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Players in the Drama of the Cross, Part 1

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
March 15, 2021 4:00 am

Players in the Drama of the Cross, Part 1

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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This section with the beginning of chapter 14 takes us to the cross. We are now in the year on Grace to You with John MacArthur. Today we're launching a brand new series meant to help you prepare for a more worshipful Resurrection Sunday.

It's titled, The Divine Drama of Redemption. We've shared these messages before, and I think this is going to be a standout Easter series for Grace to You. Talk about what it is that makes Mark's account unique.

Immediately, immediately, immediately. Mark is giving us the cliff notes story of Jesus. So that's the reason maybe if you're doing an exposition of the Resurrection, you would want to go to Matthew and even John and Luke and lay out the whole story.

But if you really want to get the drama in a package, in a nice wrapped up package, front to back, more quickly, then Mark is the choice. So we're going to introduce a study called, The Divine Drama of Redemption. The Divine Drama of Redemption. It's going to be from Mark chapter 14, 15, and 16. And every year as Resurrection Sunday approaches, we spend broadcasts covering aspects of our Lord's rising from the dead. And there is some variation between the four Gospel accounts.

The four accounts when put together give us the total picture. But some of the writers, as we've mentioned, give us a whole lot more detail, while Mark seems to be giving us just the salient points to move us rapidly through the story. From the upper room to the Resurrection. Fewer verses than any other Gospel writers. You can sweep through the action faster than you can in Matthew, Luke, and John. Still, the content is inspired by the Spirit of God, rich and compelling. We're going to see the main characters, the bit players in the drama of the cross, the Last Supper, the agony and betrayal in Gethsemane, the crucifixion, and the empty tomb, and a whole lot in between. This is a study that will intensify your worship every day and leading up to Resurrection Sunday. If you're a new Christian, these next 15 broadcasts will get you up to speed quickly, building your understanding of all that happened over those history-changing days in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. So don't miss a day of the Divine Drama of Redemption. Don't miss a day. And, friend, as we get a sort of big picture view of the Easter story over these next three weeks, the important details may connect for you in a fresh way.

I think you're going to be very encouraged. And so with that, to launch his study called The Divine Drama of Redemption, here's John MacArthur. Well let's open the Word of God to the fourteenth chapter of Mark. This section with the beginning of chapter 14 takes us to the cross. We are now in the shadow of the cross. The great discourse sermon on the Second Coming of Christ is complete and Mark now moves us into what I look at as the Holy of Holies of Scripture.

We go inside the veil to see the blood sprinkled. This is the sacred ground of Holy Scripture, the account of the cross. And, of course, all four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John contain this.

And as we go through chapters 14, 15 and 16, and the cross and resurrection is the theme of these, we're going to look at the details related to the Lord's death and His resurrection. But the opening 16 verses deal with the players in this drama. Of course, the stage belongs to Christ. He is the featured player in this unbelievable drama. Everybody else is a bit player.

Everybody else is a walk-on. But they do have a role. There is the role played by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leaders. There is the role played by Mary who anoints Jesus. There is the role played by Judas who betrays Him. And there's a role in His preparation for His death played even by His followers, the disciples. We're going to see the roles they play and we're going to see Christ in center stage.

But there is someone who isn't mentioned here who is the main player. You might say He is the supernatural director of the drama and it is none other than God. Much like the book of Esther in which everything that happens happens under the sovereign working of God, though God is not seen, everything that happens here in the preparation, in the trial, in the execution of Jesus is being carried out by the unseen hand of the invisible God.

God is accomplishing His purpose through all of these role players who each have a function, a moment on the stage, but He's behind it all. Let me read these sixteen verses to you. Now the Passover and unleavened bread were two days away and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him. For they were saying, not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people. While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial, a very costly perfume of pure nard and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, why has this perfume been wasted?

For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor. They were scolding her. But Jesus said, let her alone, why do you bother her? She's done a good deed to Me.

For you always have the poor with you and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could. She has anointed My body beforehand for the burial.

Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her. Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. They were glad when they heard this and promised to give Him money and He began seeking how to betray Him at an opportune time. On the first day of unleavened bread when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover? And He sent two of His disciples and said to them, Go into the city and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water, follow him. And wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, The teacher says, Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?

And he himself will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready, prepare for us there. The disciples went out and came to the city and found it just as He had told them and they prepared the Passover. In this preparation for His death, the rulers play a role, Mary plays a role, Judas plays a role, and the disciples play a role. But the power behind the scenes is none other than God who is orchestrating every detail of the death of Christ.

This is the unfolding of the divine plan. This was established by, Acts 2 23 says, the predetermined purpose of God. Jesus' death was not an accident, it was not a revolution gone bad, it was not a failed idea, it was a divine plan.

In fact, in Acts 4 it says that you did what God purposed you would do in killing Jesus. Himself, Jesus said, the Son of Man has come to give His life a ransom for many. You see, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has always been the focal point of Christianity, the heart of salvation, the key reality of the gospel and the central theme of the entire Bible. The cross is the apex of redemptive history, the ratification of the New Covenant, the single atonement for sin, the satisfaction of divine justice, the propitiation of holy wrath, the epitome of sovereign love and grace, the necessary object of saving faith and the only hope of eternal life. Understanding this, the significance of the cross, the sweeping breadth of its truth, no wonder we sing so many songs about the cross, right? The cross and the resurrection is the supreme testimony to God's goodness, His saving love, His righteousness, His grace, His mercy, His wisdom, His justice, His holiness and every other attribute. That is why all four gospel writers end their histories of Jesus with the details concerning His death and resurrection.

This is the high point of all history. Now as we come to chapter 14 then, we enter into the final words of Mark and he moves us toward the cross and the resurrection. We're going to look at preparation for His death. We're going to look at His agony, His betrayal, His arrest, His trial, His denial, the denial of Peter, the crucifixion and the resurrection.

So these next weeks are going to be wonderfully thrilling weeks for us. Now as we come to chapter 14, again I remind you, it is on Wednesday night that we find our Lord. He has been on the Mount of Olives looking back at the temple ground on the eastern side of Jerusalem and He has just completed His great teaching on His Second Coming to establish His Kingdom.

That is finished now. Jesus ends the day then with the disciples talking about His Second Coming and His Kingdom. Meanwhile, meanwhile the leaders are intent on planning and pulling off His murder.

How out of touch with reality are they? As the account in chapter 14 unfolds, we see the different players and the first ones we meet are the religious leaders. But before we can look at them in verses 1 and 2, we've got to back up a moment and identify the one who is orchestrating everything by His providential power and that is none other than God. That's implied in the opening statement. Now the Passover and unleavened bread were two days away. That is not incidental information. It is the purpose of God that on that Passover in A.D. 30, on the fourteenth of the month Nisan, at the very hour when the Passover lambs were being slain on the Passover, three in the afternoon, Jesus would die.

That's pretty specific. God's plan was that in A.D. 30, Nisan 14, on the Passover on Friday, at three o'clock in the afternoon, or about that time, when all the Passover lambs were beginning to be slaughtered, the true Passover would die. Jesus died at three o'clock on that Friday at that Passover. What makes it interesting is that is exactly the time the leaders didn't want to have to kill Him. That was the last time they would have wanted to murder Him. But that was God's time and they frankly were not in charge.

It's so important for you to see this because all the way through we're going to acknowledge the unseen hand of God in every single detail. Now there were three main feasts the Jews celebrated, the Feast of Pentecost which was a kind of first fruits, Feast of Booths, remembering the wandering in the wilderness, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Feast of Unleavened Bread, remember, commemorated the exodus when they made the unleavened bread and left Egypt. These were celebrations to commemorate past events in their history. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was seven days long and commemorated the unleavened bread in the exodus back in Exodus chapter 12 verses 15 to 20.

It was held on Nisan 15th to 21st. Originally it was during barley harvest, according to Exodus and the book of Deuteronomy. The fourteenth was the day before. The day before the unleavened bread was Passover and that's the order they appear in verse 1. The Passover is on the fourteenth, starting the fifteenth and running for seven days, Feast of Unleavened Bread. Because you remember that when they left Egypt prior to their leaving with their unleavened bread, there was the Passover.

Kill the lamb, put the blood on the doorpost and the little and the angel of death will pass over you. And they were celebrating God's salvation of them in Egypt with their Passover. They still do it, it's the Jewish Seder. Passover, by the way, comes from a Hebrew word pesah which means to jump over because the angel of death jumped over their blood-spattered houses in Egypt. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was then connected to the Passover so that they were terms used interchangeably.

God's let's follow this...God's purpose was to have the Lord the Passover with His disciples. On Thursday night...listen to this timetable...late Thursday night they're having the Passover, they're in to Friday. The plan was to have Jesus arrested very early in the morning, tried in the morning which was illegal, sentenced in the morning and crucified in the morning. Die at three Friday afternoon and be in the grave before six cause He had to be three days in the grave. What an amazing timetable. And then rise again Sunday.

If you got all these people together and tried to organize that, you couldn't pull it off. That kind of precision timetable. Mark identifies the fact that the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away, it's still Wednesday. Friday is the day for Jesus to die.

This is God's plan...this is God's plan. Jesus even said in John 10 18, No one takes My life from Me, I lay it down on Myself. And you remember when He was hanging on the cross and He said, It is finished, and He died, they were shocked? The reason they were shocked is He screamed at the top of His voice before He died. And if He had the air in His lungs to scream at the top of His voice, He had enough air to survive. Many times His death was sought...many times.

But His enemies were never able to kill Him. Go back to chapter 3 in Mark and verse 6, you see an illustration of it there. On another occasion recorded in the fifth chapter of John, He went to the pool of Bethesda near Jerusalem and He healed a crippled man. And He did it on the Sabbath which infuriated the leaders. And it says the Jewish leaders were seeking all the more to kill Him because He was breaking the Sabbath and He was calling God His Father and making Himself equal with God. They would have killed Him right there on that Sabbath or the next day, but they were unable.

There probably are many other attempts on the life of Jesus that aren't recorded for us in the gospels, but recorded or unrecorded, every one of them failed because it wasn't His time. It wasn't God's time for the Lamb to be slain. The Lamb would be slain at the Passover on this year on that day.

The very details of the schedule were set. Luke 22, 22, Jesus said, The Son of Man goes as it has been determined. And Acts 2, 23, determined by the foreknowledge of God, the predetermined foreknowledge of God. Divinely decreed to die at the Passover when the lambs were being slain because He was the Lamb of God whose death would take away the sin of the world. When you look at the events concerning the Lord Jesus Christ on the surface, the arrest, the unjust trial, the unjust execution is a heinous series of crimes and its perpetrators bear the guilt for the injustices. No victim of injustice was ever more innocent than the sinless Son of God, the most innocent because perfectly righteous, perfectly holy, perfectly sinless. He therefore was unjustly accused and He was unjustly executed. He is murdered unjustly at the hands of men.

And can I add something maybe you never thought about? He suffered unjustly at the hands of men and He also suffered at the hands of God. There was nothing by which men could indict Him and there was nothing for which God could indict Him either. He was punished for sins He didn't do, right? What the Jews accused Him of, He didn't do. They finally accused Him of leading an insurrection against Caesar.

He didn't do that. They punished Him for what He didn't do. But God punished Him for what He didn't do also.

He suffered as if He was guilty. Most evil act ever perpetrated by evil men and yet the most wonderful and loving act ever perpetrated by God. The worst miscarriage of justice in history and yet the greatest satisfaction of justice in history. The cross is full of paradoxes and conundrums.

Human injustice, at its worst, of course. But the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was also the greatest act of divine justice. Even though God killed Him for sins He didn't commit, God killed Him for sins we did commit. We did commit, done for the most wonderful purpose, to secure the salvation of sinners and bring them to heaven. If you don't understand the cross this way, you can't be a Christian.

This is the heart of everything. He was killed by the Holy One who loved Him. He was killed by the One who loved Him perfectly to satisfy divine justice and divine righteousness on behalf of unworthy, undeserving sinners so that, not for us, so that God might give to His Son through His Son's death a redeemed humanity to praise Him forever and ever and ever and ever.

Jesus Christ then is not killed because His plan went bad, because the revolution was rejected. He is placed on the cross by the Father, and Isaiah 53 says it, it's unmistakably clear, but the Lord was pleased to crush Him. Isaiah 53, 10, putting Him to grief as a guilt offering for His good pleasure.

Death of Christ is no accident. He was sent to die and it pleased the Father to crush Him. And Isaiah 53 says He was wounded for our transgressions.

He was bruised for our iniquities. He was chastened for our peace with God. And God was fully satisfied with His sacrifice and that's why He raised Him from the dead, exalted Him to His right hand, made Him a High Priest over His own, and one day will send Him to establish His everlasting Kingdom.

He didn't die an unexpected death. He said many times, John likes to record this, my hour has not come, my hour has not come, my hour has not come. And then you come to chapter 12 of John and all of a sudden he says the hour has come. John 12, John 13, even John 17, he refers to the hour, the moment, the epic moment. Matthew 26, 18, he calls it my time. This is the man delivered over by the predetermined will of God. Well just for a glimpse, and it's only a moment to do so, we come to the bit players in this drama.

God is directing everything, but let's just meet the first little group. The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him, for they were saying not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people. So what's the one time they didn't want to kill Him? During the Passover, during this period.

Why? Jerusalem had swelled with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who had all come for this most attended feast of the year. But they need to get together to kill Him. They've got a plan to do it, but they don't want to do it during this week. The Sanhedrin again is who they are. The chief priests and the scribes is just representative of this ruling group, 70 men plus the high priest who were involved in all these plans. Matthew 26, 3 says they met together at the house of a high priest Caiaphas. They met at his house in his courtyard to plan how to kill Christ.

They couldn't tolerate Him anymore. He came in, He attracted all the interests of the people in that supposed triumphal entry. He attacked their temple. He taught all day Wednesday contrary to everything they believed. So in John, I'll take you to the meeting now. The meeting minutes are recorded in John 11, 47. The chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council and were saying, What are we doing?

This man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him and the Romans will come and take away our place and our nation. You know, for the people in the Sanhedrin, it was about politics. The Sadducees didn't care about theology at all and they were the main players. They were afraid that they were going to lose their freedoms as a nation. They were going to lose some social ground. They were going to lose some political clout and some power because if the people go after Jesus, the Romans are going to come and they're going to see this as a threat to them, we're going to be in trouble. So Caiaphas who was high priest said to them, You know nothing at all.

You guys aren't any good at coming up with an answer. What are you going to do? Verse 50, Nor do you take into account that it's expedient for you that one man die for the people rather than the whole nation perish. We have to kill him. And so verse 53 says, So from that day on they planned together to kill him. But one thing for sure, we do not want to arrest him in public and we do not want to kill him this week. We want to hold him over until the unleavened bread feast is over and the crowds have gone. Passover would be the absolute worst time to arrest and murder Jesus and the worst time of that whole time would be to do it on Passover on that Friday when all the Passover lambs were being killed.

Everybody would know it. It was the worst time, but they weren't in charge of that. It was God's time. In fact, God moved them so fast they arrested Him in the night. They tried Him in the morning. They crucified Him in the morning. He was dead by three in the afternoon off the cross through the request of Joseph of Arimathea, body down in the grave before the day is over. They couldn't postpone what God had designed. One of the greatest providential workings of God ever was the murder of Jesus. So the Jewish leaders set their plans, but their plans are thwarted and replaced by the plan of God. And keep in mind, you can own this series on CD.

It comes with a lot of material that we don't have time to air, so you'll want to get the whole thing. To order The Divine Drama of Redemption, contact us today. To pick up the 14-CD album, call toll-free 800-55-GRACE or go to our website, The Divine Drama of Redemption.

It's a perfect study to go through with your family as you get ready for Easter. Again, to order your copy, call 800-55-GRACE or go to And while you're online, remember you can also download the messages from The Divine Drama of Redemption. Both the MP3s and the transcripts are free of charge. In fact, all of John's sermons, over 3,500 of them, are available for free at our website. Those transcripts are great resources for pastors, Sunday school teachers, or any student of Scripture. And again, to download The Divine Drama of Redemption, either the audio or the transcripts, visit That's our website. One more time, And also, to keep up to date on all the resources available from Grace To You, follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to be here tomorrow when John looks at a lesser-known event in the Passion Week, but one that adds profoundly to the story. Don't miss the next half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-15 15:29:06 / 2023-12-15 15:39:05 / 10

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