The Crucifixion of Jesus
This sermon on The Crucifixion of Jesus from The Drama of Redemption was preached by Ryan Burns at Redemption Hill Church on Sunday, June 23rd, 2013.
You may find the following resources helpful for further study and reflection:
These notes are the unedited transcript used by Ryan for preaching.
Whenever I leave my house or am about to hang up the phone with my family, the last thing I always say is, “I love you.” It is something I’ve done for as long as I can remember, even as a child. While this is somewhat morbid, the reason I do this every time I walk out that door or hang up that phone is because if this is the last time I speak to my family, if something terrible happens to one of us after that moment, I want my last words to always be, “I love you.” Last words are extremely powerful.
However, there is a danger in this habit. The danger is that my words, said over and over and over again, begin to loose the power behind what they mean. I mean, there are some days when I just can’t seem to get out the door. I start to head out, “Bye, I love you.” The door shuts… Ah! I forgot my wallet. Go back in, grab the wallet, “Bye, Love ya.” The door shuts… Are you kidding me, I forgot the stack of papers I needed to take to the office. “Hey gang, its me again…. Ok, Bye, I love you.” The words can, when repeated over and over again, become commonplace. “I love you” can just become another way of saying goodbye.
But it isn’t. The words, though I say them a million times, represent the depth of my feelings towards my family. And sometimes, I have to stop and remember the depth of weight these words carry. I really, in the depth of who I am, love my family.
I share this for two reasons.
First, we’re looking today at the climax of God’s Drama of Redemption. We’re looking at the crux of everything we’ve been studying the past 30+ weeks as we’ve gone through the Bible, beginning in Genesis, and working our way through history as we see mankind going from bad to worse in his rejection of the God who created him and how God has constantly been at work to save his people from their sin. It is the story played out on every page of His book. And today, we look at the moment to which it was all pointing. The death of Jesus.
And this is why I shared that story a moment ago. Because, for many of us, the death of Jesus is something we’ve heard about hundreds of times.
Now, I know that there are some here who may not fall into that category and the death of Jesus is still a very new, and probably confusing, topic for you. If that’s you, I’m so glad your here and pray that I can help shed some light on what Jesus’ death, and Christianity, is all about.
But, like I said, for many of us, we’ve heard “Jesus died for our sins.” a million times if we’ve heard it once. Some of you have been dragged to church since you were a baby and week in and week out it is the same thing over and over again. Some of you, that’s the case today. It is just another day where you have to sit and listen to the same old story.
If that’s you… even if that’s not you, my hope is that we would ponder anew, that the weight of the reality that lies behind the words “Jesus died for your sins” would hit you in a fresh and powerful way. Not only that, but you would believe a fresh today.
I want the the weight and reality of Jesus’ death, in your place, for your sins, to capture your heart. Because I believe that 1. It is your only hope when you stand before God, the righteous judge of all creation. And 2. it is your only hope in this life as well.
So, I want us to hear and believe the good news fresh this morning, the gospel, the “I love you” fresh, because this isn’t just “a part of Christianity” It is the most important part. As the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” This is really important, and I want us to get it today.
The second reason I shared that story about always saying “I love you” when I’m saying good bye to my family is because, like I said, last words are powerful.
I don’t have to belabor this point with you. You know it. You know the weight of those words that you’ve spoken to someone in anger as you slammed the door in their face. You know how those last words pierced and crushed them. You can probably remember 5 or 10 “last words” that you’ve either said to someone or had said to you. These words carry weight that can uplift and encourage or crush and haunt you for years.
So, here, in Jesus’ final hour, we’ll hear a few of his words. The Gospels collectively record 7 different sayings of Jesus on the cross. We’ll only look at a couple. But they are important. They are his, “I love you.”
Before we get to the Cross, I want to back up a little bit and go to the Garden. Last week we looked at how deeply personal God’s story of Redemption is. We saw how much each and every one of us has with the people in the story. And we heard the good news that, just like them, Jesus opens his table, his body broken and his blood shed for the forgiveness of sins, to all of us if we simply believe.
After this, he takes his disciples out to the Mount of Olives and then over to a garden, Gethsemane, to pray. The weight of what lies ahead is bearing down and we are given the most intimate access to what is happening. Jesus is in no way surprised by what’s about to happen. As we saw in Matthew 26 last week, he said as clear as day that in 2 days he was going to be crucified. But what do we hear in the garden? Is he all calm and cool. Does he sit there, looking at his watch, waiting for Judas as things just continue to go as planned? No. Lean in and listen:
Matthew 26:36-44 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.
One thing about the Bible is that it allows you to be real. When you read the Psalms, you hear what real people sound like. And here, we hear Jesus, who Isaiah says was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” wrestling with the weight and severity of what was about to happen.
Now, again, be clear. Jesus isn’t trying to get out of this. He doesn’t really believe that there is another way. His entire ministry he has been pointing his life and his disciples to this very moment. Two days ago he told them he would be crucified. At the supper he tells them his body would be broken and his blood would be shed for the forgiveness of sins. He’s not trying to get out of it.
What I believe we see is Jesus, fully God, yet fully man, having the weight of what lies ahead rest on him. Jesus, who has walked a sinless life of perfect love and obedience to God the Father, looks at the cross and see its horror. Not the physical horror, though that would be enough for most men. Rather he sees what is going to happen. He sees, as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, that he who knew no sin, was going to become sin. He sees, as it says in 1 Peter 2:24, that he himself would bear our sins in his body on the tree. He sees, as it says in 1 Peter 3:18, that he would suffer for sins, the righteous one for the unrighteous. He sees, as it says in Colossians 2:13, that all our trespasses and the record of debt that stands against every man, woman, and child, with all the full legal demands of a just and holy God, was going to be nailed, in Jesus, to the cross. He see, as it says in Galatians 3:13, that he was going to become a curse for, for it is written, “cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”
Jesus knows what this means. He’s going to lose the Father. Let the weight of Gethsemane bear down on you. This is your freedom. This is your righteousness. This is your deliverance. This is the gospel – The good news. But, let’s see it from another angle.
In Gethsemane Jesus is betrayed and deserted by his disciples as the mob arrests him. He’s then led to a night hearing for Jesus. They bring in a bunch of false witnesses and can’t trump up any good charges to kill him. Finally, the High Priest under an oath to reveal if he’s the Christ, the Son of God. His confession causes the high priest to tear his robe and pronounce the charge of blasphemy against Jesus. In a rage of hatered, it says in verse 67 of Matthew 26 that they spit in his face and struck him. Then they continued to mock him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” We then hear Peter’s denial, just a Jesus had said, and we see Peter weeping bitterly. When morning finally comes, in Chapter 27, the men deliver Jesus to Pilate, the governor. Jesus is questioned, but Pilate can’t find anything worthy of death in him. Then, verse 15: Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
I want you to see this. Jesus, in Gethsemane feels the weight of what’s coming. He was going to take the penalty of our sin on himself. The penalty of separation from the Father. He’s going to Hell. Though innocent in God’s eyes, he was going to take this judgement to set us free. Judgement will fall to him to set us free. Do you see it? It is already happening.
Two men stand before the judge. Barabas and Jesus. One, clearly guilty and worthy of a just penalty, death. The other, one whom the judge has ruled innocent. One who, in the words of his wife, is righteous. But what happens? The righteous will take the judgement and the guilty one will go free. This is the gospel. When you place your faith in the work of Jesus, dying the criminals death you deserve… you go free. It is amazing, isn’t it. It defies logic, doesn’t it? But that’s what the good news is all about. John 3:16 – FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD, THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY SON, THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH. Jesus takes the penalty for all who believe. Will you believe today? Will you let it be fresh in your heart today? Will you let the beauty and the horror of the cross, captivate you and transform you?
One day, according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 5:10) we’ll all stand before the Judge. In that day, we’ll be Barabas. But it won’t be up to the crowd as to who goes free. The question will be did you trust in Jesus?Your guilt does not go unpunished. The question is who will bear it. You, or Jesus?
This is DEEPLY PERSONAL. We’re not talking abstractions here. We’re talking about a real God, real sin, real judgement.
I know you think you’re ok. You’re not as bad a Barabas. You’re not as bad as the embezeler, the molester, the murder, the dad who yells at his kids, the mom who homschools, unschools, public schools, private schools. You’re not as bad as the atheist that hates God. You’re not as bad as guy who works late to avoid his family. In fact, you’re pretty darn good. You give a few bucks to the guy flying the sign on the corner. You write a check every week when you come to church. You only say nice things. You practice random acts of kindness. You respect the earth. You are far more tolerant that most people you know. I get it… You’re ok… But here’s the thing. You’re measuring stick is all wrong.
I remember sitting in Northpoint Church in Atlanta many years ago, back when it was a small 5,000 member church. Andy Stanley was preaching and he took a little cardboard cutout of a person. It was bright neon orange. He then took a neon orange pice of cardboard and held the person up to it. He explained that we are neon orange people, walking around in a neon orange world. We look around and think, “looks like I’m about par for the course.” But what happens when you flip the cardboard over and realize that the standard is actually pure white. What looked like good enough, what looked like normal, was glaring against the pure backdrop. That’s you and me. That’s sin and holiness. The standard is perfection and that’s Jesus. What he offers you on the cross is to give you his holiness in exchange for your “neon orange” your sin.
I promise you, when you stand before the judge of heaven and earth, you will not want his just wrath to fall on you. Jesus says he’ll take it for you. That’s the whole drama of redemption. Will you take it?
Like I said, my hope is that this falls on your ears fresh, and for some of you, as new. As Christians, this is of first importance. This is the good news that will change your life completely. This is the power to fight sin. This is the power to live holy. This is the power to love God. This is the power to love your neighbor. This is the power give of your time, talent, and treasure. This is the power of God for salvation to all who believe. This… Jesus death in your place, for your sins. Let the good news transform you. Let God’s “I Love You” ring so true in you this morning that you will never be the same again.
As you let the reality of God’s “I love you” the depth of what lies behind crucifixion, let us turn our attention to Jesus’ last words. And as we’ve talking about letting the reality behind the words become fresh to us, I think it only appropriate that we read, at length, the account of the crucifixion and let it capture is. Matthew 27:32 “As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him,
When they had taken nails, driven them into his wrists and feet, hoisted him up on to a cross, his body broken and his blood being shed.
they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.
Surrounded, again, with the convicted and criminal. The spotless, perfect, lamb of God.
39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.
Just do things the way we want, the way we think they should be done Jesus, then we’ll believe.
43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ”
They have no understanding of how much trust Jesus had in God. They didn’t have a clue. But we’ll see how much trust he has in just a moment.
44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way. 45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.
Darkness surely meant a natural darkness. In fact, I’m sure as we’ll see in verse 51 that it felt in those hours as if all of creation was coming undone. But there was another darkness going on. The darkness of the sins of many were being borne. In this time, 2 Corinthians 5:21 is happening. “For our sake He (God) made Him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him (in Jesus) we might become the righteous of God.”
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
We said that last words were important, right? These are the very last words of Jesus that Matthew records for us. So, what is Jesus saying?
This will blow you away, but Jesus is quoting Psalm 22. God’s word was always a light to Jesus’ feet. He’s always pointing the disciples to God’s word, saying that he has to go, “as it is written.” When faced with the temptations at the beginning of his ministry, it is with God’s word and promises that Jesus does battle with his enemy. There is no doubt that in mustering the strength to cry out these words that Jesus has the whole cry of the psalm in his mind. Let me read it to you
Here, on the cross, Jesus loses God. This is hell. He’s experiencing the wrath of God against sin. His perfect communion on love with the father is broken because of my sin and yours. But get this… and I owe a great deal to Tim Keller who helped me see this this week. But, no-one goes to hell saying “My God, My God.” This is a personal cry. This is a cry that is clinging on to the covenantal promise of God to “his God.” Again, the drama of redemption is intensely personal. Jesus, in his dying breaths, bearing the weight of sin and judgement cries out to “My God.” Jesus in his darkest hour leans on God’s good word and agrees with it. Because if he had the beginning in mind, then he has the whole thing. He believes in his Father’s goodness to save him and that this deliverance, this good news, “shall be told of the lord to the coming generations; They should come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.
He has done it. You are that generation yet unborn. It is you! Jesus is on the cross, clinging to the promises of God’s word, “My God”, that you might hear the good news that as it says in Colossians 1:21-22 “And you, who were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”
This is the good news. Do you believe it? Does it capture your heart. Does it stoke your affections? This is Jesus’ “I love you.”
47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
Jesus yielded up his spirit. Always, from first to last, Jesus is in control. His words are fulfilled from John 10, “I lay my life down for the sheep… No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again”
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
All of heaven and earth seem to come undone. Chaos and commotion ensues as the Son of God dies. But don’t miss one big point there. The curtain of the temple is torn in two. The curtain that was used to separate the presence of God from the people and the high priest would enter once a year to atone for the sins of the people with a sacrificial offering. The book of Hebrews puts it this way in chapter 9, “the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9 (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”
The veil is torn because Jesus pays once and for all the penalty of sin. He makes the perfect offering for sin with his own life. Access to God is now open to all who put their faith and hope in Jesus!
54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
Are you filled with awe? The centurion, one who quite possibly has nailed Jesus to the cross, gets it. Jesus is the Son of God. Will you believe afresh, anew, this day?
I leave you with one last piece of Good news. One last word, one last “I love you” from Jesus. John 19:30. “It is finished.” On the cross, Jesus conquers satan, sin, and death. Right then, right there. It is finished. I love you.