This week in worship, we’ll cover that tumultuous public scene where Pilate, the Roman Governor, gives the crowd a choice between two prisoners: one he will set free… the other will die. (See John 19:1-16a).
Can you imagine being a common person in those days, trying to make sense of what was going on? Was Jesus a Savior? They had shouted “Hosanna!” last week… why were they now shouting, “Crucify Him!”?
What fascinates me even more is that people are still trying to figure out what to make of Jesus. Is He a Savior? Or just another (tragic) figure in history? Perhaps he was just a great teacher falsely accused?
I guess that depends on whether people are looking at Jesus before… or after…
Before the Cross
Before the cross, Jesus is a great healer. He performs many documented miracles. In fact, these miracles are a source of contention with the religious elite of Jesus’ day (See Luke 5:17-26 for one example).
Before the cross, Jesus is a great teacher. People are amazed by the wisdom he displays and the authority with which he speaks. Even demons must respect his authority!
“Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!” The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee.” (Mark 1:27–28 NLT)
Before the cross, Jesus is a great humanitarian. He urges his followers to care for the widow and the orphan. He encourages people to pray for their enemies and to not return evil for evil. (Check out Matthew, Ch 5). He radically asks people to love their neighbors as themselves (See Matthew 22:37-40).
But here’s the thing: there are others in history that can be described the same way: great healers, teachers, and humanitarians. What makes Jesus different to people is what happens…
After the Cross
What do all great healers, teachers, and humanitarians have in common after they die? Well… they stay dead! Sure, their legacy may live on… we may celebrate them on holidays… but they don’t show up at the party!
This is where Jesus stands out. This is where our hope comes from. Because if Jesus’ most outlandish claim can come true, then all the other claims can be true as well:
““Listen, we’re going up to Jerusalem, where all the predictions of the prophets concerning the Son of Man will come true. He will be handed over to the Romans, and he will be mocked, treated shamefully, and spit upon. They will flog him with a whip and kill him, but on the third day he will rise again.” (Luke 18:31–33 NLT)
After the cross we can say, “Grave… where is your victory?” And “Death… where is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:55)
What Should We Make of this Jesus?
There are a lot of people who have heard about Jesus. But in reality, have they come to know the Jesus before the cross, or after the cross?
I’ve even seen many Jesus followers focus on Jesus’ teaching and become enamored with his wisdom. But too much focus on just his teaching can make Jesus seem… like a great teacher.
One disclaimer: make no mistake, even before the cross, Jesus is the Living Son of God (which also makes him unique!). But that’s hard for us common folks to catch on to until we see what happens after the cross.
If we want to see Jesus in His rightful place… if we want people to see why Jesus is so unique in this world… if we want people to really see what Jesus is all about,
…we have to show them Jesus before, during, AND after the cross!
As we continue the journey towards the cross this Lenten season, let’s keep our eyes on Easter… and thank God for 2,000 years of hindsight! Let’s make much of this Jesus!