Luke tells about the birth of Christ including details that probably came from Mary. This chapter shows Jesus at the temple shortly after his birth and later, when he was twelve.
Last week we looked at Gethsemane. Today we see Jesus die on the cross. This is when he felt the weight of our sin upon him. And it felt like being completely forsaken by God. Let’s read about that hopeless, helpless moment.
33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
Crucifixion was cruel, but it wasn’t unusual. People died this way all the time. The day Jesus died, there were two robbers executed with him, one on each side. What made Christ’s death any different from theirs?
The weight of our sin.
We really cannot say what that felt like. I have compared it with the feeling of guilt. Guilt is worse than pain because it has a psychological and/or spiritual component that physical pain makes worse, but cannot compare to. When physical pain is gone, guilt can continue. It can sap a person’t energy and deplete a person’t life. Guilt, even without physical suffering can push a person to end his own life.
And Jesus publicly and shamefully bore the sin, the guilt, of the world.
If there was ever a place that was truly God-forsaken, it was Christ’s cross that day on Golgotha. “The Father turned his face away,” says the hymn. Jesus was alone as he died, even though there were bystanders all around him. None of them could understand what he was enduring. Numbing the pain would never alleviate the suffering of substitutionary atonement.
As Christ died, the curtain in the temple tore from top to bottom and the way was opened for us to come into the very presence of God. Christ was separated from the Father so that we might be joined with them both inseparably and forever. No one saw it or said it better than the centurion.
39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
15 So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”
In the week leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus went up on the Temple Mount and was upset by what he saw. Money changers and those selling animals for sacrifice were taking advantage of a captive crowd.
Both law and custom dictated that Jewish travelers would make their way to Jerusalem for certain holidays. Passover was one of those. The “Next year in Jerusalem” wish goes back to ancient times.
In those days, when there was a temple, people coming from far away would have to buy their sacrifices on site. Who, after all, was about to travel with their doves or lambs that great distance? The new arrival had to exchange currency, likely at a bad rate, as is still the case today with money changers. They then used these newly acquired local coins to buy their sacrifice, likely at an inflated price since demand was high.
Jesus calls them out for their unfair practices and presumptive sense that everything would always be okay. That presumption might have been expressed in thoughts like, “Don’t we have the temple of the one true God in our midst?” or “Aren’t we favored above all cities and all nations here in Jerusalem?”
We should ask ourselves in what ways we might be exhibiting a similar overconfidence. Have we or our church become wealthy, hindering simple trust in the Lord? Are we proud of our doctrine, imagining ourselves to be the purest church on planet earth? Has any spiritual accomplishment taken the place of humility and utter dependence on God’s grace?
It happens. It happened repeatedly the nation of Israel throughout its history and it happens to God’s people today. Think of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, or the scandals of celebrity preachers in modern America. May we always seek to serve God in complete obedience, in full reliance upon his ability, mercy and revealed truth to make us whole.