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By Jim Somerville.

“Why did Jesus have to die?”

People often ask me that question, and although there are some important theological answers, there are also some political answers. The most obvious one is that the Roman government condemned Him to death because they saw Him as a threat.

Do you remember how the Jewish religious authorities brought Him before Pilate saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king” (Luke 23:2, NRSV)? They were accusing Him of insurrection, of “rising in revolt, rebellion, or resistance against an established government.” They were hoping that the Roman government would do away with Him largely because they, themselves, saw Him as a threat.

When Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and “the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice,” some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop”, but Jesus said, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (Luke 19:37, 39-40, NRSV). In another Gospel the Pharisees admit, grudgingly, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!” (John 12:19, NRSV)

It’s that kind of thing that forces them to take action, that sense that things are getting out of hand, that the world is going after Jesus, that they are powerless to stop Him. The religious authorities enjoyed a certain amount of privilege because of their position, but if everybody began to look to Jesus for answers instead of to them, if they began to believe that He really was God’s anointed one—the Messiah—then all that would change.

Something had to be done…

On this year’s Journey to the Cross we will take a look at the “Principalities and Powers” that aligned themselves against Jesus when He came to Jerusalem, the earthly and unearthly forces so desperate to keep Him from establishing the Kingdom of Heaven. As we do, we will ask ourselves the question: “In what ways do we refuse to yield our own small power, and prevent Jesus from establishing the Kingdom within us?”

Join us as we enter a 40-day season of study, introspection and prayer, working our way through Matthew 21-23 as we journey with Jesus to the cross.

Journey to the Cross & Holy Week:

March 9, Ash Wednesday: Matthew 21:12-17: the cleansing of the temple. Jesus was angry that His father’s house had been turned into a den of robbers. The chief priests and scribes became angry with Jesus “when they saw the amazing things that he did.”

March 16, Journey I: Matthew 21:18-32: Jesus curses the fig tree, the authority of Jesus questioned, the parable of the two sons. Here Jesus shows His disappointment with a “fruitless” Israel, led by religious authorities who have not done what they told God they would do.

March 23, Journey II: Matthew 21:33-46: the parable of the wicked tenants. “When the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them.”

March 30, Journey III: Matthew 22:1-14: the parable of the wedding banquet. Those who had been invited to the banquet (the religious authorities?) did not come. Those who “crashed” God’s party (the same?) are thrown into the outer darkness.

April 6, Journey IV: Matthew 22:15-40: three questions meant to trip Jesus up: the question about paying taxes, the question about the resurrection, and the question about the greatest commandment. “After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.”

April 13, Journey V: Matthew 23 (selected verses). Jesus denounces the scribes and Pharisees and ends his rant by saying, “you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’” (setting us up for Palm Sunday).

April 17 – Palm Sunday worship services at 8:30 & 11 a.m. – Jim Somerville, preaching

April 20 – Contemplative service

April 21 – Maundy Thursday service – Lynn Turner, preaching

April 22 – Good Friday service, noon, Tabernacle Baptist Church, Jim Somerville, preaching

April 23 – Holy Saturday service & candlelight baptism service, 8 pm – Pastor Emeritus Dr. James Flamming, preaching

April 24 – Easter Sunday worship services at 8:30 & 11 a.m. – Jim Somerville, preaching

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