Focal Passage: John 18:1-27
Mel Gibson offended many of us in his graphic portrayal of the trial, and abuse of Christ prior to and during His crucifixion. The blatant gore of the crucifixion was over the top, according to some. We like to tone down the abuse and terrible pain that Jesus experienced. “Without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin!” and Isaiah reminds us “… and the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.” He bore our sins. His submission to abuse was a willing sacrifice. He chose to die for you and for me. Our Messiah was indeed, abused! He was even abandoned and forsaken by His Father, for us.
Newspapers are full of accounts of all kind of abuse: children, women, employees, animals, and all of it is abhorrent. But all together it pales in comparison to the abuse that Jesus endured en route to and during the cross. We have all heard sermons which made us uncomfortable in the detail of Christ’s death. We do not enjoy being reminded how ugly His last days on earth were. His abuse included betrayal, denial, and being reviled by political and religious leaders. Worst of all was the disappointing acts of His closest disciples. It always hurts the most when those close to us abandon us in a time of need.
Jesus’ moving prayer for Himself, His disciples, and all of us is followed immediately by John’s account of His arrest, mock trial, cross-examination by both religious and political authorities. He knew what lay ahead of Him but He did not waver in His commitment. He struggled in the garden, even asking for the cup to be taken away as He faced the cross, His ultimate abuse. When the posse led by Judas came in search of Him, Jesus made no effort to escape. “Who is it you want. Jesus of Nazareth, they replied. I am He” (v. 7). He knew who He was and He did not shy away from the task before Him. He faced His accusers and He remained steadfast even when betrayed by Judas and denied by Peter. And He still loves and forgives us when we are weak.
Amazing as it is, Christ knew He would be abused. He came from God to reveal God’s love to men and was rejected as an imposter to their tradition. He knew Judas would betray Him and Peter would deny Him, yet He chose them to be disciples. We, too, are chosen by Christ to be His disciples. He knows we will not always be faithful, yet He continues to support us from His dwelling place with the Father. We may not like to think our futile efforts are abuse, but in a sense we add to His suffering every time we want Him to be Savior but refuse to yield to Him as Lord. Our call is to love and worship Him out of love for who He is, not out of fear of punishment. To hear us say, “I love you, Lord!” must continue to hurt Him who knows how weak we are. We must constantly walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, as our guide as described in John 16:7.
Certainly none of us intentionally heap abuse upon our Savior. Christ, Himself, taught us that when we fail to minister to those in need we fail to serve Him. Are we even convicted by the sins of omission we all commit? Is this not a kind of modern day abuse by casual Christians. My mother served the Lord all her life. She was a saintly woman (like all mothers) and she was the one who led me to pray a sinner’s prayer when I was 11 years old. When she was 95 and in the hospital I was privileged to stay with her. In the middle of the night she asked me to pray with her. When I asked her how and what she wanted me to pray, I will never forget her reply: “Please ask God to forgive me for all the things that I could have done but never accomplished.” What a privilege to become her priest and seek God’s forgiveness for this humble servant of God.
Have you ever wondered if you would be faithful when asked to deny your faith in Christ in some difficult test? Most of us are not going to face a life and death situation, but all of us have daily decisions to make regarding our relationship with Him.
Are you and I guilty of denial when we are shy about our Savior? Do we betray Him when we refuse to take a chance on sharing His Word of salvation with friends and family? Do we even abuse Him when we take for granted His sacrificial death in our casual Christianity? Has anyone ever asked you, “You are not one of His disciples, are you?” Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us all. Help us be faithful to You and obedient to your Holy Spirit when the tests of living as believers come our way.
— Dean lives in Orlinda. He is the retired executive director of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association.