Jesus said a lot of controversial things in His three years of public ministry, enough to confuse some people and anger others to the point of desiring to have him murdered. At College Park’s Good Friday service last night, they had seven vignettes of statements that Jesus Christ made that incited the religious leaders to seek for His death on the cross. These religious leaders thought that by killing the rebel who was stirring up the people and making these claims they would be rid of Him for good. But, because the statements He made were completely true, they had no understanding that by killing their Messiah they were actually saving everyone who believed in Him.
1. “Before Abraham was, I AM” – John 8:58. It might sound like bad grammar, but in this statement Jesus is referring back to the story of Moses when God revealed His great and holy name “I AM who I AM”. Jesus was claiming equality with this God, saying that He too, existed before Abraham. To those who considered Him just a regular man, this was blasphemy. But this was no ordinary man…
2. “I and the Father are One” – John 5:10. Again, Jesus is speaking to the Jewish religious leaders of the day, claiming that He and God were completely equal on every level. If He was just a prophet, then this would have been blasphemy, and crazy talk for a Jew to compare himself to God.
3. “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me” – John 8:42. Here Jesus makes 2 bold claims. First, that they do not actually know the God they worship, because they have not recognized and loved Jesus. And second that Jesus came from God, making Himself out to be more than a prophet.
4. “Destroy this temple, and in 3 days I will raise it up” – John 2:19. The Temple was the very place where the Jewish people met God. It was the place of continual sacrifices, making atonement for their sin. In this statement Jesus is claiming to be a temple that will last forever. That the place of sacrifice is finished in His death and resurrection, and He is now the everlasting sacrifice for our sins. When He said it though, the people, including His own disciples, did not understand that He was going to rise from the dead.
5. “No one can come to Me unless granted to Him by the Father” – John 6:65. This statement made even some of His disciples turn away. Jesus was saying to them that salvation is not based on the works of the Law, or anything that they could do on their own effort, because our obedience will forever be incomplete. Our earthly minds would not naturally embrace this kind of salvation – our sin nature is hard wired to desire to earn favor based on our good behavior and deeds. It is only in the wooing of God Himself that we can be saved by faith.
6. “I am the bread that came down from heaven” – John 6:21. Jesus said this one day after breaking two loaves of bread in half and feeding 5,000 people. In this passage He refers back to the manna that was provided for the Israelites while they were wandering in the wilderness, and here claims to be greater than this bread. The disciples respond by asking Him to give us that bread always, and Jesus’ response is that He is the bread of Life, and anyone who eats of Him will never hunger again.
7. “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” – Matt 26:64. Jesus made this statement while standing before the High Priest during His trial. The high priest asked Him to tell them plainly whether He is the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus answered by quoting two old testament passages – Psalm 110 and Daniel 7, effectively saying “yes, I am the Christ, the Son of God”. At this, the high priest tore His robes and called for Jesus to be crucified, showing us one of two ways we can handle Jesus. Either by refusing to believe His Word as true, rejecting Him as Messiah, attempting to put Him to death or ignore Him in an effort to continue in our own life. Or by believing that what He said was true, that He is the Messiah, and therefore surrendering our life to Him and believing that through Him alone we have salvation.
Even in light of these statements, Jesus still went to the cross on His own initiative. He chose to obey the Father and die, in order that we could truly live. Friday is called “good” because in the horror of the cross grace and salvation were born. In his song, Phil Wickham says “When blood and water hit the ground, walls we couldn’t move came crashing down. And we were free and made alive, the day that True Love died…”
As we reflect on and remember His death, take heart and lift up your head, because Sunday is coming…