Friday, June 23, 2017
"Taking Responsibility" Sermon: John 19:16b-27
June 18, 2017, Second Reformed Church
We find taking responsibility – especially when things go wrong or when we sin – very difficult.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden and God appeared to them, Adam said, “Don’t blame me, it was the woman You gave me that made me eat it.” And Eve said, “Don’t blame me, it was the serpent You put in the Garden that convinced me to sin.” We don’t know if the serpent said anything.
In considering the crucifixion of Jesus, Peter explains that everyone is responsible: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:22-23, ESV).
Peter explains that the crucifixion was part of God’s plan to save a people for Himself, but the Jews and the Gentiles – the non-Jews – the Romans – sinned in putting Jesus to death. Because all mere human beings are sinners – and have inherited a sin nature from Adam – every mere human born is responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion.
We see the conflict between Pilate and the chief priests – the chief priests are jealous of Jesus and want Him dead so they don’t lose their power and wealth; Pilate knows Jesus is innocent – and he is afraid of Him – but he finally gives in to the chief priests so he doesn’t lose his power and wealth.
And so, Jesus is sent off to be crucified.
And we see, first, Pilate proclaims the truth of the Gospel.
“So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews,” but rather, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.”’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’”
Quickly, let’s consider where Jesus was crucified, because it tells us something important: Jesus was crucified on Golgotha, which was outside of the city of Jerusalem. Part of what we should notice is that Jesus was crucified outside of the city – which is the place crucifixion occurred, but it means something we should notice.
God requires the sin offering to be made outside of the city: “And the bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall be carried outside the camp. Their skin and their flesh and their dung shall be burned up with fire” (Leviticus 16:27, ESV).
The blood of the sin offering is spattered about in the Temple, but the body is carried out and offered up – burned – outside of the city. This symbolically shows that sin cuts us off from God – it excludes us from the city of God—it excludes us from “the city of peace” – which is what Jerusalem means. Sin cannot reside in the presence of God – someone who is not forgiven of sin cannot reside in the presence of God. One way or another, God’s Wrath must burn up the sin in order for forgiveness to be granted.
Not only is Jesus crucified outside of the city – representing sin and being cut off from God, but He is crucified – which symbolizes being cursed under the Law: “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).
So, let us understand that Jesus is crucified outside of the city, not because He is a sinner and cursed by God for His sin, but because He took on Himself – as our Substitute before God – all of the sin and all of the curse and all of the Wrath of God against us for our sin – that we would be saved – made right with God.
“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 3:13-14, ESV).
“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).
“So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood” (Hebrews 13:12, ESV).
So, let us remember that Jesus was crucified and crucified outside of the city as part of His receiving our sin and curse – bearing it as our Substitute before God and under His Wrath.
Then we are told that Pilate writes something and attaches it to the cross. This is a normal practice – the crime that the person is being crucified for is posted on the cross for anyone who wants to know.
But in one last attempt to mock and insult the chief priests – and, indeed, to condemn the Jews altogether – Pilate does not write a crime on Jesus’ cross – but under the guidance of God, he writes a title – a true title – a title that summarizes the Gospel:
“This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
Pilate wants everyone who reads the title on Jesus’ cross to know that Jesus is innocent and Pilate was bullied into crucifying Him by the Jews. Pilate even has the title written in Latin, Aramaic, and Greek – so, virtually every literate person could read and understand Who Jesus is and who put Him on the cross.
We have said before, we have no reason to believe that Pilate ever received Jesus as Savior, but God used Pilate to proclaim Jesus’ kingship to all those who saw Him and to all of us who read these words.
And notice what Paul writes:
“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Romans 9:6-8, ESV).
At this point in Romans, Paul is agonizing over the fact that so many Jews do not believe the Gospel, and he argues that the fault is not with God, the problem is that not everyone who claims to be of Israel is of Israel.
Paul remains the Romans that Abraham had two sons – Ishmael and Isaac – Ishmael was cursed and Isaac was blessed.
The conclusion is that Israel is not biological Israel, but everyone who believes in the Savior is Israel. If you believe in Jesus for salvation, you are a true Jew.
Many people will say that Christianity broke off from Judaism, but Christianity is actually the true Judaism. What was called Judaism by the chief priests – and today – is a corruption of what God taught. Christianity is the reformation of Judaism – a going back to what God taught. It is very similar to what we understand about the Protestant Reformation – Roman Catholicism – as presented in the Middle Ages – had become another religion, not Christianity – so the Protestants, the true Christians – led a reformation back to what the God really says in the Bible.
The chief priests are outraged that Pilate would write such a thing – and they demand that Pilate change the wording to say that Jesus claimed to be the King of the Jews. And to the dismay of the chief priests, God upheld Pilate and Pilate refused.
They understood what Pilate had done – he had written a condemnation of the chief priests – “Let the whole world know that Jesus is crucified at the insistence of the chief priests – they are responsible for this.”
And so, everyone is responsible – the Jews and the non-Jews – the Romans. Everyone sinned in putting Jesus to death. And that was God’s purpose – that Jesus be put to death for the sins of all those who will ever believe.
Second, the solders fulfill prophesy.
“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.’ This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.’”
Despite the modest paintings we have, those who were crucified were stripped of their clothing before they were crucified – they were crucified in the nude to add to their shame and humiliation. And it became a practice that – rather than waste the clothing of the condemned – the soldiers who participated in the crucifixion were allowed to divide the clothes among themselves and keep them.
With Jesus, there was a problem – there were four guards and five total pieces of clothing. The tunic was beautiful – made in one piece – not with various pieces attached, and the guards realized they would be left with useless pieces of cloth if they cut it up, so they played dice for it.
This fulfilled the prophesy found in Psalm 22, a psalm of David.
The Psalm is about the hardships that David suffered at the hands of his enemies. And it is a poem, so it uses descriptive language. It is unlikely that David’s enemies really gambled for his clothes, but he uses that imagery to show the severity of his persecution. And God guides him to write this Psalm so that this passage – and others – would be fulfilled by Jesus – Who is the fulfillment of David and his kingship.
Finally, Jesus honors His mother.
“So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”
We may remember the prophecy made at Jesus’ bris:
“And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed’” (Luke 2:34-35, ESV).
The three Mary’s and John – and some other women – stay at the foot of the cross as Jesus hangs there, and they cry for Him and mourn that He is being put to death – and in such a horrible way.
It is likely that Mary, the mother of Jesus, remembers this prophecy as she sees her first-born Son crucified: “a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” Some of you have lost children – it is said to be one of the greatest griefs to see your child died before you do. Surely, Mary is confused and devastated.
And then something happens: Jesus looks at Mary and says, “Woman, behold your son!” And then He looked at John and said, “Behold your mother!”
What is happening?
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12, ESV).
Jesus is honoring His mother.
What does it mean to honor our mother – and father?
As children, it is easier to say – we are to obey our parents (unless they want us to sin), we are to respect them, and so forth.
But what about older children? How does 33-year-old Jesus honor His mother, who may be fifty-ish at this point?
One writer suggests six ways older children should honor their parents:
1. We are to forgive our parents for the ways in which they did not know how to raise us.
2. We are to speak well of them to others.
3. We are to esteem them publically and privately.
4. We are to seek their wisdom.
5. We are to support them with love and care.
6. We are to provide for their financial needs. [https://www.challies.com/5-practical-ways-to-honor-your-parents/]
Since Joseph, Jesus’ father, is not mentioned later in the Gospels, it is assumed that he died young. So, Mary is a widow. Jesus had likely been honoring her and caring for her in these and other ways since Joseph’s death. Now, Jesus is dying, and He calls on one of His closest friends, John, to take Mary in as his mother and to honor her as his mother – Jesus is honoring her and making sure that she is cared for after His death.
In a culture where we often box the elderly up in “homes” and let other people care for them and wait for them to die, this may sound very odd. But it is in line with the commands of God.
We may look at this as a full circle of honor and care – first our parents provide for us until we are able to provide for ourselves, and then we walk alongside our parents, and then, when our parents cannot provide for themselves, we step in to honor and care for them in this way.
Do you honor your parents?
Notice that something else is going on in addition to this: Jesus does not speak to Mary, calling her, “mother,” He calls her, “woman.” We may remember He also called Mary, “woman,” at the site of His first miracle – at the wedding in Cana.
If we are talking about passion and compassion, care for the provision of His mother, why didn’t Jesus call her, “Mother”?
While Jesus is certainly honoring and caring for His mother, He is also hinting at the honor and care He is showing for everyone who will ever believe in Him as He sacrifices Himself in our place.
Jesus cares for His mother, but He wants to make the point that His care is not merely for His mother, but for all of His people. Jesus is concerned for His mother’s well-being, but He is all the more concerned with the well-being of all of His people. Jesus’ mother is one of His people – so she is included in the more general understanding of what is going on.
We are to understand that Jesus honors and cares for His mother – even as He is dying – He transfers His responsibility for her to John, but even more so, He shows His care for all of His people in becoming a curse – sin – for us, in being tortured and humiliated, and dying. Jesus shows care and honor towards His mother, and shows even greater care – salvation – for we who believe.
If we understand something of what it means to honor our parents, understand that Jesus has done more for us – His concern and care is greater than what we are commanded to give to our parents.
In the Providence of God, we are looking at this text on Father’s Day. With that in mind, let us honor our fathers – and our mothers. Let us make sure that they know the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how important it is to believe it.
Let us seek to honor our parents – in life and in death – to the fullest extent of the Law of God.
And let us tell the whole world that Jesus died – bearing our sins – out of love and concern and care for His people. This is the greatest love that can ever be found.
Do you know it?
Let us pray:
Almighty God, in our text, we see the taking of responsibility put before us for sinful and righteous reasons. We see the call upon us to tell others what Your Son has done to secure salvation – and we see how You move men and women both to speak when they do not know what they do and to receive the Gospel based on Your sovereign intervention. We thank You for the love and concern You have shown to all of Your people and for making the Way of salvation for us through Your Son. And we thank You for the example You have given us in Jesus honoring His mother as He hung on the cross, that we would remember and seek to honor our parents as You have called us to. And we pray all these things in Jesus’ Name, Amen.