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Weekly Word

Entries in Crucifixion (6)

Monday
Apr242017

Checkmate and the Rulers of this Age

1 Corinthians 2:6-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 23, 2017.

In the game of Chess many different strategies can be employed, both defensive and offensive.  Regardless of how sophisticated a strategy may be, the proof of one’s superior ability is to put the other player’s King in a conquered position called checkmate.  They have no moves available to keep the opponent’s next move from taking their King.  Now, in using this illustration, I do not want to give the impression that the Devil is God’s equal in a cosmic game of Chess.  However, we do need to understand that the Devil has made many tactical blunders throughout the course of history, first of which is his choice to rebel against the Creator.

In our passage today we see that the cross may not have been the checkmate per se.  However, it was an irrecoverable error and all moves since are moving towards an inevitable checkmate in which he is out of moves.  Even the moves he employs since the cross are only possible because God is giving time for pawns on the Devil’s side to rebel against the rebel and come back to the Creator.  So the real question today is not so much how many moves or time is left.  Rather, the pertinent question is this, “Which side are you on?”  Are you on the side of the Father and His Son, Jesus?  Or, are you on the side of the Devil and his angels?  Let’s look at our passage today.

Jesus and the Crucifixion are God’s Wisdom

We are going to focus on verses 6-8, but to do that I want to point out verse 2 of this chapter.  Paul told the Corinthians that when he was among them he was “determined not to know anything among you except, Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”  The distinction is important because Jesus is the wisdom of God both in his being, and in his doing.  He is the wisdom of God before He ever opens His mouth.  When He speaks we are receiving the very wisdom of God.  And, when he acts, the decisions that he makes and the things that he goes through, are all part of demonstrating the wisdom of God.  Now, no matter how Christians want to be perceived by the world, we must hold firmly to this foundational understanding: God’s wisdom is very different from the world’s wisdom.  Not only this, but the world’s wisdom will never accept the wisdom of God in Jesus.  Yes, it may take hold of it and twist it into something and someone different, so as to embrace it. But it will always be an idol of their making and just as vain.

Paul wanted the Corinthians and us to understand that the rulers of this age were ignorant of the amazingly wise thing that God was doing in Jesus.  The Corinthians had embraced Jesus, but held onto wisdom and pathways of thinking that came from the rulers of this age.  You can’t keep the wisdom of this age and really follow Jesus.  The word translated as “ruler” here is used of both earthly and heavenly beings.  Now a human interpretation of this term would most likely be true.  If Caiaphas, Pilate, et al, had known what they were doing they wouldn’t have crucified Jesus.  However, there is very good reason to believe that Paul is also speaking of the Devil and his angels.  They are the true rulers of this age.  What evidence leads me to believe this?  First of all, Jesus often references the spiritual powers that were working.  In the Gospel of John he references the “ruler of this world” that was coming,” and who was about to be “cast out.”  Paul in Ephesians 2:1-2 says, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.”  This “ruler” is clearly a spirit being and only ruling in the air as opposed to the heavenlies.  Later in Ephesians 6 Paul speaks further, “Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  Again Paul is clear that these rulers are not flesh and blood, but rather spiritual hosts of wickedness.  There is another reason to recognize the spiritual rulers being referenced in this passage.  The “fallen angels,” as they are often called, operate in rebellion to the God of heaven.  As such, they have historically promoted an alternate wisdom to mankind.  As the serpent twists the truth in order to bring Eve into an alternate understanding, so they have always twisted the truth and used a wisdom that is particular to them in order to manipulate mankind.  The ancient nations even bragged that their wisdom was from the “gods” and their rulers were “demi-gods.”  The Corinthian culture is part and parcel with this Gentile penchant to be enamored with the wisdom and philosophy of the gods they served.  Paul is showing the Corinthians that these great “gods” were ignorant and so were the human rulers who were leaning on their wisdom.  They are not ignorant of everything.  Rather they are ignorant of the wisdom of God found in Jesus.  The spirits at least knew who Jesus was, and they knew that he was there to fight them.  But they did not understand how he was going to bring about the kingdom of God.  This was a mystery.  Yes, the wisdom of this world is vast and immense.  But, in the end, it is at war against the wisdom of the God of heaven.  More than that, it does not lead mankind to utopia or salvation.  It leads us to fight against what will save us, the wisdom of God.  Thus the wisdom of these great spiritual rulers has led them to a tactical blunder that will lead to their eventual checkmate.  The Book of Revelation makes clear that their end is the Lake of Fire, as does Jesus in Matthew 25:41.

Why were these great angels ignorant?  Paul states that it was a hidden mystery that God had kept from the very beginning.  The incarnation of the Son of God and his substitutionary death had been kept secret from the devil.  He had no idea that Jesus wanted to be killed and that it was part of his plan.  By crucifying Jesus, he and his angels commit a capital offense and bring a capital judgment upon themselves and those humans who join them.  From the Garden of Eden on, they have abused the knowledge that God had allowed them to know.  In Job 38 we are told that the Sons of God shouted for joy when the foundations of the earth were laid.  Thus, the “angels” who are called “Sons of God” were created and present for the creation.  The extra-biblical, book called 1 Enoch, which is quoted by Jude and Peter in the Bible, pointed out their involvement in the pre-flood world.  The fallen angels had taught mankind technological arts and used them to pervert mankind away from God.  Thus the weapons of warfare and the arts of seduction (clothing, adornment, and make-up) came from these technologies.  As I said before, the post flood cultures bragged that this information had survived and was the reason for their greatness.  Yet, God had hidden certain things concerning salvation from them.  They don’t know everything.  They are not God.  He most likely hid it because He knew that there would be a rebellion.  So what can we learn from this?  We can learn to be confident in the wisdom of God, and we can remain humble before the world.  Yes, we know the mystery of the incarnation and the cross.  But, what more do we not know?  This is not a time for arrogance, but rather humility.

I would also point out that technology is not itself the problem.  We see this today.  Technology can be used for good or for evil.  However, we need to understand that the drive behind increasing technology comes from a manipulative, spiritual origin.  When man is in rebellion to God, no amount of technology can save him.  In fact, it will only make things worse.

Paul also points out the ancient origins of this mystery.  Although I have already spoken to this fact, I would remind us of a couple of verses in the New Testament.  1 Peter 1:19-20 says, “… the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.  He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”  Revelation 13:8 says, “All who dwell on the earth will worship him [the wild beast], whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world.”  Notice that the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection were always the plan.  Even before He started Creation, God had already planned to save mankind.  In the unseen councils of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have agreed to the plan of the cross, which condemns all wickedness and redeems all who will humble themselves and put their faith in Jesus.

Verses 9-12, bring this to a point.  Jesus and the Gospel have been revealed to mankind by the Holy Spirit.  The mysteries of God and the wisdom of God that had been made known through the Apostles had its source in the Holy Spirit of God, and not the evil spirits of the Gentile nations.  The Corinthians were trying to follow the man Jesus on the outside all the while listening to the wisdom of evil spirits on the inside.  This will never work.  In fact, all Christians of every generation have had to wrestle with this tendency.  American Christians today wrestle with following Jesus while keeping a cultural wisdom that has its source in evil spirits.  The same is true of any other nation as well.  The wisdom of God has been given to all mankind through the man Jesus and by the Holy Spirit of God.  With it we are able to spoil the greatest beings of the universe outside of God.  We can be saved, seeing through their lies and the destructive tendency of their wisdom.  We can deliver ourselves and rescue others.  We have everything that we need to know for this age.  Sure, God has things prepared for the age to come, after Jesus comes back.  Until then, we can be confident in what God has given us now.  But if we choose the path of arrogance and a particular fascination with demonic wisdom then we will find ourselves in the same plight as the Jewish leaders in the first century.  So we end with the question, “From what spirit are you getting your wisdom?”  The answer to this makes the difference between death and life.

Checkmate audio

Tuesday
May032016

The Death and Burial of Jesus

Luke 23:44-56.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 1, 2016.

More than any other man, the death of Jesus has impacted the whole world.  In fact, it impacted even the heavens.  His death brings condemnation to the fallen angels and the wicked of the world that join with them in rebellion against God.  However, it also pays the price of our sins so that those who believe in Jesus can be saved from their judgment.  Thus Jesus told us that everything the Old Testament prophesied had to come to pass, even his own death.  It is easy to want to avoid the horrible aspect of the cross.  However, we must hear it and face the horror of what our own sin does.  My sin breathes death and destruction into my life and the life of those around me.  But, worse than that, my sin cost Jesus his life.  It is at the cross that we see the true horror of what we choose when we cast God’s way aside.  Praise God that the blood of Jesus breathes eternal life into those who entrust him with their lives and their spirits.

Jesus Dies On The Cross

Of course it is no shock that Jesus dies on the cross.  We have heard this for centuries.  Rather, it is what Jesus says and does while he is on the cross that is shocking and critical for us to pay close attention.

Luke points to two ominous signs and wonders that happened while Jesus was being crucified.  First darkness comes over the land from noon until 3:00 PM.  Jesus had been on the cross from some time after 9:00 AM.  The darkness itself would be spooky and cannot be explained by an eclipse.  The time of the lunar cycle is wrong (a full moon), and it lasts far too long to be a solar eclipse.  I am not saying that it is a completely supernatural darkness.  I am saying that something is going on that we do not know.  If you picture the average person watching this controversial execution, you would have to recognize that they would be somewhat freaked out at such a heavenly disturbance.  When the “lights go out,” we are easily scared.  Darkness is a symbol of evil.  This event would fill the average person with dread.  “Have we done the wrong thing?  Is God angry?”  Of course the power of spiritual darkness is exactly what Jesus had come to shatter.  God promises in his word that weeping may last through the night, but joy will come in the morning.

The second ominous sign is seen in an earthquake that tears the temple curtain in half.  Luke does not mention the earthquake, but we are told of this by the other Gospel authors.  Most likely the tearing of the temple curtain is caused by the earthquake.  What would this symbolize?  The curtain veiled the Holiest place where the Ark of the Covenant and the presence of God were.  It was pictured as his throne room.  Only the High Priest could go past this curtain and then only once a year.  God’s holiness could only be approached by one man, once a year.  This veil represents access to God.  God was beginning to remove the obstacles that kept mankind from approaching his throne for mercy and grace.  It represents an end to the old system.  The way to the Father has been once and for all opened up by Jesus.

It is important to recognize that most supernatural wonders in the Bible are not amazing solely because the event can’t be explained.  Earthquakes happen all the time, and they had seen the sky go dark before (however, probably not as often).  Rather, it is the coincidence of these wonders with the words of God’s prophets.  Thus it is not amazing that an infestation of frogs comes out of the Nile.  Rather, it is amazing that it happens at the warning of Moses.  The same is true with a darkness that came upon the land of Egypt as Moses challenged Pharaoh, “Let my people go!”  Thus it is ominous that the leaders are claiming that Jesus is a deceiver.  But, when he is being killed the sky is darkened and an earthquake hits the city.  A person experiencing all of this could not help but be scared by all the strange things that were happening.  “What have we done?”

Luke then tells us of the last statement of Jesus on the cross.  “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  Before I deal with this, let me just say that John’s Gospel records another thing Jesus said right before he died, “It is finished!”    This phrase was used in the culture of that day to describe a bill that had been paid off.  It was equivalent to saying, “Paid in full.”  Thus, the work of paying for the sins of mankind had been completed by Jesus.  There was no more to be done, but die.  Thus, Jesus gives this final statement of committing his spirit to the Father.  It should be noted that these same words are recorded in Psalm 31, where David depicts his own dire straits and yet, his hope in God’s salvation.  Similar to his statement, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” Jesus draws our attention to a Psalm that helps us to understand what he is feeling and what is going on.  Even though Psalm 22 and Psalm 31 are not penned by Jesus, but rather by David, Jesus directs our attention to them.  Thus these Psalms take on deeper meaning when they are read in light of the predicament of Jesus.  Jesus was being attacked on every side, but he still trusted in the Father.  Perhaps that is why Jesus uses the term “My God” when he speaks of feeling forsaken, and why he uses the term “Father” when he stops trying to stay alive.  Yes, he felt abandoned, but at the end of the day, he trusted his father.  This statement is a statement of complete trust.  He puts his spirit into the hands of the Father to do with what he will.  So, every person who wants to follow Jesus is challenged to learn to trust the Father in the same way that Jesus did, completely and over the top of the feelings of our flesh.

Next Luke records some of the reactions of those who witnessed the crucifixion.  He tells us of a Roman centurion who is supervising the execution of Jesus.  He is amazed at how Jesus died and declares that he must have truly been a righteous man.  In Matthew and Mark we are told that the centurion also declared that surely Jesus was the Son of God.  This hardened soldier who had watched many men die, recognizes something different about Jesus and the ominous signs attending his death.  In it he is convinced that Jesus was innocent and the Son of God.

After this Luke turns to the crowd.  They are shocked and beat their breasts as they return to the city [beating the breast was a common sign of mourning].  Whether they are repentant or not will be proven by what they do later.  At least in this moment, a window is opened in their heart that something very bad has just happened.  There are times when God breaks open our crusted eyes and we recognize that our life is going the wrong direction.  We may beat our breast as we go to our house, but that is not what will change us or justify us before God.  It is not enough to be shocked into awareness by what God does.  We must go on to repent of our sin and put our trust in His way.  Otherwise, the moment will be lost and we will go on down the same path of sin.

Lastly, Luke tells us that some of the acquaintances of Jesus stood at a distance.  We have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.  Those who were closest to Jesus before the cross were not the ones to take a stand with Jesus.  Rather it was a man who had been a criminal and another man who had been a Roman soldier.  Thus the words of Simeon that Mary was given back in Luke 2:34-35, while Jesus was only a baby, echo in our ears. “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against.  (Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

This brings us to perhaps the greatest sign of all.  Jesus himself, who demonstrated no wickedness and did not curse those executing him, is a sign of the love of God.  As he hangs on a cross, bloodied and torn, he is a sign to mankind that God is willing to die in order that we might live.

Jesus Is Buried In A Tomb

It is nearing the Sabbath.  The Jewish day did not begin at midnight, but rather at the beginning of evening.  There was not much time to take the bodies down and dispatch of them.  So what would be done with the body of Jesus?  Criminals were usually tossed aside and left for the birds to pick clean.  Yet, Luke tells us that a member of the Sanhedrin, named Joseph of Arimathea, goes to Pilate and asks for the body.  This is a man who is similar to Nicodemus in John 3.  They were both members of the high council and secret followers of Jesus.  Though they objected to the decision to push for the execution of Jesus, they were careful to keep their distance, until now.  We are told that Joseph was a good and just man who was waiting for the Kingdom of God.  This was supposed to be the description of all the religious leaders and one that they would all lay claim to.  However, is was only true of a few.  Too often, while we are waiting for God and his plan, our hearts can become hard and we can forge our own way.  This is true whether you are a believer in Jesus or not.  Am I really waiting for the promises of Jesus?  Or, have I become busy forging my own way.  What Jesus was doing threatened all that the Pharisees had built up.  Thus they put him to death in order to protect that which they could not keep.  This seems to be the situation today.  Many religious people cling to things that they have built and in the scramble to keep those things they can destroy the very faith in God that they claim to have.  Beware, waiting on God is not easy nor is it for the faint of heart.

Joseph and Nicodemus prepared the body and put it in a fresh tomb that was nearby.  This was a tomb that had been cut out of the rock.  It was not normal to bury a criminal, but Jesus was not a criminal.  The reference to the Preparation day has to do with the Sabbath.  God had commanded Israel not to work on the Sabbath, even to prepare a meal.  Thus, the day before became a day of preparing extra food and the things that would be need for the next day.  As the body of Jesus is put into the tomb we can hear his words from John 12:24, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”  They go forth weeping as they sow the seed of the body of Jesus, but they will doubtless come again rejoicing as God raises up a harvest from this act.  There are many times in life that doing the right thing (obeying God’s Word) seems to kill the hopes that we have.  In those moments we can be like Joseph and Nicodemus putting into a sealed tomb all that we have lost.  Yet, put your trust in God.  He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Lastly, Luke records that they rested because it was the Sabbath.  Yes, on the surface this is just a part of the details.  However, it sets up an interesting picture.  The work of Jesus on the cross, and the work of his disciples to put him in the tomb, ends with them resting on the Sabbath.  Whether Luke does so purposefully or not, this parallels the Genesis 1 account.  When God finishes creation he enters into a time of rest.  So, Jesus finishes creating our salvation and enters into a time of rest.  Even after his resurrection this time of rest continues.  He ascends into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.  It pictures Jesus as beginning a new creation by his own death and resurrection, and providing for his people a new place of rest.  Today, we can experience the spiritual side of this new creation and also enter into a spiritual rest.  We are not called to a life of slavery to commands in order to be saved.  Rather we are set free by the grace of God so that we can live for him out of love and not threat.  Even this spiritual life affects our natural life from day to day.  However, we must recognize that all things on earth and in the heavens are destined to be recreated.  Thus we have a picture of the followers of Jesus resting from their labors and living a life of worship to him as they wait for what he has promised to do for them.  This is what it means to be a Christian today. We rest in the grace of Jesus, and live a life of worship to him, as we wait for his Second Coming.  Let us run the race with all our hearts in such a way.

Death and Burial Audio

Monday
Apr252016

A Lamb To The Slaughter

Luke 23:26-34.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 17, 2016.

The title comes from a phrase in Isaiah 53:7.  The powerful descriptions in Isaiah 53 are hard to avoid.  They point to the Messiah, the ultimate Servant of the Lord, being killed for the sins of Israel and of course the Gentiles as well.  The Lord would lay all our sins upon him.  This is what John the Baptist was pointing to when he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”  Isaiah goes on to state that “by his knowledge My righteous servant will justify many.”  The passage that we will look at today is exactly what Isaiah and John the Baptist were prophesying would happen.

Throughout the last 2,000 years it has been a tendency to focus upon the horrendous pain and suffering that our Lord endured in the twelve plus hours leading up to his death.  This is to point out the great love that God has for mankind.  However, we will see today that Jesus himself puts the emphasis upon the judgment that was still in the future.  In other words, no matter how bad you think this judgment of me is, the judgment that is coming upon Israel (and by extension the world) is far worse.  It is important for us today to be amazed at the love of Jesus towards us.  Yet, it is equally important to recognize the judgment that looms over the world like an overhanging cliff that is about to collapse.

The Judgment Of Jesus Is Carried Out

We have seen Jesus moved about from Pilate to Herod and back to Pilate.  It is clear from the account that Pilate is done arguing with the Jewish leaders and thus gives judgment that Jesus is to be executed.  In Luke’s gospel we are not given long accounts of the suffering of Jesus.  In fact, Luke skips the whipping that the Roman soldiers gave Jesus.  Another important fact that is glossed over by Luke is that it was customary for those who were to be crucified to carry the cross beam that they would be nailed to from the place of judgment to the place of execution.  Some scholars believe this could have been up to 2 miles since the place of execution was outside the city.

It is in this that Luke takes note of the need for another to carry the cross of Jesus.  The most logical explanation for this is that Jesus physically is unable to carry the cross all the way.  At some point, Jesus begins to fail and it is then that the soldiers press Simon of Cyrene into service.  He was coming into town from the area around Jerusalem.  Now Cyrene is a city on the coast of what we call Libya today.  This is hundreds of miles away.  Most likely Simon was coming into the city for the feast celebrations, having spent the evening in a place of lodging nearby.  The fact that the Gospel of Mark mentions the names of his sons has led most scholars to contend that Simon had become a believer and joined the Jerusalem Church.  This sets up an interesting parallel.  Seemingly by accident, Simon runs into the Light of the World on his way to Jerusalem and has his eyes opened.   Whereas later we see Saul of Tarsus running into the Light of the World while leaving Jerusalem.  This theme of people having an encounter with Jesus and coming to believe in him, even without seeking it out, is seen regularly in the Scriptures.  There is also an irony that Simon helps Jesus in a physical way, so that the Lord can help him in a spiritual way.  Each and every one of us could die for our sins, but that would not save us.  It would merely give proper payment.  However, the death of Jesus allows those who believe in him to have eternal life.  There is a time when each of us who are trying to carry our load in life, may begin to physically, emotionally, or even spiritually fail.  We need others who will come alongside of us and help us to do what we need to do.  Just as Jesus needed help in this way, so we need it all the more.

By now word has spread and a large crowd from Jerusalem has gathered with a contingent of women who are mourning the approaching execution of the one who was thought to be the Messiah.  Jesus was the righteous teacher who was doing amazing things everywhere he went.  Yet, now he is to be killed?  While they are mourning Jesus gives warning to his mourners of their own coming judgment.  He does not seek their pity, though they are right to mourn him.  Rather, he is pointing them to where their pity would be better suited.  It is as if he is saying, “You think this is bad?  You should see what is coming for this whole nation.  That is what you should be weeping over.”  This ominous warning points to something that would normally be seen as being cursed (childlessness).  The days ahead will get so bad that that which is normally a curse will be a blessing.  In a similar way he points out that things will get so bad that people would rather be crushed by a mountain then face it.  Interestingly, this same figure of speech is seen in Revelation 6:16 where the kings of the earth and the mighty men cry out for the mountains to cover them, “for the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”  We often point out how horrible the cross was, but it was an event that was horrible for one man.  First the judgment on Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (a national scale) and then the coming judgment, which will be global, each dwarf the physical and psychological trauma of Jesus.

Jesus then says, “If they do these things in the green wood what will be done in the dry?”  This figure of speech is intended to warn of something worse to come.  It does so by referencing green wood versus dry wood.  Green wood does not burn very well and can be easily put out, whereas, dry wood is very dangerous and creates a far worse and hard to manage fire.  Jesus is a righteous man in that sense he is green wood.  He is more than connected to a thriving root system.  Jesus is life itself.  He is the vine and we are the branches.  Thus, Jesus is warning that if this is what happens to the green wood, it will be much worse when the dry branches (those who have rejected God and have no life in themselves) are judged.  This reminds me of Isaiah 57:1-4.  “The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil.  He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.  But come here you sons of the sorceress, you offspring of the adulterer and the harlot!  Whom do you ridicule?”  The offspring of the sorceress, adulterer, or harlot is one who has grown up following an evil path and being taught evil things as normal.  Of course they can learn to repent and turn towards God, but that is not the point in this passage.  The point is that we should not mourn so much the passing of the righteous.  Things will go well for them.  However, the unrighteous will receive the wrath of God.  There is nothing wrong with mourning the passing of a righteous person, even more so the Son of God.  However, that is not the end for The Righteous One and those who have believed on Him.  They will be exalted by the Father and given all things.  However, the wicked will be taken in hand by the wrath of God and find their place in the Lake of Fire.  Do we weep over the coming judgment of the Lost?  God does.

Next we see that Jesus is crucified in public shame.  The place where Jesus is to be crucified is called the Place of the Skull.  The Latin is Calvaria (where we get Calvary), the Greek is Kranion (think cranium), the Aramaic is Golgatha.  All of these different terms are pointing to the same thing that will happen.  A human’s head that represents the essence of the person’s identity is going to be turned into a skull.  It is a place that reeks with death and the Devil’s power.  As a lord of death, the Devil feels that he has won, but in truth it is about to become the public shame of the devil and his angels that is highlighted before the world.  Jesus is crucified in a vile way and hanging between two other vile offenders, as if he was the worst of them.  It is as if the Devil is daring anyone to choose to be on the side of such a man.  Everyone is going to have to choose sides.  You are either with the great men and rulers of this world, or you are with the lowly Jesus.  Will you let go of the pomp, power, and pride of this world and embrace the public shame of Jesus?  If you do your future will be eternal life.  The other choice leads to destruction and shame.

In this context the next words of our Lord seem impossible.  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  The Lord demonstrates that he practices what he preaches.  They speak death and execution to him, but he speaks love and forgiveness towards them.  Thus Jesus displays perfect righteousness.  As he taught in Luke 6, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.”  It is hard to accept such words at face value.  However, when people do accept them, they usually do in the hopes that such actions will win them over.  In fact, this argument is used against the West in regard to Islam.  If we loved them more, then they wouldn’t pick up weapons and bombs.  They wouldn’t hate us so much.  At the cross, such trite is proven a fairy tale.  Jesus loved those who were killing him, not because he hoped they would stop, but because he knew they wouldn’t.  Jesus will die and his enemies will live on.  Yet, he still offers them righteousness.  He basically makes the case for manslaughter to the Father.  They don’t realize that they are offending the God of heaven and heaping up judgment against themselves.

So what was God’s answer?  Well, for 40 years following the crucifixion, God sent the apostles of Jesus to minister with miracles and the truth.  They offered their fellow Israelites forgiveness in the name of Jesus; “whosoever would” could have it.   Yet, ultimately the answer is this, “If they will turn from their sins and put their faith in Jesus, then I will forgive them completely.”  This is the grace and love of our Lord.

Lamb to the Slaughter audio

Tuesday
Apr122016

The Trials of Jesus II

Luke 23:13-25.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 10, 2016.

The trials of Jesus continue, on the day of his crucifixion.  He is brought before the High Priest, then to Pilate, then to Herod, and now sent back to Pilate.  You would think that Herod’s refusal to do anything to Jesus would bolster the case for releasing Jesus.  But the religious leaders and the crowd who have gathered will have none of it.  They want Jesus dead.  There is a tragic irony on display in this section.  A peaceful healer who merely speaks truth will be put to death, while a murderous robber will be let go free.  Such is the justice of mankind.  Yes, Jesus is on trial here, but so is the justice of mankind.

Throughout the history of mankind getting justice has been at best a slippery target.  Beware of those leaders who cry for justice the loudest because they are usually playing on our emotional desires.  Beware of the crowd that is worked up into a fever pitch seeking justice because all manner of evil will be done by it in the name of justice.  It matters little if it is Jerusalem in the first century A.D. or the French Revolution of the late 1700’s, in which those who helped to execute the aristocrats later found themselves on the chopping block.  Perhaps the Arab Spring, which was so inappropriately named, was not so noble as the crowds in Egypt’s Tahrir square raped, young female journalists while calling for justice from the government.  Even the United States has had its share of mobs out of control in the name of justice committing heinous crimes.  The mob is rarely if ever about true justice because the hearts of mankind are twisted by sin.

Pilate declares Jesus Innocent

Pilate is most likely not happy to have Jesus back in his judgment hall.  The whole purpose of sending Jesus to Herod was to avoid this issue.  Yet, here it is again.  Perhaps we can see the tendency of many today to try and push off the “Jesus issue” by appealing to the judgments of others.  However, you will find throughout life that one way or another, God will bring Jesus back before you.  What will you do with Jesus?  This is the most critical decision of your life because it affects your eternal destiny.

Pilate makes his case before the religious leaders and the crowd.  First, he does not see any reason to execute Jesus.  Second, Herod saw no reason to execute Jesus.  Thus Pilate will have Jesus flogged and release him.

This may sound strange to our ears.  He is innocent but will be punished anyway?  What is going on here is something that happens every day throughout the “justice” of this world.  Decisions are made with an eye to how it will be received.  If Jesus was released without anything done, the religious leaders and the people would riot.  This would require Pilate to use force to quell them, which would lead to the deaths of many.  This would bring Pilate’s leadership under question before Caesar.  Thus Pilate is seeking to appease the religious leaders without executing Jesus.  A public flogging would bring great physical harm to Jesus and social humiliation.  Also, the release is not a normal release.  Pilate is referring to a tradition that had developed in which a guilty prisoner would be pardoned on Passover each year.  Thus Jesus would have the further social stigma of being a prisoner who was guilty and yet pardoned.  Yet, this is not enough for the religious leaders and the crowd.

The Crowd Calls for Crucifixion

The crowd breaks out into loud objection to Pilate’s decision.  Luke takes time to note that Pilate had made three attempts to make a case for letting Jesus go.  I believe this is an intentional allusion back to Peter’s three denials of Christ.  Three times Peter had been given a chance to stand with Jesus and yet he shrunk back and refused to stand with Christ.  As bad as this is, we see a similar thing happening with the religious leaders and the crowd in Jerusalem.  They are given three chances to change their mind and listen to reason.  However, they are not merely refusing to stand with Jesus.   They are actively choosing to punish Jesus with death.  Such is the justice of mankind when its base notions are not kept in check.

When the leaders realize that Pilate intends to make Jesus the official release criminal of the Passover, they quickly counter this by calling for the release of Barabbas instead.  So who is this Barabbas?  Luke tells us that Barabbas was involved in a rebellion and had murdered someone.  In his gospel, John also adds that Barabbas was a robber or bandit.  The word used is not that of a sneak thief who unsuspectingly steals things, but of a thug who takes things by force and violence.  The man they ask to be released is a violent, beast of a man who didn’t have a righteous bone in his body.  Thus, in the name of righteousness, they call for the death of the innocent Jesus and for the release of the guilty Barabbas.  However, the irony does not stop there.  Barabbas’ name literally means “son of the father.”  Thus we have two individuals, Jesus and Barabbas, with two very different lives, and both representing the son of the father.  Of course they are clearly from two very different fathers.  Jesus is the exact image of the heavenly Father.  Barabbas reminds me of John 8:44, where Jesus tells the religious leaders that they are just like their father the devil.  Of course, they are not children of the devil biologically.  Rather, they have spiritually rejected the Heavenly Father and have turned to another spiritual progenitor, the devil.  They are choosing to kill the Son of the Father in heaven while embracing the son of the devil.  This is also reminiscent of John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.   I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”  Why would we choose a killer over a life-giver?  Why are we enamored with the bad guy or the bad girl, when we could choose a good one?  The answer is simple, we have a sin problem and Jesus is the only answer for it.

Under the threat of riot, Pilate gives in to the desires of the leaders and their crowd.  Jesus will be executed and Barabbas will be release.  The phrase in verse 25 is somewhat haunting.  It says that “he delivered Jesus to their will.”  I believe this is intentional by Luke.  Jesus is delivered over to the will of the people by Pilate.  However, Pilate cannot do anything but what the heavenly Father allows.  Thus it really is the Father who is handing Jesus over to the will of the people.  He will not step in and stop them from doing evil.  Neither will he force them to do the right thing.  He will simply let them choose.  Yes, God loves mankind and has created us to sit as glorified sons in His heavenly council.  Yet, he will not force it upon us.  We must choose.

Have you ever realized that in this life God has put the judgment of Jesus in our hands, in your hands?  It is up to each of us to make our judgment of Jesus, yea or nay, up or down.  This is our time to wrestle with the evidence and make a choice.  If you choose against Jesus, fire will not fall down from heaven and burn you up.  And, if you choose for Him, a glorious chariot will not swoop down from the sky and lift you up.  God will give you complete freedom to choose.  But you are not just deciding to choose for or against Christ.  It is a choice between Jesus or the alternative that the world offers.  Before you make such a choice, you should understand the further reality.  Once you leave this life, your judgment will then be in the hand of Jesus.  Take care with the measure you use in judging Jesus and the Father.  That same measure will be given back to you in the afterlife.  Jesus makes it clear how his judgment will be in Matthew 10:32-33.  “Whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven.”  Now is your turn to judge, but the day will come when you will wonder, “What will he do with me?”  Choose this day whom you will serve:  the giver of life or the bringer of death.

Trials II audio