God’s Joyous Love for You and Me: The Story of Love and Redemption
By Dr. Ted Baehr
The Passion Week starting with Palm Sunday culminating on Easter is about God’s Joyous love. When we experience pain, suffering and need, most of us want God to love us and care for us in our need.
This Passion week is the greatest drama ever told. It is the story of love and redemption. God who is the greatest dramatist tells the audience exactly where the story is going, as any good script should do, a thousand years before it happened in Psalm 118 and Psalm 30, and in Isaiah, which was written 700 years before the passion of Jesus Christ.
The prayer used around the world in many churches summarizes the Scripture readings for Palm Sunday:
“Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God, so that He could take upon him, your sin and mine. This is the Creator of the universe who is fully man and is fully God.”
I look at you and most of my friends as being loving and kind. In contrast, my life was despicable before Jesus Christ rescued me. My parents were movie and Broadway stars. Because it was up and down financially, before residuals, they were not Christians, but instead into all sorts of mind over matter religions. When my mother died when I was young, I did a lot of drugs and a lot of nefarious self-destructive activity, and looked for love in all the wrong places. People were hurt, deeply. One friend who joined in our drug parties and was the son of the man who owned MGM, actually blew his brains out. If I hadn’t been saved by Jesus Christ, I’d still be hurting myself and others. . . or dead. Therefore, I’m so grateful that Jesus saved me.
This is the most beautiful week of the year. It starts off with the triumphant entry into Jerusalem; continues through the horror of the crucifixion, when Jesus took all my falling short and sin and yours on the Cross; and, goes to the ultimate victory, which of course, is Jesus Christ’s Resurrection.
The passage in Matthew 21:1-11 is fulfilling prophesy:
When Jesus and his disciples had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, `The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
“Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Jesus sends two disciples off to get this colt that he’s predicted to be riding. in Zachariah, about 500 years before Jesus’s Passion. The colt is so young that this is the first time it’s ever been ridden. If anybody says anything to them, they are supposed to just say, “The Lord needs it.”
That’s not going to work in 21st Century America, but it worked at the time of Jesus Christ because everybody knew that He was fulfilling prophesy. Every step along the way was predicted. When they are spreading the branches as foretold in Psalm 118, Jesus didn’t have to say, “I’m the Messianic King,” because the people were saying that he’s the King. The whole of Jerusalem is saying it. People are yelling, “Hosanna.” Matthew said it was like an earthquake.
Thus, the readings today start with an earthquake: people proclaiming the coming of the Messianic King Jesus; and then, there’s an earthquake at 3 o’clock in the afternoon when Jesus dies at the exact time of the evening sacrifice for sin; and then, another when he is resurrected.
Actually, “hosanna” is a combination of a Hebrew word and an Aramaic word mashed together that say a lot. The Aramaic word says, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The Hebrew word says, “Save us now” or, “Heal us now, Lord.” So, this hosanna may be translated, “Blessed are you Jesus who comes in the name of the Lord, please save and heal us now.”
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 predicts the triumphal entry of the King:
1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; *
his mercy endures for ever.
2 Let Israel now proclaim, *
“His mercy endures for ever.”
19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; *
I will enter them;
I will offer thanks to the LORD.
20 “This is the gate of the LORD; *
he who is righteous may enter.”
21 I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *
and have become my salvation.
22 The same stone which the builders rejected *
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the LORD’s doing, *
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 On this day the LORD has acted; *
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Hosannah, LORD, hosannah! *
LORD, send us now success.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; *
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
27 God is the LORD; he has shined upon us; *
form a procession with branches up to the horns of the altar.
28 “You are my God, and I will thank you; *
you are my God, and I will exalt you.”
29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; *
his mercy endures forever.
So, Jesus commands a gate that is always closed in Jerusalem to be opened. It can only be entered by the high priest or the Messiah. The Messiah Jesus is going up, through this gate, up, up to the altar. Only one high priest was allowed to go to the horns of the altar.
People were hurting. They want Him to get before the Lord, before God himself, the Father, whom no man has seen. Except, they do not realize yet what Colossians 1:15 says, “The only visible image of the invisible God is Jesus Christ.” They wanted to say to God, Feed us now, take care of us now, we’re under oppression now.
Isaiah 50:4-9, written 700 years before Jesus’s Passion, is the third of four suffering servant songs:
The Lord GOD has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.
The Lord GOD helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord GOD who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
He carries out God’s mission in the face of ridicule and opposition. He’s confident that God will sustain him.
Now, what is he doing that causes so much trouble? God wakes Him up early to help the weary, to heal the blind, to heal the lame, to comfort the prisoner, and to feed the hungry.
What does He get for it? He gets to be beaten, like a criminal. He gets His beard pulled out with contempt. He gets spit on with hatred.
Matthew 27:11-54 is incredible to read:
Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’” The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.
From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
The charge said that Jesus was a king. He replies, “My kingdom is not of this world.” So, Pilate understands that Jesus is not a threat to Caesar, Therefore, he offers the people a choice.
Have you thought about the choice?
Pilate is offering a murderer, a liar, a thief, a rebel, who’s named Jesus Barabbas. What does Barabbas mean? Jesus Bar Rabbi means the son of a teacher, a rabbi. Pilate gives them the choice, You can choose Jesus Barabbas, the son of the teacher of the law, who could not keep the law or Jesus the Son of God, who wakes up early in the morning to help the weary, to heal the blind, to heal the lame, to comfort the prisoner, and to feed the hungry. Of course, they choose Barabbas, which is horrendous.
Then, Pilate’s wife Claudia comes to Pilate and says, “I had a dream that Jesus was innocent.” So, Pilate declares Jesus innocent. In response, the Pharisees and the Sadducees say, “Let his blood be on us.” Thus, His blood in many ways was on them at the destruction of Jerusalem. It was so gruesome that people were eating the children, first their neighbors, then their own.
During Jesus’ Passion, the Romans were mocking Jesus. Thus, Jesus was never comforted, so that we might be comforted. And, Jesus was cursed, so that we might be blessed.
He goes up to be crucified on the “place of the skull”, or “Golgotha” in Hebrew or “Calvary” in Latin. The women are offering Him a narcotic drink that they offer to all the people being crucified, so that they’d feel less pain, because crucifixion was the most painful form of dying. Jesus refuses it because He wants to take each and every person’s sins.
We’ve all fallen short of the glory of God. When I think of my sins, I think how much He must have suffered. He embraced death for you and me.
They put a sign above his cross. There’s been more than 150 movies about Jesus since 1897. If you’ve seen the movies, you see three crosses, only one has a sign on it. But, in fact, at the time of Jesus Christ, most of the crosses had signs on them to warn the passersby not to commit the crime written on the sign: murder, adulterer, thief, etc. There were people crucified all the way from Jerusalem to Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast. The only movie that I recall that shows that in a powerful way is THE YOUNG MESSIAH. When it came to Jesus, the sign read, “The King of the Jews.”
They mocked Him until the pitch-black darkness fell over the land, at 3 pm in the afternoon! That darkness was scary, because they thought God brings judgment in the darkness.
Just before He dies, He says something that He’s never said before. Jesus always calls God “Father” or “Daddy”, which is “Abba”, as in “Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” On the cross, He says, “My God, my God.” Now, why does he say, “My God, my God?” Because he’s quoting Psalm 22. It’s just like, when children are little, you sing, “Row, row, row your boat,” and they’ll give you the rest of the song. As soon as Jesus says, “My God, my God,” the people at the foot of the cross, understand this refers to Psalm 22, which tells the whole story of the crucifixion. At the end of Psalm 22, it’s a victory. So, He’s saying, you’re scared, but don’t worry. Remember Psalm 22. There’s a victory at the end of all this.
Thus, He dies at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the time of the evening sacrifice. That is the sin offering. Where were those lambs for the sin offering born? In Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, a few miles from Jerusalem. The purest lamb was taken, sacrificed and died in Jerusalem at that very time at 3 o’clock. But this time, the sinless lamb is Jesus Christ.
Then the earthquake came, and the curtain of the Temple is torn from top to bottom. It took 300 people to put it up on the hooks because it was so heavy.
Now, I grew up on Broadway. Just imagine when a big Broadway curtain pulls across that gigantic stage and jams, trying lift up a curtain that is that heavy and that thick. It’s almost impossible. And, it tore at that moment.
So, the Jews are shaken. Why? Because suddenly, you have access to God without the priest. The barrier to entry has been removed. When you say, “Hosanna, save me Lord,” God hears you because we can now go up to the horns of the alter.
Then, the tombs open, and when Jesus is resurrected, the saints come out.
There are a lot of resurrections in the Bible, including Lazarus, all these saints that are coming out of their tombs, and the people who died whom Jesus brought back to life.
All these resurrections are just telling you, “This is going to happen.” This is for real.
Jesus’ resurrection is not just about Jesus. It’s about you; it’s about each of us who will be resurrected.
In the early church, up until Constantine, all of the paintings, murals, statues, etc., were of the resurrected Jesus. If you go to the cathedral in Ravina, Italy today, you see the resurrected Jesus in the stained glass. If you go up to Galilee, you see the resurrected Jesus in the mosaic.
The crucified Jesus was only after Constantine saw the cross in the air, and God told him to paint the cross on his standards and that became the focal point.
But, we’re not left hanging on the cross. The story didn’t end with Jesus dying on the cross.
The story of sin ends; and the greatest story ever told begins with Jesus’ resurrection.
We know that he wasn’t in the tomb because they said a whole cohort was ordered to watch the tomb. A cohort was usually 16. In most movies it’s two people and one of them is drunk. If any thief wanted to get that body, they’d have to walk over the bodies of these soldiers, not to mention the guards, who were standing watch. Once, the robbers got there, they had to move a two-ton stone that took many men to move.
How many thieves could walk past and over all of these centurions, who knew that they were going to die if they let this tomb be robbed, and then remove a two-ton stone? It’s impossible.
Still, the stone was rolled away.
After He resurrected, Jesus appeared to his disciples. But, Thomas was not there, so, Thomas doubted. Then, a week later, Thomas put his finger in Jesus’ hands, and his finger in Jesus’ side and said, “My Lord, and my God.” (John 20:28)
More than five hundred people saw the resurrected Jesus. They not only saw him; but also, they ate with him and drank with him.
He is the evidence: “You are going to be resurrected.”
So, what is the moral of everything this week is all about?
The moral is that this is great news. This is the most spectacular example of God’s tender love. That God loves us so much that He gave His only begotten son, Jesus Christ, to save you and me.
What God is calling you today is to believe.
He called you not only to believe,
but wants you to receive the healing,
to receive the forgiveness,
to receive the new life.
That belief is a gift from God to become an adopted child of God through Jesus Christ.
So, this is the chance to give thanks to God that He gave His only son Jesus Christ to deliver me from my heinous sin, and deliver each one of you, whom I know are much better than I ever was.
So, believe, receive and become an adopted child of God and Heir of His Eternal Glory.
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