Jesus was not on the road to Jerusalem to conquer an enemy with
a show of force as a Messiah might. He chose to subdue the foe by
giving up his life.


 

They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was
going before them; they were amazed. As they followed they were
afraid.

Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the
things that would happen to Him: "Behold, we are going up to
Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests
and to the scribes; they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him
to the Gentiles; they will mock Him, scourge Him, spit on Him, and
kill Him. And the third day He will rise again." [{Luke 18:34} But
they understood none of these things.]

                                                         Mark 10:32-34 NKJV, condensed


                                      Amazed and Afraid

Passover is a religious festival that dates back to the night before the
Israelites crossed the Red Sea and God delivered them from slavery
in Egypt. On that evening, each household sacrificed a lamb and
sprinkled its blood on the door posts as a signal to the angel of death
to pass over and spare the lives of their firstborn. In memory of that
miraculous event, traditional Jewish families sacrificed a lamb each
year and ate it together with bitter herbs and bread made without yeast.
Unleavened bread symbolized their speedy escape.

By the time of Jesus the Feast of Passover had become an annual
pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Families came from every direction to King
David's city of Zion to celebrate the exodus from Egypt under the
leadership of Moses. The sacrificial lamb was still the focal point. It
served as a reminder of their covenantal relationship with God which
passed from one generation to the next.

At this point in our Gospel accounts, it is spring and once more the
Feast of Passover is on people's minds. Time to make preparations
for the annual journey and begin the trek. Friends, neighbors and
strangers will converge on the road and make their way up to David's
fortress city of Jerusalem. It was a trip Jesus had made with excitement
and anticipation ever since childhood.

He and his followers are on the road, too. Only this year it is different.
Instead of excitement and joy, Jesus' face is set like steel. Something
unusual is in the air, something ominous, and he will not be dissuaded.
He is out ahead, leading the way. The disciples are holding back and
lagging behind. Their body language is clearly indicating reluctance and
dread. Jesus had many friends, but he also had enemies in high places.
These were troubling and uncertain days.

The text says the disciples are both amazed and afraid. Were they
amazed at the strength of Jesus' determination to walk willingly into a
dangerous situation? At his zeal for doing the works of his Father in
heaven? Or his eagerness to take on the power brokers in the capital
city? It would be their final journey together. Jesus knew where they
were going and what lay ahead. He was clear about his mission. His
disciples were in a fog and feared what they could not understand.
Jesus, their Messiah, was heading right into a death trap. Where were
his natural instincts to live? Why didn't he run and hide, or simply walk
the other way?

If they were like me, they were in denial. Jesus was invincible, always
slipping through the crowds when his life was threatened. He survived
before; surely he will not die this time. Jesus always got the better of
his adversaries; in verbal disputes they could not pin him down. Besides
he can do miracles. Yet still the cloud hung heavy; something awful
was about to happen.

It was time for another of their intimate talks, so Jesus went over it
again adding a few more details. This is what you can expect, he told
the disciples. We are going into Jerusalem for the Passover Feast.
I will be betrayed into the hands of the religious authorities. They will
condemn me to death and hand me off to the Gentiles who will make
sport of me. They will mock me, beat me, spit on me and finally kill me.
But that's not the end. One the third day I will rise up from the tomb
and live again!

The disciples did not understand. Their brains were blocked by fears of
suffering and death, they couldn't begin to fathom "a third day". What
were the disciple to do without him? Many had left all to follow Jesus.
Anger adds to fear. What were they supposed to do after he was dead?
He was all they had! He was all they wanted! The Gospel of John
indicates that Thomas thought they would all get hammered and said
at this point, "Let's go to Jerusalem and die with Him."

This was not the vision the disciples had when they took up with Jesus.
A Messiah conquers, he does not die! But Jesus was way ahead of
them in many respects. His vision was clear--Greater love has no one
than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. That was what he
planned to do. He would voluntarily be the ultimate Passover lamb whose
blood would spell deliverance from sin and death for all who believe and
do what he taught. And so Jesus headed right into the eye of the storm.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker:  Name a leader whom you feel/felt good about following?

 

Leading and following--Which do you prefer?
            What is it like to lead?
            What is it like to follow?
Which is more important to the bond between leaders and followers--
            common motives or common goals?

 

The disciples had been through many rough spots with Jesus during
his 3-year ministry.
            Name some of them.
            What do you think held them together now as they faced arrest
                        and possible execution?
            Why did his followers not forsake Jesus when he talked about suffering?

 

The disciples were amazed at Jesus and afraid for themselves.
Flesh that out a bit.
            What exactly were they amazed at and afraid of?
            After this disclosure, do you think the disciples were more, or less,
                        amazed and afraid?
            Is there anything about Jesus which amazes or frightens you?

 

Jesus listed these types of pain and suffering. Explain their differing effects.
            Betrayed -
            Condemned -
            Mocked -
            Scourged -
            Crucified -

 

And on the third day, Jesus promised a resurrection.
            What could the disciples do with a statement like that?

 

Jesus didn't say anything about restoring Israel to the golden age.
Instead he spoke of dying.
            That's not the way to be a successful Messiah, or is it?
            Why did Jesus believe the way to glory was through the humility of the cross?
            What was he going to gain by losing his life?

 

The story of the original "pass over" is told in Exodus 12. It was the night of
the 10th and final plague in Egypt--the death of every firstborn in the nation.
Only the homes with the blood of the sacrificial lamb on its doorposts were spared.
            What does the image of Jesus as the Passover Lamb mean for you?

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