Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Most Important Event in History: The Crucifixion of Jesus

Every human being on planet Earth longs for a truly great leader, someone who is upright, incorruptible, someone who speaks the truth boldly, who is authentic, who is kind but firm, deep down we all long for that perfect leader.

Sometimes we get glimpses of greatness like this in certain leaders, I think of leaders like Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, or spiritual leaders like Billy Graham, or John Wesley or Smith Wigglesworth.

But in the end all our heroes fall short. They are just human. They make mistakes and they aren’t always kind or just.

We all long for a president, a king, a pastor, a leader who can transcend this world and it’s brokenness and make things right. That’s why we’re drawn to heroes and superheroes and stories and cinema and concepts of justice and injustice.

It’s rare for someone who is truly great, to make it into the seat of authority. We have a gap of leadership in our world right now. The ones who would make great leaders don’t seek leadership. And the most corrupt and petty seem to seek after the seats of power and find them, so they can gain money and authority from the position. This has led to great corruption in our world.

There was one man born into the world who was perfect. There was one man who was the perfect leader. There was one man who was incorruptible. His name was Jesus. Every word he spoke, perfect, every action he took, just and right. His kindness to clear and obvious, his justice so sharp and true, yet his mercy so ever flowing and his grace like a cloud of love and acceptance. That’s Jesus, the one true King of the Earth, the one true leader of leaders, who would be qualified to have total authority over every president, prime minister, parliament, congress, business, power, authority, and regime in the world, and would not in any way misuse that power, favor some over others, or violate the liberties of the people. His every decision is right. His every command is just.

We all long for a leader. Is it so hard to draw the conclusion then, that Jesus Christ would be and will be one day the perfect king of the Earth?

Yet on the Earth, two thousand years ago, when Jesus lived, he did not find himself often in the places of power and authority. And when it was so, his hands were bound, and he was being questioned.

We see him in Mark chapter 15, as recorded in the Bible, in a palace. But he is not there to be a leader, but he is being held captive.

How can this be?

It says in Mark 15:16-17, “The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him."

A crown of thorns, instead of a crown of gold. This was the plot of Satan, the devil, the adversary, the kill the son of God. A crown of thorns or a crown of gold, which would you choose?

In this life, as Christians, we may be faced with the challenge of being offered power if we’ll just give up Jesus. Would you deny the crown of gold for a crown of thorns? We may one day face that challenge.

But what can we gain, if we gain this whole world, but lose our souls after we die? Can that crown of gold save me after I’ve denied Jesus? No, certainly not. I would die with nothing but coins, having lost my very soul to the fires of hell.

Jesus understands that this world is not the end. This world is temporary. Anything we gain in this world is temporary.

But, if we gain Christ in this world, God’s word, we’ve gained something infinite. Something that goes beyond this world.

All that Jesus does here, is set on the backdrop that Jesus understands that this world is not the end. This world is temporary. There is a spiritual world that is more real than this world. There is a judgment after this world. This world has an expiration date. This world will one day be destroyed completely and God will start over with something entirely new.

So Jesus endures the trial of mockery.

In verses 18-20 they are mocking him, it’s not sincere. But it is factually true. He is the king of the jews. He is king of all.

It says this: “And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.”

Next, we see the journey to the cross. Jesus must carry his cross. But a man is forced to help him.

Jesus has been up all night. He’s been flogged and abused, and he’s bleeding. He’s exhausted. And he can’t go on.

Have you ever felt this way? Know that Jesus understands that in you. So many times in life and ministry I feel I don’t have the strength to keep going through the day. I’m often very fatigued and tired and dizzy and my body will ache and hurt. But I try to keep going.

Yet Jesus finds that he simply can’t. He tried to carry the cross but he is unable. So help is recruited for him.

It says this in 21-24: A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.”

Many have wondered where Golgotha is, an area called the place of the skull. It was somewhere just outside Jerusalem. There is a church at a supposed location in Jerusalem today. But it’s not known for sure exactly where it was.

He was offered wine, he did not take it. The soldiers cast lots over his clothing. All of this was predicted in the old testament, hundreds of years before Jesus was even born.

All of this Jesus did for you and me. His purpose was to become a sacrifice, to become death for each of us, so we could taste life, so our sins could be removed.

But it took a gruesome, and miserable road. Jesus was well acquainted with suffering.

Here next we see the most important moment in the history of planet Earth, we see the moment where Jesus was crucified.

It says in verses 25-27: It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the Jews.

27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left.”

9am, nine in the morning, the time many of us are getting ready for the day, enjoying a cup of coffee, the sun is shining, a new day, Jesus has begun his crucifixion experience. The darkest moment in human history. The most important moment in human history. The moment that changes everything for lost humanity.

Yet we miss it, I think. We have a hard time seeing it’s significance. We have a hard time understanding why Jesus dying this day matters to us. I get that. I understand that we struggle to see why it matters to us.

It’s because we don’t understand just how sinful our sin is. It’s because we don’t understand the cost of sin. It’s because we don’t understand God’s wrath, and hell, and punishment for sin. We have a hard time understanding these things as humans.

But we have to ask ourselves, who am I? What am I? Why am I here? What’s really happening on Earth? And in the end what’s really happening in my own heart? I want to do right, but I can’t quite do it. I want to be good, but I can’t be good. I want to not sin, but I sin. What’s wrong with me? Is the question many of us finally come to. There’s something wrong inside me!

Instead of affirming what’s wrong in us, celebrating what’s wrong in us, hiding what’s wrong in us, explaining away what’s wrong in us, if we can admit, that there is something fundamentally broken within me, and in need of restoration, we can begin to make our way, through the all night despairs of Jesus, through the false trial, through the beatings and mockery, along the road of carrying his cross, to the hill of Golgotha, and through the crucifixion, and see ourselves in it.

I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’ve done ugly things. I’ve hated. I’ve refused to forgive. I’ve wanted to get back at them. I’ve been selfish. I’ve been rude. I’ve abused others verbally. I’ve misused my own body. I’ve added to the evil in the world.

And I deserve God’s justice. But because Jesus Christ received God’s justice for me, I can be free. I can be forgiven. I can have all my sins forgiven. Because Jesus Christ became sin for me.

Here in verses 28-32 I think we see the last temptations of Satan against Jesus. It says this 29-32: "Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!” 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.”

I believe Satan was speaking through these people mocking Jesus. I believe Satan was giving his last temptation, “Come down from the cross.” Instead of dying, Jesus was being tempted to stop it from happening right there. But Jesus didn’t listen to those lies. It was not his place to come down from the cross. But it was his place and his mission to die on the cross. And he would not waiver from that mission.

Understand that you will face demons and their lies in your life. They will whisper lies to you. And you have to know in those moments the truth of God’s word to counter those lies. Also recognize when the enemy lies to you he try to get you to think it was your own thought. But it wasn’t. he planted that thought. And you can reject that thought as false. Happens to me all the time.

The enemy plants a lie and I laugh to myself, and say, haha, nope, that’s a lie. It’s not from me either. It’s from the enemy. And I disregard it as a lie.

The lies are usually like this: Well that proves God is unjust. God is mean he doesn’t really love you. God can’t be trusted. God did something wrong there. Look at all you’ve been through why would God let that happen? All sorts of lies and questions and accusations meant to draw me away from God. Don’t buy it. Don’t believe it. Trust God. Deny the lies of the enemy.

Three hours later we see the following events take place: "At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

Psalm 22 is where the phrase comes from, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Psalm 22 is full of prophecies of the death of the messiah. The last line of psalm 22 says, “he has done it.” Sounds oddly familiar to when Jesus said, “it is finished.”

So many prophecies in Psalm 22, read it today after church when you’re home. They pierce my hands and feet, they cast lots for my garment, so many references fulfilled in Jesus.

The psalms were written in about 1000 BC. Somewhere between 930-1010 BC. Written a thousand years before Jesus would die. Yet Jesus fulfilled these prophecies and many others! He was no mere man!

He was again offered wine vinegar, and the people continued to mock him and were confused, asking about Elijah. It says in 36-37:

36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.”

With one final cry of horror Jesus breathed his last. That’s how one would die when crucified. You would have to lift yourself to be able to breath, but eventually you wouldn’t have enough strength to lift yourself to catch your breath. So most would suffocate and die. After 6 long hours, Jesus dies.

38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

In the holy of holies in the temple, where God and man met together, once a year, between only the high priest and God, at the moment Jesus died, the blocking curtain, was torn in half, symbolizing that the wall of separation between God and man was over, because of Jesus perfect sacrifice. The lamb of God had paved the way for intimacy between God and man.

And a gentile, a roman guard at that moment, declares, Jesus is the son of God. The first of many gentiles to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord.

This brutal death I never understood. I didn’t get why it mattered to me. Now I do. I can’t quite explain how much it means to me what Jesus did. It turned my world, from a nightmare, like the things Jesus went through, being mocked, being arrested, being in trouble, being misunderstood, being hated, being broken, and turned that nightmare into a peaceful serene beautiful summer day. Everything turned in my life around the cross of Jesus Christ, from brokenness and self destruction to life, and victory. It’s so profound it can’t be compared to anything else in life.

It took the brutal death of Jesus to buy that for me. Because it took slaughter to cover my sins. But the lamb of God, did that for all of us. If we’ll simply believe, like a little child, that he loves us, and we love him.

A tribute to the fierce loyalty of women, you see here in verses 40-41, “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.”

The men were in hiding. The women stayed with Jesus til the end. Their loyalty, their dedication to their savior was beautiful. The stayed with Jesus til the end. The loyalty of these women is beautiful. Let’s all learn that loyalty, that never leaves or forsakes our savior, as he never leaves or forsakes us.

Lastly in section four we see the burial of Jesus’ body.

It says this in 42-45: It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.

Joseph was bold and brave enough, to go to Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus, so he could give an honorable burial.

All of this was again God’s plan playing out just as it should. But we can learn boldness from Joseph’s actions. He pushes past his fear and goes directly to the roman governor and asks for the body of Jesus. And from this boldness, results are true, and God’s plan moves forward. Praise the Lord.

Lastly in verses 46-47, “So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.”

Lastly today we see Jesus the messiah’s body being laid to rest in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Jesus is dead. The disciples are in hiding. The women are in mourning. The authorities seem to have crushed another good man. End of story, right? Wrong. The story doesn’t end there.

As it often with God, the dark end, is really the new beginning. The paradox of God’s kingdom, death leads to life, victory comes from the ashes of defeat. From the death of God’s son, billions of Christians are bought back to God with the blood of Jesus. And heaven is filled with rejoicing, excited, amazed people who have humbled themselves, accepted Jesus as Lord, and have made his mission their mission, to carry the cross each day, and walk in the way of the suffering servant.

That my friends, is the meaning of life.

First, we admit that the problem is found within my own heart. It’s not oppression ,it’s not society, it’s not colonialism or ideology, it’s the sin in my own heart.

Second, we humble ourselves enough to see that God is really real and made the universe, the stars and the human race

Three, we embrace the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as all we need for forgiveness of our sins.

Four, we pick up our cross daily and follow Jesus through this life, to the very last day

Five, we find a restored Eden, in the after life, a new Earth, a new planet, a new future, a new city, the New Jerusalem, the city of God, a paradise, prepared by Jesus for us. That, is the meaning of life.

The doorway to the eternal city, to paradise, to the meaning of life, is in fact through the dark way, the valley of the shadow of death, the suffering and struggle of this life, carrying our cross for Jesus, following Jesus, loving Jesus, walking with Jesus and spreading his gospel.

That is the way, the way of grit and struggle and pain. Your decisions will dictate the path you take.

One of two reactions, it’s real, you have to understand it’s as real as your house, your car, this room, the stars, the moon, this city, it’s real, two reactions, one, man I’m glad I listened to pastor Justin when he said that about following Jesus, or Why didn’t I listen, if only I had listened, I wouldn’t be in this horrible place of fire. Heaven or hell, what will you choose? Jesus is the way to life. Self is the way to hell.

Are you ready now? Ready to give your life to Christ? To Cry out to Jesus?

Begin the journey with this prayer:

Father God of the Bible, I realize now that you're real, your Bible is real, and your son Jesus Christ is real.  I admit to you Father that I've sinned against you, I confess my sins to you now (confess them one by one).  I repent of my sins, please Lord set me free from every sin. And I admit that I need a Savior.  You have provided that Savior.  I accept him Father, today I accept your son Jesus Christ, and his work on the cross as the necessary payment for all my sins. I recognize that Jesus resurrected from the dead to give me eternal life.  Please Father, cloth me in His righteousness.  Father God I acknowledge you as the sovereign Lord of my life, please grant me your Holy Spirit to guide me in my new life as a Christian.  Thank you so much Father, it's in Jesus Christ name I pray this prayer, Amen.