Psalm 100 All people that on earth do dwell
All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the Lord with cheerful voice:
him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell,
come ye before him and rejoice.
The Lord, ye know, is God indeed;
without our aid he did us make:
we are his folk, he doth us feed,
and for his sheep he doth us take.
O enter then his gates with praise,
approach with joy his courts unto;
praise, laud, and bless his Name always,
for it is seemly so to do.
For why? the Lord our God is good,
his mercy is for ever sure;
his truth at all times firmly stood,
and shall from age to age endure.
To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
the God whom heaven and earth adore,
from men and from the angel host
be praise and glory evermore.
PRAYERS of THANKSGIVING
READING Matthew 27 :11-37
11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.
15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”
26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
The Soldiers Mock Jesus
27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.
All the powers of darkness have come to one town in the Middle East – they have converged like vultures over a dying body – they have come for the kill – they have come for the thrill. They know that they are about to witness the most amazing spectacle that they have ever seen – they could not have hoped for this in their wildest dreams – even the old demons have been brought out of retirement to witness this unique never-to-be-repeated event.
The chapter starts with the main plotters – the Sanhedrin – the chief priests and elders – then – Pontius Pilate – then – Judas – the forces of evil have gathered in a unique way.
Pilate was somewhat bemused at this man Jesus – certainly he held no personal grudge against the big Galilean, and indeed, his wife warned him not to have anything to do with him (she had been having nightmares about Jesus) – another sign of demonic presence!
Pilate thought of a way out – he would offer to have Jesus released – but the crowds were stirred up to shout for the release of Barabbus. A week ago they shouted Hosanna!
The only thing which adequately accounts for this radical reversal is that the powers of darkness had come to settle upon that city of Jerusalem – they had taken up temporary residence there !
Don’t you see what had happened – they had rejected the Son of the Abba (the Son of the Father – God) – for the son of Abbus (that is what Barabbus means).
We must choose between the two – Jesus or Barabbus – or as Judas discovered – either Christ’s side or suicide.
And, don’t you see just how the Devil has so inhabited the hearts of these people. Pilate tries to wash his hands of this innocent man’s death (as if he could ?!) – and the crowd reply : Let his blood be on us and on our children.
Then Jesus is handed over for the severest of floggings.
How could these strong military men be so vicious? I’ll tell you how – they had demonic backing!
The turn of the tide At first all seems well in the devilish plan – Jesus is carrying his cross up to Calvary – but on the way, Jesus, weakened with all the whippings, cannot carry the cross bar any further – and an African man – Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry it. But unknown to the Devil – this is all in the plan of God. Simon carries the cross of a stranger, and watches the crucifixion – and is so moved that he devotes the rest of his life to this Jesus – we find him and his wife and sons mentioned elsewhere in the NT as a Christian family.
Another sign of Satan’s failing plan – is the sign above Jesus head from the soldiers. Who would have thought that that brutish lot could write this : This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.
Satan piles on the insults – even from a robber dying beside Jesus – but look at God’s wonderful and mysterious ways of working.
The OTHER thief doesn’t shout abuse – God opens this chaps eyes to see who Jesus really is and He opens his heart to receive forgiveness and new life.
Is Satan getting worried already?
Jesus cried out His last breath : My God, My God, why have you forsaken me ? Satan sees his moment of triumph – but just at that moment the curtain of the holiest part of the Temple was torn from top to bottom.
Satan can’t understand it – but we can…
Other startling events must have worried Satan too – earthquakes and the holy dead rising to life temporarily – all very strange !
These strange events had a wonderful effect, though. The Roman centurion who was on guard at the crucifixion was terrified and made a bold assertion which could only have come from God: Surely He was the Son of God!
NB – it is the women who were with their Lord at the end.
And now a startling thing happens. Just as the friends of Jesus, the disciples, were HIDING – so NOW, on Jesus’ death, a SECRET disciple comes out into the OPEN! Joseph was from Arimathea – 20 miles from Jerusalem. He comes right out and asks for the body of Jesus to place in his own tomb. Another prophecy of the OT comes true as he does so – not only associated with criminals – but also with a rich man in his death.
However, a secure guard is placed on the tomb and a seal – no-one will get past all that. But in a couple of weeks’ time we’ll see that SOMEONE broke through all Pilate’s security measures – and NOT from the OUTSIDE !
Satan is feeling a bit uneasy – what he thought was to be his finest moment is already looking a bit shaky – hopefully the guard on the tomb will be the seal on his success. But Satan is in for an Almighty shock – as are the Roman guards – and Pilate – and a huge number of others.
Maybe this is all shocking to YOU ! Maybe you’ve never read your Bible and seen Satan at work in it. Well, I have to tell you that He is working at every point of human history throughout the Bible – just as is God – and if you have failed to SEE his work, then you must ask yourself who it is that has put blindfolds over your eyes – I think it won’t take you long to discover who it is that wants to keep you from seeing the Devil at work – the blindfolds are HIS – and the work of Jesus is to REMOVE these blindfolds from our eyes so that we might SEE – ask Him for sight right NOW.
Hymn In the Cross of Christ I glory
- In the cross of Christ I glory,
Tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.
- When the woes of life o’ertake me,
Hopes deceive, and fears annoy,
Never shall the cross forsake me,
Lo! it glows with peace and joy.
- When the sun of bliss is beaming
Light and love upon my way,
From the cross the radiance streaming
Adds more luster to the day.
- Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
By the cross are sanctified;
Peace is there that knows no measure,
Joys that through all time abide.