32 And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him,
33 Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:
34 And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.
If you ever found it hard to keep going in life, if you have ever been in one of those dark and difficult and demanding situations where you simply wanted to quit, to give up, to throw in the towel, to turn tail and run, then you will understand how Jesus felt when he was on the road to Jerusalem. Mark talks about that in Mark 10:32-34 of his gospel.
Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem. They are leaving the plains of the Dead Sea and about to ascend the rough and rocky road that goes up to the city of Jerusalem. And he begins to tell his disciples what is going to happen to him when he gets to Jerusalem. Now what Jesus says here is spoken against the backdrop of their conception or misconception of the Messiah. He has announced to them that he is the Messiah. He is the Son of God, he is the anointed one who has been predicted from the days of the Old Testament.
But these disciples have a misconception of his messiahship. They come to believe that the Messiah will set up a political kingdom. That he will reestablish the throne of David. That he will rule from the city of Jerusalem. And that the golden age of David, the most glorious and splendid of Israel’s history, will be reestablished. This is completely contrary to the kind of messiahship Jesus has come to establish. His messiahship will not be characterized by a throne but by crucifixion. Not by a crown but by a cross. He is come not to reign, he is come to die. And he must prepare his disciples for what is going to happen to him in the city of Jerusalem.
Early in his ministry as Jesus talked about his messiahship he tried to impress upon these disciples that he was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. But in these later days as he talks about his messiahship he is trying to show the necessity of the crucifixion. The fact that he as the Messiah must die on the cross so that he can be their Savior. He can be their redeemer not in a political sense, but in a spiritual sense.
The idea of a suffering Messiah, one dying on a cross, is completely beyond the understanding of these disciples. It is not only incredible to them, it is incomprehensible that the Son of God will die on a cross. You see the cross was the most agonizing kind of death that a person could suffer. And it was identified with the criminal element of society and they could not believe that the Son of God would go through such agony and suffering and death, and they could not believe that he would be identified with the criminal element of society and so they found it extremely difficult to believe that Jesus was going to the cross. That crucifixion was a necessary aspect of his messiahship.
And so Jesus on three separate occasions as they journeyed to Jerusalem said to them essentially the same thing. In Mark 8:31 Jesus said to his disciples, “I must go to Jerusalem and I shall be rejected of men. And the chief priests and the scribes and the elders shall kill me and on the third day I shall be raised from the dead.”
In the next chapter, in Mark 9:31, he says essentially the same thing. But he enlarges upon it a bit. Jesus said, “We will go to Jerusalem and I shall be delivered into the hands of evil men.” That word delivered literally means “betrayed.” I will be betrayed in the hands of sinful men. And the chief priests and the scribes and the elders shall kill me and on the third day I shall be raised from the dead.
And then this third time Jesus predicts his crucifixion in Mark 10:32. First in 8:31, then in 9:31, now in 10:32, Jesus says, “I am going to Jerusalem and there I shall be handed over, there I shall be delivered into he hands of the chief priests and the scribes and they shall condemn me to death.”
And then he adds to that prediction that he will be put to death. He will be crucified by the Gentiles, by the Romans. And he adds to his statement some of the gruesome details of his crucifixion. He says, “They shall mock me and scourge me, and spit upon me and then they shall kill me, and on the third day I shall be raised from the dead.” It is with remarkable detail that Jesus explains what is going to happen to him when he finally gets to Jerusalem.
The point I want you to see in all of this is that Jesus was totally aware of what was about to happen to him when he got to Jerusalem. Crucifixion did not take Jesus by surprise. The rejection of men—the trumped-up charges by the Sanhedrin, the mockery of a trial, and then finally his unjust death—in no way caught Jesus by surprise. He knew well in advance that this was going to happen. And on three separate occasions he told his disciples that he was going to be crucified and that he was going to be raised from the dead. And every time he told about it, the hopes and the prospects of this hour grew dimmer and dimmer and every time he added more details to the horror of the event that was about to happen. Jesus was fully conscious of what was going to happen to him when he got to Jerusalem.
More than that, Jesus had plenty of time to turn back. The first time he told his disciples this was going to happen he was in the far north country of Caesarea Philippi. And if he had so desired he could have turned and headed in the opposite direction of Jerusalem and he never would have been crucified. All they wanted was Jesus out of their hair. All they wanted was Jesus out of the way. And they would just as soon had Jesus been in some foreign country as to be dead and buried in Joseph’s tomb.
Jesus had the opportunity to turn back to evade the cross. But it was with a full knowledge of what was going to happen that Jesus left the north country of Caesarea Philippi and gradually made his way down to the city of Jerusalem where eventually he was stretched out on the old rugged cross and died there for the sins of the world. It was no accident and it was no surprise—Jesus had plenty of time to turn around and avoid the cross. But he kept going. He stayed on the road to Jerusalem. He knew that this was the way of world redemption. He knew that he must die. He knew that he must suffer and bleed so that our sins could be forgiven—so that we could have the hope of eternal life. God he knew was a God of love but his love necessitated that he provide salvation for mankind.
God was not only a God of love, but also a God of justice. And what the justice of God demanded the love of God provided, and Jesus with full knowledge of what was going to happen kept going to Jerusalem to die on that cross.
This experience says something to us about the courage of Jesus. We talk oftentimes about the love of our Savior and the graciousness of our Savior, but here is a picture of his courage. He knew full well what awaited him in Jerusalem, the agony and the suffering of the cross, and he kept right on going to that dark and difficult experience in life.
And he did it because he was convinced that this was he will of God. He did it because he believed that God would ultimately be triumphant in this experience, that God would raise him from the dead. And he did it because of his great love for us. The thing that kept Jesus on the road to Jerusalem was his conviction that his life was being lived according to a divine plan. It was his certainty that God would raise him from the dead. And it was his great love for us.
As Jesus had to walk that dark and difficult road to Jerusalem so in our lives we are oftentimes called upon to travel difficult pathways. There are times when we would like to turn back, there are times when we do not enjoy what is ahead of us. And we long to bail out on life. But we keep going and the thing that keeps us going are the things that kept Jesus going in this experience.
There are three of them that kept Jesus going and that keep us going in life. First, a conviction that our lives are in the hands of God. That God has a plan, that God has a will for our lives. And if we can live our lives with the conviction that you are in the center of God’s will, that we are carrying out his plan, somehow that keeps us going in the midst of the hardships and the difficulties of life when we otherwise would throw in the towel—give up and quit.
Second, hope. Hope of the resurrection; hope that God can bring victory out of defeat, life out of darkness, Easter out of Calvary. And then there is that love, that indestructible love that burns in the heart like an eternal flame. Jesus in his heart is always concerned about others—about us. And if we in our lives have a conviction that God has a will and a design and a plan for us, if we have hope of the future, if there is love burning within us, it keeps us going in the darkest hours of the night, in the strongest storms.
1. We need to have conviction that God is at work in our lives.
When Jesus first announced his journey to Jerusalem he said to his disciples, “The Son of Man must go up to Jerusalem.” And that little word must suggests to us that God has a divine plan, that it was of divine necessity that Jesus Christ go to Jerusalem. And that it was a working out, a fulfillment of God’s plan and God’s will for his life.
You know that Jesus lived his life with the conviction that God had a will for him. And that he needed to find that will and to fulfill that will in order to find the greatest fulfillment in his life. And if we can ever capture the concept that God has a will and a plan and a design for our lives, and we are going to stay in it no matter what, it keeps us going in life.
There have many times when if it were not for the conviction that God had a plan and a will and a design for my life I would have gladly thrown in the towel and gone some other place to do something else. But the conviction that God called me and God placed me in a certain place to do a certain thing kept me on the road. It kept me going.
I wish for every one of you that you could live your life with the conviction that God does have a will, that God does have a plan, that God does have a design for your life. And that you could live it with conviction: “I must go to Jerusalem as Jesus said he must go there.”
There is a lot of talk these days that says God has a wonderful plan for your life. And they mean by that wonderful plan that it is God’s will that you always be healthy, and that you always be wealthy, and that you always be successful in life. And if you will just line up with God, then it is his plan to give you health and wealth and success in everything. Let me tell you that God doesn’t have a wonderful plan in that sense for your life, but God does have a divine plan for your life.
And his divine plan sometimes involves going up to Jerusalem where you knowingly will suffer, where you knowingly will die, where you knowingly will be rejected of men. God’s divine plan does not always include ease and success and health and prosperity—sometimes it leads through dark and difficult places. But if you can live your life with the conviction that there is divine plan and you are a part of it, it keeps you going in life.
Joseph lived like that. Joseph’s life in the Old Testament was a life from riches to rags to riches to rags again—up and down, success and failure, joy and sorrow, all of it mixed together. He started out as the favorite son of a wealthy and prosperous businessman. And because he was favored by his father, his brothers were jealous of him and they sold him into slavery. So, from the son of a rich man to a slave in Egypt, he conducted himself well and he was elevated to a place of prominence in the household of one of the leading citizens of that country. He had gone from riches to rags, back to riches again.
Then the lord of the household had a wife who had eyes for Joseph. And she made sexual advances to him and he resisted those, only to be falsely accused by this lady of doing the very thing he had refused to do. So he was cast into prison. He had gone from riches to rags to riches and back to rags again. And he conducted himself well once again and God elevated him to a place of prominence in the country and so he was back to riches again. And later in his life as Joseph looked upon these ups and downs of life he said, “God has been at work in my life all along. And what men intended to be for evil, God used it for good so that I might be a part of his redemptive plan for the nation of Israel.”
Joseph lived his life under the conviction that God was at work and God was bringing him to some useful end. If you can live your life with the conviction that God has a plan and a design for your life, there is a purpose for your being—that God is at work in your world—it will keep you going when you want to throw in the towel and quit.
2. We need to have certainty of the resurrection.
There is a second thing that kept Jesus going. Do you know that Jesus never in these Gospel records talked about his crucifixion without also talking about his resurrection?
The disciples couldn’t understand resurrection. It never dawned on them what Jesus was talking about. But Jesus himself never talked about being crucified without also talking about resurrection. That is to say that he lived in the darkest hours of life with the hope and the certainty of resurrection. Jesus believed that he must go to Jerusalem and be crucified but he also believed that God would raise him from the dead on the third day.
That was an element of faith on the part of Jesus. He had to cast his life into the hands of God, believing God and trusting God, but there was that inner conviction that God had the ability to turn Calvary into Easter Sunday. And he lived his life with the conviction that God could bring light out of darkness, hope out of despair, victory out of defeat, life out of death, and living with that conviction kept Jesus going toward Jerusalem.
Do you have hope in the darkest hours of the night that God can bring life out of darkness? Hope out of despair? That God can turn your Calvary into an Easter Sunday morning? That God has never been defeated and God has never been frustrated by the circumstances of man? That God can be victorious in and through you? Do you live with that conviction?
You know when people have hope of tomorrow, they can endure a whole lot more today. And it is living with that conviction that God has a plan, a will, a design for my life. It is living with the conviction that God can yet redeem the word of life’s situations that keeps us going. That’s what kept Jesus going. And that’s what will keep us going.
3. Our love must be indestructible.
I believe that if there had been no assurance of the resurrection that Jesus would still have gone to the cross. That’s how much he loved us. And the whole New Testament is drenched in verses that speak about the indestructible and indescribable love of God that is come to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And Jesus lay down his life willingly.
To be sure, he was arrested by the soldiers. He was condemned by the Sanhedrin. He was executed by the procurator and all through this experience there were the hands of men at work but in addition to the hands of men, there were the hands of God that brought him there. And it was that love of God in the heart and life of our Savior that caused him to die on the cross. Everything he did was rooted in love. Everything he said flowed from a heart of love and it was because not only did he have a conviction that this was God’s will for his life and a certainty that God would raise him from the dead, but because of his great love for us, Jesus stayed on that road to Jerusalem when he knew he was going to die.
And I am here to tell you that if you can live your life with that same conviction that you are in the center of God’s will, and that certainty that God is never defeated or frustrated by he circumstances of life or the works of men, and if there is in your heart a love for God and for others such as there was in Jesus, it keeps you going as it kept him going.
We like Jesus sometimes must climb the rough and rocky road to Jerusalem. And when we are tempted to turn back to give up in the hardships and the pressures and the demands of life, what keeps us going is faith and hope and love. I pray for you these three things: faith, and hope, and love. When the going gets tough, they will keep you going.