I feel it is essential to study and spend time with the events that transpired leading up to the Resurrection of Jesus. It is a beautiful time for me, with all the pain and suffering, to see the events unfolding into joy. This year, as I was contemplating the moments before the crucifixion of Christ, the individuals who each played a role in these pivotal moments struck me. In Luke’s account of the story, these are the players I see:
- The chief priests and scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death.
- Judas, who after Satan entered him, went to the chief priests and officers and agreed to betray Jesus for money. He later joins Jesus and the disciples at the Passover meal.
- Peter and John were sent by Jesus to find and prepare a place for them to meet and eat the Passover meal together.
- A man carrying a jar of water leads Peter and John to a home.
- The owner of the house offers his guestroom for the gathering.
- The apostles spend time at Jesus’ final meal disputing which one of them is the greatest.
- Simon Peter, in fear, denies knowing Jesus three times and yet Jesus tells him he will pray for him and that Peter will turn back and strengthen others.
- A disciple, in fear and haste, strikes the slave of a high priest and cuts off his ear.
- Three people point Peter out and say he is one of the followers of Jesus.
- The men who held Jesus ridicule and beat him.
- Pilate, finding no fault in Jesus, sentences him to appease the crowd.
- Herod, who questioned Jesus, found no guilt, then with his soldiers mocked and treated Jesus with contempt, put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate.
- Barabbas escaped his own death only because of the uproarious attention on Jesus.
- Simon of Cyrene, who by happenstance was traveling in the area, was called to carry the cross behind Jesus.
- The women were mourning and lamenting for Jesus.
- One criminal hanging next to Jesus derided him and told him to save all of them.
- The criminal on the other side said they deserved to die, while Jesus did not and faithfully asks Jesus to remember him in the Kingdom of Heaven.
- The people cast lots for his clothing.
- People stood by watching.
- Leaders sneered at him and said, “If he is the Messiah let him save himself.”
- The soldiers mocked him and offered him sour wine.
- The centurion, after witnessing the events of the day, said, “Surely, this man was innocent.”
- Joseph, a member of the council who did not support the plan, asked for Jesus’ body to see Him properly buried before the Sabbath.
- Women prepared the spices and ointments for his body.
In Luke 22:22,Jesus says, “The Son of Man is going as it has been determined.”
And I wonder, have all of these people been predestined for their roles all along? Was there any other option for Judas other than to be “Judas the Betrayer?” Did the man who offered the room to the disciples have the opportunity to say no? Are our lives predestined and we just are who we are?
I have to believe we make choices every day. The choices we make are based on our predisposition, our personality, and our experiences. How do we make sure we are like the man who leads the disciples to the house and like the owner who welcomes them and offers a room? Can we decide to be like Peter who after repeating bad behavior recovers and leads others to Christ? Can we be like Simon who assists Jesus with his heavy burden? Can we decide not to be like the many people in the story who were deliberately or maybe even accidentally malicious?
I believe we can. We have the gift of the Scriptures. When we open our hearts and minds to the truths revealed in God’s word not only do we begin to understand the truths offered to us there, but also, the love of God becomes part of our personal experiences. I don’t think the people in this story got to the place they were by accident. They arrived there by choice. They chose to believe in and follow the truth, the truth of flawed humanity, and a perfect plan for redemption. They chose Love.