Summary: Expository sermon dealing with a reqest from Jesus’ enemies and a request from Jesus’ friends. Movie clip from "Broken Down Palace" used in the call for a response to Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
Two Request Concerning Jesus
Fortifying the Foundations # 43
We find in our text this morning two requests brought to Pilate when Jesus died on the cross. The first (in verse 31) was a request made by Jesus’ enemies. The second (in verses 38 & 39) was made by Jesus’ friends. Both came from members of the Sanhedrin. But they stand in stark contrast to one another. One side wants Jesus’ legs brutally broken. The other side wants the opportunity to give him an honorable burial. Here before us are two companies of people who have made firm decisions concerning Christ crucified.
There is something about the cross of Calvary that ultimately brings people to one side or the other. In Matt 12:30 Jesus said, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” I have met many people who want to take a neutral position concerning Christ. They would give him a bit of honor to console his followers. They would acknowledge him as a good man or perhaps even a prophet. But they refuse to bow to him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They refuse to acknowledge his atoning death as the only way of salvation. Their position is politically correct as far as the world is concerned but diabolically opposed to the kingdom of God. Christ has come. He has laid down his life on the cross as a sacrifice for sin. And since he has come there can be no neutral position concerning him. To be exposed to the gospel is to be called to a decision that establishes one’s eternal destiny before God. Here are two camps at the cross of Christ. One is set against him. The other is set for him. Even as Simeon had prophesied when he took the baby, Jesus, in his arms and said to Mary, Luke 2:34-35, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." The thoughts of many hearts were revealed that day Jesus suffered on the cross. The thoughts of hearts continue to be revealed wherever and whenever the story of that suffering is preached.
I. The first request came to Pilate from the Jewish leaders who had insisted upon Jesus’ crucifixion (verses 31-37).
Their stated concern was for ceremonial purity during the Passover. They did not want the bodies left upon the cross during the Sabbath. By the letter of the law they were right. For Deut 21:22-23 says, “If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.”
This verse helps us understand the horror of crucifixion to the typical Jew in Jesus’ day. The Torah, the inspired word of God, had clearly said, “...anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.” How can the perfectly obedient, spotless Messiah be under God’s curse? He came under God’s curse because of our sin. Until that is realized, we never see the horrific nature of our sin. Without that revelation our sin seems to be little more than a tragic mistake, a simple manifestation of human weakness or poor judgment. It is only when I see Christ crucified on a bloody cross because of my sin that I understand what I have done. My prayer as we examine John’s account of the crucifixion is that every person here will embrace the substitutionary death of Jesus in a personal way. The crucifixion is not just a sentimental story about a good person who died a terrible and unjust death. It is the story of God’s solution for your sin and my sin. Charles Spurgeon tells the story of a French King who heard about the cruelty and abuse toward Jesus from the religious leaders and soldiers and crowd at Calvary. He responded by saying, “I wish I had been there with 10,000 of my soldiers. I would have cut their throats sooner than they should have touched Him.” That arrogant king knew nothing of the real significance of the cross. My dear French King, you were there in the crowd that day. I was there in my sin as well. We all were there and all were guilty. It was for me and you that Jesus prayed, “Father, Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Our sin brought the curse on Jesus. Without knowing that, we do not know the horror of our own sinfulness.