Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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19. Courage at the Cross – Part 1

Luke 23:32-49

32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. 35 The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. 37 They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.” 39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” 40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” 43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” 44 By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 45 The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. 46 Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last. 47 When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.” 48 And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow. 49 But Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching.

As we have been journeying with Jesus to the cross we’ve seen Him cross paths with one who was blind, one that was bound up in his belongings, and one who was buried. Today as we journey with Jesus we come to the One who was broken. The first went from seeking to sight, the second went from seeking to sorrow, and the third from sorrow to serving, and now at the cross we see our Savior take us from sorrow to Salvation. It’s here in Luke 23 that we see first:

  1. The Reality of Christ’s Death

On Thursday night as Jesus finished the Passover meal with his closest followers, He looks at them and announces that one of them, one of his closest friends, is about to betray Him. Then they depart for the garden of Gethsemane where, as Jesus pleaded in pray, sweating great drops of blood, His disciples laid around and slept. Christ was then confronted by a crowd armed with swords and clubs who came to arrest Him. They rushed Him through a makeshift trial and condemned Him to die. Some begin to spit on Him. Others blindfold Him and hit Him with their fists; asking Jesus to guess who it is that is hitting Him. The guards then beat Him some more. Early on Friday morning, the religious leaders reach a decision to send Jesus to a governor named Pilate. Pilate is hesitant to do anything to Jesus, but then gives in to the clamor of the crowd, as they cry “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” The soldiers, strip Him of His clothes, tie Him to a post whipping Him with a cat of 9 tails that tears out His flesh with every lash. Bleeding profusely they then cover Him with a purple cloak and force a crown of thorns on His head to mimicking the wreath Caesar wore and a reed in his right hand to look like a scepter. They even kneel down before Him to mock Him as king, and as they get up from kneeling, they spit in His face. Then they take the scepter and begin to beat Him on the head while the rest beat Him in the face with their fists. Finally, they force Him to carry His cross as they start out toward Golgotha. Jesus is then stripped and nailed to the cross with spikes. As the cross is raised Jesus has to push against the spikes and raise Himself to breathe, with each breath He experiences the agony of the cross. The callous soldiers sit down, indifferent to His pain as they gamble for His clothes. But it’s not just the reality of His death but also:

  1. The Results of His Death

The Bible records two incidents that happened when Jesus died. The first has to do with His final cry and the second the temple curtain. Just before Jesus died John 19:30 tells us that He cried out, “It is Finished!” What is finished? What does this mean? The term Jesus used was a common phrase from the world of commerce, it would have been a very familiar word to anyone in finance and banking. When someone borrowed money they would incur a debt that they would have to pay back, and when it was paid the banker would use this term to declare that the debt had been paid off. Literally, it means, “Paid in Full.” At His death, Jesus declared that the payment had been made. When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the price for our sins. He took our moral liabilities and stamped “Paid in Full” across the ledger sheet of our life. Because of our sin, we should be sentenced to death but because of Christ’s payment on the cross, our crimes can be forgiven. Sin requires a sacrifice, someone has to pay the price, that is why Jesus came to be our substitute. The first result of Christ’s death is that that we are:

Acquitted — our debt has been paid in full. When Jesus cried out it was not a cry of torment but one of triumph, Jesus was voicing the victory, he was declaring that the war had been won, that the debt had been paid and death had been defeated. His final cry from the cross was a cry of completion. It was the cry of the conquering hero. Matthew 27:51 tells us “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” The temple is where people used to go to pray and offer sacrifices for their sin. It was divided into different parts with the holiest place called the holy of holies. A thick curtain, 60 feet long, 30 feet wide and over 2 inches thick separated this inner sanctuary from the rest of the temple. It was not an ordinary curtain, and it was said that it took 300 priests just to install it. Only one person, the high priest, was allowed to go behind the curtain and into the holy of holies and then only once a year to offer a major sacrifice for his people. When Jesus died, this 60 x 30-foot curtain was torn in two from top to bottom, signifying that it was God Himself who tore it in half. Now, instead of just the high priest having access to God once a year, the way to God stands wide open to everyone, on every day of the year. Not only are we acquitted but the second result is open

Access to God. Everything has been paid in full, not only have we been declared forgiven but now we have free access to God, an open avenue to God. Because Christ courageously faced and conquered the cross we can be forgiven and set free. What about you have you responded to God’s free gift of grace? Are you living in the finished work of the cross or the forever work of the culture?