The Compelling Cross of Christ
John 19:1-30 & Luke 23:32-43
Sermon by Rick Crandall
McClendon Baptist Church - March 21, 2010
*Max Lucado wrote: “The Cross: It rests on the time line of history like a compelling diamond. Its tragedy summons all sufferers. Its absurdity attracts all critics. Its hope lures all searchers.
*My, what a piece of wood! History has idolized it. And despised it, gold plated it and burned it, worn it and trashed it. History has done everything to it but ignore it. That’s the one option that the cross does not offer.
*No one can ignore it! You can’t ignore a piece of lumber that suspends the greatest claim in history: A crucified carpenter claiming that he is God on earth!
*The cross. Its bottom line is sobering. If the account is true, it is history’s hinge. Period.” (1)
*But why is the cross history’s hinge? Why is the cross so important? The Word of God shows us. And today we will explore four facets of the cross, four features that compel us to trust in Jesus Christ.
1. First: Trust in Jesus for the misery of His cross.
*Trust in Jesus for the pain, suffering and humiliation He went through for us. We see part of the Lord’s misery in John 19:1-3:
1. So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.
2. And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe.
3. Then they said, "Hail, King of the Jews!'' And they struck Him with their hands.
*They scourged Jesus. They scourged Him. Even the word sounds ugly, but no word can capture the brutality of the beating Jesus took from a whip laced with scraps of metal and glass. Then, the mocking with the crown of thorns, the purple robe, and their cruel praise: “Hail, King of the Jews!” It meant “Rejoice, be glad, fare well! Good health to you! Peace to you King of the Jews!”
*They mocked Jesus with their cruel praise. And they struck Him with the palms of their hands. Matt 27:30-31 adds that they spat on Him, and took a reed and struck Him on the head to drive those thorns deep into the Lord’s scalp. Then they put His own clothes back on Him, and led Jesus away to be crucified.
*Those Roman soldiers were vicious and cruel. And it’s easy to think, “I’m glad I’m not like that.” But it never would have happened without our sin.
*It surely wasn’t the Lord’s sins that took Him to the cross. Jesus was innocent. Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent from the start. Matt 27:17&18, tells us that Pilate asked the chief priests: “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that because of envy they had delivered Him. Then, in John 18:38, Pilate told the Jewish leaders, “I find no fault in (Jesus) at all.”
*Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent. Look at John 19:4: “Pilate then went out again, and said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.’” Now look at vs. 6: “Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.’”
*Pilate was sure that Jesus was innocent. -- But he had Jesus scourged and crucified anyway, just as God had always planned. Jesus was perfectly innocent. He never sinned a single time. And thank God for His perfection! Jesus couldn’t die for your sins, if He had to die for His own. But Jesus Christ did suffer and die for our sins.
*As Wayde Wilson said: “Jesus Christ carried much more than the cross. He carried the weight of the world’s sins on his shoulders. Every sin you can think of was added to the weight. -- Your sin was added to that weight.” (2)
*W.A. Criswell was one of the best known preachers of the last 100 years. He was the pastor of FBC in Dallas for 50 years!
*One time Dr. Criswell told the church about a dream he had. And in this dream, Dr. Criswell saw Jesus. The Lord’s back was bare and there was a soldier lifting up his hand and bringing down that awful scourge. In the dream Dr. Criswell reached out to grab the soldier’s arm to hold it back. When he did, the soldier turned in astonishment and looked at Dr. Criswell.
*Then, Dr. Criswell looked at the soldier’s face, and saw that the soldier was him! Jesus went through all of that misery for our sins. (3)
*Trust in Jesus for the misery of His cross.
2. And trust Him for the miracles of His cross.
*Amazing things happened the day that Jesus died for us. Matt 27: 45 tells us that “from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.” Matt 27:51-53 also tells us that after Jesus died:
51. Behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,
52. and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;
53. and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
*There were many miracles on the day of the cross, but the miracle I want to focus on this morning is the miracle you hold in your hands. -- It’s the miracle of God’s Word, the miracle of prophecy fulfilled.
*We see one example in John 19:23-24:
23. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece.
24. They said therefore among themselves, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,'' that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: "They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.'' Therefore the soldiers did these things.
*Here God fulfilled the prophecy written in Psalm 22:18, “They divide My garments among them and for My clothing they cast lots.” The Holy Spirit inspired King David to write these words a thousand years before Jesus was born!
*God’s prophecies were miraculously fulfilled many times on the day Jesus died. So, the cross helps prove that this book is God’s Book. No one but God could have foretold the things we see here. There is no other book like this Book.
*John Newton reminded us of that when he said, “Take a toy away from a child and give him another and he is satisfied. -- But if he is hungry, no toy will do. As newborn babies, true believers desire the sincere milk of the Word.” That’s because no other book is like this book. -- And the cross helps prove it. (4)
*Since God fulfilled the prophecies of the cross, we can depend on all of His prophecies. We can depend on all of the promises God made to us. So trust in Jesus for the miracles of His cross.
3. And trust Him for the mercy of His cross.
*One of the best places to see the mercy of the cross is in Luke 23. Please look first at vs. 32-34:
32. There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death.
33. And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.
34. Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.''
*The multiplied mercy of the cross! -- “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
*Now look at vs. 39-43:
39. Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.''
40. But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?
41. And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.''
42. Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.''
43. And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.''
*That thief fully trusted in the Lord’s mercy. D.L. Moody concluded that the prayer in vs. 34 must have been what converted the thief on the cross. (5)
*Through the agony of the cross, the thief heard Jesus pray, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” -- And the thief believed in the Lord. Nothing else could reach him, until he saw the merciful love of Jesus Christ:
-Love not for the righteous. -- But for the unrighteous.
-Not for the good. -- But for sinners.
-Not just for His friends. -- But even for His enemies.
*James McCullen compared the Lord’s sacrifice to Secret Service agents and said: “In the case of an assassination attempt, it's their job to throw their body in the path of the bullet in order to save the President. Secret Service agents are willing to do such a thing, because they believe that the President is so valuable to our country that he is worth dying for. They wouldn't be willing to take a bullet for just anybody.
*At the cross, the situation was reversed. The President of the Universe took a bullet for each of us. At the cross, we find out just how valuable we are to God. But the value doesn’t come from our goodness. It comes from the Lord’s infinite goodness and love.” (6)
*The thief fully trusted in the Lord’s mercy. We see his faith in the request he made in vs. 42: “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” What faith! That request was based on faith that Jesus was bigger than the cross, -- and even bigger than death.
*What faith! There was Jesus still hanging on the cross, -- not risen from the dead. The stone had not been rolled away. But the saved thief believed that Jesus would live and reign forever. And he trusted that the Lord could save him.
*Ken Gehrels described the request this way: “Jesus, when you come there, could there be maybe a little corner for me? Jesus, when you come there, please don't abandon me to eternal darkness, to being a wandering soul with no place to go, or a soul in eternal torment. -- Jesus -- mercy!” (7)
*This thief trusted that the Lord could save him. And when he heard the Lord’s answer, he trusted that the Lord would save him, because in vs. 43, Jesus told him: “Surely, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.''
*And Ken Gehrels said: “No ‘Maybe, -- we'll see.’ No ‘Someday.’ No ‘Why should I?’ No ‘Absolutely not!’ Instead: ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise.’ -- An absolute guarantee that would be served up in a moment.
*The convict relaxes. No more is said. No more needs to be said. It's OK. -- Eternally OK.” (7)
*That kind of trust in Jesus Christ will take you to Heaven. And it is the only thing that will get you there. As D.L. Moody once said: “The thief had nails through both hands, so that he could not work [his way to Heaven]. He had a nail through each foot, so that he could not run errands for the Lord. He could not lift a hand or a foot toward his salvation, and yet Christ offered him the gift of God; and he took it. Christ threw him a passport, and took him into Paradise.” -- And why: Because this thief trusted in the Lord’s mercy. (8)
*Trust in Jesus for the mercy of His cross.
4. And trust Him for the mission of His cross.
*We find the mission of the cross back in John 19. Please look at vs. 28-30:
28. After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!''
29. Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.
30. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!'' And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
*Jesus said, “It is finished!” The Greek word was “Tetelestai.” What does that mean? The great Bible teacher Herschel Hobbs explained:
-(Ancient documents) throw great light on this word. -- If a (promised note was) paid, the one holding the note wrote "tetelestai" across it. Another example of its use was when a father sent his son on a mission. The son was not to return until he had performed the last act of the mission. When he did return from a successful mission, he said “tetelestai” to report it.
*What do these meanings say to us? In eternity past, God the Son gave the Father a promissory note that He would pay the price for humanity's redemption. On Calvary the note was paid in full. Tetelestai! Then the Son reported His completed mission to the Father. Tetelestai! (9)
*James Merritt explains: Up to now we have studied the tragedy of the cross. Now we come to the triumph of the cross. Now we hear a shout of jubilation -- ‘It is finished!’ It was a cry of victory. For six hours Jesus had been the victim of sin, but now He is the victor of salvation.
*Notice, He did not say, ‘I am finished!’
-The devil thought He was finished. For a brief moment the demons in hell howled with glee.
-The Pharisees thought He was finished. They were saying, ‘We will have no more problems with that Galilean troublemaker.’
-The disciples thought he was finished. They were saying, ‘It was good while it lasted. We sure will miss Him.’
*But they were all wrong. Jesus was not finished He was just getting started!” Tetelestai! -- “It is finished!” -- “Paid in full.” On the cross Jesus Christ paid the debt for all of our sin!
*Dr. Harry Ironside used to tell about a young man who was a soldier in the Russian army. This young man's father was a friend of Czar, Nicholas I. Because of this, he had been given an important post. It was his job to see that the right amount of money was to the soldiers each month.
*Unfortunately, the young man started gambling. Eventually he got so far into debt that he stole a large sum of the government's money. Then he got notice that a representative of the Czar was coming to check all of the accounts. -- He knew he was in big trouble.
*That night he totaled everything that he owed, and got out his own small amount of money. It was not nearly enough to cover the enormous debt. The young man knew he would be disgraced and he decided to take his own life. He pulled out his pistol, put it on the table, and wrote a letter telling of all the wrong things he had done.
*At the bottom of the ledger where he had totaled his illegal borrowing, he wrote, "This is too great a debt! -- Who could possibly pay it?"
*He decided to die at midnight. But as the evening wore on he grew drowsy and fell asleep. That night Czar Nicholas himself had decided to visit the son of his good friend. Seeing a light, he stopped, looked in and saw the young man sound asleep. He started to speak to him, but then saw the ledger and read the note and realized all that had taken place.
*He was about to wake the young man and arrest him when his eye fastened on that young man's message: "This is too great a debt! -- Who could possibly pay it?" Suddenly, with a great surge of kindness, he reached over, wrote one word at the bottom of that ledger and slipped out.
*The young man woke up a little while later, glanced at the clock and realized it was long after midnight. He reached for his revolver, but as he did his eye fell upon the ledger. Underneath the words he had written was one more word: "Nicholas."
*The young man was dumbfounded. There had to be a mistake. He found letters with the signature of the Czar. He compared them and sure enough Czar Nicholas had signed himself! The young soldier said, "The Czar has seen the book. He knows all that I owe and still he is willing to forgive me."
*He trusted the word of the Czar and the next morning a messenger came with all of the money needed to pay the debt. Only the Czar could pay that debt, and the Czar did pay that debt.
*We don't have a Czar, we have a Savior: Jesus Christ! (10)
*When Jesus said "It is finished!" He meant that the debt for all of our sin had been paid in full, -- if we will put our trust in Him. Have you done that?
*Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again from the dead!
-Have you realized your hopeless condition without Jesus?
-Have you trusted in Him?
-Have you trusted in the living Savior who died on the cross for us?
*You can do that right now, as we go to God in prayer. Put your trust in Jesus.
1. Adapted from Max Lucado in “Six Hour One Friday” (Found in SermonCentral.com sermon “Your Face in the Crowd” by Ryan Johnson - Matt 27:32-56
2. SermonCentral.com sermon “The Wounded Warrior” by Wayde Wilson - Isaiah 53:3-5
3. W. A. Criswell, Expository Sermons on Galatians - Source: Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1,501 Other Stories, (Nashville: Word Publishing) 2000, c1998
4. Adapted from John Newton quotation found in Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990) Source: The Bible Illustrator, Topic: Bible / Subtopic: Food for the Soul / Index: 416 - Date: 10/1997.1029 / Title: Only Grace Will Do
5. Original source unknown
6. Cross & Crown Sermon: “Forgiveness: the Road Less Traveled” by James McCullen - Luke 23:34, Eph 4:32
7. Ken Gehrels - “Words of Life from the Cross” - "Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise" - Luke 23:43
8. D. L. Moody, "Day by Day with D.L Moody," Moody Press. (Found at Sermonillustrations.com)
9. Herschel H. Hobbs, My Favorite Illustrations (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1990.) (Source: Dynamic Illustrations - AMJ 01)
10. ChristianGlobe.com sermon “Don't Sweat the Sin Debt” by James Merritt - John 19:1-16