is a high and honorable act of loving service.
In the same way, Christ’s crucifixion was not a case of Jesus being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was His conscious choice to die for those He loved. Christ’s Crucifixion is His Glory, and Our Salvation.
We see this in our sermon reading for today from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (M 26:1-5, L 22:3-4, M 26:15b, L 22:5, M 26:15c, and L 22:6 combined with M 26:16):
1When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2“As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”
3Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. 5“But not during the Feast,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”
3Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. Judas asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” 5They were delighted and agreed to give him money. So they counted out for him thirty silver coins.
16From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.
“THE SON’S CHOICE IN TIME”
Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, humans have been born sinful. Unless something was done to fix our sin problem, every one of us would have doomed to spend eternity apart from God – in Hell.
So God the Son became human to suffer the punishment for our sins and make our forgiveness possible.
Even in His childhood, Jesus knew that this was His life’s purpose. When His earthly guardians found the boy Jesus in the Temple after a frantic three days of searching for Him, Jesus told them,
“Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:29b).
Throughout His ministry, Jesus demonstrated that He knew very well that He would have to suffer greatly and die to complete His work of saving sinners. He not only accepted this as the culmination of His life’s work, He also communicated this necessity to His disciples and to others.
The very first time Jesus taught in the Temple He talked about His death and resurrection saying,
“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19 NIV).
To Nicodemus Jesus spoke of His being lifted up on a cross when He said,
“4Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15 NIV).
Jesus spoke of His time in the tomb when He taught,
“40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40 NIV).
He willingly offered His life for the world of sinners.
“51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51 NIV).
He gladly offered His life with His church in mind.
“11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11 NIV).
“…I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:15 NIV).
Jesus’ disciples had been taught that the Messiah would be a glorious, ruling King. And indeed, that’s how many of the Old Testament prophecies refer to Him. But Jesus wanted them to understand that the Messiah was also to be a suffering servant, and His suffering would precede His glory.
So, when Peter confessed that he believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Bible says,
“21From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21 NIV).
After Peter, James and John had witnessed Jesus’ visible glory revealed on the mount of Transfiguration, Jesus told His disciples plainly,
“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. 23They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life” (Matthew 17:22-23 NIV).
And in the days just preceding His glorious entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus told them again,
“We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matthew 20:18-19 NIV).
After His last week of teaching in the Temple, Jesus told the disciples once again that He would die soon. The second verse of our text reads,
“As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” (Matthew 26:2).
In His final days, Jesus’ actions showed that the cross was His choice.
He willingly went into the viper’s den when He entered Jerusalem. All it’s leaders wanted Him dead. When they came to arrest Him He didn’t try to escape, He strode boldly to meet the mob. He stood silent and resolute in the face of ridiculous accusations.
The Man who miraculously walked on water, healed the sick and cast out demons refused to use His power to escape the cross. He even denied the numbing drink that they offered Him before they drove the nails through His precious hands.
The cross was a tool of torture and a symbol of painful, shameful death. But now it is our emblem of joy and life and forgiveness, all because He chose it – for us.
“THE FATHER’S PLAN FROM ETERNITY”
Most of our sermon reading speaks about the evil characters that were involved in the final condemnation and crucifixion of the Son of God.
We hear about Judas, the close friend of Jesus. His own chosen apostle. The one whose betrayal placed Jesus in the hands of the Chief Priests.
We hear about the Chief Priests and the elders of the people. Those men whose authority and power the people feared. Those men who plotted and carried out the murder of Jesus.
These men seem like major players in the drama of the Christ’s crucifixion. But, in reality they are little fish. They were but pawns in the hands of a greater entity.
We hear of Satan, who entered Judas and brought Him to the Chief Priests to barter a price for Jesus’ betrayal. Satan, who had been created by God as an angel of light. Satan, who long ago had chosen to rebel against His Creator, thus severing His connection to the Holy God forever. Satan, who was now wiser from millennia of dealing with mankind. Wiser from centuries of corrupting and tempting. Satan, who was no fool.
Satan knew all about God’s plan to save sinners. Though evil, he studied the Scriptures too. Knew them backward and forward so that he could misquote them for his own purposes. He knew that Jesus was going to the cross.
So, Satan poured all his energy into making Christ’s road to the cross as difficult as possible. If he could make the God-Man slip at just ONE point, the mission would fail. If he could cause Jesus to think just ONE thought of hatred. If he could cause Jesus to take ONE lustful glance. Tell ONE little white lie.
But through it all, God remained in control. Every evil word and deed and temptation spun from the Devil’s loom, God wove into the tapestry of His own perfect and good will.
As Satan raged against God’s Son, prophesy after prophesy fell fulfilled around him. God’s will was being done. The Father’s plan was being carried out by the Father’s Son. And soon the sacrifice of the eons would be made, and the doom of sinners would be erased. Let me share with you the Bible passage that I think Satan might hate the most:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV).
Judas was a mere pawn in the hands of the Chief Priests. The Chief Priests were mere pawns in the hands of Satan. But Satan was a mere pawn in the hands of God.
“THE SINNER’S INEVITABLE SALVATION”
The salvation of sinful mankind was inevitable, even before the Adam and Eve sinned. The all seeing God knew the destruction that Satan would cause in His World, and to His people. So, God graciously provided a way for sinners to escape the hell that was to consume them. He bought back sinners from an eternity of suffering with the eternal currency of His Son’s blood.
Through the apostle Peter, the Holy Spirit wrote,
“18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God”(1 Peter 1:18-21 NIV).
Though Christ’s sacrifice in our place was inevitable, the salvation that it won can still be abandoned. Just as a delirious person can swim away from an unsinkable raft, we also can make the CHOICE to walk away from Jesus, and salvation.
The Chief Priests chose to reject Jesus. Judas chose to betray Him.
Do not abandon your Savior. He has never abandoned you. Through the dark times of your life, He has been at work shifting people and events for your ultimate good. Even when you have rejected His will by your sins and betrayed Him with your words, He has remained. He stands with His arms outstretched, calling us to His forgiving embrace.
With the outstretched arms of every cross you’ve ever seen He has calls out to you, saying,
I chose your suffering. I chose your death. Come to me, for I have chosen you. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.