It’s been another warm week here in Stonehaven as we continue to be blessed by a good summer. And we’re not done yet, there’s plenty of August left.
Our week culminated with a welcome return to the church rooms at The Old Courthouse in Stonehaven. We’d been congregating in the courtroom itself for a long while thanks to Covid social distancing protocols. There’s something peculiar about going to church and sitting in a courtroom gallery behind a defendant’s podium and a witness box, but perhaps something apposite too!
The sermon this week at Stonehaven Baptist Church regarded the wilful surrender of Jesus when the soldiers came to arrest him, far from being a victim of grotesque circumstance he indeed orchestrated the whole affair. Jesus went willingly to his death, and he did so to demonstrate the love he has for you and for me.
On the night he was arrested he didn’t protest. He could have done a runner, he could have hidden, he could have encouraged his disciples to fight the soldiers off, but instead he peacefully handed himself over. The authorities had expected resistance to his arrest by him and his followers so, in readiness for a potential pitched battle, over a thousand soldiers were despatched to deal with him. But they needn’t have bothered. Jesus stepped from the shadows and presented himself peacefully, even admonishing one of his disciples for drawing a sword to strike one of the soldiers.
What was going on here? Why would someone present themselves for an arrest that they knew fine well would lead to an agonising execution? Perhaps someone conscious of their culpability for a crime might give themselves up, but not an innocent man. Who in their right mind would willingly give them self up and pay the price for a crime not committed? Moreover, why would someone orchestrate such a scenario? As CS Lewis once wrote, “Either Jesus was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool … or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”
Jesus handed himself over to arrest and subsequent crucifixion for one reason only and it wasn’t to save his own neck. He did it to save our necks. He sacrificed himself so he could be a substitute for each of us. Jesus’s death was an atonement for all of us, he died so that we needn’t. God can’t abide son and it doesn’t go unpunished, the good news is that the punishment has already been meted out but not on us, on Jesus. There’ll be a day when our earthly tents perish, as his did, but just as he was resurrected from the dead, so will we live on, and by putting our faith in Jesus’s wilful sacrifice for us, we’ll live on with him in perfect peace in heaven. I don’t know about you but I’m up for that!