At Gateway Church in Austin we continued our new series called “Passion: One Week That Changed Everything”
We are talking about one week that changed everything for everyone!
Years ago, someone was helping me with some of my doubts about the Bible in a way that was really helpful. I had all these questions about creation and so many questions about the end of time and there seemed to be so many people of faith arguing with each other about these things that it really troubled me.
He encouraged me this way. He said, you know the details about the beginning of all things and the end of all things may not have all the details you may want or feel like you need, but the entirety of the Scriptures points to one week in the life of Jesus where you have an almost hour by hour account from 4 eyewitnesses. Everything before that one week points towards it and everything afterward comes from it.
That really helped me. You see, if you have questions about God, faith, the Bible, meaning in life, purpose, creation, justice, and all these spiritual issues. Start with that one week to determine your faith and the rest will begin to make more sense after you work through this one particular week 2000 years ago.
That week is referred to as Passion week. As John described last week, “passion” is defined in Webster’s dictionary as “the sufferings of Christ between the night of the Last Supper and his death.”
Passion isn’t something we like or something we really enjoy. Genuine passion is what we are willing to die for. God demonstrated His passion for you and me by sending His Son to give His life for us. And so we are looking at this one week in the life of Jesus more closely than you may have looked at it before.
As we saw last week, the last week in the life of Jesus began with a cheering crowd (Triumphal entry) and a stand for justice (cleansing of the Temple)” and within a week some of those same people who were cheering for Jesus on Sunday were screaming “Cruficy Him!” on Friday.
Now I realize in a room this big with so many of you watching online, we are coming to faith from different places.
Let me encourage you: whatever you think you know about Jesus, there is way more to know. By knowing, I don’t just mean head knowledge or facts about Him. I mean that I believe God wants to invite every single one of us listening to this message to discover and experience more of who Jesus really is and wants to be in your life.
You see, I have come to believe and have discovered that Jesus was not only God in flesh and blood, He was also fully human – and not just human, He was the ultimate expression of what it even means to be human.
Jesus was humble yet confident.
He was the fulfillment of the Scriptures, yet He confused the religious leaders.
He was the long awaited and promised Jewish Messiah yet He brings new life and salvation to people from all nations.
He lived according to the commands of God yet the way He lived, taught, loved, and gave His life was countercultural.
He stood up for justice and for the spiritually mistreated and deceived, yet He was incredibly loving and kind to the sinners and outcasts.
He was on a mission, and He lived out His purposes consistent with His character.
The danger is that we may think we already know this story and miss all that God has for us. Too often we miss the beauty in the midst of familiarity.
Let’s dive in a bit deeper and with an open heart and open mind.
The one week that changed everything started on a Sunday. Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey on Sunday which is called Palm Sunday and which is the Sunday before Easter every year. The people hailed Him as King! Word had traveled wide and far that Jesus was doing miraculous things – including bringing Lazarus back from the dead to life!
As we go through Monday to Friday, I want to ask some questions to consider:
On Monday, Jesus Clears the Temple.
He drove out the corrupt money changers who were ripping off the people coming to the Temple to connect with God.
Jesus forcibly removed all the man made barriers between people and God.
Some of us have been turned off from faith because of the corruption we have seen on the news or experienced in our own lives.
God’s heart for you is to get past that. Don’t allow the evil actions of others keep you from the greatest good you could ever imagine.
So imagine: Jesus who was known for His love and kindness to outsiders like women and lepers and those who were ill or considered sinners throws over tables and money goes flying everywhere.
It’s important to know that Jesus had a righteous anger. He was bringing justice and in that He did not sin. He was not triggered. He was fulfilling what the Scriptures said would be true of Him. He was passionate about people being able to connect with God.
We know people weren’t scared of Jesus as if he had gone rogue or was somehow a threat to others, by how the people responded. Notice this remarkable moment:
“The blind and the lame came to Jesus at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.” – Matthew 21:14-15
The outsiders felt loved and came to Him. The religious were indignant.
Jesus cared more for the people needing help than He cared about what others thought about Him.
Jesus stands up on behalf of those who need an advocate!
God advocates on your behalf and protects us.
How have you experienced God’s protection in your life?
What we discover is that
God Wants To Removes Barriers.
So let me ask you: what are the barriers between you and God?
Is it a person who has hurt you?
Is it a particular doubt that seems to plague your heart?
Is it a particular regret that seems to haunt your mind?
For some of us, these barriers keep us from having faith.
For others of us, these barriers are keeping us from growing in our faith or sharing our faith or maximizing our life of faith.
Whatever it is, ask God to remove those obstacles.
As always, I want to encourage you to go to Next Steps on the website. This week we have included a reading plan to go through this one week that changed everything! Monday’s events are recorded in Matthew 21:12–22, Mark 11:15–19, Luke 19:45-48, and John 2:13-17.
On Tuesday, Jesus Goes to the Mount of Olives
That morning, Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem. They passed the withered fig tree on their way, and Jesus spoke to his disciples about the importance of faith.
Back at the Temple, religious leaders were upset at Jesus for establishing himself as a spiritual authority. They organized an ambush with the intent to place him under arrest.
You see, Jesus was proclaiming a message to all that God can be known – no matter what you may have done or regardless of illness or background – you are important to God.
The religious leaders did not like this message. They excluded the people they did not like from the synagogue, the place they gathered to worship, so what did Jesus do? He started teaching outdoors so anyone could come.
The tumultuous events of Tuesday and the Olivet Discourse are recorded in Matthew 21:23–24:51, Mark 11:20–13:37, Luke 20:1–21:36, and John 12:20–38.
If you were to take the time to read it, there are some really beautiful and maybe even familiar moments.
Over and over the religious leaders attempt to trap Jesus, and He points out truth in such remarkable and insightful ways.
He talks about “paying to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, marriage after the resurrection of the dead, and even summarizes all of the Scripture with the Greatest Commandment which is to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” – Matthew 21:37-39
But Jesus evaded their traps and pronounced harsh judgment on them, saying:
“Blind guides!…For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness…Snakes! Sons of vipers!” – Matthew 23:24-33
Jesus does not mince words! He does not pull punches! There is righteous anger in this moment, but there is still love. Sometimes the most loving thing to do for someone is to be honest with them. Here’s what’s remarkable. Some of these same religious leaders heard his strong rebukes and chose to follow Him. Nicodemus who we see in a long conversation with Jesus in John 3 and Joseph of Arimathea who actually offered his family tomb as the place to lay Jesus’ body to rest.
The religious leaders made their jobs, their power, and their religious ideas more important than people and even more important than God.
Then Jesus does something counterintuitive. Just after clearing out the Temple because of His zeal for God’s house and the barriers He removed from others connecting with God and just after all of these confrontations with the religious leaders, as He leaves the Temple, He makes an ominous prediction. He tells His disciples:
“Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” – Matthew 24:2
One generation after Jesus, the Temple was destroyed and has never been rebuilt. If you listen to the teachings of Jesus and notice what He says to the sinners and to the religious leaders, Jesus is pointing out something significant. To access God, you don’t need to go to a Temple. You don’t need to go to a building. To access God, you go to Jesus.
And when you have a relationship with God through Jesus, you want to gather together with other believers. Out of gratitude for all God has done for us, we want to change. We want to become more pure, more holy, more courageous.
God Wants Relationship Not Religion
Some of us grew up with traditions, rituals, or maybe even superstitions designed to keep us in good with God or the Universe or our parents.
Ultimately, what God wants is not more religious people. What He wants is you. He wants a relationship with you.
You see, a religious mindset makes how we relate to God more transactional and impersonal. We falsely believe that if we do certain things then God is bound to respond in ways that we want.
Deborah and I just back from visiting Trevi in Paris and the three of us also went to Rome. We had an amazing trip! It was great to meet our global partners in Paris – the Koumarianos Family and MyGospel.Church. It was so fun to see Trevi in action caring for the kids, singing at the church, and fluent in French! And the weather was amazing! The one day it rained we went to the largest church in the world – St. Peter’s Basillica. It is a masterpiece! From above it looks like a cross or some say a key.
No one was hardly there when we went in!
A church beautiful enough for the One who came to rescue us all? Anything we attempt will never be enough to honor Him nor is it what He wants. Jesus’ response to the disciples mentioning the grandeur of the Temple in Jerusalem was to share how short lived that beauty was going to be. Ultimately, the Temple used to represent where humanity can interact with God then Jesus was the Temple – both God and man. Now because of Jesus, all who follow Him have access to God’s presence and can bring His presence everywhere we go!
Even still, the majesty of this place as the largest church in the world and the final resting place for the apostle Peter was evident even in the rain.
So Jesus walked past the Temple and left the city and went with his disciples to the Mount of Olives, which sits due east of the Temple and overlooks Jerusalem.
And the disciples wanted to hear more about his prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age. He speaks, as usual, in parables, using symbolic language about the end times events, including His Second Coming and the final judgment.
In a world where people are wondering if this is the end of the world, let me just point out two things from this passage.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” – Matthew 24:14
God’s heart from the beginning of the Scriptures all the way to the end is His love for all people. If we follow Jesus, we become those who help others find what we have found in a relationship with Him.
36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. – Matthew 24:36
Anyone who tells you they know when Jesus is coming, they actually don’t.
As someone who has struggled with anxiety and comes from a family full of people with anxiety, here’s what has helped me when I am overwhelmed with all that is going on in the world or the thought of the end times.
Jesus is coming back one day to make all things right, and that is a very good thing.
It could be tonight or it could be 5000 years from now. We have no idea.
Every generation thinks they are the last generation, and so far all have been wrong.
We are definitely closer to Jesus’ return now than ever before, but that’s always true!
When things are happening outside of my control, I always remind myself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
As Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” In other words, leaving this life means getting to be in the presence of Jesus. Evil people may be able to take my life, but they cannot take me away from the One who loves me and gave everything that I might know Him as my heavenly Father.
Or he said it another way in his 2nd letter to his protege Timothy when he wrote near the end of his life:
“The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.” – 2 Timothy 4:18
I loved the first part of the verse! I don’t like evil attacks, and I like the idea of safety, but couldn’t the promise be that God will bring me safely back to my house or back to my couch? Why does it have to be God’s heavenly kingdom?
We can trust God with our lives.
We can entrust to God those we love.
We can entrust to God others who are suffering.
Because He can be trusted, and this life is not all that there is!
So the last event that happened on Tuesday during the week that changed everything was that Judas Iscariot negotiated with the Sanhedrin, the rabbinical court of ancient Israel, to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16).
We don’t know exactly what happened on Wednesday, but most assume
On Wednesday, Jesus rested in Bethany.
If the Son of God needed to rest then so do we.
And then comes Thursday.
On Thursday, Jesus shared a last supper with his disciples.
Knowing his time with his followers was limited, Jesus brought them together for one last meal to celebrate the Passover. This is a Jewish holiday celebrating how God rescued the people of Israel from slavery. So Jesus had a holiday meal planned even though those invited were not going to be there for Him that very night.
Jesus demonstrated his love and power by washing their feet, sharing with them about the coming Holy Spirit, and sharing with them about the importance of sacrifice. The night ended with his betrayal from one of his own followers, and his response surprised those closest to him and remains a great example for all of us.
There is so many beautiful moments on Thursday, and like I said, I highly encourage you to read through the last week of Jesus as we have it laid out in the Next Steps.
I want to focus on how Jesus responded to betrayal, disappointment, and suffering.
Jesus knew He would be betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, left alone by his sleeping disciples, and abandoned by all of his followers after his arrest, yet he still shared a meal with them. He still pursued God’s goal for him.
He knew he would be crucified, yet he still prayed “Not my will but yours be done” at the Garden in Gethsemane. Jesus returns to his followers and the passage says that:
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. – Matthew 26
A few years ago, I shared a message on Judas. I wish I had time to walk through more on him, but we will add a link to in the Next Steps. Let me just say, not a lot of kids are named Judas because his name has come to be synonymous with betrayal. And to betray someone with a kiss! But I cannot help but wonder if Judas thought he was setting Jesus up to become the King faster! But he imagined a political hero not a spiritual rescuer. I wonder if Judas thought Jesus would fight back and take revenge and use His miraculous powers to do something cool like kick up a tornado or bring down lightning!
50 Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” – Matthew 26
Now you know why the servant of the high priest lost his ear?
I think the disciple with the sword who we discover from another eyewitness account was Peter wasn’t trying to cut off an ear. I think he was trying to cut off his head! Thank goodness for the servant that Peter was a fisherman and not a swordsman. Although, wouldn’t it have been even more amazing if Peter had succeeded and cut off his head only for Jesus to pick it up and put it back on! I mean that would have been even more amazing!
Back to the passage….
…. Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. – Matthew 26:47-56
Mark adds his own experience there in that moment when he writes:
“51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind. – Mark 14:51-52
In his moment of greatest need and after an incredibly awful moment of betrayal, Jesus was arrested and abandoned. The same men who had seen the miracles and saw the kindness and heard the teachings all ran off as fast as they could – even if it meant running naked through the streets.
Our culture teaches us that Suffering is never from God and Revenge should be our response to betrayal and disappointment.
Our culture is so different from Jesus! We want revenge when we are wronged! Jesus wanted to put the ear back on. He was still healing people – even his enemies.
In addition, we try to avoid suffering at all costs! We think of suffering as “proof” that God is not guiding us towards that. We falsely believe that God’s goal is to keep us from hard things.
Jesus stepped into this moment knowing that giving His life was His mission. He had been saying it for so long, but not even those closest to Him even noticed or maybe they just didn’t want to hear it.
We try to protect ourselves and those we love from difficult things.
Hard things could be exactly what we need to be ready for the great things God has for us.
Consider some of the experts who teach on the dangers of protecting our kids from all harm and the dangers that actually creates for them.
Suffering can be the gauntlet towards greatness.
Suffering could even be required for us to develop the characteristics we need to accomplish our God-given hopes and dreams.
We need to realize the following are lies:
Suffering is never from God.
Revenge is our response to betrayal and disappointment.
Are we willing to trust God through the suffering or are we only trusting God until we suffer?
God Wants to Be With Us In Our Suffering
When have you been betrayed? What happened? How did you respond? How should you have responded?
God wants us to lean into our faith and lean into our church family when we suffer.
When you are in the midst of suffering: Ask God: what are you wanting me to learn from this?
Entrust the people who hurt us over to God when we are betrayed, denied, or disappointed.
We still need to be honest. This is not about suffering in silence under bad behavior. Sometimes the challenge God calls us to do is to speak up!
Jesus warned Judas and Peter. Jesus rebuked Peter for his violence, and spoke the truth to those in power even as He allowed Himself to suffer knowing that was God’s will for His life. His suffering would bring peace and forgiveness.
Jesus willingly goes with those arresting Him. He was falsely accused and in multiple trials. He was beaten. He was stripped and forced to carry His own cross to have someone help Him because He had been beaten so severely. And even still on that cross, Jesus prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34
You know I don’t think that prayer was just for all those there cheering for him to be crucified.
I think that was Jesus’ heart for you and me. We are born into a broken and messed up world. We all blow it. We all mess up. We all do things we don’t want to do. We all do things we know can be destructive to us or to others.
Yet He offers grace.
Here in a moment we are going to take the Lord’s Supper together. This is an act Jesus started on that Thursday night that believers have continued for centuries.
When we take the bread and drink the cup, we are acknowledging our need for what Jesus did on the cross to count for us. And before we take the Lord’s Supper, we are told to examine our hearts.
Ask God to reveal areas of your life for which you need to confess and ask for forgiveness.
Ask Him to show you your blind spots – the ways you are missing others or missing Him.