Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).
He came into Jerusalem just like the prophecies said He would and the whole town lit up. Jerusalem was filling up with Passover pilgrims and they joined the locals in lining the steep street that led down from the top of the Mt. of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane and then across the Kidron valley to the East gate of the Temple. They laid their outer garments and branches from nearby palm trees across the street and sang,
“Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD (Psalm 118:25-26). Hosanna in the highest!”
This is the only day He ever let the crowds do that. Always before He had told them to be quiet or had disappeared from among them. But on this day things were different. They were singing the Psalm reserved for the arrival of the Messiah and when the Pharisees told Him to stop them, He refused, telling them that nothing could stop this from happening (Luke 19:39-40). On this day He was fulfilling a prophecy from Daniel 9 as well as the one from Zechariah 9.
“Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.” (Daniel 9:25)
A “seven” was a period of seven years. 7 sevens plus 62 sevens equals 69 sevens or 483 years. On the day He rode into the city it had been exactly 483 years since the Persian King Artaxerxes had authorized Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem and rebuild it (Nehemiah 2:1-9). As Jesus approached the city He told the people that Jerusalem would be destroyed because their leaders didn’t recognize the time of God’s visitation (Luke 19:41-44).
His arrival made the religious leaders very nervous. Ever since He had raised Lazarus from the dead they’d been looking for a way to kill Him (John 11:45-53) and now He was here in their midst. They had to do something fast because everybody was talking about Him. In desperation they agreed to let one of His followers betray Him for money.
Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. (Psalm 41:9)
Jesus had reserved a room in which He and His disciples could observe the Passover. Immediately afterward Judas left to complete his act of betrayal. He would bring the soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane where he knew Jesus would be, and point Him out to them. The other disciples remained with the Lord and received His teaching on the New Covenant. It was shortly after sunset so the day had just begun. Before it was over, He would be arrested, tried, convicted, sentenced to death, executed and buried. All on Passover.
After the meal they sang a song. By tradition it was also part of Psalm 118.
The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:22-24).
It’s impossible to imagine how the Lord must have felt, knowing what was coming as He sang. Hebrews 12:2 says it was the joy set before Him that helped Him endure the cross. The source of that joy was the knowledge that He redeeming us by paying the penalty for our sins. It took the life of a sinless man to rescue us from death and He considered the outcome to be well worth the price He had to pay. After the song they went out to the Garden of Gethsemane.
A little while later Judas arrived with the soldiers to arrest Him. Jesus convinced them to just take Him and let the others go. Only Peter and John followed behind Him while the others scattered. Earlier He had said this would happen, quoting Zechariah 13:7.
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!” declares the LORD Almighty. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”
When the chief priests made their deal with Judas they didn’t realize they would be fulfilling a prophecy from Zechariah 11 in conspicuous detail.
I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.
And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter (Zechariah 11:12-13)
The price was the same, the location of the transaction was the same, even the ultimate recipient was the same. After Judas had betrayed the Lord, he was filled with remorse because of what he had done. He returned the money by throwing it at the chief priests in the Temple (Matt. 27:5). This caused them a problem. They couldn’t take it back into the treasury because it was tainted. Since they were responsible for burying any travelers who died in the city, they used the money to buy a field they could turn into a burial ground. The man they bought the field from was a potter by trade (Matt. 27:6-7).
After trials before the High Priest and King Herod, Jesus was condemned to death. But the Jews had lost the authority to carry out an execution so they held Him over until they could see Pilate in the morning to make it official. Jesus spent the rest of the night alone in the darkness, shackled in a dungeon beneath the High Priest’s residence.
You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief. (Psalm 88:8-9)
As Pilate listened to their accusations, he realized the charges were politically motivated and not legitimate. He decided to see if having Jesus scourged would satisfy them and sent Him to be beaten and flogged with whips.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4).
Pilate’s attempts to save Jesus failed, and after his offer to set Jesus free was rejected, he washed his hands of the matter and sent Him off to be crucified. During all this time, Jesus didn’t protest His innocence or offer any kind of defense. He knew He wasn’t dying for His crimes, but for ours.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.(Isaiah 53:5-7)
By nine o’clock in the morning Jesus had been nailed to the cross and consigned to die the most agonizing form of death ever devised. They had offered Him some wine vinegar laced with gall to lessen the pain, but He refused it. He had told His disciples He wouldn’t drink wine again until the Kingdom had come.
They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.(Psalm 69:21)
He hung there for several hours slowly suffocating without complaining about the excruciating pain but then something happened that changed everything. Having taken upon Himself all the sins of mankind, He actually became the physical embodiment of sin (2 Cor. 5:21). The Father could no longer bear to look at Him and turned away. As He did He took the light from the world and at noon it became like night.
“And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight” (Amos 8:9)
Separation from His Father is something Jesus had never experienced and could not have anticipated, and it was so much worse than the physical pain that He finally cried out in anguish.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1)
Psalm 22, written 1000 years earlier, is a first person account of what it feels like to be crucified and contains several details specific to the Lord’s ordeal.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. (Psalm 22:14-18)
Finally, after spending 6 hours in a consuming fog of pain that none of us will ever experience, He died. In the last act of His life, He asked for and received a drink of wine. He did this knowing that the work He had come to do had been completed. The Scriptures had been fulfilled. Having paid the price for our sins He knew the Kingdom of God had come to Earth. The drink of wine He took is our proof of this because He had sworn not to drink of the fruit of the vine again until it did. Then He said, “It is finished” and died (John 19:28-30). The price for all the sins of mankind had been paid in full. Light returned to the Earth.
A few hours later, the Chief Priests asked Pilate to allow the soldiers to hasten the deaths of the men being crucified. At sunset the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread would begin and it was a special Sabbath on which no work could be done (Exodus 12:16). They wanted the men dead and off their crosses before the Sabbath began. Since crucifixion is ultimately a death by suffocation, breaking the men’s legs would prevent even their limited breathing and they would quickly die. When the soldiers came to Jesus He was already dead so they didn’t break His legs, but stabbed Him in the heart instead.
“(The Passover Lamb)must be eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones.(Exodus 12:46)
A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. (Psalm 34:19-20)
Typically, crucified men were denied burial. Their dead bodies were simply thrown on the city’s garbage dump where wild dogs consumed them. But one of the richest men in the area petitioned Pilate for the body of Jesus and laid it in his own tomb near the site of the crucifixion.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:9)
But that was not the end of it. Three days and three nights later, before His body even began to decompose, He rose from the grave, fully and eternally alive.
You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. (Psalm 16:10)
It was proof positive that His death had paid the full penalty due for the sins of mankind. He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. It was also the unmistakable sign of Jonah. He was Israel’s Messiah.
Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:10-11)
On the night of His arrest, Jesus had prayed that if there was any other way to redeem mankind, He wanted to be released from His commitment to die for us. Then He prayed that not His will but the Father’s will be done. (The Hebrew word translated knowledge here also means perception or discernment. The Lord perceived that His Father’s will was correct and chose to follow it rather than His own.)
This passage from Isaiah shows us that there was no other way. It was the Father’s will for the Son to die so we could live. But it was also His will that the Son be resurrected because without the resurrection, there would be no proof that they had been successful in redeeming us. This is why Paul said we have to believe in our heart that God raised Jesus from the dead in order to be saved (Romans 10:9). The Resurrection is proof that all our sins have been taken away. The fact that He conquered death is proof that we will too. Therefore, belief in a bodily resurrection from the dead is absolutely essential to our salvation.
Writing to the Ephesians Paul said, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come”(Ephesians 1:18-21).
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6-7)
The resurrection is the synergistic combination of power and love. Greater than the Creation or the Exodus, which required only power; greater even than the birth of the Messiah, which required only love, it’s God’s crowning achievement. Resurrection Sunday was nothing less than the greatest day in the history of human existence. He is risen!