The Lord's Day Morning
October 24, 2010
“The Heart of the Cross” (2)
Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made the heavens and the earth. Let us worship God.
Lord, our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we come into Your presence clothed in the righteous robe of the finished work and obedience of Jesus Christ on our behalf.
We come to extol Jesus. We come to lift Him up in Your presence. We ask for the help and benediction and enabling of the Holy Spirit that we might worship You in spirit and in truth.
We ask, O Lord, at this first day of the week that our voices, our hearts, our affections, our wills might altogether be Yours.
And we ask now for help in all that we do in this next hour, that our voices might mingle with angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, the mighty host of God, to give You glory and honor and blessing and praise and thanksgiving.
Hear us, O Lord. We ask it all in Jesus' name. Amen.
Now turn with me once again to John chapter 19; John 19. We began last Lord's Day to look at the first sixteen verses of this chapter. We were examining together the trial of Jesus and the sentencing of Jesus and the scourging or the flogging of Jesus as we find it recorded there in the first verse of chapter 19.
As I said then, there were in fact in all likelihood two floggings: one that John records there and one that takes places right at the beginning of our reading today. Mark refers to another flogging, the so-called verboratial – brutal. A man would be tied to a post, stripped of his outer garments to his bare back. Two soldiers with whips and bits of metal and bone and they would flog a man until they grew tired or until the captain would order them to stop. The point of scourging was to hasten the process of crucifixion.
Now before we read the passage let's look to God in prayer.
Lord, we look at a passage this morning that is holy ground even in scripture itself. We want the Holy Spirit to come and help us; that this, though familiar ground, might also instill within us a sense of awe and wonder. So come, Holy Spirit. Help us to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
This is God's holy and inerrant Word:
“So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
divided my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Women, behold your son!” then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for the Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw the he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness – his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth– that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom the have pierced.”
After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes; about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.”
Amen. May God add His blessing to the reading of His holy and inerrant Word.
If you turn back just for a second or so to chapter 18 and verse 37. In the course of the trial with Pilate, Pontius Pilate, one of the accusations that the Jews had made against Jesus was sedition; that He had made himself a king. And Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”
And then in verse 39 at the end of the verse, Pilate is now speaking to the Jews, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” And scholars and students of the gospel of John as they attempt to answer the question, “How is John's account of the crucifixion different from Matthew or Mark or Luke's account of the crucifixion?” have pointed to the fact that John is deliberately describing the crucifixion in terms of the kingship of Jesus; that He is in fact the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Having flogged Him again to within an inch of His life, bleeding and gory, He now passes through the streets of Jerusalem to a place outside of the city called Golgotha bearing the cross. The upright of the cross was already in place. It is the crossbeam that Jesus in now carrying. Other gospel writers will tell you that He is now so weakened by the flogging that one of the soldiers requisitions Simon of Cyrene to carry this cross for Him.
And in verse 18 having reached the place called Golgotha, there they crucified Him. They would have nailed His hands into the crossbeam, tied His legs together, hoisted the crossbeam onto the upright; nailed His feet into that upright, wearing a crown of thorns.
Martin Hengel is an authority on the study of crucifixion in the ancient world. He cites Lucius Seneca in the middle of the first century. “I see crosses there, not just of one kind, but made in many different ways–some victims with head down to the ground; some impaled their private parts; others stretch out their hands on a gibbet.” He goes on to cite another document, Sudo Meetha. “They’re punished with limbs outstretched. They see the stake as their fate. They’re fastened and nailed to it in the most bitter torment–food for birds of prey, grim pickings for dogs.”
John draws account to a plaque that Pilate has ordered be placed above the head of Jesus. It bears the words, “King of the Jews”. It's in Aramaic and Latin and Greek. It's meant to convey a number of things. It was customary for the charge to be written on a plaque and placed above the head on the upright pole as a Roman warning deterrent to others. It's written in Greek, the language of art and music and philosophy, the common language of the empire; written in Latin, the legal, formal language of the empire; written in Aramaic, perhaps Hebrew. Hebrew wasn't spoken, hadn't been spoken in Jerusalem for 300 years. The native language that Jesus spoke was undoubtedly Aramaic, but the language of the synagogue, the language of the text of the Old Testament was Hebrew. The religious world, the Jewish world, the Greek world, the Latin world, for all the world to see that His crime is sedition.
Do you remember the Jews finally turned to Pilate and said, “If you release this man you are no friend of Caesar” because Tiberius Caesar had a short fuse to anyone who showed any disrespect. He's taunting, Pilate is taunting the Jewish leaders, the High Priests, Caiaphas and Annas especially because they object and they say, “Don't write ‘King of the Jews’, but ‘He said he is King of the Jews.” And Pilate says, “What I have written I have written.”
This is the enthronement of the King–not on a throne, not on a dais, but on a cross–on an instrument of execution and bloody torture and death. “Behold, your King!” enthroned on a cross–for us.
John goes on to describe the clothes. At an enthronement you would be expecting marvelous clothes and furs and linens of regal splendor, but this in not the scene that John sees. He sees Jesus disrobed–the outer garment, the sandals, the head gear, the waistband, and then an inner tunic–expensive. Somebody had given it to Him; pricey, seamless. And as the soldiers see this they cast lots as to who will get it. Yes, Jesus was naked in all likelihood; shamed, no covering.
You remember what the fourth servant song says in Isaiah? “We hid, as it were, our faces from him ashamed to look.” Disrobed; stripped of His clothes. The Last Adam impaled, naked–for us, for us.
And John goes on to describe the King's final acts. There is His mother and aunt and two others. Jesus loved His mother with a tenderness that no one has ever seen before or since. She had borne Him. She had nursed Him, changed Him, taught Him; sang with Him. She did memory verses with Him, verses that perhaps that He now cites from the cross that His mother taught Him. He turns to John, the disciple whom He loved and He says to John, “Behold, your mother!” He turns to His mother and says, “Woman, behold your son!” He's starting a new family, do you see? Because if you’re in Jesus, if you believe in Jesus you’re in the family of God and you have new brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers. The King from His cross, naked before His mother, is saying “I start a new family here.”
And then He says, “I thirst.” He may be citing Psalm 22 or He may be citing Psalm 69, both of which allude to the suffering servant, thirsty; Psalm 69 especially. One of the Psalms refers to the tongue stuck almost to the roof of your mouth. He's parched. In His human body that had organs and nerve endings and needs like your body and my body. He's thirsty. And soldiers on a hyssop rod with a sponge give him sour wine, cheap nasty stuff you’d put in a brown bag, to fulfill Scripture. He thirsts, brothers, sisters, so that you and I need never thirst again. Do you remember how John had referred to it back in John chapter 7 that out of Him will flow rivers of living water? He thirsts that I might find satisfaction in Him.
And then John says when Jesus had received the sour wine, verse 30, He said, “It is finished. It is finished, Telelestai – it's done.” He's a King, do you see, even now as life is ebbing away from His body, as His body is in torment. You would be crucified with your knees bent and there’d be a little block perhaps on the upright so that you could just rest a little on it, but you understand it wasn't to relieve or ease. It was to add to the agony, having constantly to push down so that air could be drawn into the lungs, in order so that He can speak. He’d come to do a work. He’d come to fulfill His Father's request, “Who will go for Me? Who will save My people?” And Jesus had said, “I will do it. I will do it.” He’d come as the servant. He’d come to do this work. And do you notice how John describes His death? As life ebbs away, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. He did it! He did it!
You know, in theology we talk about the active and passive work of Christ and by the passive work of Christ we're referring to that which He did as our substitute on the cross, but the term is in felicitous because nothing Jesus did was passive. Even in dying, even in His death, he is active. He gives it away. No man snatches is from Him.
Who killed Jesus? Was it Judas out of greed? Was it Pilate out of fear? Was it Jews out of envy? Was it Roman soldiers out of duty? This was Jesus’ work. This was Jesus’ work. For us, for us and He is dead. He is dead. His heart has stopped beating. Brain waves have ceased. He is dead, however you want to define clinical death, He is dead. A dead body, a corpse is in union with the divine nature of the second person of the Trinity. For us–He is dead for us. He has borne this death, this horrid death, this excruciating death; He's borne it for us. God the father has poured out His wrath upon Him for us; made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin that we might be reckoned the righteousness of God in Him.
Soldiers come because the Jews, it's a High Holy Day. It's the Sabbath and they don't want dead bodies hung on crosses on the Sabbath so they urge Pilate that their legs would be broken to hasten the death just in case some of them are still lingering, but Jesus is already dead. Soldier, perhaps because he wasn't sure, sticks a spear in His side and out of His side, blood and water, pulmonary edema, perhaps. Lungs now filled with fluid; the heart unable to get rid of it. He has drowned. Horrible, awful death–for us.
You see the King's enthronement, you see the King's disrobing; you see the King's final act; you see the King's burial. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both of whom had come by night, fearful, now do this extraordinarily brave and courageous thing. Joseph asks for the body of Jesus. Nicodemus brings these spices, myrrh and aloes, seventy-five pounds in weight, fit for a king, do you see?
When Gamaliel, Paul's teacher, died he was buried with a similar amount of spices and people said, “Why so much?” And the answer was, “He was worth more than a hundred kings.” They’re burying a King here.
How deep the Father's love for us; how deep the Father's love for us; how vast beyond all measure that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure. ‘Behold the man upon the cross. My sin upon His shoulders, ashamed, I hear my mocking voice cry out among the scoffers. ‘Twas my sin that held Him there. ‘Twas my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished.’
Can you say this morning, “If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now; if ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.” He loved me. He gave himself for me, in my place, in my stead, in my room. What wondrous love is this?
Father, we don't know where to begin to thank You. Even our gratitude is full of sin. It is so inadequate. It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished.
We thank You this morning for that Word, “It is finished.” There is nothing for me to do. Jesus did it all.
Let's sing together this wonderful hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross–252.
Grace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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