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Matthew 27:32-66

The Power of the Cross of Christ

Sermon Notes + Quotes

We study through books of the Bible here at the Village Chapel, and we do have extra copies if you would like one to follow along. Just raise your hand up, somebody will give you a copy and you can follow along there in the text, if you would like to see the text yourself. John Stott has said that when we look at the cross, and you see one up here behind me, don’t you? “When we look at the cross,” he said, “we see the justice, love, wisdom and power of God.” He went on to say, “It’s not easy to decide which is the most luminously revealed.” How is that possible that the intersection of these two beams 2000 years ago, right at the heart of this one man named Jesus. There we see the fountain of justice, the fountain of love, the fountain of God’s wisdom, and the very power of God even in his death. 

That’s some of what I want to look at as we turn to Matthew chapter 27, if you will. I’ll remind you that we’ve been calling our study of Matthew The King and His Kingdom, and that’s because Matthew, formerly Levi the tax collector, Jesus, I believe, is the one that would’ve changed his name to Matthew. Often people’s names would be changed to help describe the kind of person that they are. Matthew means gift of God. Levi was one of the original 12 tribes of Israel, and Levi and Simeon were the two that were a bit violent, a bit rough, and a bit tough in the early days, as you read in the Old Testament, but you also find that the priestly line comes through Levi. 

And so here’s this guy named Levi, who in Matthew 9:9 we read, “Jesus comes along to where he sits,” Levi sits there, in his tax collecting booth where he, Levi, a Jewish man, has essentially been seen as a traitor to his own people because he’s extracting money from them and giving it  to the Roman occupying forces. And what a pariah he was in his world, in his day, in his time, his own people rejecting him, hating him because he is taking their money and giving it to the occupying forces. And Jesus comes along in Matthew 9:9 and with two words radically changes Levi’s life. Those two words are, “Follow me.” Levi stood up, took his pen with him, evidently, and left his very lucrative business. But he was hated, and he was tired of trying to find his own solutions. 

I think a lot of us in our own day and time need to get to that place where we’re out of our own resources, our own solutions, so that we finally turn to the Lord, we finally turn to Him, the One who has this inexhaustible joy, this unquenchable hope, and He puts it on offer right at the heart of those two beams, and in a death there comes a new way of being, a new life, if you will, and we’re going to read about that event. 

I want to remind you how, as we come to the end of our study of Matthew’s gospel, all that is has included, which is so amazing. And here’s the rough outline of the book, the person of Christ, Matthew 1-4. The principles of Christ, in that beautiful, wonderful, the beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, as we call it in our time, Matthew 5, 6, and 7. We also studied the parables of Christ, a lot of those are chronicled and recorded for us by Matthew. Levi, again, tax collector, really good with spreadsheets, really good with keeping records, and with his pen that kept a record of what people owed he’s now writing how God has come to gift us with salvation, and he’s done a great job. 

So he records some of the parables of Christ. He also records the power of Christ in chapters 8-28, and then we have the passion of Christ, which I’m going to use that term, the passion of Christ, in a broader sense than you might think of it if you’ve seen the movie called The Passion of Christ, or you typically think of passion week beginning Sunday, today, and then going on through into Good Friday. And so I’m going to say the passion of Christ is not only what He suffered, but I’m also going to say the passion of Christ is what He accomplished, and then I’m going to say that the passion of Christ is really close to the mission that He wants us to be on as well, and we’ll study that together two Sundays from now after we study that great resurrection event next week, which is going to be so wonderful. 

So for now, turn to Matthew 27:32-66. I know y’all are thinking that’s a lot of text, and it is, but it’s a narrative and we’re going to read it as such. I’ll try to make just minimal commentary along the way. If you are curious about parallel accounts and how the other gospels present this, you can find parallel accounts in Mark 15, Luke 23, and in John 19. But for now, let’s read Matthew 27:32-66. Please pay particular attention as I read to the scenes, the settings, and the people, and see what you can learn from those folks. 

So they had already, he’s gone through three religious trials and three political trials. The religious leaders have basically trumped-up charges against him, that he’s a political insurrectionist, and that’s because they really need the Romans to crucify Jesus. They don’t have the power of capital punishment, the Jews, and yet they’re trying to find a way to manipulate Jesus and to have him put to death, and so they do that by claiming that he is attempting to cause riots and insurrection, verse 32. And this is after Pilate has presented Barabbas to the crowd and said, “Do you want me to release him?” And the crowd yells, “No, give us Jesus, crucify him, crucify him.” And so now Jesus has been mocked, He’s been spit upon, He’s been dressed up in some garments as if He were the king, and that sort of thing, and really derided in every way. 

“And as they were coming out,” verse 32 says, “they found a certain Cyrenian named Simon.” Now Cyrene would’ve been 800 miles away on the coast of North Africa. So this man, like so many at Passover week around the Mediterranean, will have traveled probably for weeks to get there for this Passover celebration, and he’s likely a Jewish man because his name is Simon, and this man they pressed into service to bear his cross. 

So 800 miles he travels to worship. Some of us complain about eight miles. How many would you say Sunday morning’s pretty tough to get to church sometimes, the bathroom’s crowded, kids are crazy, everything’s nuts? By the time you get here you’ve been yelling and arguing with your spouse, you don’t feel holy at all, the last thing you feel is like coming in here and worshiping the Lord, or whatever. And this guy has traveled 800 miles, that’s just amazing to me to think about him. I can’t wait to get home and talk to him and find out what this must have been like. We think too that some of his, Alexander and Rufus, some of his children show up later in the New Testament, at least we think it might be his. But Simon, this guy, is going to help Jesus carry this cross. 

“And so when He had come to a place called Golgotha,” which means place of this skull, and those of you who were on the Israel trip, you saw a hillside that had a look like the face of a skull. Is that it? I can’t say for sure it is, but it looked like a skull to me, could be, I don’t know. “But when He came there,” here’s what Matthew records, “they gave,” the folks who were carrying him out, “gave Him wine to drink mingled with gall, and after tasting it He was unwilling to drink it.” Is that compassion or was that torment to Him? Did they mean that to continue mocking Him and to continue making Him suffer, or was this compassion? I don’t know, it could be either. But the tone is brutality toward Jesus, the tone is torment toward Jesus. 

They crucified Him, and it’s interesting that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, none of the four gospels spend a whole lot of time on the physicality of the cross and crucifixion itself. You can, if you are curious about such things, you can go online and you can find out a lot historically about how painful, how horrible, what a violent death this is, how public it was for the Romans to do this because it was a warning to anyone who might try to resist the Roman Empire. This is what happens when you try to resist Caesar. And so you can look that up, but I’m stunned that Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, neither spend much time on the physicality of it. 

“When they had crucified Him they divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots.” In some of your Bibles that’s in all caps because it’s probably a reference to Psalm 22. “Sitting down they began to keep watch over Him there.” Matthew’s the only one that makes this comment, of the four gospels. “Sitting down, they began to watch over Him there, these soldiers, these Roman soldiers that are crucifying Him.” What is that for? Why are they doing that? Is that because they know He has got a lot of followers that might come and try to get Him down off the cross and save Him before He dies? Or is Matthew saying to us, ‘look, the details of this, even the enemies of Jesus made sure that it was still Jesus on the cross and that Jesus died on the cross, and that when the body was taken down from the cross, it was Jesus body that was taken down.’ 

“Sitting down they began to keep watch over Him there, they put above His head the charge against Him which read ‘This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.'” It was from one of the other accounts, I think it’s Luke’s gospel, we learn that it was written in three languages, Aramaic, and in Latin, and in Greek. Why is that important? Well, because it’s on a very public street just outside the city walls, and anyone traveling by, no matter which language they spoke, would know now the reason that man is there is because he claimed, and his followers claimed, that he was a king, and there is no king but Caesar. And Pilate, in his snarkiness, in his cynicism, whatever drove him to do this, had this sign posted. 

“At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right, one on the left. Those who were passing by were hurling abuse at Jesus, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who destroyed the temple and rebuilt it in three days, save yourself.’” And remember, that was a claim that they leveled against Jesus, that He was literally going to destroy the temple and

rebuild it in three days time, now they’re mocking Him for what He said. He said, “If you are the son of God, come down from the cross.” Of course, Jesus was talking about His own body, the ultimate temple, the ultimate place where we come to worship and know God. 

But they’re doing the same thing the devil did with Jesus in the wilderness with the temptations, “If you are the son of God,” they’re questioning His identity and who He is and who He claimed to be, “If you are the son of God, come down from the cross.” In the same way the chief priests,  along with the scribes and the elders were mocking Him and saying, “He saved others, He cannot save himself. He is the king of Israel, let Him come now down from the cross and we shall believe in Him.” Yet the very thing they’re taunting Him to do would be the very thing He cannot do if He wants to fulfill His mission. He must die that I might live, and that you might live, He must die. When you read your New Testament you understand this. 

So as they are hurling abuse at Him, as they are mocking Him, He trusts in God, verse 43, “Let him deliver him now if he takes pleasure in him, for he said, ‘I am the son of God.'” Verse 44, “The robbers also who had been crucified with Him were casting the same insults at Him.” So these two robbers, for this moment anyway, and they’re going to be on the cross for a number of hours, they’re hurling insults at Him. About the sixth hour, that’s noon in Jewish thinking, the way the Jewish clock would run, darkness fell upon the land. That’s interesting because at noon usually the sun is where? The brightest, above all, and yet darkness falls on the land at noon until the ninth hour, which would’ve been about 3:00 PM. 

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice saying, “Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani?” That is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And that’s, again, a quote from Psalm 22, and most of you know that when we hold our Good Friday service we focus on the seven sayings from the cross, and we’ll do that again this Friday. I hope you’ll come, I hope you’ll bring some of your friends with you that don’t have a church home to be a part of, that don’t know where to take their grief, don’t know where to take their sin, don’t know where to take their sorrow right now, why not invite them to come to the One who not only can comfort them, but the One who actually knows sorrow? Man of sorrows, we sang it earlier, that’s Jesus. 

Some of those who were standing there when they heard it, they heard Jesus say, “Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani?” They thought He was calling on Elijah, immediately one of them ran, he took a sponge, he filled it with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave Him a drink. So this is the second attempt at giving Jesus a drink, there’s two attempts here in Matthew’s record. Some people have read the other gospel accounts, and they read that He refused to drink, and so they think that Matthew here is in some way contradicting what they read there, and I’m saying no, in a period of six hours He could have been offered drinks many times, as some people were there actually, especially the women who were so faithful and courageous to be standing near the cross, could have attempted to give Him something to meet some of his physical needs. 

Immediately one of them, took a sponge and put it on a reed and gave it to Him to drink. The rest of them, though, said, “Let’s see whether Elijah will come to Him.” Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit. We know from the other gospel records He says,

“Tetelestai,” He says, “It is finished.” And it’s not the I give up kind of finished, it’s not the tap out of somebody in a cage match. No, to tell us it is finished is the victor’s cry, it’s the it is accomplished, it is fulfilled, is what Jesus said. And then He gave up his spirit. 

[Verse] 51, “Behold the veil of the temple was torn into from top to bottom.” Why from top to bottom? Because no human could have done that, it was 80 feet tall. The veil of the temple that separated the holy place from the Holy of Holies, where only one person could go, where the presence of God was, on the arc of the covenant, all this sort of thing, only one person a year, one time, the high priest on the day of atonement could go in there. That curtain, that heavy curtain is torn, not from the bottom up, but from the top down. That’s an interesting detail. Who might be able to do that? “The earth shook and rocks were split.” 

Now 52 and 53 have me puzzled. Look at 52 and 53, if you’re not looking at this you won’t be puzzled with me, I want you to be puzzled with me. I need the comfort of your puzzlement. “The tombs were opened, many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.” Oh my goodness, that’s not in any of the other gospel records, but it is right here. What do we do with that? Man, I got to tell you, I’m a guy that likes answers, last name’s Thomas. I looked this one up, I went to the most brilliant New Testament scholars I could find, and they’re all sitting there just doing exactly what we’re doing, “Wow, what does that mean?” 

Who were these people? Were their graves just opened and their spirits ascended, looked like apparitions and ghosts? If they didn’t appear to in the city until the resurrection, that’s three days from now, what are they doing out there in the graveyard? Are they going, “Hey, how you doing? I haven’t seen you in a while, what are you doing? I’ve heard about you,” whatever, or what? And then when they came into the city, what did that look like? We’ve all seen movies where the mummies and the walking dead come, and their tattered clothes, and all that sort of thing, and the kids run in and say, “Mom, Uncle Harold’s back.” What was that like? I don’t know. Honestly, I just have to say I don’t know. But here’s what I do know, if Jesus died and He entered hell, and He’s reversing everything by his death, there’s bound to be some crazy things happen. And I can’t explain this, I just open my mouth and say, “Wow,” along with you. 

The Centurion, and I love the way Centurions are mentioned in the New Testament, every single time they’re mentioned, there’s something curious. They’re not Jews, they’re not the people you would expect to be faith oriented people, and yet somehow or another they seem to exhibit faith  as regards Jesus. “The Centurion,” and I like this, “and those who were with him.” His buddies, his posse, his team, there were four assigned to each cross, in Roman tradition that would’ve been the case. So here’s the Centurion, and probably these four, “they were keeping guard over Jesus. When they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening they became frightened and they said, ‘Truly, this was the son of God.'” Do you understand that their declaration of faith right there in Jesus as the son of God, that goes way past, you would’ve expected the religious leaders to get that. And so often in the New Testament we find faith where we don’t expect it, and we don’t find faith where we do expect it.

Do you expect to find faith in church? I pray that we do find faith in church, when we’re looking for it. And not just attendance, not just ritual, not just rule following, not just moral policemen, but gospel paramedics. “Truly this was the Son. Many of the women who were there looked down from a distance who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to them. Among them was Mary Magdalene,” remember her? “Along with Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.” Awesome, these courageous women. The disciples, by the way, where are they? They’ve scattered. In one of the other gospel records we understand that John is standing nearby there somehow, but the other disciples have scattered, they’re afraid, and here are these courageous women standing here. 

“It was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph,” most of us have heard his name before, “who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. The man came to Pilate, asked for the body of Jesus, and Pilate ordered it to be given over to him.” And if you read John chapter 19 you see that Nicodemus, another formerly mentioned guy in John’s gospel, John chapter three, he also helps Joseph of Arimathea take the body of Jesus down and bury the body of Jesus. And so these two guys, once bound by fear, now bold in faith, and they want to respect the body of Jesus. “They take the body down, they wrap it in a linen cloth, they laid it in his,” Joseph’s, “new tomb, which he had hewn into the rock. He rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away.” 

The garden tomb in Israel that you can visit, I think it’s called Gordon’s garden tomb for the guy that discovered, it dates back to the first century. We don’t know if it’s the tomb, but it is a tomb from the first century and it’s remarkable to be there. We were just there three weeks ago, about 115 of us. It’s stunning to be in that kind of a space and see what that might have looked like when this was done. 

“And so they laid Jesus’ body there, and Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary sitting opposite the grave.” Again, courageous presence of faithfulness. “Next day, which is the one after the preparation, the chief priest and the Pharisees were gathered together with Pilate and they said, ‘Sir, we remember that when was still alive, that deceiver,'” meaning Jesus. Isn’t that ironic, that they’re calling Jesus the deceiver when they’re the liars. They’re the ones that have trumped-up these charges against Him being a political insurrectionist and all, and they’re calling Him a deceiver, “And we remember that He said, ‘After three days I am to rise again,’ therefore,” and they’re talking to Pilate, and they’re trying to arrange for a guard, “Give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, lest the disciples come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He’s risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” And Pilate said to them, “You have a guard, go make it as secure as you know how.” 

Folks, verse 65 is the funniest verse in the entire Bible. I’m going to read it one more time because you didn’t get that. Pilate says to them, “You have a guard, go and make it as secure as you know how.” It’s another way of saying give it your best shot. They went and they made the grave secure, along with the guard they set a seal on the stone. So you got soldiers, you got a seal, and you got a stone, all representing the mighty Roman Empire.

Just a few points today, if you will permit me on this day, to be able to make about this amazing text here. The Roman soldiers, savage executioners, callously, incessantly taunting, mocking, hurling insults and abuse at Jesus. The two criminals, ironically these two fellows were actually guilty of insurrection, the very charge that Jesus had been accused of, even though He was not guilty. He did not intend to do a political insurrection, He didn’t come to be a political messiah, or a sociological messiah, He came to be a Savior. The religious leaders, vicious, cruel, mean, hateful, expressing their contempt and disdain. 

The crowd, fickle at best. Some of the crowd, we know, will become believers. Some of that indeed will happen, they will become Christians, some of them, but some of them, and probably some of the ones that were yelling, “Crucify him,” will become believers. Certainly, from what we can tell, this man Simon, who helped carry the cross, appears to me to have become a believer, and so too his sons and grandsons along the way. The women, I mean the Centurion, don’t want to miss this, those who were with Him doing their job, but apparently saw beyond the surface, may have heard of how Jesus had responded to other Centurions when they came and said, “Could you heal my servant? Just say the word, you don’t even have to come to my house. I know my house isn’t worthy of you coming, you just say the word and I’m sure my servant will be healed,” and Jesus did that. The women, bold, courage, faithful presence. Joseph, Nicodemus, amazing. 

Here’s Jesus on the cross, smothered to death in borrowed sins on a borrowed cross that belonged to a guy named Barabbas, if you’ll remember. Interestingly, His name means son of the Father, and here’s Jesus, son of God, the Father, taking His place on His cross, on Barabbas’ cross. Jesus drowned in borrowed sins. They weren’t His sins, He took my sin and your sin. He who knew no sin, the apostle Paul says, became sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ. So He’s smothered and borrowed sins on a borrowed cross, and buried in a borrowed tomb. Pilate, this guy who says, “Make it as secure as you can,” just doesn’t quite get it, doesn’t know what’s going to happen. And then the mighty Roman Empire, of course, represented by the stone, the seal, and the soldiers, for now it indeed was Friday. But Sunday was indeed coming. 

The impact of the cross of Christ was, and is, both momentary and momentous. That is in the moment look at the impact of the cross, scattered, fearful disciples, faithful, even though tearful, women, the darkness over all the land, the torn veil in the temple, the earthquake, the eager groaning of creation, which was headed now for redemption. Some of the dead saints raised to life, puzzling but perhaps a foreshadowing of what Jesus will do to all of our tombs. 

Here’s what the momentous, decisive, and timeless impact of the cross is, atonement, for all our sin has been secured. Here’s how the Apostle John, who I believe was standing at that cross, said it in 1 John 2:2,

“He [Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

1 John 2:2

Do you understand what that means for you? Do you understand that what that means for me? All is such a powerful word in the New Testament, and that Jesus died for all our sins is just amazing. Christ dies, satisfies the wrath of God against all that is evil, expiates our guilt in sin, and now the prize for all our sins, past, present, and future, has been paid for in full. Wow, somebody give me a Pentecostal amen. 


That is the good news of the cross. As horrible as the cross was, as brutal as it was, look at what this God can do with that kind of brutality and violence, that kind of tragic injustice, the greatest injustice the world has ever seen, when a man who had no sin dies for the sins of the whole world. That’s injustice, justice turned upside down. If you are a sinner I got great news for you, atonement is on offer, and it doesn’t matter what zip code you live in, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is. It doesn’t matter what you have believed up to this moment, I’m pointing you to Jesus who died on the cross, and I’m saying that He died for you and for your sin, as well as for me and my sin. He died for the sins of all seven of these people represented here. Do you understand that? That is amazing grace, and that’s why we call it amazing. 

Atonement is only for sinners though. If you’re not a sinner today, if you sit and think of yourself as not being a sinner, you don’t need the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, or at least you don’t think you do. If you’re not a sinner, or you don’t think you are a sinner, you don’t need to be here at all. As a matter of fact, if you’re not a sinner and you don’t think you need to be here, we’d probably rather you not come back, because I get real annoyed when I’m self-righteous, I get annoyed at myself, and I get annoyed at the hypocrisy that I exhibit when I don’t acknowledge my sin. And I think that’s what’s wrong with our world, is that we can’t acknowledge the fact that we have a need that is much greater than we ourselves can actually satisfy. We can’t fix this on our own, we need somebody that can come and be the king of our hearts; that isn’t us. 

So if you’re a sinner, you need nothing more than you need the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Folks, we can’t do this on our own. Stott,

“Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, leading us to faith in worship, we have to see it as something done by us leading us to repent.”

–John Stott, The Cross of Christ

In other words, folks, it’s my sin that put Christ on the cross. It’s your sin. He died for the sins of the world, but don’t let that be ambiguous, it needs to be personal, He died for my sin, He died for your sin too when he went to the cross. God’s salvation is offered to me as a free gift because of the finished work of Christ on the cross. Grace truly is amazing, it’s mind-blowing, it’s astonishing. 

Just think about the thief on the cross who had led a life of robbery, sedition, insurrection, and guerilla warfare as a local terrorists. Some of you will know who Pastor Alistair Begg is, Truth For Life ministries. I love when he tells this story, I can’t do it justice, I’m going to give it a little bit of a shot, but he describes what might have happened when that thief on the cross showed up at the pearly gates after Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you’ll be with me in paradise.” That’s recorded in Luke 23:43. One minute the poor fellows pinned to a cross, he breathes his last breath and poof, he shows up at the pearly gate. He is understandably befuddled. He doesn’t know where he is, he doesn’t know how he got there. Some angel asks him why he should be allowed into heaven? What could he say? He couldn’t say that, “It’s because I’ve been so very good, I was a Jewish boy scout, I never stole anything, I never got angry, I refrained from all forms of violence.” That’s just not true, he couldn’t say that. 

The man doesn’t really know why he’s there or how he got there, he’s as puzzled about it as the angel is in that initial moment. Begg imagines the angel at heaven’s door turning to an angelic supervisor for help on this one. Should he let this thief into heaven? On what basis can he do such a thing? Won’t it get him in trouble with God, or might he even get fired from his angelic duties? Begg goes on to say the angel and the supervisor return and grill the thief again, “How did you get here? Who said you could even be here? Have you kept the 10 commandments? Do you understand the doctrine of justification by faith? Have you tithed at least 10% and given to the poor on top of that? Were you free of all addictions and bad habits when you died?” 

Finally the exasperated thief responds and just says, “Look, I don’t know how I got here. All I know is the man on the middle cross said I could come.” And Begg makes the point, we can’t answer that question if we were in that hypothetical situation in the first person. If we start with I, we go wrong. We’ve got to start with the third person, he. He said I could come, he did this, he died in my place, he is Jesus, and we put our faith, our hope, and our confidence in Jesus. 

Christopher Wright has become a friend over the last couple years. I love his book To the Cross,

“The death of Christ in utter weakness would turn out to be the demonstration of the saving power of God that will ultimately destroy all powers of evil and violence. What a paradox, but it lies at the heart of the Gospel.”

–Christopher J.H. Wright, To the Cross

I think he’s so right on that. Here’s how God will vanquish all of the powers of evil and darkness, he will give his life in our place. He will pay the prize for sin, all sin. Now will you believe is another question, but right now where we’re at Christ has just died, and we can sum up the cross this way, here’s the power of the cross, it’s historic. It’s a piece of space, time, history. It’s not just a legend, not just fairytale, not just a myth. I love myth, I love legends, I love fairy tales. I love books by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, I love all of that stuff. This isn’t that. 

This is history, this happened. If you had been there that day you could have gotten splinter as you ran your hand on Jesus cross. You could have heard Him cry out in anguish. You could have seen the blood and water come out separated as He went into hypovolemic shock. You could have seen His side pierced, all of that. See, this happened in history, and even people who aren’t Christian believers, who are historians, will write to verify that kind of thing as they look through history. In addition to the biblical records we can corroborate scriptural accounts in so many different ways. The crucifixion of Jesus was historic, it was painful, it was public, and it was a warning to anyone who might defy the Roman Empire. 

Secondly, the power of the cross is not only historic, it’s supernatural. Jesus suffered rejection, injustice, insults, on all kinds of physical abuse, tortured people denying his true identity, even death itself. But Jesus is not just a martyr, He’s a savior. It was God’s plan that Jesus suffered  and died, not merely for our benefit, listen to this, but actually that he died in our stead, and there’s a huge difference. It is for our benefit, but he died in our stead. He’s our substitute. He took my place on the cross, and in his death. God didn’t just sweep my sin under the rug, God took my sin seriously and God did something quite serious about it. 

As Karl Barth puts it, “The judge was judged in our place.” You see? The one who is the judge, who will have the final say, who we’ve already studied in the Gospel of Matthew, is going to come one day and he is going to judge the entire world. He already claimed to do that, and what an outrageous claim that is. We can’t paint the picture of Jesus as just a soft sandaled, soft-spoken kind of guy, hippie, guru, piece knit guy. No, he came, he said, “I’m going to judge the world. I’m going to separate the sheep and the goats, so be a sheep, don’t be a goat.” 

“Jesus Christ came not to be served but to die, to give His life. That sets him apart from the founder of every other religion. Their purpose was to live and be an example; Jesus’ purpose was to die and be a sacrifice.”

–Tim Keller, King’s Cross 

Now listen, I’ll concede that Jesus is an example, and He’s the best example there has ever been, I’ll concede that, but it doesn’t stop there. He came to not only be an example, but to be our Savior, to die in our place. And so this is a supernatural thing. It’s a work of God, something we could not have thought of, I don’t even think, and something we certainly could not have done. 

Third, the power of the cross is global. And this is so beautiful thing, it’s offered to the entire world. Christianity I will claim, and agree with Rebecca McLaughlin, is the most inclusive religious system in the history of the world. The gospel offer is universal, the culmination of human history as depicted in the Book of Revelation will show people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people group gathered around the throne of God, worshiping the lamb of God who died on that cross, Jesus Christ himself. You see where all of this is going as you look into the Book of Revelation is this beautiful, massive collection of people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people group. 

That’s amazing. They didn’t all go to The Village Chapel. They didn’t all believe the same thing about water baptism, or tithing, or what you ought to wear when you go to church. That’s just not the case. Some people’s minds are blown when you suggest that Jesus didn’t wear a tie. Some people just can’t get past it, that they used stringed instruments to praise and worship, and things like tambourines and drums to worship the Lord back then. It fries some people’s circuit, but man, the power of the cross is global because the offer is universal. How will you respond? Is the question that remains. 

Fourth, finally, the power of the cross is personal, it’s an act of God by which He can now make an offer of grace to each and every one of us. To the religious leaders who hated Jesus so much they manipulated His arrest and trials, to the Romans who drove the nails through His hands and feet, to the crowds who turned against Him and yelled, “Crucify him, crucify him,” both thieves on either side of Jesus would’ve heard this offer, and certainly one who received it, one who rejected it, are illustrative of the fact that you can either receive it or reject it. How will you respond?

To every person who ever stole anything, to everyone who has ever told a lie, to every man or woman who has broken their marriage vows, to every drunk, every drug addict, every person who is addicted to pornography, every prostitute, every sexual sinner of every kind, every corrupt politician, every broken down pastor, every victim of any crime who feels so damaged that they must be completely unlovable because of what they have done, or what has happened to them, the cross is God’s power to save, and its own offer to you as well. The road to redemption leads us to the cross, it is here at the cross of Christ we experience the love of God, the justice of God, the power of God, and the wisdom of God, as Stott said earlier. Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost, is that you? Jesus was both our representative and our substitute on the cross, at the cross we find love, justice, grace, and mercy, and power of God. 

“Man’s reconciliation with God takes place through God putting Himself in man’s place, and man’s being put in God’s place, as a sheer act of grace. It is this inconceivable miracle which is our reconciliation.”

–Karl Barth

“Grace is the most perplexing, powerful force in the universe, and I believe the only hope for our twisted, violent planet.”

–Philip Yancey

So true. Grace melts us, doesn’t it? We’re so proud, it’s so hard for us to be graced. You see it in yourself, or in others in your family, that they don’t want to bother anybody, don’t want to put anybody out, don’t want anybody to be bothered by their needs, or anything. We’re like that, it’s very hard for us to receive from God this amazing grace. 

But there is just one way back, as E.H. Swinstead has said in his hymn,

“There’s a way back to God from the dark paths of sin; there’s a door that is open and you may go in. Come to Calvary’s cross is where you begin, when you come as a sinner to Jesus.”

–E.H. Swinstead

I bid you now, come to Jesus, come and bow before Him at the cross, receive the salvation He has put on offer. We are all Barabbas in one way or another, we are all the thief on the cross, we are all in need of redemption. Christ has accomplished that for us. Let us come and give him thanks at this table where we remember his body broken, his bloodshed, for the remission of our sins. Would you pray with me? 

Lord, thank you for coming. You didn’t have to, You didn’t owe it to us, we didn’t have a claim on You. We have, as a people, as a species, we’ve rebelled against You over and over and over again, we’ve denied your existence, we’ve gotten mad at You for things that we have no place getting mad at You for. We’ve messed up our world, we’ve allowed others to define us. We’ve thought that we could take the reins back from you and define ourselves. And here at this moment, in this service, we come to the place where we bow before You. We’re humbled by the grace you have exhibited in coming, not just to be the example, but to be our savior, and that You accomplish that through suffering this injustice, this violent death, it blows our minds. No other God is like that, no other God has done that. 

We come to offer You our repentance, our faith, we turn our hearts to You. We turn our brokenness to you, we lay it down at Your feet, we ask You, Lord, heal us, restore us, renew us, forgive us. Set us free, Lord, from those things that have such a grip on our hearts, whether that’s something physical, like an addiction, or something emotional, like anger, set us free, I pray. Oh precious Savior. We pray this in Jesus name, amen, amen.

Edited for reading.

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