Faithlife Sermons

That Dark Night

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Alone in the crowd.

Matthew 26:36–46 HCSB
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow —to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He asked Peter, “So, couldn’t you stay awake with Me one hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came again and found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open. After leaving them, He went away again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the time is near. The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up; let’s go! See, My betrayer is near.”
Matthew 26:36-46
Sometimes, no matter how many people you have around you, no matter how close you are to them, no matter what relationship you have with them, you are alone., even when you are surrounded by friends and loved ones. Jesus just wanted someone to feel and be awake with him, to share that burden and yet, because of the humanity of the disciples, and because they didn’t actually grasp what was going on, they couldn’t be what he needed them to be, but that didn’t stop Jesus from calling out to God.
In our loneliest times we too can call out to God and know that even if we do not feel him He is there, listening, loving, and reaching towards us with his strength, knowing that ours will fail.

Abandoned but not alone.

Matthew 26:47–56 HCSB
While He was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, suddenly arrived. A large mob, with swords and clubs, was with him from the chief priests and elders of the people. His betrayer had given them a sign: “The One I kiss, He’s the One; arrest Him!” So he went right up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. “Friend,” Jesus asked him, “why have you come?” Then they came up, took hold of Jesus, and arrested Him. At that moment one of those with Jesus reached out his hand and drew his sword. He struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his ear. Then Jesus told him, “Put your sword back in its place because all who take up a sword will perish by a sword. Or do you think that I cannot call on My Father, and He will provide Me at once with more than 12 legions of angels? How, then, would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?” At that time Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs, as if I were a criminal, to capture Me? Every day I used to sit, teaching in the temple complex, and you didn’t arrest Me. But all this has happened so that the prophetic Scriptures would be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted Him and ran away.
Matthew 26:
Jesus had a clear understanding of who he was. He knew what was happening, He knew that he was going to be facing the next hours alone and yet he does three important things.
He calls his betrayer friend.
He stops the violence before it can start.
He watches those closest to him run.

The Substitute

Matthew 27:15–25 HCSB
At the festival the governor’s custom was to release to the crowd a prisoner they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Who is it you want me to release for you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Messiah?” For he knew they had handed Him over because of envy. While he was sitting on the judge’s bench, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for today I’ve suffered terribly in a dream because of Him!” The chief priests and the elders, however, persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to execute Jesus. The governor asked them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” “Barabbas!” they answered. Pilate asked them, “What should I do then with Jesus, who is called Messiah?” They all answered, “Crucify Him!” Then he said, “Why? What has He done wrong?” But they kept shouting, “Crucify Him!” all the more. When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that a riot was starting instead, he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd, and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. See to it yourselves!” All the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
Matthew 27:15-25
Imagine watching people, some of which you healed or fed demand a known criminal be released. Imagine listening to those same people demand your death, imagine knowing this was all going to happen and still loving.
Jesus continues to step into our place as humans, taking what we deserve so we can experience what we do not.

Darker still

Matthew 27:45–61 HCSB
From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni? that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling for Elijah!” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, fixed it on a reed, and offered Him a drink. But the rest said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to save Him!” Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split. The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And they came out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many. When the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they were terrified and said, “This man really was God’s Son!” Many women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and ministered to Him were there, looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. When it was evening, a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph came, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. He approached Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Then Pilate ordered that it be released. So Joseph took the body, wrapped it in clean, fine linen, and placed it in his new tomb, which he had cut into the rock. He left after rolling a great stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were seated there, facing the tomb.
Hanging between heaven and earth, the creator of the universe entered the final phase of a plan set from the moment his creation turned it’s back on the one that loved it most. The pain the abandonment, the loss of life. did not keep him from staying the course, and in his death, people suddenly began to understand who and what had just happened.
The exclamation of the Centurion, the inclusion of the women who were there even as the men were not, the stone rolled over the mouth of the tomb brought on the darkest hour known to man.

So we remember

Matthew 26:26–30 HCSB
As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take and eat it; this is My body.” Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them and said, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. But I tell you, from this moment I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it in a new way in My Father’s kingdom with you.” After singing psalms, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
A body not yet broken.
His blood not yet shed.
Both a reminder that there is light after darkness!
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