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From a Garden to a Cross
Scripture: Mark 14:1-72; 15:1-47
Track 17 of 19 in the Encountering a Changing World series
Good Friday evening service. Jesus predicts the destruction of Jerusalem and His final return.


Be sure to scroll down to read the transcript.

Sermon for Good Friday, April 18, 2003
"From a Garden to a Cross"
(Mark 14:1-15:47)
G. Charles Sackett

When the choir and the team first started tonight they began with that rather haunting question, Were You There? It's a very familiar old song to me. I almost hesitate to tell you where I first heard it. It was on the juke box in my dad's bar, sung by Johnny Cash. It's a rendition that's hard to forget.

Hadn't really thought about it a lot here, until about a couple of years ago. I was sitting in a class with my friend, J. K. Jones, and he was talking about questions that people ask themselves as they evaluate their journey with the Lord. And one of those questions has to do with previous life experiences and how those might have shaped you - how they may have impacted your development. And so I started looking back at things I had never given any consideration to because they were in those pre-Christian experiences of mine. I began to toy with what that question might have done in my young heart because I was just a kid when that was first made aware to me, and I wondered how that question may have begun to shape and influence me as the Lord was working in my heart.

I got to looking at the two Chapters that we're going to take a look at tonight, Chapters 14 and 15 in Mark's gospel and it just kept coming up, all of these characters that are there in this crucifixion scene. There are so many - at one time, I thought maybe I would walk through all of those scenes with you and just talk about the characters that were there. But there are like a dozen different people there and you know, I don't have time tonight, to go through 12 people. Well, I do, but, you don't! So I decided that I would just pick out the ones that seem to me to be striking me - now that's not particularly scientific. It would be hard to omit Peter because Peter is mentioned so often, but Peter was there that night - arrogant and over confident - If you look in Mark, Chapter 14, you begin to see him show up in Verse 27 And Jesus says, "You will fall away, all of you; for it is written, I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." Peter declared, "Even if all fall away, not me." "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered. "Today, yes tonight, before the rooster crows twice, you yourself will disown me three times." But Peter insisted emphatically, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the others said the same.

You drop down to Verse 37. He returned to his disciples there in the Garden of Gethsem?ane - Peter, James and John and he found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter. "Are you asleep? Could you not watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the body is weak."

Verse 53, we pick him up again. They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the teachers of the law came together. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; there he sat with the guards, and warmed himself at the fire.

Verse 53 through 54, then Verses 66 and following. While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by; and when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. "You were with that Nazarene, Jesus," she said. But he denied it, "I don't know or understand what you're talking about." And he went into the entry way. When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, "This fellow is one of them." Again he denied it. After a little while those standing near said to Peter, "Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean." He began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I do not know this man you are talking about." Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. And then Peter remembered the words Jesus had spoken to him, "Before the rooster crows twice, you will disown me three times." And he broke down and wept.

Peter was there sleeping in the garden when he was supposed to be awake, praying. Peter was there warming himself by the enemy's fire. Peter was there denying that he ever knew him to those who were the on-lookers of the scenery there in the court. And I guess my question is this, Were You There? - driving nails of betrayal like Peter? Confidently setting your own boundaries, determining your own strength, living as if you could estimate your own ability to do the job. Were You There? - playing in enemy territory, oh, certainly not crossing any major lines, just deciding you could set the boundaries as close to the edge as you wanted to, because you knew what you could handle. You'd never get too close to the enemy!

Judas was there, greedily opportunistic. Over in Mark 14, Verse 43. Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the twelve appeared, with him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them, "The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard." Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Rabbi!" And he kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him. When one of those standing near drew his sword, and struck the servant of the high priest cutting off his ear. "Am I leading a rebellion?" Said Jesus, "that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you teaching in the temple courts and you didn't arrest me. But the scriptures must be fulfilled." And everyone deserted him and fled.

Judas was there, earning his thirty pieces of silver, greedy at the opportunity to make a little more cash. Judas was there. In fact, Judas was there because he had a habit of being there betraying the Master, even when it doesn't say that's what he did - ah we didn't read about that first character, that woman who broke the alabaster flask and anointed Jesus at the first part of Chapter 14. The text says that the disciples began to murmur among themselves saying why in the world waste all this expensive perfume on this woman? That money could have been given to the poor. Well, Mark doesn't tell you this, but John's gospel tells you who really started that murmuring - It was Judas - because he knew there was a lot of money at stake here and it was gonna go in a purse and he was gonna carry it.

So I'll ask, Were You There? - driving nails of personal greed? Oh, I know you don't have access to the temple treasury, we keep that door locked. Were You There? - taking from Jesus what you can get, hanging around with Jesus because he offers you something that you know that you need. He gives you an opportunity to have the things that promise you a future. He gives you what you need down in your soul and yet, really, you deny his Lordship in your life? You're there for what you can get, but when it comes right down to it, when he makes demands on your life - when he says this is how you ought to live - you set that aside and you do your own thing instead. Looking for the opportunity to get what you can have without giving?

Well, I said I would just look at four characters. The third one is the centurion. The centurion was there - an innocent bystander. Over here in Chapter 15, Verse 33. At the sixth hour, darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "E?lo-i, E?lo-i, la?ma sabach-tha?ni?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" When some of those standing here heard this they said, "Listen, he is calling Eli?jah." One man ran and filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick and offered it to Jesus to drink, "Now leave him alone and let's see if Eli?jah comes to take him down." With a loud cry Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God."

The centurion was there, innocent bystander, just doing his job, leading his men, doing what the Romans did, crucifying people and guarding them. Intriguing, not stopping his men, just there; and yet somehow gripped by Jesus character, observing his death - the text says, and watching how he died, came to the conclusion that this man must be the Son of God.

So I ask, one more time, Were You There? - driving nails of indifference, it's okay for other people, you have to be here, you have to humor your spouse or your children, or your parents. You're here sometimes Sunday after Sunday after Sunday because you know that it will make things better at home. You want to be careful. You hang around him a little too long and the next thing you know, you may find yourself doing the same thing the centurion did - believing that he is the Son of God. You hang around Jesus long enough, he gets down in your soul. Makes you want to do something about your life.

Well, tomorrow is the day of silence. We're not asking you to be silent, necessarily, although we will ask you to leave the service tonight, (after the choir does one more thing) to leave it quietly. There are some study sheets for you tomorrow for your family, for your children, for yourself. They are available out here at the ministry center, if you haven't gotten one, please be sure you pick it up. At least tomorrow, sometime during the day, spend a little time thinking about what Saturday was like. We invite you to come back on Sunday. We'll be here to worship, to celebrate. We'll look at Chapter 16. We'll talk about resurrection.

I need to tell those of you who have small children that when the choir does the closing number, there is a rather strong segment, right near the end, where the sound of the whip and the nails is pretty realistic, so beware. Do as you think you should with your smaller children.

I promised you a fourth. Jesus was there, willing, obedient. He shows up all over the place of course. Chapter 14, Verse 32. They went to a place called Gethsem?ane and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I pray." He took Peter, James and John along, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death; stay here and keep watch." Going a little further, he fell to the ground and prayed that, if possible, this hour might pass from him. "Abba, Father, everything is possible for you; take this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what you will." "Simon," he said to Peter. "Are you asleep? Could you not watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Once more he went away and prayed. Prayed the same thing and when he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy; they did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough; the hour has come; look, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go; here comes my betrayer."

Verse 61: But Jesus remained silent and he gave no answer. And again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" "I am; and you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One, and coming on the clouds of heaven."

Chapter 15, Verse 1: Very early in the morning the chief priests, the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin reached a decision. They bound Jesus and led him away and handed him over to Pilate. "Are you the King of the Jews?" asked Pilate. "Yes, it's as you say." Jesus replied. The chief priests accused him of many things. And so again Pilate asked him, "Are you going to answer? See how many things they accuse you of." But Jesus made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Verse 33: At the sixth hour, darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "E?lo-i, E?lo-i, la?ma sabach-tha?ni?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" With a loud cry Jesus breathed his last.

He was there receiving our nails with love, silently enduring the betrayal, the denial, the indifference, moving from Garden to Cross, living . . . . . . . It's almost parabolic isn't it? - Garden to Cross, Eden to Golgotha - the very thing that he was destined for from eternity. He was there. We were there, so was he. He was the one who made the difference.

He is the one who made the difference!