Archive for May, 2015

Luke 23:50-56 — Why does Luke include this mention of “the women from Galilee” and how they followed Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to the tomb where Jesus’ body was placed and then they left. Why is this important? From John 19:33-34, we know that Jesus was dead. Certainly, what was left off the life force in his body was taken away when the Roman soldier took a spear and rammed into his chest between his ribs. Jesus was dead. His lifeless corpse was taken away by Joseph and Nicodemus and they personally anointed the dead body with lotions and wrapped it in linen. And, now, the women followed and knew exactly where the grave was.

Why is this information important? These people were eyewitnesses to the death of Jesus. They were there when they crucified my Lord. They were there when they laid Him in the tomb. Each knew specifically where Jesus’ body was laid. The ladies followed so that they could see where it was at so that there would be no mistaking which tomb it was when they returned. The Gospel writers give us this detail so that we can know with certainty that Jesus’ resurrection is no error, no mistaken identity, no fluke.

There are those who will say that Jesus did not really die and that He was unconscious. Yet, these are the same people who will accept that Roman scourgings were as brutal almost as crucifixion. A criminal would wish for death when tied to the whipping post and having their flesh made like mince meat or shredded barbeque meat by the metal barb and bone chard tipped whips. They will believe the historical record and modern research of how crucifixion kills you in the very slow and agonizing way that it kills. Yet, with all of that Jesus was just unconscious. The efficient Roman army missed this one. They were experts at this crucifixion thing, but they missed this one. These guys at Golgotha had killed many a Jew during their occupation of Palestine so there was a high level of proficiency about their craft but they missed this one. Jesus was dead. We can be sure of it because we continue to be amazed by the Roman Empire – its sheer efficiency, its advanced technology for its time, the civil organization, their military organization, the development of laws, the amazing engineering. They would have most likely been very certain that the criminals on their crosses were completely and utterly dead.

Why does this matter? Without the death, there is no resurrection. Without the resurrection, people throughout the centuries sense have died for a lie. Wow, all two billion of us suffering from a common delusion. People continue today to die for a lie. Even with all the debunking that has been tried to squash out the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the resurrection lives on in generation after generation of believers. Since it is accepted scholarly fact that all of the New Testament books were written within the lifetimes of those who were participants in the stories contained in those books, both friend AND foe of Jesus.
There are those that say that you have to be stupid to believe all of this and certainly will take great pains to demonstrate why. Yes, we are all called idiots by these “crash Christianity” folks but yet the Word lives on.

We have believed in a collective lie for centuries. Yet, why is it that all other fabrications in life never stand the test of time. Just maybe, this whole resurrection thing is true. The funny thing is as that someone said recently to me that I could not be thinking if I believed any of this. Thank God I have this delusion. Thank God that I believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Thank God we, all two billion of us, have worked together through the centuries to build this mountain of lies that I have to be stupid enough to believe.

I thank God that we have all conspired through the centuries to keep this lie alive. I thank God for all the stupid martyrs through the centuries that died for this lie. Since I feel great comfort in the fact that man does not possess all knowledge even though we think we do at every point in history, I believe that my stupidity will be borne out to be wisdom in the end, whether it be at my physical death or when the end of time comes – whichever comes first. In the meantime, I glory in my stupid of belief in a dead man whom I believe to have risen from the dead because this was no ordinary man. He was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died for my sins and who rose from the dead to give my hope of eternal life. If believing that is being stupid, let me glory in my stupidity. Let me be delusional. I am willing to bet my eternity on my delusion!

Luke 23:50-56 — Joseph places Jesus’ body in his brand new tomb that he had built as his family’s burial . Nicodemus brings 75 lbs of perfumed ointments and aloes (John 19:39) used first century Palestine for burial preparation. The ladies who were disciples of Jesus not only helped finance his earthly ministry (Luke 8:1-3) but they saw where they had laid their Master and went home to prepare burial spices from their own resources. These people really loved Jesus a great deal. They went out of their way, some risking political disaster, to ensure that Jesus was honored properly in death. The didn’t care that it was going to cost them their own resources. They wanted to use their own resources to give glory to their Lord.

I guess that would be difference between these two men and these women and how most of us view giving of our resources to Jesus’ church. We see it as giving from what we have left over rather than giving what is from our best or from our best efforts. The people in this scene put all cares of the day aside and focus on giving Jesus their best. They focus on giving Jesus the best of their time, the best of their talents, and the best of their resources. Nothing else is more important to them than that. How many of us give the one who gave us life the leftovers of each of those things, time, talents, resources.

Many of us, myself included, struggle to find time to do the work of Jesus Christ. We say we do not have time. We say that we would love to share the gospel with others but we do not have time. We say we would love to help others who are need but we do not have time. We say would love to show others the love of Jesus Christ but we just do not have enough time. We prioritize time for the things that are important to us. I may be able to work it out where I can go to several games of my beloved Clemson Tigers this fall (football season starts in 14 weeks, woot! woot!, but I digress), but yet I may not be able to work it to work with the child of a single mom that needs male leadership. I may be able set aside time to watch a Clemson game on television but not have time to share the good news of Jesus Christ with my co-worker over a meal after work. I may have time to go to the beach for vacation but not have time to go on a mission trip to share the gospel in Japan. I may have time watch Monday night football but not have time to go a Monday night meeting of the Ironmen men’s ministry at church that same night. You get the point. We spend time. We prioritize time. We use time, the precious and limited commodity that it is, where place the greatest importance on its use. Let us analyze our time. Where are we wasting our time on things that do not matter in eternity. What is the legacy that we want to leave behind? Let us invest our time in those things that bring glory to Jesus Christ.

Many of us decide that we have other priorities for our talents as well. These ladies in this passage use their talents to create the spices necessary for a fitting burial for Jesus Christ. They gladly directed their talents toward that which would honor Jesus. They wanted to honor Him with the talents that they had. Why is it that most of us are not willing to be like these female disciples of our Lord. It is easier to simply be a consumer at church rather than one who serves. It is easier not to get to the church at 7:00am like the leader of our parking team does and make sure that parking lot is free of debris and that the sidewalks are clean. It is easier to sleep in and go to only the 11:00am service that it is to be there like the manager of all the Sunday ministry teams at 7:00 to make sure that each team leader has everything that they need for a successful Sunday morning worship service. It is easier to just sit in the crowd rather than be there for both services and run a camera, or work the sound board, or the light board, or the video switcher. It is easier to use my talents for personal pursuits rather lead a ministry team. Isn’t easier to ignore God’s call to a ministry. Isn’t easier to wear a red X on my hand or shirt to protest sex trafficking than it is to go to India and actually work with the victims of this horrible industry. It is easier to give to a church planting initiative rather than move your family to Connecticut and develop a church from scratch. It is easier to talk about how fatherless children lack direction than it is to use your talents at mentoring by being a Big Brother or a Big Sister. It is easier to complain about the destruction of our cities when riots occur than it is to use our talents to solve the problems of social injustice and lack of quality education. It is easier to not use my talents to give Jesus glory than it is to use them. It is easier not to serve that it is to serve. We prioritize the use of our talents in ways that are most important to us. Let us examine how we are using our talents to give our Lord glory. Are we pursuing the calling He has given us through the talents He has given us to make this world a better place. Are we walking by a hungry man and saying that we will pray for Him or are we stopping to feed and clothe Him as we tell Him about Jesus Christ?

In this scene in this passage, we see people giving the best of their resources to give glory to Jesus Christ. Imagine if we were really like Joseph, Nicodemus, and the ladies. What if we gave the best of our resources to give glory to Jesus Christ? It is certainly far easier to give the leftover $5 or $20 bill that we happen to have in our wallets on Sunday and feel good about having given to the church. It is easier to think that the money I make is to glorify myself than it is to see that we are given talents by our Creator through which we earn our livings. All God asks is that we are obedient to His command. We are to give Him the first fruits of our labors not the leftovers. We are to give God the best of our resources not what we can squeeze in. Everyone of us who attends LifeSong Church is honored to be a part of this body and are often amazed at the impact that our church has on the community and the world around us. However, imagine if we were not a church of leftover $20 bills. What if we were a church of people who have learned to live off of 90% or less of what we make and give the first 10% or more to God through our local body. Imagine the impact then. Instead of 2 church plants, 20. Instead of 550+ Thanksgiving meals given away, 1000. Instead of 3 mission trips per year, 15. Imagine sending missionaries out to long-term missionary assignment to far away places like Kenya, long-term missionaries in Japan, in Haiti, in Iraq or Iran. Imagine what would happen to our local ongoing ministries like LifeSong Cares where we could help more people and have to turn less away. Imagine the ministries that we could create that are actually out in our communities making a difference in people’s lives by showing them the love of Christ through uncommon acts of love and kindness. Imagine if all churches, not just LifeSong, gave obediently to the Lord. Joseph and Nicodemus didn’t think twice about giving the best of what they had to honor Jesus. Let us examine what we place our priorities financially. Let us seek to move to that place where we honor Jesus with the first fruits of our finances rather than that leftover $5 bill that you didn’t use at the monster truck event on Saturday night. Let us be a church honors Christ and empowers the spread of his Word through the use of our resources.

Father in Heaven, help us to be a people like Joseph of Arimathea, like Nicodemus, like the female disciples who have no second thoughts ever about honor Jesus Christ with the best of our time, the best of our talents, and the best of our resources. May we honor Him with the best of who we are. May we honor Him with the excellence with which we represent Him in all things that we do in His name. May we honor Him with the love that we share with the world around us without expectation of being loved in return. May we honor Him by living lives that draw people unto Him. May we honor Him by living lives that demonstrate His love of others even in the face of hateful opposition or even deadly opposition. May we honor Him with everything about our lives! Amen.

Luke 23:50-56 — This passage is important for several reasons and we will spend a few days here. For today, we will talk about making the choice to be counted among Jesus’ followers. Tomorrow, we will talk about using our resources to honor our Savior. And finally, the day after tomorrow, we will look at why Luke paid so much attention to the burial of Jesus.

So, for today. Let’s talk about making choices. Let’s talk about standing up against the tide of popular opinion. There are times that we must make a choice. We must stand up and be counted. There are times that we must be willing to be singled out as Christ followers regardless of consequence or ridicule. When it’s crunch time, where will you be. Will you blend into the crowd? Will you hide like the disciples? Or will you stand up like Joseph of Arimathea? To personalize this passage for myself, I drift back to childhood and my teenage years at home.

This passage reminds me of times when I was living at home with my parents as I was growing up. My brother, God love him, was a bit on the socially awkward side. He was a highly intelligent little guy, a Sheldon Cooper of sorts. He didn’t understand social interactions and the nuances of such very well. He had no filter for his thoughts either. He was for all intents and purposes, the quintessential nerd. I was fairly smart guy growing up. Whereas I would make 5 A’s and a B and have to work really hard at it, my brother would make straight A’s and it was a breeze for him. My brothers lack of social skills and his ease with which he embraced academia made him an easy target for ridicule. You know the drill. The crowd would make fun of him. But, yet, he would invite it at times with his lack of social skills and such. Me, I was a crowd pleaser. I tried to blend in as much as I could. We were Methodist preacher’s kids so we were always the new kids so I became skillful at quickly blending in and making friends with those that seemed to be in the in-crowd. My brother just wasn’t like that. Therefore, there were many times in which I had to make a choice between the safety of the crowd and standing with my brother, my blood. More often than not, I chose the safety of the crowd and joined in the ridicule of my brother. When my father would get wind of it, he would let me hold it. He would say that family is the most important thing. When you don’t have anything else you have family. You should have the courage to stand up for your brother. I would argue with him that my brother invited ridicule. I would argue that he always had to let people know how smart he was and how dumb they were. I would argue that he would bring it upon himself. My dad would only have one response to all of it. He’s your brother. He’s your brother. He’s your brother. You must protect your family. I knew he was right. When the moving van would pull up to the parsonage to move us to the next town, guess who would go with me to the new town, my brother. Not the friends from the town I was leaving. It was my brother who went with me. Like him or not, he was my family. I must stand up and be counted as his brother even if it cost me everything and to me everything was my popularity at school, in our neighborhood, and among the church youth.

This is the place that I think we find Joseph of Arimathea. We know from each of the four gospels that Joseph was a member of the Jewish high council. He, up until this point had been a closet follower of Jesus Christ. But there comes a time in life where we must publicly identify ourselves with Jesus Christ regardless of the consequences or the ridicule. We also know from the Gospel of John that Nicodemus (who had previously met with Jesus under the cover of the night) joined Joseph in taking a risk. Both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus put their lives and reputations on the line as they assist Jesus. Joseph of Arimathaea could easily have remained safely anonymous and securely on the sideline, but he found within himself the courage to do what the Twelve could not. I believe one of the most lacking things in American Christianity today is courage. As Martin Field says in his sermon at http://www.sermoncentral.com entitled Christian Courage,

“In this modern world…we are surrounded with and by those who insist on political correctness, moral relativism, and an all-options-are-the-same approach to faith. It is not easy to stand up as a Christian in many parts of our society. It is not comfortable to share ones faith evangelistically. It is not risk-free to buck the crowd or the trend or the current fad. It’s infinitely easier to go along.”

May of us are like the disciples, scurrying for cover when the heat is on. Many of us might be scared away by humanistic bullies who in the name of tolerance of all things are intolerant of anything to do with Jesus Christ. But Joseph and Nicodemus had come to the point that they could no longer blend in. They saw that the crowd was wrong and were willing to say I don’t care about my social reputation, my wealth, my position. I am going to stand against the tide. I will not wash Scripture away just to be a part of the crowd and to avoid ridicule. I will stand and be counted as a follower of Jesus Christ. The same situations present themselves to you and I today. Am I willing to be counted as Jesus follower when I encounter situations that are totally against God’s Word. Certainly, the first thing that comes to many a mind is protesting “Christians”, note the quotes, who spew hate while using the Bible falsely to support their own hatred. No, I am talking about when you are faced with situations where you must choose between God’s timeless Word and the ever changing and slipping moral landscape of man. Will you blend in and participate. If you were to lose your job because you had a choice between that which is morally right and that which is deceptive, what would you do? If I were among a pit of atheists that I knew would ridicule my belief in Jesus Christ as God in the flesh, would I keep quiet. What if you were placed in Jordan or Iraq right now as a Christian, how long would that last if you were being starved to death just for being Christian? What if you were living there and your 7 year old daughter was ripped away from you by ISIS radicals and were forced to watch her be raped and sodomized right in front of your with a gun to your head? How long would you and I be counted? How long would you and I be willing to be counted if you had a blade to your neck. These are extreme but real examples from our world today.

Even in the cushy comfort and wealthy excess (by comparison to the rest of the world), there is a day coming where it will cost us something to be a Christian. Where will you and I be then? If it cost you your freedom to show up at LifeSong Church’s community outreach events, would you? If it cost you your job to been seen walking into the doors of our church, would you? The days in which being a Christian in America was an advantage is at best neutral now and the days are coming in which it will eventually become a disadvantage to be counted as Christian. In our land of increasingly intolerant tolerance, there will come a day when you and must choose to be Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus or just blend in. There will come a day when you and I must be Mark that stands up for his brother or throw him under the bus. There will come a day when we must stand up and say I am Christ follower and I don’t care what it costs me. We are just temporary travelers here. We must begin to live our lives with our eternal home in heaven in mind. Take risks. Be ridiculed. Stand up for Jesus. Matthew 10:33 time is coming. Stand and be counted. I pray that there is enough evidence of my love for Jesus Christ that I am ridiculed for it by those who do not believe in Him as their Savior.

Luke 23:44-49 — There are three things that jump out at you from this passage that are observable. First, there was darkness for three hours during the middle of the day. Second, the curtain between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place was torn down the middle. Finally, there is the statement by the Roman officer that surely Jesus was a righteous man. All of it has to do with validation that Jesus Christ is no ordinary guy. He is indeed the Son of God and it is in Him that we are reconciled to God.

The first thing that we notice here is that there was darkness during the middle of the day during the last three hours that Jesus was alive. We don’t know if this was a solar eclipse or what. Passover was always held during the phase of the moon when it is full meaning that the full sphere is reflecting the light of the sun. So, when the moon is full, it is not in position to block out the light of the sun. It is not in the direct path between the sun and the earth. Thus, a solar eclipse in the natural order of things is unlikely. The only thing that you can conclude is that this was the Creator acting on His creation. I think that it is an expression of sorrow by the Creator. The Father is in sorrow over the death of The Son. We can relate to this, can’t we? There are things that we, as human parents, have to let our children go through because it is part of growing up. Sometimes these experiences are painful for the child. As parents, we often have to sit and watch these things occur and we cry for them as they go through painful experiences. The Father knows that what The Son had to go through was necessary but it does not take away any sorrow away from it. Necessity does not change the bond of the Trinity. However, this shows how much God loves us. His willingness to allow the Son to be given up on the cross for us is the ultimate act of love. You hear stories on the human level of father’s defending their families with their lives such that their families can escape danger. Here is that Fatherly love for us on display. Sacrificing His Son so that we may be reconciled to Him. There is no greater love than this. Yes, we see God’s sorrow on display in the disappearance of the light. This is validation to all that can witness this scene in person or through the centuries on these pages that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God. God validates Jesus right here. This is my Son. This is my Son. I will make the world stop! This is my Son in whom I am extremely pleased!

The second thing that we see and observe here is that on the other side of town from the site of the crucifixion at the Temple. Let us not miss the symbolism of this event. Remember, this curtain separated the Holy Place, the sanctuary of the Temple where the priests could worship, and the Most Holy Place, where the High Priest only could enter once per year alone to atone for the sins of the people. It was in the Most Holy Place that the Ark of the Covenant rested. It was here that the presence of God rested. The curtain closed off the Most Holy Place from view. What the curtain tearing shows us that Jesus is now our High Priest. There is no need for a human priest to intercess on our part. There is no need for the High Priest to go through some cleansing process to go into the presence of God for us. We through the perfection of Jesus and His loving sacrifice for us that we are made clean and we can go, ourselves, into the presence of God through Jesus Christ, the true and better High Priest. The curtain is no longer needed. The mission of Jesus has accomplished the culmination of the Temple. It is finished. The curtain is no longer necessary. We have direct access to God through Jesus Christ.

The final thing that you notice here is that the Roman soldier recognizes that Jesus is a righteous man. In Mark, the statement is that surely this man was the Son of God. In Matthew, this man was truly the Son of God. As Dr. Ralph Wilson states at http://www.jesuswalk.org., “The centurion, a career Roman military officer, has doubtless seen and supervised many crucifixions in his life. Though the task is unpleasant, he has become used to it. But in this man whom he has observed for only a few hours, he sees something different. He sees a death different than the many hundreds he has witnessed. And he is in awe.” Even a hardened military executioner could see there was something different about this man. Some suppose, because of his awe and his exclamation here, that he is Cornelius who later became a Christian, the first Gentile convert. The irony here is that though he grew up and was steeped in Roman culture with their gods for this and gods for that and their beliefs in basically what amounts to karma, he recognized the Son of God before him. He saw the Messiah. His eyes were more open to seeing the Messiah that the religious elite of God’s own chosen people. It is also so very symbolic of the fact that Jesus’ death on the cross is for all people regardless of origin. He died on the cross for mankind not just a select few. He died for all. All it takes is for us to recognize who He is and that we are in need of the salvation that He offers.

So what we have here is God’s sorrow and love for His Son on display. It is His validation for all to see that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God. The world is stopped for a moment and God shouts through nature that this is His Son. To further validate Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, the veil between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place is torn at the moment of His death. His death means that Jesus is our High Priest. We can reach God’s presence on our own through His Son. Finally, we see that Jesus’ position as the Son of God is recognizable to any who have their eyes of their soul open. When we are busy trying to protect our things, our power, ourselves, we cannot see Jesus as our Savior, our Messiah. It is only when we are humbled that we can see Him and recognize Him for who He really is. What wonder this scene brings to our view. The ultimate act of love of God for mankind. This moment is the key moment in human history. All you and I must do is see that it is really that – the most pivotal moment in history.

Luke 24:32-43 — Jesus on the cross. Jesus dying on the cross. We understand from Scripture that this fact is significant. Scripture tells us that Jesus dying on the cross is what reconciles us to God. When I was a non-believer I could grasp that Jesus was a great man. I could grasp that His death on the cross was a travesty of human justice. I could grasp that He was a holy man of God that spoke great truths of the universe. I could grasp that He was so committed to the truth that He risked his life to call out that which claimed to be holy as unholy. I could grasp that He spoke of peace and love and not war and hate in a world built on war and hate. I could grasp that all of these factors, truth, candor, peace made Him a rebel in his day. To me when I was a non-believer, he was the original flower child much like the hippees of the 60’s. To me, I admired Him as an anti-establishment rebel that through his love not war attitude changed the world much like the counterculture of the late 60’s-early 70s changed our nation forever. Much like the racial equality movement of that same time changed the face of our nation forever as well. As a non-believer, I could see Jesus marching in anti-war protests of the 60’s, marching arm in arm with His black friends from Selma to Montgomery. That was the Jesus that I grasped. I grasped a rebel Jesus who was martyred for being different, for fighting for change, and through whose death the world was changed. That was the Jesus I grasped.

However, as a non-believer, I just could not grasp the Christian theology that Jesus’ death on the cross was for me. I just could not grasp that Him hanging on the cross was for the forgiveness of my sins. How does a man dying on the cross reconcile me to God, I asked myself? It all boils down to who do you think Jesus is. If Jesus was just a man…if Jesus was just a rebel fighting against injustice and the status quo who was killed for it…if Jesus was just another prophet who was killed…if Jesus was a cool dude that was super-perceptive about life…if Jesus was just…then it does not make sense. If Jesus was just these things, then this whole Christian thing built on Him dying on the cross does not make any sense at all. Jesus dying on the cross was just the end of a cool dude’s life and then the church fabricated the resurrection thing. It just doesn’t make any sense if Jesus was just…a man.

However, Jesus was not just a man. He was the Son of God. He was God in the flesh. He was part of the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and The Holy Spirit that has existed since before creation. It was through Him that the universe was made. That’s the part that takes faith. And that faith is what makes sense of the cross. His death on the cross makes senses when you realize that Jesus was the Son of God and that He and the Father were one and were of the same essence. This makes the cross make sense.

Beginning in Egypt we see God pointing us toward the cross. Jesus is the Passover Lamb. During the final plague in Egypt, God commanded the Israelites to paint the blood of an innocent pure lamb on their doorway so that the death plague would passover their homes. This points to Jesus on the cross. His blood was spilled so that we might live. The Old Testament sacrificial system instituted at Mt. Sinai taught the Israelites and us about Jesus. Animals were sacrificed as atonement for sin. The animals spilled their blood for forgiveness of sin because that’s God said it was for. The animals took the punishment for sin that the sinner deserved. God was pointing us toward his ultimate act on the cross in Jesus.

We have all done things that are wrong and we have failed to live up to God’s laws – his expectations for holiness from us as He is holy. Sin, just one sin, separates us from God. It does not matter how we justify it or how much good we do, our sin, any sin, taints us and makes us imperfect. Imperfection cannot exist in the presence of God. Once we have sinned there is nothing we can do ourselves to make ourselves clean. It is like squirting flavor additives into clear water. Once you have squirted the colored additive into the water, you cannot make it clear again no matter what you do. Sin is that way for us. Thus, there is a permanent separation for us from God because of this sin imperfection from the first time we think of sinning. We need help. And it is only when we realize that we are helpless that we are ready to understand what Jesus did on the cross that is so important to us. That is so important that its news spread out from the cross around the globe and through the centuries.

Jesus was not only a man. He was also God in the flesh acting as the Son of the Father. OK. Why then still does his death on the cross mean? It all goes back God’s sacrificial system. Jesus is the culmination of that. The animals used in the passover and the sacrifices at the Tabernacle and later the Temple had to be pure and spotless to be used to atone for the sinner’s sin. Jesus was pure and spotless. He never sinned. Thus, this made Him the only sacrifice ever that was truly perfect, spotless, and sinless. Because He lived a sinless life and never disobeyed the Father in any way then his sacrifice of His life was the culminating atonement for sin. It did not have to be repeated anymore like the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. Jesus was the final sacrifice for sin. He is the Passover Lamb of all Passover Lambs. He is the Sin Sacrifice of Sin Sacrifices.

On the cross, He was thus sacrficed for sin. He became all sin of all time, past, present and future. He took on the full wrath of God against the imperfection of sin for all time. Jesus who had existed for eternity with the Holy Spirit and the Father was now separated from that one essence, that unity that He had known for all eternity. That is why when taking on the full wrath of sin for all time, he exclaims in all four gospels, Father why have you abandoned me. He, on the cross, was substituting Himself for man’s sins of all time and He was alone bearing that heavy burden. He was separated from the loving trinity that He had known since before what we know as time begin. It is through His death that the sacrificial system is completed. It is finished at the cross. Jesus bore the punishment for all sin for all time on the cross. Thus, it is finished. The job is complete at the cross. When we have the faith to believe this, that is where we can say that Jesus has already paid the price for our sin on the cross. He paid our debt and we are released from the impurity and imperfection of sin that condemns us to eternal separation from God in hell. We are redeemed from slavery through his payment made at the cross.

That is the only way that the cross makes sense. There is indeed a God who created the universe and created man. He gave man free will to choose to worship God not as robots but as knowledgeable humans making choices. With the risk of free will came the ability to listen to evil in the form of Satan. When the first sin in Adam occurred, it set mankind on a course of self-destruction from which we cannot extricate ourselves. Sin stains us and changed everything. With our sin nature passed down from Adam to us, we cannot help ourselves. We sin. We cannot help ourselves. With that first sin, we permanently taint ourselves and separate ourselves from God. With sin, it is a permanent stain. No matter how much good we try to do, it is like trying to get a wine stain out of white shag carpet. It will never be same. We become imperfect and ineligible for existing in the presence of our Creator with our first sin not to mention the mounds of sins we pile up in our lifetime due to our sin nature. We can’t clean it. We can’t fix it. We are truly screwed. We are up crap creek without a paddle. There is only one thing that can change that. It is Jesus who is the culmination of God’s sacrificial system instituted in the Old Testament. He is the permanent fix to our sin problem. Jesus lived the sinless life and sacrificed himself in our place on the cross. He bore the punishment that you and I deserve for our first and the rest of our sins. When we believe on this fact. We are freed from condemnation to hell that we deserve for our sins. Hell is where we are separated from God and live eternally in flesh eating, teeth gnashing, wailing, burning, nothingness separated from God. That is what we deserve for what we have made of ourselves and the world we live in. When we believe on Jesus, He frees us from our death sentence. In Him, we know that we will be able to join Him in heaven in the presence of the God and know eternal joy. We know in Him that there will be an end to this madness that we live in. We know that in our physical death we will join Him in eternity. We know that in the end that Jesus will redeem His creation and conquer evil once and for all. In Him, there is hope.

That is why the cross makes sense to me now. I grasp who Jesus is. He is my Savior. He is the Son of God. He is God in the flesh who loves you and me enough to break into the history of His creation and offer Himself up as as sacrifice for your and my sins so that we can be redeemed from death in Hell. That’s why the cross makes sense. Do you get it?

Luke 23:32-43 — We are finally at the cross. This is the center point, the cornerstone, of the Bible. It is not literally in the center of the Bible but it is the centrality of the Bible. Everything before this moment in biblical history points to this moment. Everything after is a result of this moment. There are so many things to write about when you come to this scene in the Bible. Here we see Jesus pleading for forgiveness of His persecutors. Here we see rejection of the Messiah even to the last. Here we see the ultimate message of the cross that it is never too late to recognize Jesus for who He is. Tomorrow, we will look at this passage further as to why Jesus’ death on the cross was necessary in God’s plan. But today, let’s look at the things we see in this scene.

Jesus asked God to forgive the people that had put Him on the cross, the Jewish religious leadership, the Roman military/administrative structure, and the mocking bystanders. Jesus was suffering the most excruciating, humiliating, lengthy death ever created by man, but yet He hangs there on the cross and prays for those responsible for putting Him there. As we will learn tomorrow, we though not born yet, play a role in Jesus’ death on the cross as well. But, if we were on a cross, in excruciating pain for a crime we did not commit, could you or could I seek forgiveness from our Father in heaven for those who nailed us to the tree. This moment is the example of our Savior to us. We are to show love to people that do not deserve it. We are to show forgiveness to those who hurt and persecute us. Are we to be doormats? No. Jesus’ more powerful statement is his seeking forgiveness for those who hated Him. Meeting hatred with hatred may seem the right thing to give a salve to our egos, but hatred meeting hatred only leads to greater hatred. Awhile back in the 90s, there was a movie called “The War” starring Elijah Wood where two separate groups of pre-teen kids fight over a fort one of the groups had built in a tree. It was a cool fort too. The fight over it continues until it escalates into all out war. In the end the war had destroyed the fort and it wasn’t until the youngest brother of the rival group almost drown but was saved by Elijah Wood’s character that the war and the hate was washed away. Love always trumps hate. Love always seeks a way that will restore relationships. Love always provides reconciliation and building better relationships. It may seem weak to not seek vengeance or revenge but it takes a stronger man to forgive than it does to hate. This is the example of our Lord. Love, when it invades, changes things for the better. It reconciles. It rebuilds. Hate lays waste and creates even greater hate until all is destroyed. As Christ followers, we must remember that our first motive should be love and never should be hate. Even with those who flaunt their hatred for us, even those who flaunt their sins before God, all of them should be given the same view of love that we see Jesus give here on the cross.

There will be those who will reject Jesus as the Son of God. There will always be those you demand proof from Jesus in order for them to believe in Him. The first criminal rejected Jesus because He didn’t perceive any immediate benefits from saying Jesus was the Messiah. He wanted there to be something in it for him. Aren’t some of us much like this man when we encounter Jesus? We want Jesus to be our vending machine. Lord, I will believe in you if you get me out of this jam. I promise I will behave better if you will do this for me. If Jesus doesn’t come through for us, we reject Him. If it requires that we humble ourselves and admit that we have sinned, we reject Him. Give up my pet sins? Give up what I think of as control of my life to Jesus? C’mon now. I want Him to be my Jesus and do what I want Him to do instead of the more proper other way around. We reject Jesus if it means that I have to give up control of my life. We reject Him if it means that I will have to be convicted of the parts of my life that are clearly against Scripture. We want a Jesus that fits into our lifestyle and how we want to live it. We edit Scripture to make Jesus into the form that we want, that meets our needs in the way that we want them met. Does this sound like you and me before we move to the cross on the other side of Jesus?

The final thing we see here is that the kingdom awaits those who humble themselves before the Lord and seek His forgiveness. The other criminal exclaims to his cohort on the other side of Jesus that each of them deserves the punishment that they are getting. They committed crimes against Rome and knew full well what the consequences were while they were committing those crimes. But, he looks to Jesus, despite his crimes and asks Jesus to remember him when He, Jesus, comes into His kingdom. At this moment, the criminals recognition of who Jesus really is saves his soul. His humility before the Lord is evident. He just asks Jesus to remember Him. He was asking no special favor from Jesus. He just wanted Jesus to think of Him. His humility before the Lord, his recognition of his sins, his desire for repentance through asking Jesus to remember him is all it takes. Jesus says that they will be together in heaven. This proves to us that grace is a gift. Our salvation is not something we earn by doing things or by being in service to Jesus for three years like his disciples. It is simply faith in Jesus Christ. It is humility and recognition and desire to repent. It is casting our faith on Jesus’ ability to grant us salvation. We cannot earn it. Since it cannot be earned, this scene also proves to us that it is never to late to turn to Jesus and ask for his forgiveness. Since there are no prerequisites for salvation other than humbly seeking forgiveness of our sins through Jesus and proclaiming Him as the Lord and Savior of your life, we can turn to Jesus no matter what we have done wrong in our lives and no matter how little right we have done. It is never too for us to come to the cross. It is never too late for us to ask Jesus to remember us. We are never too far gone for grace to cover us. Jesus being here on the cross covers us and the grace He extends to us is a gift. A gift. A gift. A gift. We cannot earn our way to it. We are criminals rightly condemned for our crimes of a life of sin. Nothing we can do. No good deeds to cancel out our crime. No judge in his right mind would say to someone who committed a crime that, well, you have done more good than bad so I will let you go. We are convicted by our sins and they are many. We can’t earn it. We simply can’t. It would not be just. We must recognize that there is only one way. It is to turn to Jesus and in humility before the King of the Universe and ask him to remember us, to forgive us, to grant us his gift of grace.

This is the scene that we see. It is a powerful scene. It has all the elements of Jesus’ earthly ministry. His love for man. The rejection of His love by many. And those that finally see who He is and seek His grace. This is the centrality of the Bible. Everything before this scene in biblical history is its prelude. Everything after this scene would not happen without this scene occurring. Let us stand on this hallowed ground and soak that in today. We have spent time today observing those on the ground below Jesus’ cross. We have looked at the cross on one side of Jesus and the cross on the other side of Jesus. Tomorrow we look at Jesus on the cross in the center of this scene. It is central to everything!

Luke 23:26-31 — Memorial Day. It is the day in the United States on which we honor our valiant military men (and women now) who have given their life to defend the honor and interests of the United States. It is ironic we arrive at this passage today as Jesus is being led away to the cross. For many who have died for our country, there were series of events that could not be changed that led to their deaths fighting for a cause we believed to be right. Jesus is now in the middle of unalterable events that will led to his death in a cause that not only He believed to be right but He knew to be right. Our soldiers play small parts in a larger picture with a larger purpose. We thank them today for doing their part in a larger picture. We must thank Jesus in His earthly life for playing His part in the larger picture. For without the sacrifice of our valiant soldiers, we would not be a free nation. For without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we would not be free from the tyranny of sin.

When we think of the sacrifices of our soldiers today, we do not know all of the gory details of their battles. Some will tell you about them with graphic detail that tells you of the horrors of war. Some others remain quiet about it refusing to speak of it. There was a friend of my dad when my dad was serving two churches in the Travelers Rest, SC area when we were there in the late 70’s-early 80’s that served in Vietnam that refused to speak of the horrors of war that he endured. It was too painful to speak of. Luke does not mention the flogging of Jesus because as a physician I bet that it was too painful for him to write about in his gospel. Many soldiers of our armed forces have been captured and tortured during war and have suffered unimaginable horrors. Beaten within an inch of their lives at times. The valiant ones never give up. They think of not compromising their fellow soldiers. They think of the cause they are fighting for. They never gave up on the purpose for which they were enduring great suffering. Jesus is the same kind of soldier. He endured much pain and suffering but never forget to keeping pushing on through for the purpose for which He was fighting.

Here today in this passage, we know from Mark 15:15 that Jesus was flogged before his final sentencing to death. Lead tipped whips would beat and bruise the flesh and then rip the flesh upon recoil of the whip by the holder of the whip. We know from Matthew 27:27-31 that Jesus was beaten too with sticks by the Roman soldiers and mocked and spat upon by them. Flesh ripped from the body. Body bruised and batter. Bleeding from every area of his earthly body. Then beaten by sticks on a body that was raw meat to begin with. Luke is silent about this. It may have been to painful for him to write about. But no wonder in Luke we find Simon of Cyrene being forced to carry Jesus’ cross. Jesus must have been so weak from his beatings that He could not carry the cross. He must have been beaten to a pulp because Roman soldiers would rarely show this kind of mercy to a condemned man. For all the negativity Mel Gibson took for the Passion of the Christ, I think he got it right about what Jesus looked like after having been whipped and beaten. Jesus kept moving though. He kept surviving. Even though if He was beaten so severely like the Passion of Christ portrays, it would have been easy for Him to just give up and stop this whole mess. However, Jesus soldiers on. He knows there is a higher purpose and point to His temporary suffering here. He had all of eternity in view. His momentary deep physical pain was not going to deter Him from His goal. He was not going to throw the eternal future under the bus just because He was suffering. What a soldier!

Jesus though bloodied and battered was able to speak to the wailing women along His trip to the cross. He was able to warn them of the coming doom of Jerusalem. Jesus is believed to have died in 30AD so it was only 40 years later than Rome so completely tired of the rebellion in Palestine that they sent the full force of the Roman army against Jerusalem and laid it to waste. Nothing remained. Not even the Temple. The only thing that remains of it today is the Western Wall of the Temple grounds. Jesus warns them that they should not cry for Him (for He was really doing His Father’s will). They should lament what was about to happen to them so four decades ahead. First, Jerusalem was starved to death by a siege and what was still living was killed brutally when Titus led his armies inside Jerusalem. Jesus knew that His death was serving a purpose and He was doing it willingly. It reminds us the defiance of our soldiers captured by the Japanese in the Philippines. The Death March to Bataan. They were defiant to the end in the belief that the United States would win the war and the tyranny of the Japanese military would be destroyed. Jesus defiantly warns the onlookers that His death was for a greater purpose and a greater eternal victory. He warns us today through this statement that the things that we count on as eternal are just fleeting and that we must look to his death as the source of our eternal victory not the things of this world. What a soldier! Preaching about the kingdom even when suffering unimaginable earthly physical pain.

On this day, we salute our fallen heroes who paid the ultimate price for the defense of American freedom. They gave their lives to protect our interests around the world. They gave their lives because they believed in honor, duty and service to a country that they love and were willing to defend with their lives. Soldiers today have various reasons for going into the military but common thread they have is ultimately when it comes down to it, they love their brothers in arms and they love this country. They are willing to put theirselves in harm’s way and to die for a way of life that they believe in. They believe ultimately in the freedom that they defend. They give their lives in defense of it. They defend you and me and we don’t even know 99.9% of them. They work on our behalf daily without us even knowing it until we take pause to do so. What soldiers we have!

Jesus is the the ultimate soldier that suffered unimaginable pain and suffering even before He got to the cross. Why? Because He had a higher purpose. He knew that His suffering was in defense of us, you and I, from the condemnation to hell that you and I deserve. He fought for us by dying at the cross. He gave His life willingly so that we could have freedom from the tyranny of sin. He gave His life for you and for me even before we came to know Him personally. He gave His life so that someday you would come to know the peace and comfort of the eternal presence of God. He gave His life for that. We give pause when we accept Him as our Savior and we live a life of thanks for the remainder of our days for his sacrifice. As we are eternally grateful to our soldiers who gave their life for the freedom we enjoy in this country, we give thanks to Jesus Christ for the eternal freedom that He gave us through His ultimate sacrifice on the cross. What a soldier was He!