I’m enjoying these meditations by Ken Gardiner found here.
“And sitting down, they kept watch over him there.” (Matt. 27:36)
HIM THERE! Who put him there?
To answer that literally, we must say, “The soldiers”; the army of occupation. Technically they were Romans, and the centurion in charge would most probably indeed have come from Rome. But the soldiers themselves may have come from anywhere in the empire.
It was the custom, on conquering a country, for Rome to transport the young men of that nation to serve in another. In that way there was less chance of rebellion.
So, for the soldiers, far from home, this was just another duty.
“Number five platoon, you’re on crucifixion today. Fall in; quick march!”
All they knew was that there were three; two robbers and a man accused of treason. He claimed to be a king, and you can’t do that and live, with Caesar on the throne.
He must be mad; and madmen were always good for sport. So they had their fun.
The purple robe, a bulrush in his hand, and for a crown – a ring of thorns. “Your majesty!”
They’ll bow before him again one day.
Then out to the site, bang in the nails and heave the cross-bar into position.
But he was different – “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
So literally, yes, it was the soldiers who put HIM, THERE! But they were simply obeying orders.
So was it Pilate? after all, he was in charge. No execution could be carried out except on his authority.
Here we see the issue stark and clear. He had examined Christ and found no fault in him.
Justice demanded he be set free.
But what was expedient? Ah, expediency! Pilate knew complaints about himself
had already gone to Rome,
and he was anxious to avoid adding any more. If it should reach the ears of Caesar
that the Jews had found a man claiming to be king, and, bringing him to Pilate, had demanded he be put to death, and Pilate had set him free…!
Justice and expediency… and expediency had won. So Pilate too, as surely as the soldiers,
put HIM, THERE!
But what of the Jewish rulers; the priests, the Sadducees? It was they who pushed Pilate into it against his will.
Christ was too great a challenge to their position. They knew the law, but not the God whose law it was;
so when he came, how could they recognise
him they did not know? And so the high priest spoke;
“Better one should die than that a people perish.”
And when that one is God himself… The high priest spoke more wisdom than he knew.
But still he bore the guilt, so he and they who stood with him, also put HIM, THERE!
And Judas played his part. The Jewish rulers knew they did not dare arrest Christ
with the crowds who loved him standing by. It had to be a time when he was quiet, apart; and they could take him without fuss. But when was that? where would he be?
Then they had a stroke of luck; Judas, one of his own, came to them and offered to let them know the time and place.
Why? what was it made him do it? Had Jesus ever let him down?
Judas had experienced the kingdom; he had preached and healed. Where did his frustration lie?
Was it, as some have said, he believed that Christ was letting go the opportunity? And if he, Judas, forced his hand, he would reveal himself, and then and there bring in the kingdom?
Others, down the ages, have also thought they understood the kingdom and it ways, better than its King.
But if that were so, why the money? why accept the bribe?
O Judas, Judas, what was in your mind? for surely it was you who put HIM THERE!
But there is more to be said than that; for Judas did not act alone. Oh, he must bear the full responsibility for what he did. But there was a greater power seeking to break into the world of men,
as once before he’d broken in, through Eve.
Satan, like a roaring lion, was prowling round seeking whom he might devour.
Finding deceit in Judas and waiting for the moment of resolve, as he took the piece of bread which Jesus offered, then Satan entered into him.
There is a mystery here. For, moving in the heavenly realm, Satan was aware of issues unknown to men.
He knew the origin of Christ and recognised that he had come to win the world; that part of the created order which belonged to him.
Yet, was the detail of the plan hidden from him? For if Satan knew; if he had understood that death upon the cross was God’s plan for his Son, not his,
would he have sent the Son to the very place
where his own defeat was to be accomplished? As they nailed Jesus to the cross
did Satan gloat in triumph?
Boasting before his demons, “I have won!”? There is no doubt that Satan put HIM, THERE!
And yet, and yet! it was God’s plan. When the Greeks came seeking Jesus, he remarked,
“This is the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified. What shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.”
The Father sent the Son into the world to die. In Gethsemane he had prayed, “Your will, Father,
your will be done, not mine.” It was the Father’s will that Christ
should hang upon the cross. When we see such utter goodness laid upon the cross,
so racked with pain, we can only whisper the dreadful truth – “The Father put HIM, THERE.”
And why? because by that he could win you. If he had spared his Son, then you would surely die – eternally! The death Christ died was rightly yours – and mine. Had it been US, THERE
there could have been no resurrection. There is no righteousness in us
to set us free from Satan’s claim. But when that glorious shout went up from Christ,
“It’s done, I’ve finished it –
accomplished all I came to do.” Did Satan see it then? realise that what he thought
was his great victory, was his defeat? That the keys of death and Hades passed to Christ, and his captives were released?
That’s why, that’s why the Father put HIM, THERE.
But there is an even greater truth. It was not the soldiers, nor Pilate,
nor the Sadducees and priests, put Jesus there. Not Judas, nor Satan, and finally not even God. For Christ was free to choose.
In the moment he was arrested and Peter drew his sword, Jesus said to him, “Put your sword away. Do you think I cannot call upon my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal
more than twelve legions of angels?” Jesus was free to choose. It was not inevitable.
He explained it very clearly, “No one takes my life from me; I lay it down by my own choice.”
No one put HIM THERE but himself.
It was not nails that held Christ to the cross, but love; and that was love of you.
Jeremy Berg is the founding pastor of MainStreet Covenant Church in Mound, MN, and an ordained minister in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). Jeremy is currently doing doctoral studies in New Testament Context with Dr. Scot McKnight at Northern Seminary. He obtained a Master's degree in Theological Studies from Bethel Seminary (2005) and a Bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies from Bethel University (2002). Most importantly, he's lucky to be married to Kjerstin and the proud daddy of Peter, Isaak and Abigail.
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