Sermon Follow Up- Week 40, 2021
The cross of Christ dominates the entirety of Luke’s gospel. It’s absolutely central. In fact, if we’re going to understand anything about Jesus and the gospel, the cross must dominate the entirety of our life too. Far from just a theological point to become so familiar with that it’s beauty becomes clouded, it is meant to be THE reality that fills our vision of what being a Christian is all about. The cross of Jesus is that important. Luke doesn’t go into a lot of detail about the crucifixion, but he does tell us several things about the meaning of the cross and why Jesus died on it. And he does so via four sayings, four words of Jesus in our text that are only recorded by Luke and aren’t found in the other gospels.
“And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.” (Luke 23:26–49 ESV)
POINTS AND REFLECTION QUESTIONS
1. Jesus Speaks a Gracious Word of Warning
“But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”” (Luke 23:28–31 ESV)
Jesus is literally minutes from the cross, beaten almost to death, so weak than he can’t carry his cross and yet, here he is taking time out of concern for these women to warn them that worse than the prospect of the brutality of crucifixion that they are rightly grieving, is the devastation that is coming on Jerusalem in the days to come (AD70). But there’s often a link between the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 and the actual end of the age. So, just as there’s a warning for these Jewish women who were moved by what was happening but weren’t trusting Jesus as their Lord and Savior, there’s a warning for us.
For those among us who may know about Jesus but don’t trust him, there is a day of judgment yet to come just as surely as AD70 was approaching them in that day. And, if we aren’t trusting Jesus , no matter how much we know about him, no matter how much we come to church, no matter how terrible we think the punishment he endured was, no matter how many tears you’ve shed, no matter how badly you felt when you watched The Passion of the Christ, we face the eternal hell of separation from God – a place that King Jesus described as a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus is warning us beforehand about that awful day of legitimate and sure judgment against all who reject Jesus. And unless we trust in Jesus and accept this salvation that he purchased on the cross for us, we are not safe from the coming destruction and we face the just penalty of our sins against the Holy Creator God for whom we exist.
- How does the threat of coming judgment for all those outside of Christ inform the way you live in this world (and speak) with others? Does it affect your prayers for them? Compassion towards them?
2. Jesus Speaks a Gracious Word of Forgiveness
“And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”” (Luke 23:34 ESV)
He’s just doing what he’s always done…he’s praying. When the hatred of man towards God had reached its highest point as they are literally killing the Son of God, when the religious leaders of God’s chosen people are committing the most outrageous crime in the entirety of human history as they gleefully mock and deride and kill the Son of God, and when Jesus himself is in such significant agony, he prays for his Father to forgive them. He certainly could have just left his mockers and murderers to their doom and actually just judged them on the spot as the sinners they were, but he did not. Instead, his heart was to pray for them to be forgiven. He prayed to his Father to forgive them and condemn him in their place.
This word of Jesus points us to the very heart of the salvation that Jesus had just warned us we are in desperate need of. The very heart of this salvation we are in need of is that forgiveness is realized only through a sacrificial death in that person’s place.
- How might our expectation/desire for the increase of a morality in those around us (family, friends, co-workers, nations) serve to inadvertently circumvent the necessity of the need for forgiveness (through repentance and faith in Christ) in those same people?
3. Jesus Speaks a Gracious Word of Promise
“And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”” (Luke 23:43 ESV)
Luke tells us in verse 32 that there were two criminals that were being led to be put to death with Jesus. And people gathered to watch. Religious leaders sneered. Soldiers mocked. One of the criminals threw insults. Yet, amid all of that we hear the other criminal in verse 40, rebuking his friend, declaring the reality of their guilt and Jesus’ innocence and turning to Jesus in desperation asking him to remember him when He came into his kingdom. And Jesus’ reply? “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” He had asked to be remembered but Jesus assured him not only that he would be remembered but that he would be alive with Him in full rest and joy in the paradise of the very real place of heaven.
This word of promise that Jesus gives is about the blessings of forgiveness and salvation; about the promise of being with Jesus in heaven, having eternal life.
- How does the promise of heaven inform the way you interact with the joys and difficulties of this life, with your family, with your work, with the events of this nation and this world?
4. Jesus Speaks a Gracious Word of Certainty
“Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:46 ESV)
After three hours of the darkness of the cup of God's wrath being poured out on Jesus in our place comes the certainty of sins paid for, full relationship with the Father restored, and the dread of death destroyed. It's why the Apostle Paul would cry out:
""“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55–57 ESV)
This gracious word is a gracious word of certainty of salvation through Jesus. Even our greatest enemy…death itself…what all of us will succumb to and most people are reluctant to even consider…not even death can touch our salvation through Jesus. Because our salvation through Jesus is certain, you and I who believe, can have both calm in our hearts and absolute and eternal certainty as we face the temporal certainty of death. In Christ, on account of his sacrifice in our place on the cross, our salvation is sure. Our salvation is certain.
- How might your certain salvation through Christ serve to bring calm to your heart as you face the temporal certainty of death.
- How might it bring purpose to those around you who face the same (not just being negative, but all of us are dying, aren't we?)
We've heard the word of warning telling us that we need to be saved. We've heard the word of forgiveness telling us that through Jesus’ sacrificial death we can be forgiven of our sins against God. We've heard the words of promise that for all who look to Christ for forgiveness will enjoy eternal life in the presence of Jesus, in heaven. And we've heard that nothing, not even death, can touch the certainty of this salvation found in King Jesus.
How will you respond? It’s not enough to be intrigued by Jesus. Not enough to come to church and be moved by the story of Jesus. Your need is to accept these words of grace. To receive and believe. To repent of your sins and believe in the gospel of Christ. And when you do that, you can know the certainty of forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life in the presence of Jesus in the paradise of heaven.
For those of us who have accepted Christ Jesus…oh let us rejoice and be glad and may we take this message to those who are in desperate need to hear it. How will you plan to do that this week?