Summary: Third in series of four messages which follow Jesus' movements to the cross and beyond.
AM sermon preached at Central Christian Church March 16, 2008
Jesus at the “Cross” roads sermon series The Road to Calvary [Jesus’ Death]
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So did you hear the story about the old preacher who lay dying on his bed in his home? He sent word to his accountant and his lawyer, both church members, that he’d like for them to come and visit him in his home. When they arrived, they were ushered up to his bedroom. As they entered the room, the preacher held out his hands and motioned for them to sit on each side of the bed. The preacher grasped their hands, sighed contentedly, smiled and stared at the ceiling.
For a time, no one said anything. Both the accountant and lawyer were touched and flattered that the old preacher would ask them to be with him during his final moment. They were also puzzled; the preacher had never given them any indication that he particularly liked either of them. Finally the lawyer said, ‘Preacher, the two of us have been wondering, why of all people, did you ask for us to come?’ The old preacher mustered up some strength , then said weakly, ‘Jesus died between two thieves so I thought I would too’.
Seriously now ---today we enter the third week of our Jesus at the Crossroads sermon series. The purpose of this series is for us to take another look at the roads Jesus traveled which took Him to the cross and beyond. Last Sunday morning’s message took us into the Garden of Gethsemane where we began to get an idea of the enormous price Jesus paid to purchase forgiveness for us. This morning we’re going to get an even better understanding of that price as we pick up where we left off ---with the arrest of Jesus--- and fast forward from there to His being lead out of Jerusalem to be crucified. Now as far as the arrest of Jesus goes, we saw last week how Jesus surrendered Himself to the angry mob that met Him in the Garden. We saw how they didn’t, and in fact couldn’t take Jesus by force. And we saw how Jesus, intent on doing His Father’s will, turned Himself over to them without resistance. That’s where we left off last week--- well, almost immediately things began to snowball against Jesus. Like a pack of wild dogs that increasingly maddens at the sight and smell of the blood of its weakening prey---an evil insanity which started in the hearts and minds of Jesus’ enemies began spreading like a plague over Jerusalem---infecting both Jews and Romans. With every slap across Jesus’ face, with every slash wound created by the whip tearing into His back, with every vile mocking remark---every false witness, with every grimace of pain---every drop of blood, the insanity grew. And yet amazingly in the midst of all this horror---we find God returning His best for man’s worst.
Whether we read about what happened to Jesus in our Bible or we watch it portrayed in a movie, it seems to me that the things that were done to Jesus shock us---sicken us, shock us and at times even surprise us. I mean after all, in Jesus we find a person who has done nothing wrong turning Himself in to the powers that be, the religious and government authorities, first century Palestine’s equivalent of today’s church and state. But do these powers treat Him with dignity or fairness, do they attempt to make certain justice is served? Absolutely not. Priests, soldiers and onlookers spit upon Jesus. They call Him names and pile abuse upon abuse. Soldiers blind-fold Jesus, then punch Him in the face and say “Come on Jesus---you’re supposed to be a prophet, tell us who punched you!” They strip Him naked. They whip Him. They put a crown of thorns on His head and beat him with a reed. And before day’s end they parade Him through town, nail Him to a cross and crucify Him, murdering an innocent man.
Jesus’ story and the story of His crucifixion have been preached for almost two thousand years. Most of us have heard the story all of our lives. Many of us have taught it in Sunday School classes or discussed it in small group meetings. I’ve been preaching about it for more than two decades and yet even after all of that exposure to the story of the cross it never ceases to amaze me. And yet nearly every time that I study it in depth I find another little detail, a subtle little something, another facet to the story that recreates the wonder of it all.
This week it was first of all the words Jesus spoke to the women who were following Him as He marched towards Calvary. And then it was in something Matthew alone mentions. I want to let you in on those things this morning but even more I want to share with you what I believe are the most important things we can learn from Jesus’ suffering and death.