by Marcelo A. Tolopilo ©
Divine orchestration directed the Lord to Calvary
As we saw in our previous two Lighthouse articles, God’s sovereign will led our Lord Jesus to the cross. The Lord’s final Passover was not a heap of unplanned accidents that ended with Jesus tragically hanging on a Roman cross. Quite the opposite is true! God the Father moved heaven and earth, directed rulers and nations, governed the flow of history and orchestrated the seemingly random outworking of Jewish religious worship to bring about the substitutionary death of His Son on the cross.
Every step in our Savior’s last Passover was directed by God and proclaimed the gospel to the nation of Israel. This reality can be seen down to the final moment of the Lord’s agony on the cross. For example, at the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.), the Lord cried out in His solitary anguish and surrendered His spirit (Matt 27:45, 46, 50). At that very hour as Jesus died, the priests in the temple courts slaughtered the Passover lambs while the Levites sang out Psalm 118 of the Passover Hallel. The words of the priestly choir rang out in the temple courts as the blood simultaneously poured forth from the sacrificial lambs and Israel’s rejection of her King
reached its zenith. “From my distress I called upon the LORD… The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:5a, 22, 23). God’s sovereign plan directed Jesus to and through His last Passover.
The love that fueled Christ’s journey to the cross
Even so, while it was God’s sovereign will that directed Jesus to the cross, His obedience was never mechanical or simply dutiful. It was Christ’s divine, measureless love that fueled His mission for our salvation. On that last Passover night as the Lord made His way with the disciples to Gethsemane where He would be arrested, He was constantly reminded of the heart-rending sorrow and affliction that lay ahead, and yet He continued driven on by His amazing love for you and me. Rightly did Charles Wesley write, “Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, should die for me!”
The swelling of Jerusalem’s population
Every adult Jewish male was instructed to observe the Passover in Jerusalem and of course many of them brought their families to the celebration (Luke 2:41, 42). As you can imagine the population of Jerusalem would swell to many times its original size during the feast. Tens of thousands of extended families would gather in the ancient city with each representative head of a family bringing one live sheep or goat to sacrifice. These yearling animals were slaughtered in two massive shifts with each animal needing to be drained of its blood.
Blood, blood, and more blood!
Yearling lambs and goats have approximately four gallons of blood each. In the temple, large numbers of priests would stand at the ready, to process these unblemished animals. At one end of a chain of Levites, priests would slit the throat of the lambs and the blood would gush out into bowls held by awaiting Levites who would then pass the bowls down a succession of priests until the container arrived at the altar where the blood was emptied at the base of the altar. From there the blood would spill into the “shissin” or drainage tunnels running underneath the temple compound and leading out to the eastern side of the temple mount. There the sacrificial blood would flow down the eastern slope of Jerusalem until it spilled into the Kidron Brook where it would flow south twenty miles, dropping some 3,900 feet and finally empty into the Dead Sea.
The amazing love of Jesus!
After Jesus observed the Passover Seder with His disciples, they made their way to Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives–a ridge east and across from Jerusalem. Coming up from the south they needed to traverse the Kidron Valley, ford the Kidron Brook, and walk the Kidron’s east bank for about a half mile ascending to Gethsemane. As you can imagine at this time of year, Passover, the Kidron and its banks were literally stained deep red with the blood of thousands upon thousands of slain passover lambs. How vivid it must have been for the Lord Jesus that He was “… the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Seeing this shocking sight, how did the Lord Jesus manage to marshal on? What steeled His courage to meet His captors, His torturers and suffer the agonies of the cross? There is a simple and profound answer to this question: it was His passionate love for us that moved Him courageously forward.
When Jesus reached the summit of Gethsemane His angst also crescendoed. In fact, His physical, emotional suffering was so great that Jesus confessed to His men that it almost killed Him (Mark 14:34). The stress brought on by a growing realization of Calvary nearly ended the Lord’s life. Then and there He fell on His face to the ground and cried out to His Father, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” Jesus deeply desired to forego the cross, and yet amazingly He also earnestly prayed “Yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). The shadow of the cross brought Jesus to the darkest most troubling place He had ever been. And yet when His enemies finally came to arrest Him, Jesus didn’t run away, no! Knowing full well the horror that awaited Him, He arose and went forth to drink the cup the Father had ordained for Him to drink and pleaded that His men be released to safely leave (John 18:4, 8).
What drove our Lord Jesus to do this? His amazing love! Glory and eternal blessing be to our loving Savior! My friends, Jesus loves you this you know for the Bible tells you so. “To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood…” (Revelation 1:5b).