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Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Michael Moffitt, July 15, 2018

Jesus: Crucified and Dead

Text: Luke 23:26–49

Last week we began a five-week series that will be based on the teaching from GAFCON 2018 in Jerusalem. The theme of the conference was “Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations” and each week we will consider a sub-theme that reveals how we are to accomplish this by studying the gospel message as revealed from a weekly portion of Luke’s account in Luke 22:66 through 24:53. Last week’s section was from Luke 22:66–23:25 and the sermon title was Jesus Tried and Rejected, and the sub-theme was God’s Gospel. We started by acknowledging that the gospel message that is being preached in much of today’s Western churches both in Europe and North America bears little resemblance to the true gospel message handed down to us from the Word of God and the historic traditions of the church. I quoted from Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria, “The Gospel must not be distorted in order to take away the offense, for a gospel without offense is an empty gospel” and I compared this to 1 Corinthians 1:18,

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

We discussed how the gospel message being preached today is a gospel of inclusion where God is said to invite people to come to him just as they are without the need of repentance and faith. We saw that much of the confusion and misery of our present age is due to the failure of the church to teach the true and life-changing gospel and their failure to be engaged with the culture in living out the gospel. The teaching of morality has become the substitute for teaching that our sin is an offense to a Holy God and the only hope of restoration is through repentance of sin and putting our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Grace alone through faith alone is ignored and men are encouraged to be true to themselves and, rather than living their lives for the glory of God, they should see that man is the center of his own universe.

The false gospel of inclusion leaves us wondering why Jesus needed to go to the cross. It makes his sacrifice seem superfluous if sin has not separated us from God. If that were true, then there is no need for the atonement and Christ suffered needlessly. When God’s gospel is not preached and taught then people do not hear the truth found in God’s word and they do come to repentance and faith and they are left in their misery and sin and are wholly unprepared to encounter the living God at judgment.

We see the results of the failure to preach the truth of God’s gospel all around us as moral decay, perversion, the absence of belief in the sanctity of human life, and the overwhelming sense of meaninglessness and hopelessness continue to grow among an increasingly large percentage of our population. We ended last week with the exhortation that we must resist the message of the age that teaches unconditional affirmation of whoever you choose to be and replace it with the message of God’s unconditional love that will not leave you who you are but through the power of the risen Savior will set you free from the bondage of sin and death.

We closed with Colossians 2:13–14,

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

That is the perfect segue to our gospel section for today, Luke 23:26–49. Today’s Sermon title is Jesus Crucified and Dead and the sub-theme is God’s Church.

We are going to see in this lesson the importance of the cross of Jesus Christ and how it is central to the gospel. Without the cross of Christ there is no sacrifice for our sins and there is therefore no satisfaction to appease the wrath and judgment of almighty God.

It’s through the cross that we find redemption where we are freed from the slavery to sin by Jesus paying our ransom and we are free to serve and enjoy God forever.

It’s through the cross that we find cleansing from corruption and death to new life and holiness. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:11,

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

It’s through the cross that we are justified and made righteous by the sacrifice of the cross. As we read in our passage from Isaiah 53:4–5,

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

All these things were accomplished by Jesus upon the cross. At GAFCON the Reverend Richard Coekin, Diocese of Southwark, Church of England, called this the “Great Swap”. He pointed out that the Living God came down to become like us and swap places with us. He came down and went to the cross that should have been our fate, because of our sins, so that we could be received by God the Father like Jesus would be. Rev. Coekin said,

For God to allow such a sacrifice is grace. For God to provide that sacrifice is amazing grace, but for God to become that sacrifice is grace that defies all understanding.

This is a grace worth proclaiming, worth living and dying for but to water it down to something less than it actually is should be unthinkable.

Let’s now consider our passage from Luke’s gospel. In the first section of this passage we find that Jesus has been tried, rejected, and has been led away to be crucified. There were many who followed after him “mourning and lamenting for him”. Let’s read again Luke 23:28–31,

But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 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!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Jesus redirects consideration of himself to the situation that the mourners should be focusing on. Jesus knows that he will suffer greatly but that he will rise victorious as King of kings and Lord of lords. He knows what is coming upon those who are weeping for him. He wanted them to repent rather than sympathize with him. If Jesus, who was innocent, was being crucified then what would happen to them if they were guilty before a Holy God. Jesus quotes from Hosea 10:8, “and they shall say to the mountains, “Cover us,” and to the hills, “Fall on us” where Israel is warned of the overwhelming judgment of God coming upon those who were disobedient. Jesus is also alluding to what the apostle John would later see in Revelation 6:16, “calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,”. He knows that the judgments in the latter days will involve severe punishment for the unfaithful among the people of God. Jesus had come to die as the perfect sacrifice for our sins but the only way to appropriate that would be to bow in repentance of sin and embrace the sacrifice made.

Our compassionate Savior warned of the wrath to come so we must preach and teach about the wrath to come. Judgment is part of God’s gospel. We must love people enough to warn them of the coming judgment against those who reject Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Jesus humbly submitted himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, but he is returning as the righteous King to judge the world.

If we were walking by a building that was on fire surely we would not just keep on walking but would run up and bang on the door crying out for those inside to get out before it’s to late. Even if they screamed back for you to leave them alone and stop banging on the door, hopefully it wouldn’t stop you from crying even louder if possible, “NO YOU NEED TO GET OUT NOW OR YOU WILL DIE!”

The interesting thing is that most people living today have not often heard this type of preaching and will think it extreme fanaticism. We must remind them that the situation is serious enough that Jesus went to the cross to provide a remedy for our sin and an alternative to judgment and Hell. To refuse to listen is to face the wrath of Almighty God. We must do everything in our power to warn them of the coming judgment but to offer them best news they have ever heard: Jesus died for you.

Let’s read Luke 23:32–38,

Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 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. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 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!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

Have you ever been accused of something that you didn’t do? I have, and it’s grueling to have to listen to lies and disparaging remarks being made about you. It’s also very difficult for friends and family members to have to listen and possibly wonder if there is any truth to the accusations. Fortunately, I was exonerated but the memory lingers because it was a very painful time. Any time an accusation is made against someone, no matter how unlikely the charge seems, there is that thing in the back of our mind that knows that the charge is at least possible because we are sinful by nature. Jesus the only truly righteous and sinless one was accused of blasphemy against God, a charge worthy of death. Of course the greatest irony is that they were accusing him of blaspheming himself—for he was God in the flesh. He was led away to be crucified with two criminals and they beat him mercilessly, nailed him to a cross, and mocked and belittled him. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for those who loved him and knew that the charges against him were bogus and were born of a hatred for who he really was, and yet they may have been wondering, “how could this happen if he is really the Messiah?”

Jesus knew exactly who he was and frankly he could have come down from that cross at any time and wreaked havoc on his accusers. The soldiers who mocked him thought that they were simply “taking out the trash” when in reality they were enthroning God’s King. Jesus the holy Son of God, the one through whom all things were created, was taking upon himself all our humiliation and shame. Why? Because he loves you and me. This is why we must preach unashamedly the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our living and reigning King.

Let’s read Luke 23:39–43,

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Both of these men who were crucified alongside of Jesus were guilty of their crimes. Matthew writes that they were robbers. One joins in the mockery of Jesus but the other sees him very differently. Perhaps he had at some time been a part of the crowd that heard Jesus teaching or maybe he witnessed a miracle performed by Jesus. Either way, he knows that Jesus doesn’t deserve to be on a cross, but he does. Essentially, he confesses his sinfulness to the other thief but turns to Jesus for mercy. Jesus receives his confession and plea and responds, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

There is a lot to unpack in this verse but for our purposes I want us to see two things.

Jesus offers salvation to all who repent and turn to him. At this point in the process of crucifixion Jesus was most likely in agony and found it very difficult to speak. Still, he responds with love to the deathbed repentance of the robber and promises him paradise or a place in the kingdom of God. What love and kindness.

There is no salvation without repentance and following Jesus.

Let’s read from Luke 23:44–46,

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 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.

Some have assumed that what happened here was a solar eclipse, but Passover was on the 14th day of the month and according to the lunar calendar the moon would have been full or nearly so. The earth was between the moon and the sun making an eclipse impossible. This was a supernatural act of God in reaction to the death of Jesus.

There are example of darkness falling upon the earth due to God’s judgment, like the plaque of darkness that the Lord brought upon Egypt. In Amos 8:9 the prophet warns of God’s judgment upon Israel,

“And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.”

Jesus’ took all our sins and suffering upon himself on the cross, and the darkness was a symbol of God judging his Son, who had become sin on our behalf. Christ’s perfect sacrifice was found acceptable and the veil of the temple was torn into. The veil that was located between the Most Holy Place and the rest of the temple, and it prevented everyone but the High Priest (and him only once a year) to have access to the Holy of Holies upon fear of death. When the veil was torn in half there was free access into the throne room of God’s presence. Jesus’ death opened the way for all to come into the presence of God. Hebrews 4:14–16 tells us that we are invited to come because of our High Priest and we should expect to find grace and help there in our time of need. We should preach access to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

This brings us to our last section, Luke 23:47–49,

Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” 48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

Jesus’ death opened up the eyes of those who had previously ridiculed and mocked him, even the Centurion. The crowd had come to be entertained but instead left sad and mourning, beating their breasts. Jesus’ death and God the Father’s response exposed them and left them guilty.

We must preach that God has offered freedom from guilt and shame through embracing the cross of Jesus Christ. Sin, death, and Satan have been defeated and we must ask God to help us live like we believe that to be true.

God’s church must follow God’s Gospel and we must see that it is preserved so that we might faithfully engage with our culture. No matter what people claim and what lies they believe, they will not find what they are looking for. We have the responsibility to be the witnesses that are salt and light to the world. The teaching of Scripture will never contradict itself and we must always seek ways to relate the word of God to the needs of our culture, but we must never seek to water down the power of God’s truth. It’s okay to find diverse ways to reveal Jesus through music, art, and teaching but Christ must always be seen in what we do.

If we will be faithful to what God has called us to do, we will find him faithful in providing all that we need to accomplish the task.

Let’s pray.

©2018 Rev. Mike Moffitt

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