As the most earth-shaking event of human history this side of the Apocalypse approached, God was preparing the stage, moving everything into place for this divine culmination.
The setting: Jesus Himself said that Jerusalem was the only appropriate place for him to die (Luke 13:33). This is the focal point to which all the players converge.
The time: Passover, the celebration of God’s deliverance of the Israelites by means of the blood of a lamb. Now the true Lamb would provide deliverance for ALL people through His blood. (Interestingly, the Jewish leaders who were plotting Jesus’ death decided that it should NOT be during the Passover! Mark 14:2)
Jesus: “As the time drew near for his return to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51) (This was foretold in Isaiah 50:6-7.)
Jesus’ followers: En route to Jerusalem, Jesus was followed by his disciples who were “astonished.” And the people walking behind them were “overwhelmed with fear.” (Mark 10:32) Did they have a premonition of what was about to happen?
The Jewish crowds: An estimated 200,000 Jews may have been in Jerusalem for the Passover, including pilgrims from far and wide. Many arrived along with Jesus on the Sunday before, waving palm branches and hailing Him as “the King of Israel!” (John 12:12-13) Another crowd who assembled before Pilate a few days later yielded to pressure to shout “Crucify Him!”
The Jewish religious leaders: Jealous of their power, they had already decided that Jesus had to be eliminated. Just how and when was uncertain until Judas showed up at their door.
Judas: Though still in Jesus’ entourage, he was entertaining mutinous thoughts. His already mercenary heart was outraged by the “waste” of Mary’s extravagant gift to Jesus. (John 12:4-6) It was only a small step further to “sell” Jesus for whatever he could get out of it.
Satan: He “entered into” Judas and prompted him to betray him to the religious leaders—for 30 pieces of silver. (Luke 22:3)
Pilate: He had made the journey from his home in Caesarea to be on hand for whatever contingencies might require his presence in Jerusalem during the festival.
Mary: Residing in Galilee and no longer a young woman by that day’s standards, she must have made the arduous trip to Jerusalem for this event. Little did she know how it would really turn out, till she found herself at the foot of the cross, watching her son suffer and die.
Barabbas: On death row for his own crimes, he had no idea that soon he would be set free in exchange for the One who came to ransom all who are under the eternal death sentence.
In which of these characters do we see ourselves?