Dear Friends, in our series titled “Centrality of the Cross”, we focus on yet another subject which substantiates the fact as to how Cross was central to God’s redemptive plan…
Of City and Clock…
Where else could God’s Pascal Lamb (see1 Cor 5:7) die other than in God’s home, Jerusalem (SeePsalm 132:13-14; and what other time could He die other than at 3 pm, just when the original Pascal lambs were slain in respective Jewish homes on the First Passover festival at evening time (SeeExodus 12:1-6 — Note that “evening” for Jews would mean 3pm-5pm)?
Jerusalem, by virtue of its location in the middle of the World (SeeEzekiel 5:5), also typified Jesus’ mediatory Ministry of bringing about reconciliation between the Holy God and sinful mankind (See1 Tim 2:5).
Isaiah 6:1 tells us: “I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple.” (NLT). At this stage, I intend to increase the intensity of the spotlight on the subject of Adonai God, the Sovereign One seated on the throne. It would stun many of us when we observe the sequence of events leading up to the Cross as to how the Almighty had everything in His Sovereign control in order everything takes place at the right place and in the right time.
To be more precise, let’s consider the Scripture in the background of Jesus’ arrest in the night before His crucifixion (SeeLuke 23:1-7) and His judgement of the High Priest (Matt 26:57-66). The next day morning, in the course of interrogation, Pilate finds out Jesus belongs to Galilee, and he sends Him to Herod Antipas the Governor of Galilee for settlement of the case.
Before we go any farther, let’s take a look at the Geo-political “climate” at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. The Land of Palestine was divided by Rome into 6 provinces. Three were on the Western side of the River Jordan, Galilee, Samaria and Judea. The other three were on the Eastern side of the River Jordan: Iturea, Decapolis and Perea. While the Rome-appointed Governor for Judea and Samaria was Pontius Pilate with his headquarters at the Coastal city of Caesarea, the provinces of Galilee and Perea were under the Governorship of Herod Antipas with his headquarters in Tiberius. him stationed at Tiberius. And in case you aren’t overly familiar the geography of ancient Israel, the distance from Caesarea to Jerusalem was 112 kms, while Tiberias to Jerusalem was 176 kms and Caesarea to Tiberias was 90 kms.
Now consider the magnitude of God’s sovereignty over the sequence of events leading unto the Cross. If Pontius Pilate had not been in Jerusalem in the climactic hours before crucifixion, doubtless the Priests would have had to take Jesus to Caesarea, a good 112 kms from Jerusalem, to get the ruling of Pontius Pilate. We know this from the story of Paul, who was arrested in Jerusalem but taken to Caesarea for justice (SeeActs 23:23-33). And there too, in the questioning process, Pontius Pilate would have discovered Jesus was from Galilee and would have directed the Jesus’ accusers to take him to Herod Antipas in Tiberias, which is a good 90 kms away from Caesarea. Undoubtedly Herod Antipas, after examining Jesus, would have passed “the buck” back to Pontius Pilate. In all this ponder for a moment… tick –tock…tick-tock… the time would have been ticking away. Jesus, the God’s Pascal lamb (See1 Cor. 5:7), had to die in Jerusalem on the Passover between 3 and 5 pm, at God’s appointed time. Now let’s go on stitching together the probable sequence of events, had Pilate not been in Jerusalem…
Once Jesus would have been brought back to Caesarea, Pontius Pilate, under severe pressure from the highly influential Priestly class, would have “washed his hands” of Jesus, and the High priests, using the Pilate and the Roman Soldiers as their tool, would have crucified Jesus in Caesarea itself … maybe as much as 2 days after after the subsequent Sabbath days were over. Bye Bye Divine plan of God’s Paschal Lamb dying in Jerusalem at the appointed twilight time? No way!!! The Almighty Adonai God ensured that both the governors instrumental in the decision making process were in Jerusalem at the right time, because everything had to occur as per the pre-destined unalterable divine plan (SeeActs 4:27-28)! Hallelujah!
Proverbs tells us: “The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases.” (NLT). Thus, in the course of events of the cross, Adonai God proves that He can make the earthly authorities virtually dance to His tune without even their own knowledge . The earthly kings may undertake to do something to achieve their own selfish ends, but the Almighty can turn their actions around in such a way it would all fit His Greater plans. If not for Caesar Augustus’ decree to take a census, Mary, in advanced stages of her pregnancy, would not have travelled all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem (for a pregnant lady a tough 90 miles journey complicated by a terrain dotted with hills and valleys), in order for the Saviour to be born only in Bethlehem, as per the prophecy, and not anywhere else (SeeMicah 5:2/Luke 2:1-7).
Historically speaking, during that Passover festivities both Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas came to Jerusalem for “selfish reasons”, one “announced” and the other “secret”. Firstly about the former…like in modern times, even 2000 years ago the politicians were all for PUBLIC PLEASING, and it was a custom for Rome-appointed Governors to “identify themselves with the Jews during their most prominent Festival time…the Passover” by being at Jerusalem (the temple city) and by coming up with public-pleasing gimmicks (SeeMatt 27:15). In the Indian context, do not our political leaders, all with an eye on the vote-bank, go the “extra-mile”, announcing sops to some communities on the occasion of their festivals and participating in some parties like “Iftar” “Christmas” parties? Nothing has changed! Coming to the “secret” reason (now our Indian political leaders are innocent on this score), whenever lots of Jews are gathered in one place, one jingoistic shout of: “Freedom from Rome!” would be sufficient to spread the wildfire of rebellion against Rome. So the presence of large numbers of heavily-armed Roman soldiers on ground, along with mounted cavalry with gleaming swords under the personal supervision of Rome-appointed Governors, would serve as a deterrent to such nationalistic uprisings. In addition, they would make the crowd-control process that much easier. So there were Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas in Jerusalem rather then being in Caesarea and Tiberius, respectively, at just the right time. Ah, the bottom-line is that the Almighty was in complete control of keeping the authorities in the right place at the right time in order that the divine redemption plan, prepared even before the foundation of the world was laid, would be carried out at the right place and at the right time. Hallelujah!
Now let us also cast the spotlight on the timing of the 7th word uttered by our Saviour on the Cross: “By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. Then Jesus shouted, ‘Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!’ And with those words he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:44-46 NLT). He was announcing His propitiatory death. The Messiah, who had said: “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:18 NLT), was in complete control of the events surrounding Him, and being the Pascal Lamb, He laid down His life exactly at 3 pm!
Prayer: Father, we are awed by Thy sovereignty. Whenever we come across difficult situations in life, we need to simply cast all our cares on Thee knowing Thou art sovereign, having everything in Your control. We praise Thee in Jesus’ Name. Amen
An unworthy servant
J and SM Ministries