Tuesday 8 November 2011

WDJD (Mark 15)

The question I want us to think about is: Why did Jesus die?

Not “How?” - which is a good question. He died very painfully on a wooden cross. That is how he died.

We are not asking “When did Jesus die?” “When” is also a good question. Jesus died two thousand years ago. And yet, it still affects us today.

We are asking: Why did Jesus die? To help us answer that question, we will hear what the bible says in Mark Chapter 15. Here, the bible gives us three reasons why Jesus died.

1.    His death was planned
2.    His death was a punishment
3.    His death was in our place

It was planned

Early in the morning the chief priests met hurriedly with the elders, the teachers of the Law, and the whole Council, and made their plans. They put Jesus in chains, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.
Mark 15:1 (Good News Translation)

There are a lot of names in just the first sentence. Chief priests, elders, teachers, the Council. All of them were powerful - elders, teachers of the Law. All of them were religious - chief priests and the Council. A lot of people were involved in the plan to kill Jesus.

Whoa! Kill Jesus? Well, they didn’t all take sticks and hit him. That is not what I mean. They planned together so that someone else would kill Jesus. Early in the morning, they all hurried and met together with their friends and said, “How can we get Jesus into trouble? We can’t kill him ourselves? We don’t want to get into trouble.” But they had a plan. “We will send him to the governor - the judge, named Pilate. We will tell the governor that Jesus is a terrorist and that he must be punished according to the law.”

And it looked like the plan was working!

Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “So you say.” The chief priests were accusing Jesus of many things, so Pilate questioned him again, “Aren't you going to answer? Listen to all their accusations!” Again Jesus refused to say a word, and Pilate was amazed.
Mark 15:2-5

They were “accusing Jesus of many things”. They chief priests were saying, “Jesus is a criminal. He is dangerous. We must get rid of him.” But the bible says, “Jesus refused to say a word.” He didn’t defend himself. He didn’t say, “You are telling lies about me,” even though they were. He didn’t say, “I am innocent.” Even though he was.

But Jesus did answer one question. I wonder if you noticed that: the very first question Pilate, the judge asked Jesus in verse number 2. “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “So you say.”

You’re right. I am the King. I do have authority and power.

Yet the plan was to convince Pilate, the judge that Jesus was pretending to be king. The plan was to say that he was just another man: Jesus was just a common criminal who deserved to be punished.

It was a punishment

At every Passover Festival Pilate was in the habit of setting free any one prisoner the people asked for. At that time a man named Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder in the riot. When the crowd gathered and began to ask Pilate for the usual favour, he asked them, “Do you want me to set free for you the king of the Jews?” He knew very well that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him because they were jealous.
Mark 15:6-10

Pilate, the judge, was not convinced. I think if you were in his position as the judge, you wouldn’t have been convinced either. Pilate heard all the accusations against Jesus but he did not believe any of them. Yet at the same time, he was amazed. Why didn’t Jesus defend himself?

So Pilate, the judge tried to set Jesus free. But instead of asking the leaders, the chief priests and the religious people who all wanted Jesus to be punished, Pilate thought, “I will ask the people instead.” Maybe the people would support his decision.

Look with me to verse 9. “He asked them, ‘Do you want me to set free for you the king of the Jews?’ He knew very well that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him because they were jealous.”

It was a favour. It was a tradition. Every year during this special holiday called the Passover Festival, Pilate would do a favour for the people by freeing one of the prisoners. It is a bit like X-Factor, except for prison: Ex-convict Factor. Who got the most votes? Who was the most popular? Pilate was being Simon Cowell, sitting behind the desk, looking very good and making all the important decisions. But the final decision was belonged to the people. “Do you want me to let Jesus go?” he asked them.

The final decision surprised Pilate, the judge.

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask, instead, that Pilate set Barabbas free for them. Pilate spoke again to the crowd, “What, then, do you want me to do with the one you call the king of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” But what crime has he committed?” Pilate asked. They shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Mark 15:11-14

Jesus didn’t get the vote. He wasn’t popular enough. In fact, everyone voted for the other prisoner, a man named Barabbas. If you can remember, back in verse 7, Barabbas was a criminal. He was in prison for murder. He was dangerous. He was guilty.

“What then do you want me to do with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked the people. “Crucify him!”

“But... but what crime has he committed?” They didn’t care. Most of them probably didn’t know. They were just angry. The chief priests had “stirred up the crowd”, meaning, they go everyone excited. “Don’t let Jesus go. He must be punished.”

Pilate asked them, “What do you want me to do with Jesus?” For the crowd, it wasn’t enough to lock Jesus up in prison. It wasn’t enough to just teach him a lesson. They wanted Pilate to kill Jesus in the most painful and horrible way possible. To be crucified means to have your hands and legs nailed to big wooden structure called a cross, and to be left there hanging until eventually you cannot breathe anymore and you slowly die. It was very, very painful. And yet this crowd of people were shouting at the top of their voices, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” The question is: Why?

The people and the religious leaders were angry. Do you notice how the Pilate, the judge keeps calling Jesus “the king of the Jews”? He never calls Jesus by his name. He asks the crowd, “Do you want me to set free for you the king of the Jews?” “What do you want me to do with the one you call the king of the Jews?” What was the very first question Pilate asked Jesus? Are you the king of the Jews?

Yes. “So you say.”

The people didn’t want a king. They didn’t want God to be their king. They didn’t Jesus whom God sent to be their king. And they were so angry that Jesus claimed to be this king that they were willing to kill him.

There is a special name for this king. You might have heard it before. It is the name “Christ”. When the bible talks about Jesus Christ it is saying the Jesus is the King. But the bible also says that Jesus came to die as the King on the cross.

On the cross, he died to take our place.

In our place

Pilate wanted to please the crowd, so he set Barabbas free for them. Then he had Jesus whipped and handed him over to be crucified.
Mark 15:15

Barabbas, the criminal was set free. Jesus, who was innocent, was whipped and handed over to be crucified. This is a substitute. Jesus died in place of another. Jesus was a substitute.

If you play football and you get tired running on the field, the coach will call in substitute, to take your place. Now imagine that one day, you are in the middle of a game and the referee blows a whistle. The coach waves at you and says, “I am replacing you with a subsitute.” And who should walk into the field but David Beckham!

Now I do apologise if you are not a football fan. I’m not one either. But still, I do recognise the name “David Beckham” as one of the most famous and talented football players in the world. He is rich. He is good-looking and athletic. He is married to a pop star. He earns millions of pounds every year. He even has his own perfume (so that you can smell like David Beckham!). Many kids look up to David Beckham as a role model. They want to be as successful, as famous, as good a football player as David Beckham. He is their example.

But there is a big difference: between having David Beckham as your example or role model; and having David Beckham as your substitute. When the referee blows the whistle and David Beckham comes on the field as your substitute, he is playing for you. You sit down and watch the game. David Beckham is running on the pitch, he is scoring the goals, he is taking the penalties.

And when Jesus Christ goes to the cross as our substitute, he is taking our place. Instead of me dying on the cross, he dies for me. Instead of me being punished for my sins, Jesus who is innocent, takes my punishment as my substitute.

The bible says in 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous - the good for the bad - to bring you to God.” Jesus died for us - the bad, the unrighteous - so that we would not have to die. So that we could be brought to God.

Why did Jesus die? WDJD?

So the question was: Why did Jesus die? And I said this passage from the bible gives us three answers:

1.    His death was planned
2.    His death was a punishment
3.    His death was in our place (or another word is “substitute”)

Firstly, his death was planned - by the religious leaders. But actually, the bible says it was God’s plan for Jesus to die. Again and again, Jesus told his friends that he had to die. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests  and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” Jesus said this in Mark Chapter 8 verse 31. God planned all along for Jesus to suffer, to die and rise again.

Secondly, his death was a punishment. The people wanted to punish Jesus according to the law. He was criminal. He claimed to be something he wasn’t - the King of the Jews, the Christ. And so, Pilate the judge, punished him to die on the cross.

But again the bible says, Jesus died to take God’s punishment for our sin. We weren’t punishing him. God was punishing Jesus for what we had done to God. We don’t want God in our lives. We don’t want Jesus as our King.

The bible calls that sin. Sin is saying I am God; I am more important that God; I am King. The punishment for sin is death and separation from God. On the cross, Jesus said, “My God, my God why did you abandon me?” He was taking our punishment - our separation from God - on himself.

Finally, Jesus’ death was in our place. Not just Barabbas, the criminal, who deserved to be in in prison but was set free. He died so that I can be set free.

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring you to God.
1 Peter 3:18

Jesus died according to God’s plan. Jesus died to take our punishment for sin. And Jesus died in our place, to bring us to God.

But if I could just one more reason, it would be this. Jesus died to show us how much God loves us. John Chapter 3, verse 16 says this:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.
John 3:16

When you look at Jesus and his death on the cross, I hope you will see God’s plan; you will see your punishment for sin; you will see Jesus taking that punishment for sin on himself and giving you forgiveness and new life.

And I hope you will see how much God loves you.

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