Days of Destiny, Part 4: Calvary

Date: 05/13/2006 
The fourth of a six part series on the high points in the life of Christ. This sermon focuses on the crucifixion. Covered are Pilate's judgment hall to the declaration by a Roman soldier, "Truly this was the son of God."
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I am still continuing at this point, with a series we began about a month ago, talking about days of destiny. This morning in a very special sense we are on holy ground because we are talking about the events that revolve around the cross. And the message this morning is days of destiny part four dealing with Calvary. I did something that I did in our presentation a couple of weeks ago where I talked about the trial, and I have assembled the primary statements that you find in the Gospels about the events of the cross. Sometimes one gospel writer mentions something, another one highlights another point. And so I combined them as well as I could sequentially using Bible commentaries and that great book Desire of Ages. I would like to, without comment, read through what happened from the time He was condemned until His death. So you get the different Gospels together. I will not be stopping and reading the different references or that would interrupt the story.

“When Pilate saw that he could not prevail, but rather a tumult was rising, he took water and he washed his hands before the multitude saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person. You see to it. And all the people answered and said, His blood be upon us and our children. Then he released Barabbas to them. And when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor to Jesus into the Pretorium and they gather the whole garrison around Him and they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him and when they had twisted a crown of thorns they put it on His head and a reed in His right hand. Then they bowed the knee before Him to Him saying, Hail King of the Jews! And then they start upon Him and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him they took the robe off of Him and put His own clothes back on Him and led Him away to be crucified. Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name, and they compelled Him to bear His cross. And when they came to the place called Golgotha, that is to say the place of the skull, they gave Him sour wine, mingled with gall to drink. But when He tasted it He would not drink. Then they crucified Him and took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part. And also His tunic.

Now the tunic was without seam, a woven from the top throughout. And they said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be, that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, they parted my raiment among them and for my vesture they did cast lots. Then Jesus said, Father forgive them for they do not know what they do. Sitting down they kept watch over Him there. And they put up over His head an accusation written in letters of Greek, Latin and Hebrew, This is the king of the Jews. Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and the other on the left. And those who passed by blasphemed, wagging their heads saying, You who destroy the temple and build it in three days save yourself. If you're the Son of God come down from the cross. Likewise, the chief priests also mocking with the scribes and the elders said, He saved others, Himself He can't save. If He is the king of Israel, let Him now come down from His cross and we'll believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him. For He said, I am the Son of God.

Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing. But then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed saying, If you are the Christ save your self and us. But the other answered and rebuked him saying, Do you not even fear God seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward for our deeds. But this man has done nothing wrong. And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus said to him, Assuredly I say to you today [, not sure where you put the comma] you will be with me in paradise. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, His mother, His mother's sister, Mary, the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene. And when Jesus therefore saw His mother and a disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, Woman, behold your son. And then He said to the disciple, Behold, your mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own home. Now from the six hour to the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.

At about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice saying, Eli! Eli! Lama Sabactani! That is, My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me? Some of those who stood there when they heard that said, This man is calling Elijah. The soldiers also mocked and immediately one ran and took a sponge and filled it was sour wine and put it on a reed then offered it to Him to drink. The rest said, Let Him alone. Let's see if Elijah will come save Him. So when Jesus received the sour wine He said, It is finished. And bowing His head He gave up His spirit. Then behold, the veil the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth quaked and the rocks were split and the graves were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the graves after His resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. So when the centurion and those with him were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and the things that happened they greatly feared saying, Truly this was the Son of God.”

Now is a quick overview of the events from the condemnation of a Roman governor to the declaration of a Roman soldier. Pilate says, “I find no fault in Him. This is a just man. ” And then the guards who oversaw the crucifixion say, “Truly this was the Son of God.” Isn't that interesting? I'd like to go through just a view of the high points of the event and look at it to take some of these teachings apart and to see what we can learn. First of all, I think it's significant that Pilate thought that he could condemn Jesus and wash his hands and be free of His guilt. External washing does not cover up internal corruption. Even baptism on the outside is not a substitute for baptism on the inside. It's not enough to be washed in the water; we must be washed in the blood. And Pilate, I heard one rumor, a tradition that says for the rest of his life he suffered with this disease. And I forget what they call it, people who are constantly rubbing and washing their hands because they have the sense of guilt, and they can't remove it. And sometimes they rub, and they wash, and they rub and they wash until their hands bleed. And tradition says that the rest of his life Pilate did that. And it is true, history tells us, he died a suicide. You cannot just wash her hands and be absolved of the guilt.

Mark 15:15 “Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd,” notice why he's doing it. Not because Jesus is guilty, but trying to please the crowd. “He released Barabbas and deliver Jesus after he scourged Him, to be crucified.” I always like to remind people, there were three crosses that were already prepared for crucifixion that day. Jesus traded places with Barabbas. Barabbas was guilty. He was guilty of murder. He was a thief. He was a rebel. You and I are guilty of the same. Jesus trades places with us. And it's also interesting, Barabbas’ name. You know what it means? Bar means son of. Abba means the father. Barabbas. We become sons of the Father because Jesus trades places with us. We are guilty of rebellion and murder, the murder of Christ. We are rebels against God. Rebellion is worse than sin and witchcraft. And we are thieves. We are stewards of what God has given us and often we squander it selfishly. And then He was scourged. Now if you remember our study two weeks ago, this is the second scourging. That means He was whipped with a cat of nine tails. And sometimes people did not survive one. He was scourged twice. And then it shouldn't be any wonder that He fell under the weight of the cross. And then it says in John 19:2, “The soldiers plaited a crown of thorns and put it on His head.” Now the reason Jesus wore a crown of thorns is thorns represent the curse of sin in the world. After Adam and Eve sinned, it says in Genesis 3, “Both thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you.” There were no thorns in Eden. Basically the cross was a rosebush and Jesus was the flower. He bore the curse of our disobedience for us.

You remember when Abraham took his son up the mountain as a sacrifice. Isaac had the wood on his back, but in the place of Isaac they found a ram that was caught by the horns in a thicket. And that word in Hebrew for thicket is a thorn bush. A ram with a crown of thorns took Isaac's place. Jesus is that male lamb, who wore a crown of thorns, and He took our place. Also don't forget that after they braided that crown of thorns, we just read, they took the reed, they mocked Him and they drove the thorns into His head because they beat Him on the head. He bore the thorn of the curse for you and me.

On the way to the cross there was some distance to be traveled. They call it the Via Delarosa. Some of that is traditional. We're not exactly sure what the path was. But it shouldn't surprise us that He could not carry His own cross the entire way. And evidently there was a stranger there. It's often believed that Simon was an African because in northern Africa, a Roman province of Cyrenia.[**?] Later his name is called Simon Niger, and the word Niger is where we get the word for black. It's believed by most scholars that this was a black gentleman who showed some sympathy when he saw the sufferings of Jesus, and when He fell. So the Romans, because he was showing sympathy, maybe bent over or knelt down to try and help Him in some way or help Him up. They said, “Alright, if you want to help a criminal than you can carry His cross.” And I thought there was an interesting statement in the book Desire of Ages on this point. “Bearing the Cross to Calvary was a blessing to Simon. And he was ever after grateful for this providence. It led him to take upon himself the cross of Christ from choice and ever cheerfully stand beneath its burden. He wanted to inquire, what was the nature of this crucifixion and the man that gathered so much attention. He was converted by that knowledge.” It later says that his sons, one's name is Rufus. I can't remember both of their names. They also were disciples of Jesus. So there's a little insight there on that.

Speaking of bearing the cross, Jesus said that whoever would come after Him must deny Himself daily, take up His cross and follow Him. Every day we choose to deny ourselves and to bear whatever burdens God puts upon us cheerfully. Jesus carried His cross to His crucifixion. When we take up our cross it means we are going to be crucified with Christ that we might be raised and live a new life. A.W. Tozer says this about the cross, “The Man with a cross no longer controls his destiny. He's lost control. When he picks up his cross that's cross immediately became to him an all-absorbing interest, an overwhelming interference. No matter what he might desire to do there is but one thing he can do and that is move on to the place of crucifixion. In route to the crucifixion site some were jeering, some were mocking, some were spitting, but there were some women there, maybe Jesus had blessed their children or healed their children, and when they realized what had happened.” Keep in mind, from the time of His arrest to His crucifixion barely 24 hours goes by. The news had just gotten out and the crowds who loved Jesus were horrified by what they saw happening. “And so on the way He saw some of the women of Jerusalem, weeping and mourning and wailing at the site. He paused along the way and addressed them.”

Isn't it interesting that Christ, even though He was suffering the most intense agony we can’t comprehend it. Anyone who appealed to Him, even during the time of His suffering, He felt sympathy for them. “There followed Him a great company of people and of women who bewailed and lamented Him. Although full of suffering while bearing the sins of the world He was not in different to the expressions of grief. He looked upon these women with tender compassion.” Desire of Ages, 743. “Jesus turned to them and said, Daughters of Jerusalem do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed, the days are coming in which they will say, Blessed are the barren wombs that never bore and the breast that never nursed. And though began to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?” If Jerusalem treats their Messiah this way in His presence, when He is gone and when His followers are rejected, what will be the reasons for weeping then? Christ was looking ahead to the destruction of Jerusalem. That's why He called them daughters of Jerusalem. He gave them a prophecy of warning even during the time of His sufferings.

Then it tells us they brought Him to the place of execution and they crucified Him. Three words, they crucified Him. For you and I today, we don't understand the impact of that and what it means. We're living in the days where executions, we are so afraid that an execution might be inhumane that we err on the other extreme. Do you know now they need to check your health to make sure that you are healthy enough to be executed in California? And if you've got a heart condition or something, or if you’ve got bad health they need to postpone the execution, because it's considered inhumane. They've deemed in many places that our execution is inhumane, the gas chamber was inhumane. These people are being executed usually because they murdered somebody, but we want to make it as pleasant for them as possible. And now they're wondering if the lethal injection might cause any burning in the veins. If you take your kids to the doctor they might get a shot. Is that inhumane?

But the crucifixion, well, let me read a little about it. “Crucifixion is an ancient method of execution where the victim was tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang there until dead. It is widely considered not uncommon, but extremely dishonorable and excruciating form of judicial execution in the Roman Empire. Though similar methods were employed in other ancient cultures such as Persia,” crucifixion was not invented by the Romans. It goes back as far as Babylon. Sometimes it was a stake. That's why our friends the Jehovah Witnesses insist that Jesus died on a stake. But I respectfully disagree because Christ, the Bible tells us, He describes it to Peter as stretching forth your hands. Which in the original language would mean either like this or like this [hand motions], but never over the head. “You'll stretch forth your hands.” But the Babylonians did do some on a stake. The Persians would do it. Sometimes it was a T. they weren't real particular. The idea was they would either tie you or nail you. Sometimes there would be multiple nails. I've heard people argue, and there's a myth. You've probably heard this myth that if they put the nails in the hands it can't support your weight. It had to be in the wrist. They did find some crucified victims where the nail went through the wrist. It will also hold you up; if you're a normal weight and sized man your hands will easily, one hand will hold you up. And so that's a myth that people have circulated. He probably did have these scars in His hands. Could have been a T. The other victims might have been tied. Christ was very like the crucified on the typical cross. The reason we know that is it says, “they nailed above His head the sign of His condemnation,” His sentence.

He was crucified outside Jerusalem. Paul refers to this in Hebrews 13, “that He might sanctify the people with His own blood Christ suffered without the gate.” Just as Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, and the wicked will be banned from the New Jerusalem, Jesus suffered outside of Jerusalem. A sign was posted above His head and it read in three languages, Hebrew, Greek and Latin, “This is Jesus King of the Jews.” Now when they first put that sign up it really bothered the religious leaders that Pilate; they used to often put “thief” above the victim's head, or “murderer,” or whatever the crime was, “rebel against the Roman Emperor.” And when they put, “This is the king of the Jews,” Pilate had them write that in the definite article, not as mocking, but, “He is the king of the Jews.” He had declared that He was a just man. This outraged the religious leaders because right now Christ is crucified on a main road entering the city; they did it on a thoroughfare to discourage crime. Everybody passing by on their way to this Passover, hundreds and thousands of people are seeing this and all the people are wondering what it means. It says, “This is the king of the Jews.” And the religious leaders went to Pilate and said, “No, don't put that up. Put up that He said He was the king of the Jews.” Finally, Pilate manages to grow some backbone and he says, “What I have written I have written.” And I think God inspired him not to change that because that's who He was, the king of the Jews.

Now some people have taken issue with the fact, it is true in all four Gospels that statement on the sign is a little bit different. Let me read them to. Matthew says, “This is Jesus King of the Jews.” Mark says, “The king of the Jews.” Mark is always very succinct. Luke says, “This is the king of the Jews.” John says, “Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews.” Now each of them is different by at least one word. Does that mean the Bible can't be trusted? No, don't forget it was written in Greek, Hebrew and Latin, and so each of those statements could have been in a slightly different form. And it shouldn't surprise you that when they're saying the essence of what's on the sign it's a little different in three languages. There's no conflict here. What was on the sign? “This is Jesus King of the Jews.” Sometimes, it said Jesus of Nazareth. It doesn't matter. So don't be fooled by that, into thinking that means there's some discrepancy.

Then it tells us, John 19:23, “The soldiers when they had crucified Jesus took His garments and made four parts. To every soldier a part. And also His tunic, His robe. Now the tunic was without seam.” A seam is where you have a beginning and end, representing the eternity of Christ and the perfection of Christ. A robe represents what? Your character. The robe of Christ would be representative of His righteousness. Being without seam represented His perfection. Now don't forget, it says after they whipped Him they took off the scarlet robe, they put His robe back on. Was His back bleeding after the second whipping? What would that do to the robe? It's bloodstained. But instead of tearing it up; clothing was valuable in Bible times. They even used it to pay. You remember Samson, he said, “I'll pay my debt with changes of garments.” The soldiers weren't paid very well. They used to complain about their wages, John the Baptist said. So they figured they're going to wash it. But here you've got a perfect bloodstained robe. His other garments are divided four ways. The only thing tangible, that we know of that Jesus left behind of His life is His clothing. It doesn't say He left behind His Black & Decker drill or any of His carpenter tools. The only thing that we know that He personally owned was His clothing. Am I right?

The only thing He left behind was His word and His clothes. His clothing represents His righteousness. Some of His clothing was divided four ways. Why four ways? In the Bible, the number four represents that which is universal. His angels will gather together they elect from the four corners of the earth, north, south, east, west. The four corners of the compass. His righteousness was to go into all the world, the four parts; His tunic represents the power and the righteousness of Christ. What was the only thing that Elijah left behind when he went to heaven in a fiery chariot? He left behind His robe. That robe that parted the Jordan Rivers. And Christ left for us His bloodstained robe to cover our sins. Would you like to take that up? We don't know the name of the soldier that got it. And there have been all kinds of legends about the robe. But it represents the righteousness of Jesus. By the way that robe is still available for you and you don't need to gamble to get it. You need to just ask. It's interesting, this is perfectly foretold in Psalms 22, “They part my raiment among them, and for my clothing they did cast lots.” To me, that is one of the strongest proofs of the divinity of Christ, is that a thousand years before He was born. We know from the Dead Sea scrolls that these Psalms were written way before Jesus was born. That King David had said that they would gamble for the clothing of the Messiah. Who could have ever predicted that, that detail that is so precise? Jesus was the Son of God. God made for Adam in the tunics. They tried to cover their sin with fig leaves. God said, “No, tunics, robes.” Those tunics were a symbol of the robe of Christ that someday would be given.

Now we begin with the first of seven statements that Jesus makes when He is hanging upon the cross. Luke 23:34. And as far as we can tell, I'm giving these to you in sequence. As He's being crucified Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they don't know what they do.” Again, He's thinking about the guilt of those who are crucifying Him. Stephen, when he was being stoned, instead of thinking, “Oh this is going to hurt.” That's what I'd be thinking. He's thinking, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” He's thinking about the guilt and the salvation of His persecutors. That's one of the signs of a Spirit filled Christian. “Father, forgive them.” Jesus practiced what He preached. It says in Colossians 3:13, forgiving one another. “And if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you so, you also must do.” When Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” is that a metaphor or did He really mean we should love and pray for and forgive even our enemies? The one who took advantage of me? They talked bad about me. They stole from me. Have they crucified you yet? I've heard people say, “They’re crucifying me,” and they use that term very loosely. Jesus really did pray for those to be forgiven who were crucifying Him. Why? They did not know what they were doing. And would like to believe some of those soldiers or servants or slaves that were there were converted.

Peter said in Acts 3:17, speaking to the Jews, “Now brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.” Even some among the rulers did not know. Paul, was he one of the adversaries of Christ? Paul may have been involved somehow in the crowd that was shouting crucify Him. We don't know. We know that three-and-a-half years later Paul was fighting Christians. He was alive during a time. But he did it in ignorance. He didn't know. And so God forgave him. During this time, while Jesus is hanging on the cross, there's a lot of mocking. They blaspheme. They wagged their tongues. They ridiculed saying, “If you are the Christ come down.” I believe the devil more than wanting Jesus to die; the devil wanted Jesus to sin. He wanted to get some statement of sin, or some revenge for some bitterness to come from Christ because if he could get Jesus to sin the devil would win and Jesus would lose. So the mocking, if you could hear what was said that day translated in our language. And don't forget, Jesus hung on the cross for about seven hours; six hours alive, from the third to the ninth hour, one hour dead while permission was gained to retrieve His body. Six hours alive suffering, one hour resting from the sins of the world. During that time He was there for six hours He's mocked, constantly jeered, derided and it was very discouraging. You can be sure. He never responded in defense. Another time, Psalm 22, the same Psalm talks about that. Psalm 22:16-18, “For dogs have surrounded me. The congregation of the wicked have enclosed me. They pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They stare at me.” Isn't that very precise, talking about the execution of Jesus? How did the Lord know so well, what was going to happen?

Now we go to the next statement when Jesus is on the cross. “Woman, behold, your son.” Can you think about the agony of Mary? As He was being tried she wanted to go and to find some relief for Him, as He was falling under the weight of His cross. When He was a little boy she; you know, Jesus probably skinned His knee. He was a normal boy. And she could comfort Him then. She couldn't do anything. And to watch your child suffer like that and not be able to offer relief must have been terrible torment for her. And then to see Him during those hours, hanging on the cross. And yet Jesus’ concern was not for Himself as much as for His own mother. As He's hanging there, “He saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved.” Who is that? It's the apostle John. “… standing by. And He said to His mother, Woman, behold your son. Then He said to the disciple, Behold, your mother. And from that hour to disciple took her to his own home.” John basically adopted Mary and took her to his own home and cared for her there. This was Jesus’ last will. He willed His clothing to the soldiers, so to speak, and He took care for His mother (His father had died at that point) by commending her to the apostle John. Jesus said in John 12:32, “If I am lifted up to the earth I will draw all men to myself.”

The statement of Christ, “Woman, behold your son,” what does a woman represent in Bible symbols? I know most of you who go here, you know that, but we always have visitors. So bear with my repetition. It's saying, basically, “Woman, church, behold your son,” the Son being Christ. You and I are to behold Him. If He is lifted up, we will draw. And then it says, “Son, behold your mother.” You and I are sons and daughters of God, and we should show respect for the church. And so there's this new relationship that He's transferring. As He's up there on the cross He's saying, “What I was to you now the mother, the church, must be to you. I am no longer in the world, but the church is my body.” And so He's making a transference here of the body of Christ. He's granting authority. And there's that love relationship. Just as John loved and cared for Mary and Mary adored John, there is this mutual relationship between the two that's being established there. Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore also since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that does so easily beset us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

Point number three. Jesus then declares to the thief on the cross, when he hears that appeal that basically says, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Now, some have thought that meant that Jesus is saying today He was going to go to Paradise and that thief was going to be with Him in Paradise that day. Jesus did not go to Paradise that day. He said, “Verily I say unto you today,” comma. That's the way it should be translated. There is no punctuation in the original. The translators had to figure out where to put the comma. Christ’s emphasis is, “Today I don’t look like a king?” He said, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” “Today, I don't look like a Lord, but I'm making you a promise today: you will be with me in Paradise.” That means that today you can claim the same thing that thief claimed. Today it's available to you. You may not be in Paradise today, but today He can make a promise to you and by faith you can cash in on that promise. The good news? This is what that story is about. What He said to the thief that day He says to each of us.

The thieves that Jesus died between are symbols for everybody in the world. You've got a thief on the left hand, and a thief on the right. They represent the two great classes in the world. Both of those thieves were guilty. Everybody's guilty. They could do nothing to save themselves. Am I right? They were all guilty of the same things as Barabbas. They both asked to be saved, but one said, “Lord,” he believed. The other said, “If.” The difference between the saved and the lost was faith. They were both asking for help, the one said, “If, I don't know.” Remember what Jesus said to the father? “If you believe all things are possible.” The one on the right hand, he said, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Did Jesus look like a Lord that day, hanging there half-beaten, naked and suffering, mocked? It takes a lot of faith to look at that victim on the cross and see a Savior. And you know what's so astounding to me? This was the brightest moment for Jesus hanging on the cross. The whole purpose of His life, He saw some fruit right there. The cross was in effect, the tree of life. And that man who believed in Christ that day became the first visible object of His labors that He could see. Now his circumstances didn't change and he probably still died on the cross, but his destiny changed that day. Your destiny can change today when you say yes to Jesus. Amen? He said, “You’ll be with me in Paradise.” Christ, another prophet in the Old Testament said He would be numbered with the transgressors, Isaiah 53.

The next statement of Jesus, “my God, my God,” Matthew 27:46, “About the ninth hour, there's darkness all over the face of the earth and Jesus cried out a loud voice, Eli! Eli! Lama Sabactani.” [end side one]

… they give it to us in Hebrew, because the Romans thought He was calling for Elijah. They spoke a few words of Hebrew because they were occupying Jerusalem, but they didn't know it that well. They said, “Oh, He's calling for Elijah.” What Jesus was doing, He's quoting from the 22nd Psalm. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Why did He quote from that Psalm? Is Jesus saying, “Oh Lord, why did you give up on me?” Did Jesus lose faith? Or could it be, every Passover the high priest would read from the Psalms. Christ, as our high priest, is now reading the first verse of the 22nd Psalm. He's inviting anyone who has the Scriptures to look at that Psalm. And what do you have in that Psalm? That's where it says, “They pierced my hands and my feet. They gambled for my clothing.” Any of the Jews, who knew that Psalm should have gone, “[sucking in breath], That's what it's talking about. We're seeing fulfilled in our very sight the essence of that Psalm.” “The dogs have encompassed me. I can tell all my bones. They gamble my clothing. They pierce my hands and feet.” That's why He quoted that Psalm. Jesus did not give up. He was also inviting us to think about it. It's a rhetorical question. “Why have you forsaken me?” Was Christ forsaken from the Father? The Father withdrew His protection from Jesus. Why? For you and me. It's a rhetorical question, He's asking so that you and I will know why it seemed like the heavens had grown dark.

The next statement from the cross, Jesus said, “I thirst.” Now He probably felt all kinds of pain, but He specifically said, “I thirst.” Hadn't had anything to drink in 24 hours, roughly. Bleeding will dehydrate you. He was bleeding profusely from His whipping. His mouth was very painfully dry, parched. He longed for some moisture. You ever been really thirsty? Jesus was also bearing the sins of the world, and He is thirsting for righteousness because He was drained of righteousness that you and I might be supplied. Here is the living water, and He’s thirsty and He can't get anything to drink. Isn't that something? He is the living water and He is thirsty because He is offering it to us. He poured Himself out. Then we read that while He is hanging on the cross they offered Him sour wine. When He cried out, “I thirst,” and when He cried out, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” they thought He was calling for Elijah. One of the soldiers, they had a sponge there to give a drink. They wanted to prolong the agony and if it looked like someone might die too soon they give them a little sour wine. “One of the soldiers ran and they gave Him sour wine, mingled with gall.” Psalm 69, a prophecy about the Messiah. Look at this, Psalm 69, a thousand years earlier, verse 20, “Reproach has broken my heart and I am full of heaviness.” How heavy would you feel hanging from a cross? “I looked for some to take pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They also gave me gall for my food and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” How precise can it be? How could Jesus have manufactured these events and counterfeit the fulfillment? He had no control over this.

Another interesting symbol. Jesus’ mother, it’s Mother’s Day weekend. Jesus’ mother was there at His first miracle. And at her request He turned the water into grape juice, pure unfermented grape juice. It’s called wine. It’s the same word as new wine. The last thing that happens before He dies on the cross, man gives Him sour wine, fermented, polluted. In the Bible leavening and fermentation is a symbol of sin. The gospel is the story of a blood transfusion. He gives us His pure grape juice, His blood, at a wedding no less because it’s the marriage of the Lamb. The last thing that happens before He dies is He takes from man the sour wine. You notice it doesn’t say He drank it. He tasted it. It represents that He tasted the bitter cup, as they say. And then shortly after that He lays down His life and He dies.

Sixth statement from the cross. Jesus declares, “It is finished.” John 19:30, “When Jesus had received the sour wine He said, It is finished.” That word finished there in the original Greek is [teleavo]** which also means paid in full. They find that on ancient documents after a tax or a bill was paid those words would be inscribed across it. Just like when you pay a bill, sometimes on the receipt it will say paid in cash or paid in full, the amount on this bill is no longer an obligation. And when Christ shouted from His final words at the cross, “It is finished,” you might also rightly say not only is it complete, it is paid in full. The penalty for sin, His suffering for the sins of the world was paid in full. That's good news, friends. That means He paid a debt He did not owe. I owe a debt I cannot pay. And He has been willing to redeem us and to pay that for us.

That final statement there just before He expires is number seven. “Into your hands,” these two statements are connected, but they're two separate thoughts. Luke 23:46, “And when He cried out with a loud voice.” I heard one doctor say this is evidence that Jesus did not die so much from the crucifixion as by choice. Because as a person is nearing death their voice gets weaker and weaker, they're breathing more and more shallow. It's almost impossible to hear them speak because they are too weak to say anything. But He gains a lung full of air, His lungs are filled with air and He shouts with this loud voice just before He dies, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” What are the first recorded words of Jesus? “I must be about my Father's business.” And from the cross, from the time He first speaks until the cross, He says, “Father, into your hands.” He lived for the Father. Our prayers should begin, “Our Father.” That should be the center focus of our life, to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. “Not my will, Father, but your will be done.”

You know, I believe the Lord is leading today and I was going to be recommending to you that in your quiet moments, as we go through these days of destiny, you should be reading from that book Desire of Ages. I have been reading in preparation for these messages. It is so inspiring. There's a statement there that tells us we should spend a thoughtful hour each day contemplating the life of Christ, especially the closing scenes. I was visiting with Sylvia today just before the service and she said, “Pastor Doug, I memorized this passage from Desire of Ages because it meant so much to me.” And I said, “Will you come up and I would like you to share that reference with the people,” and hopefully inspire you to also spend some time thinking of the closing scenes of Christ’s life. And I encourage you to read Desire of Ages.

Thank you. As I read this passage also, I was touched to memorize this passage and I have a really bad memory. I know this is of the Lord. It says, from the Desire of Ages, pages 755-756, “The spotless Son of God hung upon a cross, His flesh lacerated with stripes. Those hands so often reached down in blessing nailed to the wooden bars. Those feet so tireless on ministries of love spiked to the tree. That royal head pierced by the crown of thorns. Those quivering lips shaped to the cry of woe and all that He endured. The blood drops that flowed from His head. His hands, His feet, the agony that racked His frame and the unutterable anguish that filled His soul at the hiding of His Father’s face speaks to each child of humanity declaring, ‘It is for you that the Son of God consents to bear this burden of guilt. For thee He spoils the domain of death and opens the gates of Paradise.’ He who stilled the angry waves and walked the foam [?], who opened blind eyes, who made devils tremble and made the seas free, who opened blind eyes and called forth the dead to life offers Himself upon the cross as a sacrifice and this from love to you. He the sin bearer endures the wrath of divine justice and for your sins becomes sin itself. In silence the beholders watched for the end of this fearful scene.

The sun shone forth, but the cross was still enveloped in darkness. Priests and rulers looked toward Jerusalem and low a dense cloud had settled over the city and the plains of Judea. The Son of righteousness, the Light of the world was withdrawing His beams from the once favored city of Jerusalem. The fierce lightening of God’s wrath was directed on this fated city. Suddenly the gloom lifted from the cross and in trumpet like tones that seemed to resound throughout creation, Jesus cried, ‘It is finished. Father, into thy hands I commend my Spirit.’ A light shone forth and the face of the Savior shone forth like the sun. Then He bowed His head upon His breast and died. Amid the awful darkness, apparently forsaken of God, Christ had drained the last dregs in the cup of human woe. In those dreadful hours He had relied upon the evidence of His Father’s acceptance here to forgiven Him [?]. He was acquainted with the evidence of His Father. He understood His justice, His mercy and His great love. By faith He rested in Him, whom it had ever been His joy to obey. The sense of the loss of His Father’s favor was withdrawn. By faith Christ was victor.”

I’ve read that passage many times and it touches my heart every time. “After Jesus declared, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit,’ having said this He breathed His last and He died. And there was silence.” Now it’s a mystery. Some will say, “Doug, how can God die?” Well, the Bible says that Jesus, the Son of God, died. How the Son of God could become a man is a mystery. This is a mystery, but I just take the word for what it says and believe it. You know that was not the end. It tells us in John 19:34 there was water and blood at the cross. “One of the soldiers pierced His side.” It was hard for them to believe when Pilate heard that someone was coming to claim the body and that He was dead already. Sometimes it took days. They broke the legs of the two thieves to accelerate the death process. But they couldn’t believe; they wanted to make sure that Jesus was dead. If it wasn’t so sad it would be laughable that people think that Jesus was in a self-induced coma and they forget the part where a spear opened up His side. I don’t know how you can fake that. “One of the soldiers pierced His side with a lance and instantly there came out blood and water.” Two clear, distinct flows. Now I’m not a doctor, but I understand that there is a condition where the blood and the water will separate in the pericardium I think it’s called and this happens when a heart if broken. His heart had ruptured. He died of a broken heart. He died by choice, like Jacob gathered his feet up in the bed and died; He chose to lay down His life for you and me. He said, “No one takes my life, but I lay it down.” And all of that He did for us.

You know, I think it's interesting that there was a Feast of Tabernacles. They had a celebration where the high priest would go down to the Kidron Valley. And he would get some of the water from the Kidron Valley and he would go up to the altar in the temple, and he would take some wine, and he would take the water (new wine) and he poured them out together as an offering. And there was a flow of water and grape juice that was poured out on the altar. This represents the cleansing that you and I receive. Baptism, the water cleansing, and then the cleansing in the blood through the blood of Christ. The outward cleansing and the inward cleansing. The justification and the sanctification. This is what Jesus provided through His life, the power for us to be cleansed. And I know it may seem strange to us that you would clean with blood, but the life is in the blood, and it's the life of Christ that cleans us.

Then it tells us that a Roman soldier, after Jesus said, “It is finished,” he saw the earthquake and the ground shake, the dark sky and all of nature recoiled because its creator had been rejected. “And when the Centurion saw this, he said, Truly, this is the Son of God.” They knew that. Do you know that truly Jesus is the Son of God? Do you know that He is saying to you what He said to the thief that today you could have that promise and be with Him? Are you willing to take up your cross and follow Him? We must do it daily.

Before we close, I'm going to do something I don't do often. In my quiet moments, I like to sing. I don't do it publicly, but there's one song that specifically deals with the cross. [Sings song]

You've probably heard this before, but I think, it always touches me. It says is written by Philip Brooks. It's called One Solitary Life. “Socrates and Aristotle taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Jesus for only 3 1/2 years. Yet those brief years infinitely transcend the combined 130 years of teaching and influence of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, three of the greatest men of all antiquity. Jesus painted no pictures; yet, the paintings of Raphael and Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci received their inspiration from Him. Jesus wrote no poetry, but Dante, Milton, and the world's greatest poets were inspired by Him. Jesus composed no music that we know of, but still Haden, Handel, Beethoven, Bach and Mendelssohn reached their highest perfection of melody in their hymns, Symphonies and oratorio's written in His praise. Thus every sphere of human greatness has been incomparably enriched by this humble carpenter of Nazareth. Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village, worked in a carpenter shop until He was 30, then for 3 1/2 years He was an itinerant preacher. He never owned a home, never wrote a book, never held an office, never had a family, never went to college, never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled 200 miles from the place He was born.

He never did one of the things that usually accompanies greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. While still a young man the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away, one of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth, His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pitying of a friend. 19 long centuries have come and gone and today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned put together have not affect the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as that one brief, solitary life.”

You know, the cross, in my opinion, is the axle upon which the world turns. You can't leave Jesus without making a decision one way or the other. To not make a decision is to make a decision. And I'd like to encourage you today to make a decision to say, “I am willing to take up my cross and follow Christ,” because that's when you really begin to live. Our closing song is number 317, Lead Me To Calvary.

Two groups I would like to talk to before we sing our next verse. Those who maybe have had a Christian background, you maybe have said yes to Jesus before, but you know in your heart you've walked away, you've drifted away and He is not the center of your life. You're not focused on Jesus. I'd like to give you an opportunity to come back. And then there may be some here; you’ve never really made a decision to say, “Yes, I want to choose today to take up my cross and to follow Christ.” If you've not been baptized, you might want to start planning and preparing for that. But as we sing verse two, if the Holy Spirit is speaking to you, and you realize that you've reached a turning point and you need to now say totally yes to Jesus, come as we sing verse two.

We're going to sing verse four, one more verse. I'm going to come down here and meet you. I want to also renew my decision to follow Jesus. I don't usually come down because I'm short and you can't see me, but you may want to come and take my hand and say yes to the Lord. I feel that I have been drifting away or I've not made a decision to really take up the cross and follow Jesus. You come, take my hand and say that’s your choice today. Verse four.

Father in heaven, Lord we are so thankful that you loved us so much, unworthy as we are, while we were yet sinners, that you came into the world to die for us. I want to pray in a special way, Lord, right now that you will answer this prayer for each of these people who have come forward. I pray that today can represent a new beginning, where they will deny themselves, take up the cross and follow Jesus, gladly willing to share in His suffering and also in His eternal reward. Be with each person, who is hearing my voice right now, whether it's in this building or on tape or video, that they also might make that decision, to pray right now, and accept Jesus really as their Savior and give Him permission to take control of their lives. I pray that as we go from this place these decisions will be real and lasting and that our relationship with you will grow stronger every day. Thank you, Lord, for hearing this prayer the cuts were asking and believing in Jesus name. Amen.

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