It’s not always easy to believe that God is in control. God exercised his sovereign control in the crucifixion of Jesus. The apostle John describes Jesus’ cross of shame as his throne of glory. It’s a paradox that challenges our limited experience and perception, to interpret life under the guidance of God’s Word.
The passion of Jesus was the climax of a life spent doing only the Father’s will. When the soldiers from the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling council) came to arrest him, Jesus did not resist because it was part of his Father’s plan (18:4). Even when they all fell over themselves (18:6) he didn’t try to escape. He didn’t even want Peter to defend him because he was committed to drinking the cup his Father had given him (18:11).
At his arrest, his disciples abandoned him. While Jesus was being tried before the Sanhedrin, Peter, who had professed undying loyalty just hours before, denied him three times. And yet, Jesus was not a helpless victim of circumstances. He was a captive; but he was in absolute control of the proceedings.
The Jews wanted to kill Jesus but they didn’t have the authority. So they had to bring him to Pilate. When Pilate tried to assert his authority over Jesus, Jesus passed judgment on him saying, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given to you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (19:11). The prisoner has become the judge! Pilate had declared Jesus innocent (19:4, 6), but he gave in to the Jews’ threats (19:12) and handed Jesus over to be crucified. But in this travesty of justice, Jesus accomplished God’s purposes (12:27). He was still in control.
Jesus had said they would learn his identity when he was lifted up (8:28). Sure enough, at Jesus’ crucifixion, Pilate put up the inscription “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” to embarrass the Jews. He was mocking them with his ability to subject their “King” to the most humiliating death possible. And yet the irony is that he spoke more truly than he could imagine. Pilate unwittingly bore witness to Jesus’ identity as the true King. The crucifixion of Jesus was his enthronement. Such is the glory and majesty of Jesus that he turned that rude cross into his throne. The moment of his greatest humiliation was the moment of his lifting up — his exaltation. This is the glory of Jesus the sovereign King.
The cross displays the glory of Jesus’ love. Jesus had said “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (15:13). And that’s exactly what he was doing on the cross. Jesus died on the cross to cleanse us from our sin, so that he might bear the Father’s holy wrath toward sin. And in his death — that ultimate defeat — was ultimate victory. On the cross, he appeased the Father’s wrath; by his death he paid the price for our sins. And he did this out of love. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (13:1).
But beyond his love for us, he died for us because he loved the Father (14:31). He died in submission to the Father so that God might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26). He went to the cross out of love — for us and for the Father. The glory of Jesus was on display on the cross — in his sacrificial love that gives everything.
But we don’t understand the glory of Jesus on the cross until we see it in light of the resurrection. In the same way, we won’t understand what’s going on in the world right now. We rarely see what God is doing, neither do we fully understand God’s actions. But, God’s Word assures us he is in control. In all events and occurrences, he is working out his purposes.
Father, thank you that you are sovereign, in control of even the smallest details of our lives. We don't always understand your plan, but we can know that if you allow suffering, it is because you have an eternal plan that includes it and will ultimately serve to glorify you. Help us trust you in the dark times, knowing we have an eternal, perfect future awaiting us in your Kingdom. Amen.
Throughout This Day: Take heart: God is accomplishing his wise and holy plans even through the most horrific events. This is a mystery beyond our ability to explain, but Jesus’ crucifixion demonstrates the sovereign control of our God. Let’s entrust ourselves into his care.
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