It began on a high note.
This historic week.
The crowd, though a somewhat odd assembly, was happy and enthusiastic.
Their hero rode upon a young donkey – his choice.
His followers cheered him as the coming king, the one who would make everything right. His triumphal entry into the ancient city stirred all of Jerusalem.
Who knew it would turn so tragic – and violent?
It seemed a great reversal.
The week that would change history and eternity ended not in joyful triumph but in condemnation and death. It would end not in the overthrow of injustice but in surrender to brutality.
The people’s expectations were dashed. Public opinion, once a happy friend, turned into a scornful and cynical mocker. Adoration mutated into contempt.
People have a prejudice against weakness; a fondness for power.
These people were no different.
If this Jesus has no power to deliver us from Rome. If he stands bound and silent before Pilate. If he won’t lift a finger in his own defense before the Sanhedrin. If he allows himself to be ridiculed and tortured by Rome’s barbarous soldiers, then we say,
He is of no help – no value – to us!
The Creator of the universe permitted himself to suffer a painful and ignominious humiliation at the cruel hands of his creatures. They whipped him, beat him and tormented him. Then they cursed him, their Maker.
His love was that great – and reached that low.
To know God as he invites us to know him; to behold his wonderful salvation. To understand ourselves rightly and to appreciate the woeful human condition of which you and I are an undeniable and inescapable part, we must be led to Calvary.
We must survey the cross upon which the Prince of Glory died.
We see him taken prisoner in the garden. He had the power to call 10,000 angels to fight for him. That summons never came. All the hosts of heaven stood by with no call – no command from their almighty Captain.
Jesus told Peter this had to be.
Marched summarily through six illegal trials in less than a day, we see him before the authorities flaunting their power. He stands before the snarling, ruthless Pilate and then the pompous and inquisitive Herod.
Soon Jesus is the pitiable and bloodied object of Rome’s sadistic military.
We see him taken outside the city, stripped of his only garment, nailed to a cross and hung to die as a despicable criminal.
The crowd that had hailed him now taunted him. “Save yourself – if you can!”
It was for us.
Jesus chose powerlessness and submission to his Father’s will over the adoration of the crowd and the seductions of the devil.
None of this had anything to do with wielding earthly power, currying influence, promoting agendas, conducting focus groups, bowing to corruption, winking at evil or commissioning polls.
Paul tells us the Lord of All “made himself of no reputation” and became a servant. He gave up the free exercise of his divine authority. Jesus “emptied himself” (Philippians 2: 6-8).
Of all but love.
After he fed the 5,000, his excited followers had determined to make him king. But he slipped away and went into the hills to be alone.
John said Jesus knew what was in the heart of a person – and he didn’t trust it (John 2:24-25).
Jesus knew people were fickle. He knew they were easily deceived. He knew they were as sheep without a shepherd. He knew how quickly they could fall for the latest thing as the greatest thing.
He knew how easily people are manipulated. How they seek a human savior. He knew their carnal appetites, the hope they would put in politics. He knew the tragedy and futility of that misplaced faith.
He understood better than anyone the beguiling and ephemeral illusions of power.
Jesus knew the Source of true power – and the power of Truth.
That didn’t stop Satan from trying.
First by showing him all the kingdoms of the world and then through the mesmerizing clamor of human approval, the devil told Jesus he could have it all. All he had to do was sell his soul to the Evil One.
It didn’t work.
On the cross, when all seemed lost and doomed, at the very hour his own Father turned away; in that hour, alone, while his mother wept, the crowds sneered, the sky went black and the earth shook, Jesus triumphed over sin, death and the devil. He defeated all the hosts of hell.
Jesus freed you and me in that instant from the eternal dominion of darkness and gained for us glorious entrance to his own kingdom of everlasting light.
“Today you shall be with me in Paradise,” he told the thief who died with him.
Because Jesus stood in our place, endured our shame, was condemned for our sins and paid the price for our guilt, you and I have the forgiveness of all our sins and true righteous standing before a holy God.
We have eternal life.
He did for us what none of us could do for ourselves. He did for us what none of us would do for others, even if we could.
Through his weakness Jesus delivered us from the power of Satan and the strength of sin.
Through obedience to his Father’s will he made us sons and daughters of the Most High – children of God.
Through his weakness Jesus Christ conquered the evil that assailed him and triumphed forever through the power of the cross.
For all who believe.