Monday, August 18, 2014, 4:45 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. I read Matthew 26:47-27:54 (quoting selected verses in the NASB). I will summarize much of this. The Cross of Jesus Nearly each day the Lord Jesus puts a song in my mind, which is to go with where I am reading in scripture for that day. Today’s song is “Onward Christian Soldiers.” The song describes the church, the saints of God, as soldiers in God’s army, who are marching in war against their enemy (foe) Satan. The cross of Jesus goes before us, and Christ, our Master, leads his army against the foe. The song describes the church, in this sense, as united in battle for Jesus, and against their enemy, Satan. In this battle, with the cross going before us, and Jesus leading the way, the church is constant, and no evil forged against her can prevail. The church, united in Christ, joins together in a song of triumph and of praise and honor to Christ, their King. Amen! What I came to realize, as I read through the lyrics to this hymn of old, and as I read this passage of scripture describing Jesus’ arrest, mock trial, beatings and crucifixion, is how, as Christ’s followers, we will go through many of the same rejections, sufferings and persecutions as Jesus Christ endured for our salvation, and we will do so for the sake of our testimonies for Christ and his gospel of salvation. We will not literally take upon ourselves the sins of the world, as did Jesus, but sometimes we are called upon to bear up under the pain of unjust suffering due to the sins of others against us. And, we do so in the hope that they will come to saving faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Jesus Christ told his followers that they would be hated as he was hated. He was hated largely because he told people the truth about their sin, and the truth about their eternal destiny, if they did not repent of their sin and turn to faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, Jesus Christ will lead the way for us, and he will give us the strength, courage and endurance to stand strong in the face of opposition, and to be constant in our faith, prayer and message. Jesus’ Betrayal & Arrest Jesus Christ had just celebrated the Passover with his disciples. At this supper he informed them that one of them would betray him to death and that all would desert him. He told Peter that he would deny him 3 times. Then, he and his disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane. There Jesus prayed that if it was possible for this cup of suffering to pass from him, that it would be so, but if not, for the Father’s will to be done. He submitted to his Father in heaven. He also asked Peter, James and John to keep watch with him in prayer, but they fell asleep. This happened 3 times. One of the times he exhorted them to keep watching and praying so that they would not enter into temptation for “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (26:41). Finally he scolded them by saying, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up…” (26:45-46). I believe the Lord Jesus is speaking similar words to his complacent and adulterous church of today, which is NOT marching in war for Jesus or against their enemy, Satan, but which is joining in with the enemy, instead, because that is the path of least resistance and is one that brings more worldly pleasure and enjoyment. Many who profess the name of Jesus Christ are actually working on the side of the enemy in betraying the cause of Christ, in denying their Lord, in deserting him and his followers, and/or in exercising spiritual laziness and apathy. This describes much of the modern church of today which has largely gone the way of the world in order to attract the world to their “churches.” They have become so much like the world that they are no longer marching in battle against the foe, but they are rather assisting the foe in his battle against Christ and against his true followers and disciples. So, Jesus is saying to this “Laodicean” type of church today that they need to wake up, because the one who betrays, i.e. the antichrist, is at hand. Judas did carry through with his betrayal. He brought a crowd of people with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Think with me about this a moment. This was not the people of the world coming against Jesus. These were his own people, of his own faith, his own country, and his own race. Not only that, they came from the religious leaders of his faith, many of them in very high up positions. Remember with me here that Satan is an angel of light, and his servants come as wolves in sheep’s clothing. The enemy is not always that obvious. Sometimes the enemy can appear as the kindest people we know, at least on the surface. And, this is the case today. Many within the church, including church leaders, and many in high up positions all the way down the ranks are attacking the gospel as taught by the apostles, are bringing it into disrepute, and are persecuting those who hold to the truth of the gospel and to their testimonies for Christ. This is why we can’t trust everything we hear, see or read, but we must test everything! The Mock Trial Jesus was first off brought before the high priest. “The chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put him to death” (26:59). Wow! They did this for spite and vindictiveness, not because Jesus had done anything wrong, but just because they didn’t like him. And, it was the religious leaders who did this! And, they still do this today!! They didn’t like Jesus’ messages because they confronted them with their sin, and so they looked for any way to get rid of him so that they didn’t have to hear those messages any more. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” ~ 26:63-64 At this, the high priest charged Jesus with blasphemy. He said, “He deserves death.” Why? Because Jesus told them the truth, and because he told them that he was God, and that he was their promised Messiah. Then they spat on him, mocked him, slapped him, and they beat him with their fists. Wow! Next Jesus Christ was brought before the governor. Much of the time Jesus was being questioned, he remained silent, but he was not completely silent as some like to say, for he did speak when he found it necessary to speak. He was silent much of the time, though, because he knew that what he said was not going to change the outcome, and because he knew that this was God’s will that he suffer in this way, so he submitted to the cross. Sometimes it is best to remain silent when being falsely accused or when people are mocking us, but other times it is essential that we speak. So, we pray for wisdom and discernment and for the leading of the Holy Spirit so that we don’t take matters into our own hands and say what needs not to be said, or do what needs not to be done, or so that we don’t remain silent when words need to be spoken. They Were Jealous Then the governor decided to follow his custom of releasing one prisoner to the people, so he gave the people the choice between a notorious prisoner, Barabbas, and Jesus Christ. “For he knew that because of envy they had handed Him over” (27:18). The religious leaders of Jesus’ day, in particular, were jealous and resentful toward Jesus. He served as a threat to their own positions of power and influence among the people because many people followed Jesus and/or were enthralled with his miracles, and/or were amazed at his teaching. As well, Jesus spoke boldly to the religious leaders concerning their hypocrisy and their wickedness, and he warned his disciples against their teaching, so I am certain this must have incited them, as well. If the people listened to Jesus, the religious leaders’ power and influence over the people could be brought into question, so they had to do away with the one who served as a threat to their very existence and to their success. The same is true today. If we, as followers of Christ, tell the truth about sin, and we preach the true gospel of salvation, and we expose the fruitless deeds of darkness, we serve as a threat to Satan’s kingdom, and to the kingdoms of men who are following Satan via following humans over Christ, and human teaching over the word of God, and business marketing schemes over allowing Christ to build his church his way. And, even our church leaders will be trained in how to get rid of us, or in how to silence us so that we do not serve as a threat, and we don’t expose their lies, and so we don’t tell people the truth. Jesus’ death Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified and he released Barabbas to the people. They hung Jesus Christ, the Son of God, on a cross to die, just because they hated him and were jealous of him, although he had done no wrong. “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.” ~ 27:50-51 The veil of the temple is what separated the people from the Holy of Holies. Only the priests of the temple could go into God’s presence. Now, through the blood of Christ, all those who have believed on Jesus Christ can enter into God’s presence. Now the Holy of Holies dwells within the lives of individual believers, as we have been given the Spirit of God to dwell within us – to lead, guide, counsel, comfort, encourage, exhort, urge, and teach us. Jesus Christ, in his death on the cross, took upon himself the sins of the entire world. He crucified our sins with him so that we might have the opportunity to be saved (set free) from slavery to sin, eternal damnation, and the power of Satan over our lives, and so we might be given eternal life with God, and have the hope of heaven, and so we might walk in the Spirit, in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. We just have to submit ourselves to the cross, willingly allowing ourselves to be crucified with Jesus to the sins which once enslaved us; surrendering to his Lordship over our lives in cooperating with his work of grace in our hearts in turning us from sin to walks of faith in Christ, becoming like Christ/God in true righteousness and holiness. We then become soldiers in his army. Satan is now our enemy, and so, in the power of the Spirit within us, we daily put on our spiritual armor with which to fight off Satan’s evil attacks against us, and we walk with Christ by living for him. Onward Christian Soldiers / Sabine Baring-Gould / Arthur S. Sullivan Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before. Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; forward into battle see his banners go! Like a mighty army moves the church of God; brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod. We are not divided, all one body we, one in hope and doctrine, one in charity. Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane, but the church of Jesus constant will remain. Gates of hell can never ‘gainst that church prevail; we have Christ's own promise, and that cannot fail. Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng, blend with ours your voices in the triumph song. Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ the King, this through countless ages men and angels sing. Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.