Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Crucified" Sermon: John 18:1-19:42

[John 18:1-19:42]
April 14, 2017, Second Reformed Church
            After Jesus prays in the Upper Room, Jesus and the Eleven go to the Garden of Gethsemane, and there Jesus prays for Himself, anguishing over the torment He would endure in His physical body.
            Then Judas arrives with the high priests and the scribes and Roman soldiers.  Briefly the Eleven think to fight to prevent Jesus from being taken – they still didn’t really understand what has to happen – but Jesus rebukes them and reminds them that this must happen.
            Overnight, Jesus stands trial before the Sanhedrin – the Jewish high council – and they condemn Him as a blasphemer – because Jesus says that He is God.
            The Jews bring Jesus to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, and ask him to punish Jesus as an evildoer, and Pilate tells them to do it themselves.  Legally, under Roman rule, the Jews were not allowed to carry out capital punishment – though they did.
            Pilate questions Jesus and concludes that He is innocent, but the Jews demand that Jesus be crucified.
            So Pilate offers to free one prisoner, and they ask for Barabbas.
            So Pilate flogs Jesus – he has Him whipped with a whip embedded with sharp stones and metal, so it will rip open the flesh of His body – and then Pilate says that Jesus is innocent, but the Jews demand that Jesus be crucified.
            Pilate continues to seek a way to set Jesus free, but the Jews threaten to tell Caesar that Pilate is a traitor to the Roman government, so Pilate washes his hands and turns Jesus over to be crucified.
            And Jesus is crucified:  He is stripped and made to lay down on the cross.  Spikes are impaled through His wrists and ankles, and the cross is lifted up and dropped into a hole to keep it aright.
            Jesus speaks from the cross several times and then dies.
            The Jews become concerned that the crucified men will profane the Sabbath day by hanging on the cross, so they tell the Roman guards to break the legs of the crucified so they will die more quickly – in crucifixion, death is usually by suffocation – but Jesus was already death – the guard even thrusts a spear up through Jesus’ chest to make sure He was dead.  The Romans were good at making sure someone was dead.
            Then Jesus’ followers ask for His body, and they enclose Him in the garden tomb belonging to Joseph of Aramethea.
            This is a summary of what happened that first Good Friday.
            The question for us to consider this evening is, “Why was Jesus crucified rather than killed in another way?”
            Our first reaction may be to say, “Well, you said the Jews weren’t supposed to enact capital punishment, and the common Roman way of capital punishment was crucifixion, so, that’s why.”
            But we have a problem:  according to the Gospels, the Jews attempted to kill Jesus by stoning Him and they also attempted to kill Him by pushing Him off of a cliff.  The Jews had tried to kill Jesus before by their own hands.
            So why did they turn to the Romans and, specifically, crucifixion?
            Again, we might say, “Well, legally, it should be the Romans who enact capital punishment, so that’s why it was crucifixion.”
Yes, but might there be another reason?
            In the Heidelberg Catechism we read:
“Q 39. Does it have a special meaning that Christ was crucified and did not die in a different way?
“A. Yes. Thereby I am assured that he took upon himself the curse which lay on me, for a crucified one was cursed by God.”
All mere human beings since Adam and Eve are born “under the curse” – God cursed Adam and Eve and the serpent – and God keeps His promise that anyone who sins must die until their penalty is paid.
Paul writes, “For the wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6:23a, ESV).
God is holy and just, so the debt for all sin must be paid – it is owed to God.  And since God is the greatest Being in existence, sin against Him requires the greatest penalty in all of existence.
God says this about anyone who commits idolatry:
“The LORD will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. And the LORD will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for calamity, in accordance with all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law. (Deuteronomy 29:20-21, ESV).
And we have all committed idolatry – we may not have bowed down to an idol, but anyone who sins against God puts something or someone in His place – which is idolatry.
The Psalmist tells us that those whom God blesses inherit the land, but the one God curses is cut off:
“for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off” (Psalm 37:22, ESV).
To be cut off is to no longer have any right towards – to no longer be allowed to participate in – the one who is cursed is removed from the Kingdom of God.
God so despises those who merit capital punishment that He calls for their dead bodies to be nailed to a tree to display them as those who are cut off – damned – by God:
“And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23, ESV).
“But Jesus didn’t sin!”
That’s right, Jesus didn’t sin, and that’s why He is the Only One who could take on our sin – He is the only one Who could become sin itself
Paul writes, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV).
Jesus became the incarnation of sin as He freely took on Himself all of the sin of everyone who would ever believe.  Jesus became the foulest being possible before the Father.
Thus, as the Wrath of God poured down on Him, Jesus cried out to His Father, who knew He was innocent and holy, and He yelled, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
God forsook His Son.
And with the symbolism prescribed in the Law, Jesus became the curse itself.
But for Good Friday to be good, that can’t be the end, can it?
Paul writes:
“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’ Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’  But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:10-14, ESV).
Paul explains that if we look to the Law for salvation, we will find ourselves cursed – no one can keep it.  No, if we seek salvation in the Law, we will be found to sin and be stoned to death and impaled on a tree and cursed – cut off from God and His people.
However, the Scripture says that righteousness is by faith alone.  The Law is something we are called to do; faith is the means by which we receive something.
So, Christ lived a perfect and holy life under the Law, meriting righteousness.
But He was condemned by sinful men and impaled on the cross – a tree – where He received the Wrath of God for the curse we deserve.
The good news is that Christ transferred His righteousness to us when our sin was transferred to Him.  So, He became the curse and sin and was damned, but we received the credit of righteousness by faith, so we are right with God.
So now, the blessing of Abraham is available to all types of people, and, through faith, we receive the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, and He enables us to keep the Law of God in response to Jesus becoming a curse for us through crucifixion.
Why was Jesus crucified?
So He would be cursed by God and punished for our sin.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for sending Your Son to become a curse for us that we would be forgive for our sin.  Help us to see the horror Jesus endured and understand that through the Gift of His being our Substitute, all these things have worked together for our good.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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