“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,…”
This is a part of the opening sentence of the classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. Written to indicate the opposing factors of the author’s subject, this line could aptly describe the tensions that existed during the period of this week’s study on Crucified and Risen.
To close out this quarter on the book of Luke we take a high level look at important events in the days leading up to and post the crucifixion. In each instance we can clearly see the forces of evil arrayed against the Son of Man.
As our Savior prayed earnestly in the Garden, the backstory would be His disciple’s inability to enter into sympathy with Him during this difficult phase. Although they walked and talked with Him each day and listened to lesson after lesson about the Kingdom of Heaven, they could not see beyond the popular misapplication of scripture of their generation. And they slept while He prayed.
And while Jesus prayed and the disciples slept, one of their own, Judas, was in the process of betraying his Master. Evil men who were involved in this conspiracy of murder were surely gloating over the defection of a trusted disciple. Now they would be able to gain the upper hand over the target of their jealously and envy.
To all appearances it would seem that this would be a disastrous combination – the disciple’s spiritual denseness and Judas’ betrayal. For years Jesus made this select group of men the depositories of the richest teachings man has ever known. He had carefully guided them, both by example and precept, but it appeared to be all for naught.
Finding Him in the garden, an unruly mob bound and took Jesus away. Treating Him as a danger to society, they conducted a kangaroo court to find some cover for their dastardly act. Their persistence paid off and they were given the green light to fulfill the darkest passions of their hearts.
“And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.” Luke 23:24-25
To the onlookers this was either the best of times or the worst of times. For His haters they thought they were entering the best of times. They imagined once Jesus was removed they could regain their power and influence over the masses. Their love of admiration was so blinding that they could justify murdering the innocent.
To those sympathetic with Jesus, this was the worst of times. Many had hoped that He was the Messiah. They had hoped that it would be He who would deliver them from their national foes. They hoped it would be Joseph’s son who would make all things right again for their nation. But now it appears they were wrong and their hope was about to be extinguished. This was a dark, dark day for many.
Now hanging upon a criminal’s cross, Jesus is paying the cost for man’s sin. While it appeared that the worst day imaginable was underway, the truth of the matter was that this would prove to be the best day possible. Jesus was redeeming man.
Although the crowd misread the magnitude of the moment, there was one that was able to see clearly who it was hanging upon the cross. He had witnessed the abuse heaped upon Jesus and the remarkable manner in which He endured. No doubt the news he had heard about Jesus, His love and compassion, His concern for the least, was now validated before his eyes.
This man, only known as a “thief” was at was seemingly the worst day of his life. Hanging upon a cross himself, he had no chance to redeem his name or restart his life. The events of his life that led to that moment were unchangeable (so it seemed).
Now looking upon Jesus hanging beside him he sees the Hope of all ages. He discerned in the bloodied face a King’s countenance. He senses, no he knows, that this is indeed the Messiah and his soul in sincerity cried out to his only hope for redemption.
“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” Luke 23:42
Over the roar of taunting shouts he hears an assurance that he has made peace with God. His fate is now in the hands of God and his future is sure. What started as the worst of days has now become the best of days. He has been saved.
Friend, draw comfort knowing that our God is drawing us and freely offering to change our worst days into our best days. Although clouds may often hide Him from our view, keep faith that His promises are sure and they are for you.
“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Deuteronomy 31:6
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- *Following are personal reflection questions*
- Have you ever gone through dark periods in your Christian walk when you thought God was not with you? What experience is most prominent?
- Looking back on those experiences, do you now see that God was with you? How so?
- What lessons did you learn from going through difficult times?
- Do you have any practical advice for a fellow believer who is going through dark times? If so, what would it be?
- Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: The closer I follow Jesus the less dark or difficult days I will experience. Explain your answer.
We close this quarter’s lessons on Luke with some of the final words of Jesus as recounted by Luke. They are applicable to each one of us and encourage our continued study into the sacred word:
Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Luke 24:44-45
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!
For online lessons please visit http://www.ssnet.org/lessons/15b/less13.html
This was the day the disciples had waited their whole lifetimes for. Years of hoping and longing, decades of expectation were now being realized in this very moment. Since they had been small children the promise of a deliverer was instilled into them. From childhood they had learned that one day, hopefully in their lifetime, the Messiah would come.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” Zech. 9:9
NEWSFLASH! – THIS JUST IN!
“The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center.” 1
With all of the additional outlets of evangelism spawned by the technological advancements of the last half century it appears that Christianity is declining instead of advancing, at least in the U.S. To arrest and reverse this alleged decline in numbers I have 7 simple solutions.
“And the apostles said to the Lord, Increase our faith.” Luke 17:5
I still have the keepsake my father gave me as a teen. It’s a mustard seed encased in glass. This trinket obviously symbolizes the power of small faith doing big things. In various ways over the years I have seen this same symbolism shared as an encouragement to keep believing, keep fighting and keep dreaming.
We usually encourage each other by quoting, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed.” That can be an encouraging thought. Unfortunately, that’s not what Jesus said. I know someone is positive the Bible says those exact words. I know I once did. But here is what the Bible actually quotes Jesus as saying.
“And the Lord said, lf ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed.” Luke 17:6
Although some translations may include the word size, the Greek for this is accurately “faith as,” “faith like” a grain of mustard seed. And that changes everything.