Have you ever dreaded an upcoming event in your life?
A few years ago I was facing a deadline…(don’t you hate that word? “Dead” “Line”?) It was a date I had expected for six years. I knew it was coming. During the years leading up to it, I rarely went through a day without thinking about its arrival. I was trying to prepare, but as it approached, I would often wake up at 3:00 AM in a cold sweat. Finally, I survived the ordeal, and am thankful every day that it is in my past.
Since you can identify with anticipating an unpleasant event, can you imagine what it was like for Jesus, Who, from the creation of the world, knew the day would come when He would be made sin and give His life for humanity? John wrote that Jesus was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).
This great sacrifice of Christ for us was known by Jesus, planned by God and directed by the Holy Spirit, long before He walked the lonely path to Golgotha. Peter wrote that Jesus “was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Peter 1:20). His manifestation for us happened when He offered His “precious blood…as of a lamb unblemished and spotless” (verse 19).
The writer of Hebrews thoughtfully notes: “For then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world has He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
As we draw near the holy week from Palm Sunday (March 28) through Easter Sunday (April 4), let’s stop to remember the life of Christ, as He approached those sacred days.
For months, Jesus had told His disciples about His soon-coming sacrifice, but they had not grasped His teaching. Matthew wrote: “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (Matthew 16:21). But Peter’s response to the Lord’s words was to rebuke Jesus, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You” (verse 22).
Shortly after that event, when they met in Galilee, Jesus said to them “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day. And they were deeply grieved” (Matthew 17:22-23). Mark’s account of this event notes: “But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him” (Mark 9:32).
Then several weeks later, as Jesus “was about to go up to Jerusalem” (Matthew 20:17), He pulled the disciples aside and told them clearly: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up” (verses 18, 19).
As the time drew near for His great sacrifice, Jesus was focused squarely on the ministry He had to do to accomplish God’s will in His life. His determination was so great that Luke wrote: “When the time was come that He should be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). The Lord’s intentions were so obvious as He traveled through Samaria, that “they did not receive Him, because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem” (verse 53). Imagine what it was like to see Jesus, with his “face” set on the task He had to accomplish. There could be no distractions. There would be no alternate course. He was headed to Jerusalem; to the Cross; to the Sacrifice.
During the week before Palm Sunday—two weeks before Easter Sunday—Jesus was single-minded in His actions. Mark wrote: “They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful. And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him” (Mark 10:32).
For the Lord Jesus, the long-awaited event—the pivot point for humanity—the atoning sacrifice for all people of all time—was directly in His sight. His upcoming humiliation did not surprise Him, for He revealed that “He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again” (Luke 18:32, 33).
As Jesus headed to Jerusalem—to the Cross, He was perfectly fulfilling God’s plan for His life, that affects every other person who has ever lived. It was God’s will that Jesus die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. We can see this purpose as later, He prayed in Gethsemane regarding the cup of His suffering: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). Then He prayed again, “Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done” (verse 42). Jesus willingly offered Himself as payment for our sins, so they can be forgiven by God, which allows us to enter His presence in Heaven.
This week we see Jesus, heading to Jerusalem—to the Cross. Next week we will see Him on Palm Sunday, willing to be king, but rejected by His people. Then we will see Him on Easter Sunday, following His sacrifice, raised from the tomb. Let us be thankful for Christ’s love and sacrifice!