Just over half-way through the gospel of Matthew, there is a verse that briefly and clearly describes the path Jesus is about to follow into Jerusalem, and then through the cross to resurrection life.“From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.” Matthew 16:21
More is written about the eight days of Jesus last journey into Jerusalem than any other days in biblical history. It is on this path, that all the themes and story arcs of the Bible converge. These are the central events of our faith; and every Easter we have a fresh opportunity to reflect on key moments along the journey. As we do, we rediscover insights that help us understand what Christ accomplished for us at the cross. This Easter season we are reflecting on three such moments. We have summarised them as:
• FULLY COMMITTED. On the path into Jerusalem, Jesus fully committed his life as the ultimate sacrifice to cleanse us from our sins.
• FULLY PAID. On the path through the cross, Jesus fully paid the price we could not pay so that our sins could be completely forgiven.
• FULLY ALIVE. On the path from the tomb, Jesus overcame the power of death so we could become fully alive in him both now and for eternity.
These moments are also road markers along the path each Christian travels with Jesus. Like Jesus, ours is a path of commitment and sacrifice. It is a costly journey where we take up our cross and we follow him. Yet as we walk that pathway, we also discover fullness of life in him.FULLY COMMITTED – The Path into Jerusalem
Christ was fully committed to the path he followed. In the Bible, commitment always involves sacrifice. Jesus committed himself to offer his life as a sacrifice to cleanse our lives from sin. His was the once for all sacrifice that fulfilled everything that the Old Testament sacrificial system pointed towards but could not achieve.Sacrificial Commitment on the Path into Jerusalem.
We can see Jesus sacrificial commitment in his actions the day after entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He immediately went to the temple and confronted abuses of its sacrificial system. He effectively and prophetically pronounced the end of blood sacrifices (Mt 21:12-17). It was this action which provoked the Jewish leaders to plot his death (Mark 11:18). The temple was the centre of Jewish life and worship where regular sacrifices were made. Jesus had now committed himself to becoming our sacrificial lamb who would do what the temple sacrificial system could never do. Through his own shed blood, he would not just make us outwardly clean, but completely cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve God.Hebrews 9:13-14 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Our Sacrificial Commitment to Christ.
Following the path of Christ also involves sacrifice for each one of us. We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). As Christians we are called to commitment and sacrifice by taking up our own cross daily (Luke 9:23-24). For most of us, taking up our cross will not involve literal martyrdom. But it will involve daily commitment and giving our lives to his purposes. It will involve sacrificial service as we follow Jesus’ example and wash the feet of others (John 14:13-17).FULLY PAID – The Path through the Cross
Jesus did what we could not – he fully paid the price for our sins. In the ancient language of setting a slave free—Christ redeemed us. His sacrifice was also a gift, a payment, a price fully paid - once, for all [Hebrews 10:10] In paying that price, Jesus ransomed us from the penalties of sin and death. He also fully restored us to relationship with God, and he continues to work through us to fully redeem all creation back to God. Keep in mind that this was not an impersonal commercial exchange. It was an act of immense love. It’s like the price someone might pay in giving their life to save a child or a loved one.Redemption: The Price Jesus Paid on the Path through the Cross.
There is a powerful redemptive picture in the story of Judas being paid 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16). 30 pieces of silver was the price paid under Old Testament law for a slave (Exodus 21:23). Jesus didn’t come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom (payment) for many (Matthew 20:26-28).Matthew 20:26-28 … whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The Cost of Following Jesus.
When we follow Christ, there is also a price to pay. This is not a price paid to earn salvation or a gift given to pay God back for what he has done. It is simply a response of thanksgiving that expresses our gratitude and worship to him. We do not deserve Christ’s gift. We can never repay him; but we can respond in gratefulness and praise. A good picture to illustrate this is a gift given to us by a spouse, child or loved one. It cheapens the gift to turn it into a commercial exchange. But out of a heart of love, we will want to show our gratitude to the gift-giver; and we will want to reciprocate with our own gifts of love and gratitude.FULLY ALIVE - The Path from the Tomb
The resurrection of Jesus demonstrated his defeat over the power of death. But his resurrection life was not simply a repeat of his former life – this was a new kind of life. We also can receive a new God kind of new life in Christ. That includes eternal life for the future, but also a fullness of life we can begin to experience now. We are forgiven so we can participate in the fullness of Christ’s divine resurrection life, both now and forever.New Life on the Path from the Tomb.
When Jesus rose from the dead, he was really alive, he was fully alive. You could see him (Matthew 28:8-10; 1 Cor 15:1-8). You could reach out and touch him (John 20:26-28). You could eat with him (John 21;12-13). He also promised that we could experience that same resurrection life through him— compare John 3:16 with John 20:31-32 “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”Finding New Life in Christ.
How can we experience the divine life of Christ transforming and remaking our life both now and in preparation for eternity? By confessing our sin, believing in him, and receiving the free gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39; Romans 10:9). As Paul explains in the letter to the Romans. “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” (Romans 8:11). Just as Jesus is fully alive, really alive, in body soul and spirit, so we can begin to experience Christ’s transforming power in every dimension of our life as we give our lives over to him.Collector Cards and Life Group Discussion Questions
During our church services on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Weekend (including Resurrection Sunday), a sequence of three collector cards will be given out church service by service. Together these describe the one journey and three distinct moments of Jesus path to life which we have described above.
If you collect all three cards you will also discover a “secret message.” So, see if you can discover the secret message as a Life Group. Hopefully, together you will have collected all the cards!
Each card also has a set of three questions which would be great to discuss as a Life Group and with your friends and family in the days during and after Easter. In case you didn’t get all the cards, here are the questions to reflect on. Why not also share personal stories with each other of how Jesus has changed your life?Palm Sunday: The Path into Jerusalem
1. What does Christ’s sacrifice accomplish for us?
2. How can we commit our lives to Jesus more fully?
3. How can we offer our lives as living sacrifices to Him?Good Friday: The Path through the Cross
1. What is the price Jesus paid for us on the cross?
2. What is the free gift Jesus offers everyone?
3. How can we respond to that free gift?Resurrection Sunday: The Path from the Tomb
1. What is the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection?
2. How can we receive eternal life through Jesus?
3. How can the divine life of Christ transform our lives now?