Throughout history, many people have written books about the heroes of war. They wrote stories about individuals who gave their all, even to the point of death, to save someone else or alter the battlefield conditions. Desmond Doss was a “consciousness objector” who saved between 50 and 100 soldiers in World War II at the Battle of Okinawa as a medic. A woman named Deborah Sampson disguised herself to look like a man so she could fight in the Revolutionary war. History paints with favor those who have done extraordinary things to fend off the enemy and protect freedom. Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Walter Hitchcock is the one who some believe coined the phrase, “Freedom is not free.” Our freedom has always come at a price.
Our journey through Colossians has drawn our attention back to Christ, to His completed work on the cross. Paul wrote of those rules that were empty in their ability to free us: “He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). Do you think of the cross much when it comes to your freedom? In our midweek study of Mark, we have come to the section where Jesus reveals the cost of freedom with all its uncomfortable details. It is often called the Passion of Christ. The word passion comes from a Latin word, passio, which means suffering. So today, I want to deviate from our journey through Colossians, returning to it next week. Today, I want us to consider Christ’s Passion.
“All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night.…”
Just moments earlier, Jesus spoke of His betrayer, Judas (vs. 23-25). Yet He knows that all his disciples will betray Him in some form that very night. Although Peter spoke up at first, saying, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will NEVER [my emphasis] be made to stumble” (v33). But he was not the only one to make such a claim; as we see in v35, “Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’ And so said all the disciples.” As the story goes, the betrayer comes along with a great multitude, seemingly ready to take Jesus by force. After that, we know what happens, “Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matthew 26:56). Peter, though, is following Him at a distance when the unthinkable happens; he denies Jesus three times. I can only imagine what went through his mind when he heard that rooster crow. Psalm 118:22, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” The Passion begins with the rejection of His disciples.
“Then he released Barabbas to them, and when he had
scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.”
The rejection amplified when His people were willing to crucify Him, an innocent man, and release a murderer. As Jesus drew closer to the cross, sinful man’s redemption drew closer to being paid. But before the cross, the brutality of wicked men and the unimaginable cost of redemption unfolds further. The Romans scrouged Him, or as your translation might say, flogged and violently whipped Him to the brink of death. Isaiah 53:5 says, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes, we are healed” (Note also 1st Peter 2:24). If that were not enough, He would face even more abuse. There is a possibility that Jesus met this kind of abuse twice because Luke’s account places this before He goes before Pilate, while the other gospels have it after. Whatever it was, it was horrific! They beat Him, spat upon Him, placed a crown of thorns on His head, and mocked Him. Then, if that weren’t enough, they struck Him on the head with a reed, a staff (Matthew 27:27-31; Mark 15:16-20; Luke 22:63-65). I know how uncomfortable this story is, and knowing that He did this for me makes it even harder to imagine. But close your eyes. See the Passion of our Savior as He brings redemption ever closer to us all.
“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’
And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”
The climactic moment of His Passion was His death on the cross. The prophet Isaiah wrote long before this would happen, “Because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). “Then they crucified Him…” writes Matthew (Matthew 27:35). His battered and mangled body was now nailed to a cross to hang in humiliation. Yet in this moment of excruciating pain, His musters the strength to say, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). The innocent seeking the redemption of the fallen. The words “It is finished” that Jesus spoke, meant that his death paid the price to redeem sinful man! “‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last” (Luke 23:46).
I know there is more to the story, and we have reason to rejoice because of the empty tomb. But today, I wanted to reflect on the cost of freedom and the true heroism of Jesus Christ. What we could never do within ourselves, no matter how hard we try, is earn back freedom from the wages of sin. “He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). There was, is, and always will be only one way to true everlasting freedom through our faith in His Passion.