140418GF Pulpit of Cross .docx
The Gospel in Ten Words From the Altar of the Cross
Luke 23:34Good Friday is all about God the Father sacrificing His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ on an altar as: the Lamb of God slain for the sin of the world. The altar that God used is the cross of Christ’s crucifixion. Watching and listening to Christ upon the Cross: is an amazing glimpse into the very heart of God. But above and beyond everything else we could see, hear, or understand at the crucifixion: it isJesus sharing the Gospel, in His first ten words, that should thrill our hearts tonight. We gather tonight out of love and devotion for the One who suffered and bled and died for us two thousand years ago. As we come to remember, reverence, and worship Him for what He did for us, listen to those 10 astounding words of Luke 23:34: Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Each time we enter the treasure house of this record in God’s Word, giving us Christ’s last week, His final day, and then Christ’s glorious resurrection: we are astounded. There is so much to see, and so much to discover; as we will someday see around the Throne of God when we join in the worship of the Lamb slain for us: we will never run out of ways to thank Him. As we focus on these six hours of the crucifixion, the most vital detail that the Lord brings to us in the Scriptures is the fact that Jesus actually spoke from the Cross; and God’s Word records each of those seven times. These seven messages are an amazing explanation by Jesus Himself, of what He was doing for us on the Cross. But before we analyze the words, what is truly amazing is that Jesus speaks at all, knowing as we do: The Horrible Pain of Crucifixion After Pilate’s washing his hands of the matter, Jesus was seized by calloused Roman soldiers, led through the streets of Jerusalem (known today as the Via Dolorosa), and taken out the Damascus Gate to the public place of Roman execution. There beside the heavily traveled road to Damascus, that headed north out of Jerusalem, Jesus was crucified: in full view of all the city dwellers as well as those who traveled down the highway to and from Damascus. There, the death squad, who were the pros of Roman crucifixion: rudely stripped him, and harshly pushed Christ’s already bloodied and torn body onto that rough and filthy, reused wooden beam. Then those filthy iron spikes, salvaged from previous executions, were pounded through Christ’s wrists and ankles as mankind murdered their Maker with carpenter’s tools. After they finished the cruel piercings, Jesus Christ hung there, to be seen by all. The soldiers wiped off their hands, collected their tools, gambled for their share of the condemned ones possessions, and then took their stations around the crosses to stand guard, until death came to those three criminals. But in the midst of all that there is a stir, the prisoner on the middle cross, held by spikes, crowned by thorns, and covered by bleeding wounds is about to speak to His cruel tormentors. His lips begin to move: Jesus spoke from the Cross, and we can call that message: Seven Words from the Altar of the Cross Crucifixion was so cruel, so painful, and so completely debilitating to all the body’s systems, any use of air for talking was at great cost. That is why when God’s Word records for us what He said: we find seven precious messages from the Altar of the Cross. To the end, Jesus was God the Son; and holding together the Cosmos while He was being crushed under the wrath of His Father. Last words are often so very precious to loved ones gathered near, but these words head the list as perhaps the most amazing, astounding, and transforming words that Jesus Christ ever spoke. He spoke in pain. He spoke in short gasps. He spoke exactly seven times. From the dying lips of Jesus, from His raging-thirst-dried-mouth, in the midst of excruciating pain, even though being crushed by the horrors of sin and death and the pains of hell—Jesus carefully and clearly speaks. If we will listen, Jesus is speaking to each of us today from His Crucifixion. We can hear through Jesus Christ: The Heart of God Revealed Here are the seven messages of Jesus, in chronological order from His cross: In Lk. 23:34 Jesus spoke of forgiveness “forgive them”: so we can know we are forgiven. In Lk. 23:42 Jesus spoke of assurance “today”: so we can know we have reservations in heaven. In Jn. 19:26 Jesus spoke of compassion “woman”: so we can know we are not alone. In Mt. 27:46 Jesus spoke of substitution “my God, why”: so we can know He took our place. In Jn. 19:28 Jesus spoke of agony “thirst”: so we can know He felt our weakness and pain. In Jn. 19:30 Jesus spoke of triumph “finished”: so we can know that our salvation is secured and finished. In Lk. 23:46 Jesus spoke of security “into Thy hands”: so we can know we are heaven bound! So we could condense the lessons Christ gave from the Cross down to these words He spoke of: Forgiveness, Assurance, Compassion, Substitution, Agony, Triumph, & Security. But, before we examine more of the events surrounding those words, we have come to an amazing moment of discovery. The Silence of Our Patient God Have you ever wondered about the silence of God in the face of incredible injustice here on Earth? Have you ever felt the horror of wickedness that goes unpunished as warfare, terrorism, poverty, starvation, genocide, and cruelty at all levels seems to go unchecked? If you ever want to understand the silence of God, here it is explained. If you ever want to know why nothing happens when Muslims in Syria torture and lynch believers, and when Hindus in India beat and burn alive missionaries, and when North Korea imprisons, starves, and abuses Christians: the answer can be seen at the Crucifixion of Christ. God is a God of Love with an immense amount of patience. We can most clearly see this attribute of God’s immense patience, when we look at the crucifixion for what it really was: The Worst Sin Ever Committed At the Crucifixion, we can safely conclude that there could never be a greater amount of blasphemy ever heaped upon God than here at Golgotha. Think of what really was going on. God the Son, the Creator Himself, walking upon Earth: was taken to be horribly treated, beaten, spit upon, and hated with every word, look, and act that sinful mankind could think of hurled at Him. On the Cross Jesus hung there as the target of humanity’s hatred and blasphemy. Most of the characters that came and went from the Cross were as sarcastic, abusive, demeaning, and hateful as their dark hearts could conjure up. They sneered at God, mocked His Deity, and scorned the True and Living Creator, Redeemer, and King. Nothing can come near this level of blasphemy towards the very God of the Universe in human flesh. There is nothing more that sinners could ever do to top this direct, face-to-face hatred, mockery, blasphemy, rebellion, and scorn. Waiting for God to Act The Lord Jesus Christ hangs there after He was humiliated, stripped of clothing, scourged, falsely worshiped, cursed, covered with blood and spit, and hated with as much hatred as words, expressions, and actions can convey. If there ever was a moment in history that demanded that God act: it would be now. This is the pinnacle of sin, the darkest moment of evil, the greatest outpouring of wickedness, and the most direct blasphemy of the Holy and Almighty God possible. Pause and think about what you know. All of that evil was spewed at the Holy, Infinitely Powerful God of the Universe, and: Nothing Happens What happens? Nothing visibly happens. Venom, bile, hatred, rebellion, and blasphemies all just go on flowing from these characters until they slowly tire of the spectacle, and drift away; until just some soldiers and a few others are left to watch through the daylight to noon, through the three hours of darkness, and back to the daylight finale. No god every imagined by world religions would ever be portrayed this way. No demon idol-god of paganism would ever be treated this way. Yet God Almighty took it all. The crucifixion would have been the ultimate moment to establish Himself as King: Jesus Christ in blazing fury, with consuming wrath, Melting away those spikes, Shattering the wood of that cross, Rising up to tower over the scene, & Slowly incinerating all the haters. If this Son of God could silence the raging Sea of Galilee, certainly He can flatten the city, subdue the nations, and end all rebellion by force. He can, He will; but He doesn’t do it now, here at Calvary. He waits, endures, bears, suffers, sorrows, and finally dies. The horrific judgment He foresaw on Palm Sunday as Jesus wept over the city is poured out on Jerusalem 40 years later. Perhaps some of those who mocked Him at the Cross were still alive, and those mockers felt a tiny taste of the wrath of God. But by every reckoning what we see at the Crucifixion is: Strange Justice It is a strange justice that made the outpouring of the wrath of God to be: directed towards the One upon the Cross, and not upon the crowd of blasphemers at His feet. God’s punishment for blasphemers is crystal clear. In the Pentateuch of Moses God said: Leviticus 24:16 (NKJV) And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death. Jesus had warned them repeatedly of the dangers of blaspheming God the Son. At one of His six different trials before various groups Jesus had said in effect: watch out, do you realize who you are talking to? Mark 14:61-62 (NKJV) But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” From our perspective as humans this is twisted, perverted justice: That God’s wrath falls on the One blasphemed, not those blasphemers; That the curse of sin crushes the Sinless One not the sin-filled ones; That the Holy God who has every right to catapult them into to Hell: Instead pours out the cup of His wrath to the very last dreg upon His Beloved Son. The struggle we have with God’s patience for sinners is reflected throughout the Scriptures. When Habakkuk saw the evil within and around Israel he begs God for justice: Habakkuk 1:1-2 (NKJV) The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw. O Lord, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save. The Mystery of God’s Patience All the way through God’s Word to the end, the same question, the same mystery of God’s patience with such sinful humanity echoes in the words of the martyrs gathered at the feet of God Almighty: Revelation 6:10 (NKJV) And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” We today join with the saints of all generations in amazement at the patience of our All Powerful God of Justice. If any moment ever deserved the zap of a blinding stroke of the furious, wrath-filled judgment of God: those scorners at Christ’s feet, as He hung there dripping with blood and spit, deserved to be struck. How amazing instead is what we hear. As God’s wrath is heaped upon Christ He speaks. Most strange of all is His first utterance. Christ’s first message from the Cross, was a cry to God for mercy upon His tormentors. The Gospel in Ten Words From the Altar of the Cross Luke 23:34 Luke notes that it was during, or soon after the cross was raised along the road just outside the Damascus Gate. There in Jerusalem, at a place called Golgotha, as the executioners began to gamble for the clothes of Jesus: Christ was asking God for their forgiveness. Luke 23:33-34 (NKJV) And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. Jesus is speaking to each of us tonight from His Crucifixion. Tonight we offer our thanks to God for loving us so much that He sent His Son to suffer the wrath of God for our sin.