The Heart of the Cross (2)

Sermon by Derek Thomas on October 24, 2010

John 19:16-42

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The
Lord’s Day Morning

October 24, 2010

John 19:1-22

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,

“They
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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