The last few weeks and days as I’ve poured myself into the Scripture accounts of the history-changing events in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, I’ve been struck by one resounding theme: Jesus was in total control. Jesus held total, complete, utter control over every single facet of his betrayal, beating, mocking, death, and of course resurrection.
This week it’s been impressed upon my heart how nobody else in the scene really seemed to have a clue what was going on – even the chief priests, leaders, and soldiers who were doing it all to him. They seem primarily to be acting out of ‘mob mentality’ – having not individually really thought out and evaluated the consequences of their actions. But not Jesus. He is steady, immovable, unstoppable, forward moving, totally in control as he marches toward the cross.
By no means would I ever attempt to list all the ways Jesus was/is in control over the salvation of the world…that would be impossible and my brain can’t even comprehend the enormity of that. But as I’ve been stunned this week by Jesus’ control over his own death, I’ve just grown to love him more and more; and I’d like to wrestle through some of this with you too.
Control over the Timing
Jesus came to save the world, and the whole time he lived on earth, he knew the exact day and time it was going to happen. I was deeply struck the other day as I read John 11:53-54 to my kids:
“So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.”
Jesus was in full control over the timing. He had to die at Passover, so as the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem began plotting his death months earlier, Jesus lived out in the wilderness with his friends. Not because he was scared and hiding…but because it wasn’t time yet.
If he’d been scared and trying to hide, he wouldn’t have paraded into Jerusalem five days before his death. Even as he rode in with the crowds crying “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday, he knew full well that he was riding in toward his death. He was in total control.
It hit me just yesterday or the day before that not even Judas, his betrayer, knew the timing. Judas had already decided to betray Jesus, but Matthew 26:16 tells us that from the moment Judas got paid from the chief priests, “he sought an opportunity to betray him.” Judas was still seeking that opportunity when, during the Last Supper, Jesus said quietly to him, “What you are going to do, do it quickly.” (John 13:27) It seems to me that Judas probably didn’t know that tonight was the night. But Jesus knew and Jesus was in control. He had come to save the world and he was absolutely intent on his mission. So he told Judas it was time. Astounding.
Control in the Garden
The Garden of Gethsemane. Oh my. I dare not say much because no human can grasp the agony and pain that Jesus was suffering as he prayed over his impending death. Never would I want to presume that I knew was my Lord was going through in that garden; but I have been impacted by a number of things the last few weeks as I’ve read these texts.
First of all, the fact that Jesus would take the disciples to this particular garden is just so beautiful to me. John tells us that Jesus and his disciples went there often (John 18:2). Don’t you love a familiar place at a scary time? It’s a garden at night at spring time. Wonderful smells, dew upon the plants making them smell even better, a place where they’ve met and talked and probably laughed and rested a number of times. His disciples are scared and sorrowful and confused, and Jesus brings them to a familiar place. Don’t you just love him?
And then also the control he displays here. He knew Judas was coming with soliders, and Jesus did not make this hard on Judas. He didn’t hide – he went to a place that he knew Judas would find him. Total control.
Luke’s gospel account shows us Jesus prayed from a place of total agony while he was in the garden, such that his sweat fell like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). He prayed earnestly that the Father would remove this cup of suffering from Jesus: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will" (Mark 14). Do you see the total control in that prayer? Jesus had total control over his human emotions (because he was in fact fully human as well as being fully God) and total ability to submit to the authority of his Father.
Luke tells us that an angel from heaven came down to the garden to be with and strengthen Jesus. I just love that. I love the Father’s love here. We can never know how the Father spoke to his Son at that moment, but I love the tenderness that I perceive went on. It’s as if the Father reassuring the Son, “You have to do this. It’s the only way” and tenderly sending down a messenger from heaven to give Jesus strength. And then Jesus, being in total control, announces to his disciples, “It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand” (Mark 14:41-42)
All four Gospel accounts show how the soldiers really didn’t know which man Jesus was, but that Jesus, being in absolute control, just tells them, “I am he.” There were hundreds of soldiers present, and John records that at this announcement from the Great I AM, they all fell down (John 18:6).
Jesus’ control and majesty must have been palpable.
Control over his trial
As they take Jesus to trial, it’s clear in each gospel account that the chief priests, soldiers, and crowds are just acting out of mob mentality. No one can actually find Jesus guilty of anything or accuse him of anything substantive, yet the leaders, and eventually the whole crowd of people, are screaming for him to be crucified. Jesus doesn’t fight or flee. There are other times during his earthly ministry when Jesus seemingly supernaturally escaped angry mobs, but here he doesn’t. But he wasn’t a pushover either. He was in total control over the outcome of this trial. When Pilate asked him, “Don’t you know I have authority to release you or crucify you?” Jesus calmly and authoritatively says tells him that Pilate doesn’t actually have power here; God does (John 19:11). Jesus is in full control, willingly undergoing the mocking, spitting, flogging, thorns, bleeding. He is immovable and unstoppable in his mission to save us.
Control on the Cross
I don’t want to say too much here because Scripture is just too beautiful in its perfection. But oh, the control of Jesus on the cross. Here we have an innocent man, God himself who has lived forever in the splendor of heaven, being tortured, stripped, and killed in one of the most inhumane ways in the history of the world. And yet we here not one complaint. He was absolutely willing and in control of this moment. It takes my breath away. He didn’t even take the numbing wine/myrrh mixture (Mark 15:23) He forgave the soldiers as they were crucifying him (Luke 23:34). He welcomed the thief into the Kingdom of Heaven (Luke 23:43) He made plans for His mother to be cared for (John 19:26-27). Total control.
Also, which I cannot even fathom enough to write about, Jesus was bearing all of the sins of the world inside his own body as he hung on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). He actually became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) as he hung on the cross. And yet, being also fully God, we see no sinful nature in him. We see grace, forgiveness, unimaginable love. He is in total control over the sin that is being crucified with him.
Control over Death
And last, Jesus was in control over his death. Let these Scriptures take your breath away:
“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.” Matthew 27:50
“And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.” Mark 15:37
“Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last.” Luke 23:46
“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30
Do you see it? Jesus was in absolute control over his death. Months before the cross Jesus said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (John 10:18). The Cross isn’t something that was done to Jesus, The Cross is what Jesus willingly did for us. He willingly took on our punishment of sin and death so that we could become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
And the final word – Jesus’ control over death means victory over death. As Peter preaches in Acts 2: “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24).
Death did not and does not have control.
Jesus has control.
Amen and Amen.