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Jesus: The Lamb of God
Why did Jesus have to suffer?
What did His suffering accomplish?
Jesus was the sacrificial Lamb of God.
By Ken Raggio
John the Baptist introduced Jesus to his followers as “the Lamb of God.”
It is unlikely that anybody in John’s audience would have truly comprehended the meaning of that title, especially its application to Jesus. Jesus was being depicted as a sacrificial lamb.
“The Lamb of God” derives its significance from the occasion of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, when God instructed Moses to have all the people kill a lamb for the salvation of each household. Only those families who appropriately protected their homes with the blood of a lamb were passed over when the judgment of God came to all Egypt’s firstborn.
For thousands of years, the people of Israel have been taught that their sins can only be remitted by the shedding of blood. Unfortunately, most Israelites have never accepted the truth that the blood of animals has been forever replaced with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Moreover, the world at large has never realized that God was incarnate in the man Jesus Christ, suffering the pangs of death so that any of us might be redeemed from our sins against Him.
His was not the death of an ignorant, mute animal but the agonizing and painful death of a perfectly innocent young man.
That speaks to us of the price God alone would pay for our souls. The Eternal Sovereign Creator wrapped Himself in flesh and endured an insulting, humiliating death - all to pay the ransom for sinful, condemned mankind.
The sufferings of Jesus Christ might be viewed from two perspectives: the physical and the psychological. Anyone can readily see why Jesus suffered physical pain - the scourging, the beating, the piercing, the crown of thorns, the nails in His hands and feet.
What is often overlooked is the mental anguish Jesus experienced as He witnessed the massive rejection of men and women, many of whom He had personally ministered to, all of whom He had passionately cared for as the lover of their souls. Consider your own pain when someone you love rejects you.
Psychological suffering can be more painful than physical pain. Rejection and betrayal can inflict infinitely more pain than cuts and bruises. Judas sold Him for thirty pieces of silver. The rest of the disciples dropped out of sight. John and Peter hung around in the shadows. Peter denied with cursing any previous association with Jesus. Many who were in the worshipping crowds a few days earlier seemed to have a collective change of heart, some even screaming for His death. The Temple rulers hated Him. His plight even provoked the wrath of Rome’s officialdom.
It must have been heartrending anguish that Jesus felt as He saw and heard their hateful, hostile, and hurtful behavior.
Jesus Was Arrested By The Authorities (John 18:1-11)
When Jesus crossed the Brook Kidron just before His arrest, He was retracing the footsteps of His ancestor King David. David was forced to flee Jerusalem when his son Absalom betrayed him and drove him from the throne. David and his few faithful followers crossed the Brook Kidron with weeping.
Jesus’ crossing of Kidron was amazingly similar, because Jesus was also being betrayed by a member of His inner circle, and within moments, Jesus’ tears would flow as drops of blood. We cannot imagine the heartbreak behind such a physical reaction.
The lesson of betrayal is a required subject for true saints of God. In Matthew 24:10, Jesus warned that in the end times, “shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” Again in Mark 13:12, He prophesied, “the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.” All of us have a “Brook Kidron” to cross, where a familiar friend is likely to inflict profound betrayal. We must, however, stay the course.
A secondary lesson about Kidron is that it was often depicted in scriptures as a place where dead bodies, refuse and ashes were disposed of. Around the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount, the Brook Kidron converges with the Valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna, which is often associated with death, graves and hell. That Jesus’ martyrdom began with a passage across Kidron illustrates the intriguing power of God to speak through typology as well as literally. Kidron was a type of the valley of death.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;” (Psalm 23:4).
Despite His initial human reluctance to follow through, Jesus’ journey across Kidron ultimately resulted in the greatest victory in all human history. If the story had ended in His death, it would have been more than tragic. But once He resurrected, the sting of death and victory of the grave was cancelled. Jesus was alive! And He is alive forevermore.
In light of this, the modern saint can rest assured that each step of the way is divinely choreographed: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD,” (Psalm 37:23). The Lord assures us that He will be there when we cross our Kidron, and that we too will finally celebrate a great victory.
Jesus suffered agony in the Garden
Jesus’ intercessory prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was a most significant act. Even though He was God Incarnate, His human nature both dreaded and struggled against the reality of His impending death. The survival instinct is the most powerful and irrepressible of all human instincts.
It should come as no surprise when we too struggle with the challenge to crucify our flesh and its desires in deference to the cause of Christ.
Since we know that Jesus begged for His cup of suffering to pass, we may console ourselves when we feel the same desire to be delivered from our trials. Nevertheless, He said, “Nevertheless,” and again, stayed the course. We can simply follow His example, and say, “nevertheless, not my will but Thine!”
If we are to do the will of God, we must exit the threshold of self-preservation, and place our lives and our destinies in the hands of God. As Job said, “though he slay me, yet will I trust in him,” (Job 13:15).
When God required Abraham to take Isaac to an altar of sacrifice, Abraham obediently responded. Once Abraham fully complied with God’s call, and God saw his obedience, He intervened in behalf of Abraham and Isaac by providing a substitutionary ram (a male sheep). God spared Isaac and provided a sacrificial lamb.
Apparently, God never intended for Isaac to die. All God really wanted was for Abraham to empty his self-will. As soon as Abraham fully obeyed, the trial was over, and it was less catastrophic than it might have been. In fact, it was not catastrophic at all.
So if we completely fulfill the mission to which God has called us, in blind trust if necessary, we have reason to believe that God will not betray our trust. The suffering God ordains us to is rarely as dreadful as our human fears imagine.
Judas Betrayed The Innocent Blood Of God's Sacrificial Lamb
“Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me,” (Psalm 41:9). Those words prophesied Messiah’s betrayal, and Judas fulfilled them precisely.
To some degree, every one of us has a similar prophetic appointment. As the Captain of our salvation, Jesus bravely faced His traitor as well as a crowd of co-conspirators. It is amazing how a single enemy can somehow engage the resources of an entire crowd of people, some of whom we do not even know. At such a time, we must carefully consider that in spite of the build-up of forces against us, there are still “more that be with us than they that be with them.” Remember how Elisha and his servant suddenly saw the angels of the Lord encamped around them when faced by formidable enemies.
As we follow in the steps of Jesus, we should be prepared for whatever adversity or adversaries may arise, remembering that God is always with us.
Jesus Allowed Himself To Be Taken
Herein lies one of the greatest of all truths. NOBODY could have captured and killed Jesus if He had not willfully surrendered to Satan’s plot against Him. Jesus had the power to lay down His life. More miraculously and more significantly, Jesus had the power to take up His life again. He had nothing to fear in surrender, because ultimately, all power in heaven and earth belonged to Him.
Jesus’ surrender to His foes was an act of intercession in behalf of all of us who would never survive a similar scenario.
We need to understand that our lives are predestined according to God’s will, and Satan can only defeat us if we surrender ourselves to him. Since Jesus paid the ransom for our souls, we never have to surrender to sin or Satan.
Peter Resisted Jesus' Betrayal With A Sword
That was not the first time Peter tried to interfere with Jesus’ mission. In Matthew 16, Peter rebuked Jesus for saying that He would suffer at the hands of the chief priests, elders and scribes, and would be killed. Jesus reprimanded Peter in both situations. Peter took it upon himself to wage war against Jesus’ aggressors, cutting off a man’s ear. Many of us might show the same inclinations, in the name of righteous zeal.
The lesson, however, is that “it is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing,” (John 6:63). Jesus told Peter that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. In other words, those who trust in the arm of the flesh, or to human understanding, especially human vengeance, will certainly lose. Otherwise, those who surrender themselves and trust the will of God will come out all right in the end.
Jesus Was Betrayed During His Interrogation (John 18:12-24)
Christ was brought before Annas, the former High Priest. God makes no mistakes. Even though Annas had recently retired as the High Priest of Israel, and his son-in-law Caiaphas had become the new High Priest, the truth was that Jesus was the real High Priest over Israel. Annas and Caiaphas would both attempt to prosecute Jesus as a blasphemer and spiritual imposter. Little did they realize that it was not Jesus being condemned that night, but themselves.
God will eventually call all men and women into accountability for their errors. Annas and Caiaphas were judging the Eternal Judge. These carnally minded High Priests were committing a betrayal of a much higher magnitude than Judas committed. The High Priests betrayed the great High Priest, and they did so according to precise prophetic timing and divine foreknowledge.
In this, we see another precept: Betrayal often comes from one who occupies the exact counterpart to your role in truth. As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so they will withstand you. False preachers are a real adversary to truth preachers. The staunch believer in false doctrine is a big adversary to the staunch believer in true doctrine.
Peter And John Were Eye-witnesses To The Betrayal
Peter was captivated by the night’s developments, compelled to see where the Lord would be taken. He and John found themselves on the doorsteps of Caiaphas’ house. Caiaphas knew John, and John went inside. Peter lingered by the door. After a while, John came out again, and greeted a woman at the door. Suddenly, she thought she recognized Peter too.
Peter denied Jesus, too. Peter’s reaction to being recognized exposed his own fears of the whole development. A sense of Jesus’ doom must have hung like a dark cloud over Peter’s head.
Peter did not want to get caught in the same web Jesus was caught in. All of a sudden, the risks of suffering with Christ seemed too threatening to Peter. His sensibilities abandoned him. He swore and lied his way out from under their accusations.
The threat of evil consequences sometimes comes to bear on the saints of God. We see a world that is hostile toward godliness and truth. Almost daily, we hear of righteous principals under fire. In the media, at the workplace, even among family and friends, our Christian values are being attacked, mocked, castigated, and vilified. Like Peter, we are filled with mixed emotions: indignation, upset, fear, and confusion. Tragically, we occasionally fail to deal with it as we should. Instead of taking a stand, showing a backbone, pleading God’s cause, we cop out, hide in the shadows, obscure our identity, or even disavow our convictions.
Then the rooster crows; our conscience is pricked. Our sins find us out, and the guilt ensues. Tears of remorse and regret are followed by heart-searching and repentance. Then the grace of God touches us, and we are reminded that He has already prayed for us that our faith would not fail. Suddenly our hearts are renewed and our love for Him finds a new vigor.
Just a few days later, as recorded in Acts 4, Peter stood before Annas and Caiaphas again and boldly declared the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Ghost. Many of us would be forced to admit that we failed some of our first tests to stand up for Jesus, but God continued to bear with us in longsuffering until our hearts were emboldened and filled with love and zeal for His cause.
Christ Faced The Wrath Of Caiaphas (vs. 25-27)
In John 11, we learn that it was actually Caiaphas who made the decision that Jesus must be killed. That decision followed the miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Jesus’ popularity had reached an all-time high, and in the streets of Jerusalem, people were heralding Him as their new King. In a little while, Jesus might have easily overthrown the dead religious system in the Temple. But it was not to be. His kingdom was not of this world. Caiaphas and the others did not understand that, however, and they felt exceedingly threatened by the power and authority of Jesus.
The chief priests reasoned that if Jesus won the hearts of Israel, the Temple society would instantly lose their political clout, both with the people and with the Roman Empire. They had extensive, impressive political influence with Pilate, Herod, Felix and even Caesar. If Jesus stole their influence away from them, Rome would convulse, and chaos would spell the end of their accustomed way of life. Rome might even strip them of their present liberties.
Caiaphas declared to his fellows, “it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”
He was not referring to himself, of course, but to Jesus. He prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation. They fomented with determination to destroy Jesus, as an act of self-preservation. From that day forward they took counsel together to put him to death. Within hours, their ambition was in high gear, and Jesus was arrested and impounded.
The Apostle Paul admonishes all Christians to be mindful that we are not wrestling with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers of darkness, and spiritual wickedness in high places. Just as Jesus met the forces of hell embodied in the religious hierarchy of His day, so must every generation of true Christians face the opposition of those whose agendas are in conflict with God’s.
We must remember that when we decide to follow Jesus Christ, and take God’s part, we must also reckon with God’s enemies. We inherit God’s enemies when we get saved. Jesus taught that we would be hated because He was hated. At the same time, He admonishes us to be of good cheer, because as He overcame the world, so can we by following in His steps.
Jesus Was Tried And Falsely Convicted (John 18:28-19:16)
Pontius Pilate interrogated the Priests. The trial of Jesus Christ had to change venues - transferred out of the hands of the Temple officials into Roman hands, because the Jews had no authority to put a man to death, but Rome did. They had to appeal to the Roman powers to guarantee that Jesus would be sentenced to death.
Consequently, the Priests had to try to make a legitimate legal case against Jesus that would be powerful enough to persuade the Romans. This would not be easy because Jesus had done nothing worthy of death under Roman law.
At first, Pilate attempted to throw the whole case out. He told the Jews that they should prosecute Jesus themselves. In their desperation, they trumped up charges against Jesus, denouncing Jesus’ rights to kingship, and swearing allegiance to “no king but Caesar.”
This is stark contrast to their ancestors, who in the days of the Prophet Samuel, begged for a king of their own. They told Samuel that it wasn’t fair that all the other nations had a king, but they had no king. Samuel gave them Saul, who proved to be a reckless failure. At the heart of the problem was the fact that God was their only true King.
Now, in the fullness of God’s time, they were being given the true King of Kings, God manifest in flesh, but they did not want Him. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.
The whole scenario is a testimony against the natural desires of carnal men. The flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. In modern times, this is still true.
Men still behave as they did two thousand years ago.
They complain against God for things forbidden. They press for things until they acquire their forbidden desires by whatever means they must use. Later, when God attempts to send the things that He desires for them to have, they reject them.
Pilate also thoroughly interviewed Jesus, but could find no convincing evidence that Jesus needed to be executed. Pilate toyed with Jesus’ kingship, making light of its significance. He did not seem to know what to do with Jesus. In Matthew 27:19, we are told that Pilate’s wife sent word to “have nothing to do with this just man, for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.”
God was reinforcing truth in the face of a cacophony of Jewish lies that day. God will always have a say in a righteous cause, no matter how many voices rise against it. If men will not glorify God, He can cause the rocks to cry out. If a Jew fails his responsibility, God will raise up a Gentile. Even while Israel was dispersed among heathen nations because of their sins, God raised up shepherds like Cyrus and Darius of Media and Persia who would do His will.
While multitudes of unbelieving Jews were crying, “Crucify him!” an unwary Roman judge was protesting, “I find no fault in Him!”
In any generation, God reserves to Himself at least a remnant, a small seed in the earth, an elect people who will stand up and speak up for Him. When Elijah thought that he was the last prophet remaining, God reminded him that there were yet seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed their knees to idols.
Today, Christianity is saturated with deception, doctrinal perversions, hypocrisy and lies. Nevertheless, the truth of God continues to be preached throughout the world.
The Crowd Chose To Release A Convicted Criminal (Barabbas) Instead Of Innocent Jesus.
Barabbas was a convenient distraction from the murderous intentions of the people. People are quick to absolve their guilt with actions that purport to justify or compensate for alleged wrong-doing. But an old saying says, “two wrongs don’t make a right!”
In one church, a member may develop an evil attitude, including disloyalty, even rebellion against a pastor or saints of that congregation. Rather than correct their error, they leave and go to another church. There, they pose as nearly angelic, trustworthy and faithful followers. Situations like this are often spiteful moves. They leave a loving, caring pastor and church that made every possible effort to minister to them. Across town, they do not even know what kind of congregation or ministry they are walking into. But in their heart, they do not care, because even a criminal like Barabbas would be a better friend than their proper pastor and church against whom they have carried out their betrayal.
We must be cautious not to yield to the same selfish motives that sent Jesus to Calvary. If self-preservation is more important than the cause of the Kingdom of God, and doing His blessed will, we will certainly end up with Barabbas and not Christ. Unfortunately, by then it may be too late to salvage what might have been a glorious work for God.
Pilate Was Agitated When He Presented Jesus, "Behold, Your King!"
It is ironic how poignantly Pilate addressed the crowd that day. “And he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!” (v. 14).
”And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS,” (v. 19).
Sometimes, even prophets and priests cannot hear the voice of God. For example, in the case of the Old Testament prophet, Balaam, a DONKEY had to speak chastising words to him. So when Israel boiled in blood-thirsty accusations against Jesus Christ, this pagan politician named Pilate was declaring truth and pronouncing judgments on them unawares. Pilate’s single encounter with Jesus put the fear of God in him. He refused to contest Jesus’ kingship and refused to judge Him guilty. He even tried to release Him after Jesus warned him that he would be powerless to judge him contrary to God’s authority.
Jesus unnerved Pilate. His declarations suggested that he might have truly believed Jesus’ claims.
Finally, Jesus Was Crucified - MURDERED.
Jesus’ executioners mocked and scourged Him. They whipped Him and lashed Him. They nailed Him to a cross and hung Him on it.
But it was so from eternity past. It was prophesied. Despite all the complexities, Jesus was appointed to die that day. The Lamb of God was slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). For this cause He came. So they led him away to Golgotha, the place of the skull.
A beloved missionary to Africa, Nona Freeman, preached a message about the place of the skull. She reasoned that the place of the skull is where our mind, our thoughts and intentions dwell. That is where everyone crucifies Christ - in our selfish, rebellious, carnal mind. Therefore, the Lordship of Jesus Christ is stripped and plundered in the place of the skull.
If the evil crowd had not been so obsessed with their own selfish motives that day, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. May God deliver us from carnal obsessions that blind us to His Lordship and Kingship over our lives. May our deaf ears be opened, and our blind eyes see and know that Jesus really is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Even In His Betrayal, Jesus Acted With Divine Purpose.
Before Jesus died, he spoke to Mary and John. John often referred to himself anonymously in the gospel. We can see his veiled references to himself. This anonymous disciple was the only one who had attended Jesus all the way to Calvary. John was with him in the palace of Caiaphas, and finally he stood beneath the cross as Jesus neared death. Jesus looked at them both and instructed them to take care of one another - a blessing of sorts.
Oh, that every one of us would stand by Jesus’ side through every step of the way! One of the greatest things that can be said of a follower of Jesus is that he is faithful. Everyone enjoys being in the presence of the Lord when the healings are flowing, and when the devils are being cast out, and when the blessings are flowing down from heaven. But the greatest saint will still be there when the feast turns to famine, when good health succumbs to sickness, when finances fail, when friends forsake, and when Satan is on a rampage.
A real friend of Jesus will go all the way to Calvary with Him. He will die with Him or for Him if necessary. Only a few will die a martyr’s death, but everyone must carry a cross. That much is required.
Jesus’ Date With Destiny Demanded His Surrender To The Grave.
So many things were fulfilled prophetically in His dying. Blood and water spilled from His side. None of His bones were broken. The sun grew dark. The veil in the Temple was rent. Many of the dead in the tombs around Jerusalem came to life and testified of Jesus. All these and more testify to the glorious eternal foreknowledge of God that brought about our salvation.
Even His burial in a borrowed tomb was significant. Pastor Jeff Arnold says that the reason Jesus didn’t own His own tomb is because He only needed it for three days! Why buy a tomb when you only need it for a few days?
What about us? The entire church is promised a resurrection. No grave is going to hold any saint in the ground when the trumpet of God sounds. Because He lives, we can live also! Jesus stripped the grave of its victory. He took the sting out of death.
Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” (Philippians 1:21). It is glorious to live for Jesus Christ, but it is even more glorious to cross over into the eternal presence of God. The wonderful truth is that the saints of God never die. Jesus said, “He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die,” (John 11:6). They are ushered from mortality into immortality by the angels of God, as the story of the rich man and Lazarus reveals. While our earthly bodies return to the dust, our spirits return to God who gave them. Our spirits never smell the stench of death nor see the darkness of the grave. The moment we draw our last breath, we enter into the brightness of His presence to receive our robe of righteousness. (See Revelation 6.) To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Jesus was made perfect by the things that He suffered. His humility, His servanthood, His sacrificial life is a pattern to us.
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls,” (1 Peter 2:21-25).
There is glory awaiting us for every thing we suffer for Christ.
“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Romans 8:17).
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