Episode 1. Going Away You Know Where
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That week leading up to the very first Easter was a torrid time for Jesus. Imagine the stress and the pressure. So it’s interesting to see how He spent those few days. Join Berni, as he takes a …
That week leading up to the very first Easter was a torrid time for Jesus. Imagine the stress and the pressure. So it’s interesting to see how He spent those few days.
Easter means different things to different people. Chocolate, of course there’s chocolate, eggs, bunny’s, a long weekend, a chance for a bit of a breather and that’s great.
We have a funny way though of reinventing holidays, there’s something so amazing about Easter, Gods Easter and since we’re right now in the week leading up to Easter I thought why don’t we have a look at that week leading up to that very first Easter, what was going on? What was it like? What was Jesus doing? How were his disciples feeling?
So whatever Easter means to you, wherever you might be in your spiritual walk, why don’t you join me each day this week as we take a look at Easter from a different perspective.
I love a good movie, I really like movies with some mystery or intrigue, it really gets my interest and mind going, where there are complex things, I love it. Now Easter, when we get to Easter the last thing we really think of is what was actually going on, what was the plot, what was the mystery, what was unfolding at Easter time? Well, what was actually going on?
Here is this Jesus, He’s in his thirties, he’s grown up, He was a carpenter in Nazareth and about three and a half years before what we now celebrate as Easter, He began his public ministry. He came down, He was baptised in the Jordan River by John and then He went around on what can best be described as a preaching and healing tour for three and a half years. He went right up to the north, up to Galilee and He went down to the south to Judah where the city of Jerusalem is and by any standard He was astounding, He had rock star status.
If you’ve ever been to Brazil and you see how they treat their football team, if you’ve ever been to India and see how they treat their cricketers, if you’ve ever been to South Africa and see how they flock around Nelson Mandela or the Queen in England, you know what I’m talking about.
Jesus was huge in his day, He drew massive crowds, nothing like this had been seen before, thousands upon thousands of people and remember back in the first century cities weren’t populations of multiples of millions, Jerusalem was somewhere between 15 and 20 thousand people so when 4 thousand people or 5 thousand people go to one of his outdoor preaching things, that was huge, that was like the quarter of the population went.
Easter week was Passover festival; the crowds came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Centuries before when Israel had been captives in Egypt as slaves and God heard their cries, he sent Moses to Pharaoh to say, “Let my people go!” And Pharaoh of course wouldn’t so God sent these plagues upon Egypt and the last plague, as we saw last week, is when God killed the first born of every family and in fact their animals in Egypt.
But God said to his people, who were slaves in Egypt, what you do on the night of the Passover is you take a lamb and you kill it and you paint it’s blood on the top of your doorpost and then when the angel of death comes across to kill the first born it will pass over your house because you are God’s chosen people.
And then Pharaoh finally sets Israel free because of that plague and they spend forty years in exodus in the desert before they make it to the Promised Land, the land of Israel that we know today. And so Israel was celebrating, in fact they still celebrate today, the Jews still celebrate the Passover when we celebrate Easter.
Jesus had been threatening the religious establishment, the religious leaders, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, these sects of leaders, the scribes that had a cushy relationship with the occupying Roman forces. Israel was occupied by the Roman empire as was the rest of the known world at this point and religion kind of became something to oppress the people, nothing new under the sun is there?
When you take God’s love and you twist it into a bunch of man made rules that manipulate people it becomes a really horrible thing and Jesus comes along and Jesus is like a breath of fresh air, He cares about the people, He stands up for them, He’s not into religious rules or establishment, He just loves people and you know, there’s something inside us, when we meet someone who’s authentic and real and genuine and honest and a great leader, there’s a switch that flicks inside of us and we just know that we know, that we know that he’s good.
I remember when I worked in the consulting world and after I sold my business we put various other managers in charge of the business because I was leaving the business to come and do what I’m doing now and I saw people who were put in management positions who tried to manage through rules and fear and domination and people just didn’t respond to them but when you put someone there who is genuine and real and honest and decent, people would work their backsides off for someone like that.
So the contrast between the organised religion, the manipulation and the oppression of people that occurred under the religious leaders was such a stark comparison to this genuine breath of fresh air they called Jesus. Jesus came to set the captives free so by the time of this Passover there was a murder plot on.
How do we do away with this Jesus? Jesus knew it, the religious leaders were threatened by all that Jesus was doing. Jesus knew it, the disciples knew it, there was tension in the air, there was fear in the hearts of the disciples, were they going to arrest the disciples too? What happened when Jesus went?
This Jesus, this miracle worker, the only person that ever made sense and now it looked like he was going to be murdered. How did Jesus handle the pressure, the plotting, the knowing, the brutal crucifixion was coming? You really find out what someone’s like when the going gets tough, when they’re under pressure, that’s when the real person comes through. Well, how did he handle it? Have a look; he says to his disciples, you can read it in John’s gospel, chapter 14:
Don’t let your hearts be troubled, trust in God, trust in me. In my Fathers house there are many rooms, if it wasn’t so I wouldn’t have told you. I’m going there to prepare a place for you and if I go to prepare a place for you, I’ll come back and I’ll take you to be with me where I am.
You know where I’m going and Thomas says, “Lord, I haven’t got any idea where you’re going. How do we get there?” And Jesus said, “Come on Thomas, I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life. No-one comes to the Father but through me, if you really knew me you would have known my Father as well.
From now on you do know him because you have seen him. If you love me obey what I command and I will ask the Father and he will give you another counsellor just like me, to be with you forever, the spirit of truth.” And Jesus said, “If anyone loves me they’ll obey my teachings and my Dad will love them and we’ll come and make a home with them.
He who doesn’t love me won’t obey my teaching, these words you hear are not my own but they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken with you while I am still here but the counsellor, the Holy Spirit who my Father will send in my name will teach you all things. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I don’t give as the world gives, don’t let your hearts be troubled, don’t be afraid.”
Isn’t this amazing, what strikes me about this is right at a time when He’s walking inexorably to a brutal crucifixion, His thoughts are not for himself, He’s not lashing out at people and worrying about himself, He’s looking to the future, He’s looking after his disciples. He knows what’s coming and He gives them comfort and peace amidst the turmoil. By any standard, that’s remarkable don’t you think? Jesus is not some “rule based” religion however much people try and turn him into that, he’s the Son of God, He has sacrificed himself. All this and not a chocolate Easter egg in sight.