Bible Reading: Matthew 27:1-31
Did you know that there are some people who claim that Jesus was just a helpless, witless pawn in a tragic series of events Who got Himself in too deep in a controversy…and then, could do nothing about it? They say that He never intended to die for His cause. No. He only wanted to attract attention. And then, at the opportune time, just before the fury had reached its climax…change the momentum in another direction and use the attention He had garnered to promote His real agenda. But, die? No. After all, if He is dead…how could He continue to develop His agenda? So, what happened? He lost control of the situation…and the sheer momentum led to an inevitable conclusion that was neither of His choosing, or design. That’s what they say. But, His words and His actions reveal no such thing. No such alternative agenda. No such loss of control. No such tragic ending.
Instead, what we see is Jesus…completely in control of His own fate…intentionally manipulating the situation and the people in such a way that He actually used them to assure that He would achieve the exact goal that He intended. And, not only did He not lose control…and not only did He not fail at His agenda…but, when He had the opportunity to change things and perhaps even save His own life…He deliberately did not do so. Jesus chose to die. And, He chose to die in a very particular manner. And, He chose to do nothing that would interfere with His dying. In fact, we see in this passage, how He used the attitudes and behavior of other people to assure that He accomplished His goal…that He would indeed die on the cross. For instance, when Jesus was on trial before the governor, Pilate asked Him if He was the “King of the Jews”. Jesus responded, “Yes, that is true. Just like you have said.” If He had said, “Oh, no. There’s been a misunderstanding,” and then proceeded to correct things…the whole trial could have possibly gone in another direction…and He might have lived. But He didn’t do that. It was almost as if He was intentionally antagonizing and goading the Jewish leaders. Because, when He said that He was the King of the Jews they went ballistic. There would be no opportunity for Jesus to save Himself, after that. It happened just like He planned. And, in a very real sense…He had just put the nail…in His own coffin. Just as He intended to do.
Jesus would allow nothing to stop Him from dying on the cross to pay for our sins. He loves us…that much.
Thoughts about God for My Grandkids:
The Arlington National Cemetery is a United States military cemetery located in Arlington County, VA, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. In its 624 acres are buried over 400,000 soldiers who were killed in our nation’s conflicts. Some of the soldier’s buried there died in the Civil War.
One of the most inspirational monuments in the Cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In 1921, Congress voted to have a soldier, who had died in World War I, and whose identity was unknown…buried there in a special tomb. The purpose of this monument was to honor all the soldiers who died in WWI…but whose identity was unknown. In 1956, the bodies of two unknown soldiers, one from WWII, and one from the Korean War, were buried at the monument. And, in 1984 the body of an unknown soldier from the Vietnam War was buried there. On the west side of the Tomb words are inscribed which say: HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD.
The Army provides the Guard that keeps watch over the Tomb. Tomb Guards are part of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment and are called, “The Old Guard”. They have been standing guard 24-hours-a-day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year…since April 6, 1948. They stand guard one-at-a-time. One soldier at a time, called a “Tomb Guard Sentinel,” marching back and forth in front of the Tomb. It is a great honor to be a part of the Old Guard. Not just any soldier qualifies. There is a very difficult time of testing and training. 90% of the soldiers who apply to be a member of the Old Guard don’t qualify.
When a Sentinel is keeping guard, he follows a very strict procedure. Everything he does is based on the number “21”. The Guard marches with great precision, back and forth, in front of the Tomb…counting off exactly 21 steps for each trip. When he takes step number 21, he makes a one-quarter turn and faces the Tomb. He stands there at attention for 21 seconds. Then he makes a one-quarter turn towards the direction he had just come, changes his M-14 rifle to the other shoulder, stands at attention for 21 seconds, then steps off another 21 steps. Then, he repeats the procedure, exactly. Usually, he will do this for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the time of year. Then another Sentinel will take his place. When they do this it is said that they “walk the mat”. When they are on duty, but are not “walking the mat”, they are in the living quarters beneath the Tomb.
The amazing thing about the Old Guard is that they keep watch over the tomb regardless of the weather. Rain, snow, heat…nothing stops them. For instance, in 2012, when Superstorm Hurricane Sandy blew through the Washington, D.C. area…the Old Guard continued their watch. They never stopped…despite the wind and rain. One Sentinel volunteered to stand watch over the tomb for 23 hours straight. Nothing will keep them from fulfilling their duty.
In 2017, something dramatic happened at the Tomb. When one Sentinel rotates off duty and another comes on, it is done in a very specific manner. The ceremony requires that a Relief Commander perform a white glove inspection of the Sentinel’s rifle before he is relieved. After the Commander had inspected the rifle and was presenting it to the Sentinel coming on duty…it slipped through his hands. The bayonet on the end of the barrel was pointed downward…and when it fell… it went right through the top of the Sentinel’s boot and into his foot. He never even flinched. No expression of pain showed on his face…just a slight wince. The Commander continued to move with such precision that you hardly even realized that when he lifted the rifle up…he pulled the bayonet out of the Sentinel’s foot. He completed the transfer of the rifle…and the Sentinel started his march. There was a tour group there that day and one of them caught the entire incident on camera. In the video, you can see that each time the Sentinel took a step…blood would ooze out of his boot. But he never stopped. He never even slowed down. “March: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…21. Quarter turn to face the Tomb. Count to 21. Quarter turn. March: 1,2,3,4…”. It was his shift to “walk the mat.” He had a mission to fulfill. And nothing would stop him, nothing…until he was done…until he had fulfilled his duty. Now, “March…”
Before Jesus was crucified…he went through three trials. One, before the Sanhedrin…they were kind of like our Supreme Court in the United States. Then, before Pilate…he was the Roman governor. And, before Herod…the King of Judea. When Pilate questioned Him, he asked Him if He was the King of the Jews. Jesus said, “Yes. It is just as you have said.” Then Pilate continued to question Him. But Jesus did not respond…not one more single time. To make matters worse…the Jews were making all sorts of accusations about Jesus. They were saying that He was trying to overthrow the government, as well as other accusations of treason, that had a penalty of death. Pilate asked Jesus if He heard what they were saying and had a response. Nothing. He said nothing.
Why didn’t Jesus respond to the accusations of the Jews? They were lies…out-and-out lies. And He knew it. And yet, He didn’t defend Himself. Why not? He didn’t respond…because He had no intention of doing anything that might keep Him from going to the cross. That was why He had come…to go to the cross and to die there to pay the price for our sin. There was nothing more important to Jesus than fulfilling God’s purpose for His life…to pay the price of sin so that you and I could be saved.
- He didn’t allow the false accusations of other people to stop Him.
- He didn’t allow the damaging of His reputation to stop Him.
- He didn’t allow the pain of suffering to stop Him.
- He didn’t allow the misunderstanding of His friends to stop Him.
Jesus had a duty to fulfill. The primary reason that God had sent Him to earth was to die on the cross. If He didn’t die on the cross…then He could not pay the price for our sin…and He could not rise from the dead and provide eternal life for you and for me. Nothing was going to stop Him. He would willingly take the pain and suffer the agony…so that you and I would not have to. He had a mission to fulfill. And nothing would stop Him, nothing…until He was done…until He had fulfilled His duty. Now, “March…”
Love you more than bunches and bunches,