Memphis Belle

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Matthew 27:27-66


“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.  And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.  And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand:  and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!  And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.  And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.  And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name:  him they compelled to bear his cross.  And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, they gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall:  and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.  And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots:  that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.  And sitting down they watched him there; and set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.  Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.  And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself.  If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.  Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save.  If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.  He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him:  for he said, I am the Son of God.  The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.  Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama Sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?  Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.  And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.  The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.  Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.  And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom:  and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.  Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.  And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him:  Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.  When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple:  he went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.  Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.  And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock:  and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.  And there was Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre.  Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.  Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead:  so the last error shall be worse than the first.  Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch:  go your way, make it as sure as ye can.  So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.”


“…Let’s open our Bibles to Matthew chapter 27…I’d ask you to pray just about the Radio of course, we’ve been asking that consistently, but the station we just put on the air on the peninsula, we temporarily have it off the air because we’re just having a lot of trouble with the equipment.  So God willing, we’ll get it fixed.  But we have ordered new equipment from different companies, and God willing this week it will get fixed.  But we just put it on the air and are having a ton of trouble with some brand new equipment, and I’d just ask that you’d pray about that.  And of course the station in the next town over, God willing, that gets on the air by June 26th.  Praise report, though, we talked a lot about the station we want to put up in another neighboring town, this station we’ve been battling for, and it seems as if finally there’s a settlement, at least I’ve been told there is, by attorneys and others.  There’s been money paid and documents signed, and we are being told that we should be seeing a construction permit pretty soon.  So that’s cool for us, because the station we’re broadcasting from on the peninsula we can’t hear, but the station next town over, it will be part of our network, will be the same station [receiving the same live feed], so you get to hear it locally, if we can work that through.  [And these wonderful connective expository sermons are broadcast over these same stations, that is their Christian ministry within the State where they’re located.]  And then the good news with the station we just put on the south shore of our capital city, it’s not broadcasting, but we’ve saved the license, it will be on the air in a month, and we are wondering, that’s a CSN station, Calvary Satellite Network, weren’t sure who they were going to have run it, but they’ve actually asked somebody from our church to run it.  [This station is up and running now.  Sermon was given on April 9, 2006]  It’s a huge FM station on the south shore. 


Opening remarks and prayer


Matthew 27, verse 27 is where we left off, that’s where we’re picking up this morning.  I’ll start with just a story, there’s a story of a 15-year-old girl, this was reported by Associated Press.  15-year-old girl living in the area of Formosa, who went before her country’s supreme court, she actually appealed to the court for permission to actually die in the place of her father.  Her father had been convicted of a crime, a horrible crime.  His wife had died, he had four children, her and three young sons, and he was convicted of a crime with three other men.  Well evidently they were convicted of robbing some people, and somebody died in the whole process.  Well anyway, she stood before her supreme court of her country and asked that they would consider taking her life instead of her father’s.  Pretty radical, right?  And that is because her three young brothers needed somebody to take care of them, and she figured if they were to take my life instead of his life, then my brothers can be cared for.  Well in the end the court actually rejected her appeal, which is just amazing to consider her heart, willing to do that, standing before the supreme court of the country and asking for that.  There are instances in China where kids have actually stood before the Emperor, this is in centuries past, similar situation, maybe a parent has been sentenced to death, and a child appealing to the Emperor, you know, ‘Listen, take my life, not my dad’s, not my mom’s.’  There are instances in history where actually the lives of kids have been taken in exchange for mom and dad, a mom and dad that’s been sentenced to death, and the kid has appealed to the Emperor and the Emperor’s actually gone with the decision.  So, I start with that, because that’s incredible to even consider, standing there saying, ‘Take my life instead of their’s.’  And you certainly are blessed by the heart that is there with it.  And there have been many people throughout history that have laid down their lives for other people, there are many people that have died for someone else, for maybe a group of people, maybe even a community, a culture.  There have been instances throughout history where that has happened.  And I start with that story, obviously as we have come to this part of Matthew 27, where we now consider someone else, of course, Jesus Christ whose about to lay down his life for others, for you and I.  Now obviously this is a whole lot different, this situation here, as we think of this young gal, and we think of others, this situation is very different.  Paul even wants us to know that, he tells the church in Rome, Romans chapter 5, verse 6, he says this, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man one will die, yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”  And that’s what we’re going to look at today.  We’re going to look at, well this is God himself laying down his life.  And who is he dying for?  He’s dying for us.  He’s dying even for the most wretched, the most vile people, even people that hate him.  That’s who he’s laying his life down for.  And as we’re going to see, as Matthew arranges this, what also makes this strikingly different compared to the others that have laid down their lives, when God the Son does it here, the effect of it is so incredible.  Matthew puts details together so that we would get the sense of that.  But the result is transformation in other lives, salvation, it’s life, man.  Well it’s radical what takes place here.  Let’s say a word of prayer.  You know, many of us have studied this so often, many of us have come to the Easter [Passover] season, stopped and considered this message every year, maybe in our Bible reading we see it often.  But it is true, the more you and I appreciate what is here, the more you and I, well we just see it in faith, the reality is all the more true in our lives.  Well, the more we’re going to live for Christ passionately, more like the pictures we just saw in the video, the more I just appreciate what’s here, what God has done.  So let’s just ask God to open our eyes, all of us.  We all have probably a reduced, restricted view of what really is here.  So let’s ask God in our hearts just to illuminate these things for us.  ‘Lord, as we stop for a moment, here on a Sunday morning, and we look to your Word, as we’ve been going through Matthew quite a long time, we now, just the way it works come near Easter [Passover], and we’re at this point in Matthew.  Here it is palm Sunday, and we’re in Matthew 27, and we’ve watched you Lord, we’ve watched you Jesus just through our studies, loving lives, blessing lives, and then coming to this point in your life, where, here you are, as we come to that point of your death, crucifixion.  Of course the whole reason why you came, incredible that you God would come and do this.  I pray for myself and for all of us, that in your grace you’d open our eyes in faith to what is here, all the more.  That we would discern maybe a bit more, in a deeper way, what it means, what you’ve done.  The life, the heart, the mind that grasps this is a life that lives differently.  And I pray for us that you through your Holy Spirit would just give us light, that you would give us light to see, ears to hear, be upon all of us through your Holy Spirit, even upon myself now as we go through your Word, in Jesus name we pray, amen.’


The Crucifixion of Jesus


Matthew 27, verses 27-31, “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around him.  And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him.  When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on his head, and a reed in his right hand.  And they bowed the knee before him and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’  Then they spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head.  And when they had mocked him, they took the robe off him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him away to be crucified.”  Now we have seen, you know we’ve been going through Matthew, last week the religious leaders worked the situation, influenced the Romans, but ultimately the Romans put Jesus Christ to death.  Or they’ve sentence him, condemned him to death.  At the end of the verses we saw last week, verse 25, we even saw the crowd as they cried out, they said “His blood be upon us, and upon our children.”  But as we have noted, the Romans have condemned him, the religious leaders, they’ve worked it out and influenced them that this would be.  But we’ve noted all along that Jesus is actually the one in control.  I mean, he’s ultimately, of course as God he’s sovereign, this is something that God has ordained.  So he’s ultimately the one whose led the whole situation.  This is in fulfillment of his prophecy earlier.  John chapter 10, verse 17, he said this, he said, “Therefore my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again.  No one takes it from me.  But I lay it down of myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This command I received from my Father.”  So he said, ‘I ultimately am the one to lay down my life.  Nobody can take my life, I lay it down.’  And that’s very clear as we’ve seen.  He could have stopped this whole situation before, but he hasn’t.  This is something that he has willed to do, very clearly.  Now it is interesting to me, maybe you read some newspaper articles this week, saw it on TV, but recently they’ve discovered the Gospel of Judas.   Maybe you read a little bit about it.  I saw it in the New York Times this week.  And of course, it wasn’t just discovered this last week, but they put it in the newspaper, because it’s Easter week, and it sells newspapers to have this type of stuff in yhe newspaper.  But this parchment, 1700 years old, Gospel of Judas.  Written about the relationship of Judas and Jesus.  And of course giving it a little bit of a different twist, perspective.  And it’s an apocryphal writing, it’s a Gnostic, a heavily Gnostic writing [see to see what Gnosticism is.].  And as they do the apocryphal writings they lack accuracy, they lack authority, they lack inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  We do even have quotes from the 2nd century church leader, Irenaeus, who says about this writing, and about other Gnostic writings, and about just the Gnostic influence that was going on at that time, even John deals with that in his Epistles, but this 2nd century church leader, we even have him saying this about the Gospel of Judas.  “They produce a fictitious story or history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.”  Irenaeus said, and we have this, and he lived around 180AD, around there he wrote even then.  And we have writings, statements about the Gospel of Judas, but we never found one.  But we have this parchment now.  But even he said that it was fictitious and not very accurate.  [It was probably part of the Nag Hammadi archeological discoveries, see that link to “Why Orthodoxy?”]  But it speaks about Judas and Jesus.  And what I find intriguing about it, is it says in this, although it’s not accurate, but it gives this sense of Jesus actually influencing Judas so that Judas would go to the Romans and turn Jesus over to the Romans so that he would be condemned to death.  Although it’s got a lot of twisted things that aren’t true, we have yet seen that Jesus is in fact the one that’s ultimately, I mean, sovereign.  He’s going to lay down his life, nobody’s going to take it from him.  Well, it’s that time, the soldiers, you know, Pilate’s turned Jesus over to the soldiers.  They take Jesus now to the Praetorium, and that would be basically the Headquarters of the governor.  This might actually be the palace that Herod built, it’s possible, or it could be the Fortress Antonio [it is].  We don’t know for sure.  But he’s taken there, and there’s this whole garrison of soldiers, a whole company, as the NIV says, of soldiers.  [Comment:  Pilate and the Roman troops were garrisoned at Fortress Antonio, which was built overlooking the Temple grounds, so that the Romans could keep an eye on the Temple, a known hotbed for Jewish trouble.  In today’s army, a Company is 150 men.]  So Jesus is before a lot of soldiers.  It says they then strip him of his clothes [don’t forget, he’s already been stripped of his clothes once, to get scourged, so after that, with his body more like raw hamburger, they put his clothes back on him, then now they strip him again to put this scarlet robe on him to mock him.  He’s already a bloody mess.]  Mark tells us it’s purple, so it’s somewhere between purple and scarlet, that’s the shade.  This robe would be something a military official would wear, maybe a king, and so there he is.  


Crown of thorns, Jesus takes on the Curse


They then take a crown of thorns, they make actually a crown of thorns, they twist these thorns together, and they place it down upon his head.  They put a reed in his hand, a staff.  Mark tells us that they then salute him, and they bow before him, and they worship him, and they just begin to mock him.  It is interesting, when you look at the picture here as Jesus, the Son of God, he’s got this crown of thorns on.  Given some of the things that we’ve studied, it’s interesting just the picture there, because the thorn, where does the thorn come from?   We know from the Bible, the Bible says the thorns come from the Curse, Genesis chapter 3, verse 17, to Adam he said “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it, cursed is the ground for your sake, in toil shall you eat of it all the days of your life, both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.  And you shall eat the herb of the field.”  So, thorns, coming from the curse.  We’ve already mentioned that Jesus has come to deliver us from the curse.  Here he is, and the world has put a crown of thorns on him.  It is a very interesting picture, as they mock him.  But those thorns even representing the curse, yet he’s come to deliver us from the curse, and the effects of the curse.  Matthew notes that they also spit on him, they strike him, they say “Hail, King of the Jews!”.  When it says “strike him” the NIV says they strike him again and again. So they take this reed and they just keep nailing him with it, and hitting him with it, and striking him with it, repeatedly. 


The Abuse Jesus Goes Through


And so as we come again to this time of year, we look at the death of Jesus Christ, at the cross, the crucifixion, the first point I’d like to make is we’re reminded of just the whole abuse, the abuse.  And he’s come to sacrifice his life, and one of the things he endures here is absolute abuse from men.  People abuse him, men abuse him in a horrible way.  You know, he didn’t, when he laid out his life it wasn’t like they gave him a lethal injection medically to him, it wasn’t that he was put under the firing squad or guillotined, that might actually be painless and quick.  As we see here, as the Son of God, he lays down his life, there is this abuse that he endures.  He’s beaten, he’s spat upon, he’s scourged [which literally tore up his flesh wherever that flagellum hit, wrapping around his body, and then being pulled free, ripping flesh from off his body, back, sides and front.  Let’s realize what happened to Jesus here, folks.]  He’s actually stripped in front of a bunch of people and they put a robe on him, to just belittle him [and he’s already a bloody mess at this point].  So there’s abuse.  And you know, throughout history, maybe even here in this room, there are people that have endured abuse at the hands of other people.  Maybe there’s even people in this place today, people listening in that where you’ve endured abuse, from one person or another, maybe from a group of people.  You’re a victim of abuse, maybe you’re even now in a situation where at times you endure abuse from the hands of others.  And here you are today, you know, and you’ve got that situation in your life, you’ve got all that goes on with it emotionally.  You would say, man, talk of abuse man, I’m abused, I’ve been abused.  Sometimes people are even abused because they are Christians, we know that, I mean, around the world even today there are people that come to Christ, and the abuse they endure.  Even in our culture, even in this church I know of people that even now coming to the Lord, I talk to some at times, and new in the Lord, and the stuff you endure from your families is amazing, that are so against the fact that you’re a Christian, and they might even call themselves Christian, but you’re just a radical born-again in their eyes now, so man, they mock, they ridicule, they abuse.  Maybe, maybe that would be you today.  And here we see Jesus abused, abused by men.  And if you’re in that, enduring that, I tell you, you can come to God and you have in Christ somebody who can identify with your abuse.  He knows what it’s like to be abused.  Maybe you’ve got a lot of stuff going on because of it, a lot of stuff you’re dealing with, and you’re wondering, you just feel hindered in life, and restricted in life, because of all that abuse.  But you know, you can come to God and God can speak a word into your life.  You can come to God, and he can minister to you, he’s a God that heals.  And he knows, I mean, God actually came and he went through this, he can identify with us.  He knows what it’s all about, he knows what it’s like.  So if maybe you’re one of these people, a person that can say, ‘Man, I’ve been abused,’ well Jesus has been abused too, he knows what it means, he knows what it feels like, you can come to him.  And he wants to work in your life, he wants to heal your life.  He wants to give you hope, he wants to help you move on in the midst of all you’re going through, been through, to actually live a victorious life.  The soldiers re-dress him [with his own clothes], they lead him off to be crucified.  And that would mean that they would put him in the midst of a few soldiers, usually four soldiers.  They put this beam of the cross [the cross section] which would weigh as much as 100 pounds on his shoulders, and then he would be taken off on this route to Golgotha where he would be executed, this place of execution.  They would generally take those to be crucified, they’d take them on the longest route possible, there’d be somebody out in front of the person that was to be crucified on this beam, there’d be person out in front with a sign that would say, they would declare the penalty [and crime for which they were being crucified for], what they’re being condemned, crucified for.  And they’d take them through the longest route possible.  And there would be the crowds, and the idea was to instill fear.  This person has done this, and this is where you go if you do this, and it would be to instill fear, the Romans did it to instill fear.  So he’s got this beam, they’re taking him through the community, you know, the Via Della Rosa as we re-enact, on the way to the site of execution.


Simon of Cyrene takes his cross


Verses 32-35,  “Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name.  Him they compelled to bear his cross.  And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, they gave him sour wine mingled with gall to drink.  But when he had tasted it, he would not drink.  Then they crucified him, and divided his garments, casting lost, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet:


‘They divided my garments among them,

and for my clothing they cast lots.’  [Psalm 22:18]


 [The people of Cyrene were African people who lived in what is now Libya.  Cyrene was the chief city of the region known then as Cyrenaica, the nation that bordered Egypt on the west, and it was situated on the coast on the Mediterranean Sea.  Simon was probably of Jewish origin, being one of the Jews of the Diaspora.]  Now we’re told, Matthew says somewhere along the route, as they’re going along, they find another man, this man whose from Cyrene, his name is Simon, they compel him, that is, they force him to carry this cross-beam, there’s no choice in the matter.  You know, the Roman soldier, when he would come and compel you, you had no choice. They take him from the crowd and they cause him now to carry the cross of the Lord.  Now, that would tell us something, that would indicate something about the condition of Christ, Jesus as this point.  And we would understand that, he’s been beaten by soldiers as we’ve seen, he’s already been scourged, and often people didn’t even live through scourging [so he’s had a lot of blood-loss already, he’s in a weakened condition.  And he was a hardy carpenter.]  He’s been up for hours, he’s just been punched and beaten and scourged, physically he’s in incredible pain, he’s very weak.  That’s obviously why, he’s barely making it, he’s stumbling.  So the soldiers find this other guy.  Now this man has come, it would seem about 800 miles, he’s coming from an area of Africa, he’s come as a worshipper, he’s come for the Passover, he’s come for a spiritual experience [and boy is he getting one], he’s set apart this time to seek God, and in this horrible, horrifying moment he’s pulled into this thing, not by choice, and he’s got to carry this cross and follow through this whole thing.  And what a humiliating thing, and probably even painful to endure, and he’s just standing there, you know.  But it would seem, it’s possible, we don’t know for sure, it would seem, there’s indication, historical indication, Biblical indication this experience may very well have changed his life for good.  He’s called as it says here, Simon of Cyrene.  We read though in Mark, Mark identifies him as Simon the father of Alexander and Rufus.  And it would seem Mark mentions Alexander and Rufus because they are people the Church must know.  He’s the father of Alexander and Rufus, these two men.  Evidently they must know these two men.  So we assume Alexander and Rufus are believers [in the early Church].  And there’s a Christian named Rufus at the end of Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, he greets Rufus, Romans chapter 16, verse 13.  It’s very possible then, putting it together that Simon is the father of Rufus, as it says in Mark, that Rufus becomes a Christian, Alexander possibly becomes a Christian.  And if this is all connected, then it’s very, very possible that Simon became a Christian.  And there’s historical indications, we don’t know for sure.  But here is a possible catastrophe in his life.  I mean, if we could actually experience some of this, it would become alive for us.  But you’re just coming to worship God, and you’re pulled into this whole horrifying sea, and you’re following him, but it’s possible by what he saw, he later put his faith in Christ and followed Christ.  [Especially if he ended up hearing Peter at Pentecost in Acts 2, just 50 days later, or maybe even met some of the disciples right after the Resurrection of Christ, as they were heading back north up to Galilee to meet the risen Christ again.]  And that is an example too, you can be in a situation that would seem like a catastrophe in your life, you could be in a situation in your life where you’re like ‘This is awful, my life is ruined, this is a terrible thing.’  But in reality God is working out something that is actually very great in your life.  It’s not terrible, it’s actually very great.  In the end it will be a blessing.  In the end it will be a wonderful, powerful thing in your life.  And it’s possible that’s what’s happened to Simon.   I mean, horrifying, but in the end, it was everything to him.  It became possibly something very beautiful to him, something that he would even consider of privilege that he was actually there and had this experience, and got to carry the cross.  The same can be true in our lives. 


Jesus at Golgotha, refuses to be drugged


It says they lead Jesus to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.  Interesting, being affiliated with Calvary Chapel, “Calvary” is the word for skull in the Latin, and that is a translation of the Greek word Craniun, which is of course skull, cranium, which is the word the Greek interprets the Hebrew Golgotha, skull, so Golgotha, skull, Calvary.  There they give him sour wine mingled with gall to drink.  That is basically a narcotic, it would have a stupefying effect, it would generally numb the pain.  And if you were to be crucified, I’m sure you would want to take a good gulp of that at that point, because all this that you’ve gone through and are going to go through, this stuff would numb the pain, this is like alcohol, but it had a strength to it, it would help a little bit.  But Jesus, as you see there, they hand it to him, they hand this cup to him, and he refuses drink it, he would not drink it.  That’s of course why he’s here.  He’s here with a purpose, to take on the sin of the world, to die for the sin of the world.  And he doesn’t want anything to hinder that.  He doesn’t want anything to take away of his mission, to take on that wrath, that judgment of our sin.  And he’s come to deliver us and to save us, and nothing is going to get in the way of that.  So rather than take this cup from the world, he takes the cup from the Father, and you remember earlier he was in the Garden of Gethsemane saying ‘Take this cup, Lord, if it is possible’, and then he says, ‘but if it’s not your will, then I’ll take it.’  And then at the end he says, ‘I’m going to take the cup.’  And that “cup” was full-strength, the judgment of God.  So he refuses the cup of the world to numb out the pain, and he takes the cup of the Father full strength is what he does, which is the wrath of God.  Because of our sin, they take him and they crucify him.  Crucifixion was the most dreadful way to die.  The Roman statesman Ceciros said “It was the most cruel and shameful of all punishments.  Let it never come near the body of a Roman citizen, yea, not even near his thoughts or his eyes or his ears.”  He said, man, may you never even think of crucifixion, because it’s such a horrible way to die, a horrible thing to experience.  It was designed by the Romans, of course they got it from the Persians, Persians and Greeks.  It was designed to bring such agony, but it wasn’t just the physical agony.  The physical agony was intense, I mean, of course having spikes through your hands and feet, and then to hang there, and hang there for days, it was excruciatingly painful, but it was also emotionally, psychologically painful.  Many times when people who were crucified, they would go insane before they actually died, while they were on the cross they would go nuts because of just the emotional, psychological aspect of it.  You’d have the flies and the bugs knawing away at your sores while you’re on there, and the thirst would become so intense, and you’d be in the heat of the day, and the cold at night, and you’d stay there for days, hanging and struggling to breath all the time, and it would emotionally drive you mad….[tape switchover, some text lost]…and he choose to do this.  He choose to do it for you and I.  That’s why it’s so great when we can see it in a more clear way, and appreciate what Christ did for us.  The pain, there it is, the pain of the cross, full-strength.  You know, many people too suffer from physical pain, chronic pain, I would image in this room there are probably a few.  There are in this church, there are a number, maybe you’re one, where you have that chronic pain.  There are people, they get up in the morning, they’ve got pain.  It’s arthritis, it’s the migraine, it’s the hip or whatever, you’ve got pain.  Some people go to bed with pain, they hardly sleep through the night because of pain, they’ve got pain.  And you know, Jesus knew what pain was, God himself knew what physical pain is.  He knew the extent and how intense pain can be.  And if that be you here today, and you are in that, then maybe it’s not been easy for you, and maybe you’re discouraged and have struggled and wanting God to take away the pain.  I tell you, you can come to God, and there is one in Christ who can identify with your pain, he knows what it is.  He can speak to you, he can minister to you, he can give you strength in the midst of the pain.  Sometimes he chooses to heal us physically, sometimes he doesn’t because he has a purpose.  My pastor, Mike, somebody I’ve heard many times mention that he’s got these migraines, and he goes through seasons of it, evidently he has migraines for long seasons of time.  But you know, in many ways you’d never know it.  He continues to minister, he continues to pastor a large church, love a lot of lives and touch a lot of people.  Maybe God just wants to remind you of pain he went through, because you’re in pain, and you’re thinking, ‘Oh’, but God’s like ‘Man, let me use you, let me minister through you.’  There are some, some people are kind of wimpy when it comes to pain, I’m a little bit, but when it comes to pain they recoil from it, you know we generally do.  But some, you know, little bit of pain and you’re out, ‘I can’t work anymore, I can’t do anything anymore, I got pain.’  But you know, this is the only life [physical life that is] you get man, this is the only life you get.  And you may have pain, I’m telling you God can meet you in your pain, and you can still live a full life, and you can go out there and make a difference, and impact lives and impact the culture and impact the world.  Yeah you have pain, but God wants to still work through you, and he has a purpose.  And maybe in it you’ll draw closer to him and you’ll lean on him.  Because you have pain it doesn’t mean you should just roll up the carpet and just go into your shell.  No way, man, this is all you get.  Jesus knew pain, and he didn’t turn away from it.  He embraced it, man, full-strength.  And he went through it.  And I tell you, if the Lord wants to use you, no matter what you’re going through, he’ll give you grace, he’ll minister to you.  


Jesus on the Cross---the mocking he endured


Verses 36-44, “Sitting down, they kept watch over him there.  And they put up over his head the accusation written against him:




Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right hand and another on the left.  And those who passed by blasphemed him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!  If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’  Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, ‘He saved others; himself he cannot save.  If he is the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.  He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he will have him; for he said, I am the Son of God.’  Even the robbers who were crucified with him reviled him with the same thing.”  So they’ve got this sign that says “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS”, you might remember from our study of John, John tells us that Pilate had the sign made, and the religious leaders were bent out of shape, they actually went to Pilate and said, ‘Hey listen, let’s change the sign.  We don’t have to have it say that, let’s have the sign say ‘HE SAID I AM THE KING OF THE JEWS.’’  But Pilate said ‘It’s going to stand the way it is.  And it said “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS”, which is a true statement.  God didn’t have it changed.  It wasn’t just that he was lip service in talking here, he was the real deal, he is King of kings and Lord of lords.  It’s interesting, because John says, it was written first in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, anybody could read it.  But, too, the religious leaders, to those that were scribes and Pharisees and studiers of the Hebrew, the words “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” is interesting because the first letters of the words to the scribes, you took a word, those first letters were significant, to the scribes and what they spelled and how they laid out those first letters of the first of the words.  So if you take “this is Jesus, the King of the Jews” and take the first letters, in Hebrew you actually get YHVH, which is the tetragramaton, the name of God [Yahweh].  And it’s possible that’s why they were looking at it, because that would be significant to the religious leaders, that actually they would see Yahweh in that, the name Yahweh, which is interesting too, because of whose on the cross.  Two robbers also were crucified on either side.  The Greek word for robber actually indicates a violent robbery, potentially they even killed people in their robberies.  Verse 39, those who passed by are blaspheming, wagging their heads, they hurl taunts and just all these mockings, and it’s actually incredible that they do that.  You know, it’s one thing to have hatred in your heart where you hate somebody.  And it’s another where you even commit murder.  Then while you’ve actually set it up so they’re being murdered and executed, that you then stand there and you taunt and you mock.  That’s just such a vile heart.  And to be crucified and endure that, to have people mocking you in the midst of it.  Even those that are dying with him it says are mocking him at this time.  They’re robbers themselves.  Though we do know from Luke that one of the robbers at one point, something happens, he has a change in heart, he sees Jesus for who he is, and he turns to the other robber and he rebukes him for mocking Jesus, and then he turns to Jesus and says “Remember me, when you’re in your Kingdom.”  And Jesus says, “Assuredly I tell you today, you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).  Which is always mind-blowing that he says this to him, a man whose potentially murdered and is in the midst of his execution, a moment ago was actually mocking him.  Has a change of heart…Doesn’t matter where we are, where we’re from or what we’ve done, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done and who you are, you can turn to Jesus Christ today and find Salvation.  You could be 199 years old and done all sorts of evil things, it is not too late, because this man just proves it.  He’s in the midst of his execution.  He was mocking Jesus a moment ago, and God says “Assuredly I tell you today, you will be with me in Paradise”, because he turns, he repents, he turns to him in faith.  Well, they mock, they say “save yourself.”  Verse 42 “He saved others, himself he cannot save.”  Interesting the sarcasm.  But yet they don’t even realize the significance of what they just said.  “He saved others, himself he cannot save.”  Which is completely true.  He saved others, he’s dying to save others, and for that reason, he cannot save himself.  And it’s good that he’s dying to save them.  ‘Save yourself.’  Good thing he doesn’t do it, because he’s dying to save them.  You know, all these taunts, Psalm 22, verse 7 to 8, David speaks prophetically of the Messiah, “All those who see me ridicule me.  They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, ‘He trusted in the LORD, let him rescue him, let him deliver him since he delights in him.’”  So David, centuries before [about 1,000 years before], actually prophecied verse 43 of Matthew 27, what these religious leaders actually say, almost verbatim.  ‘If you are the Son of God’ in verse 40, ‘If you are the Son of God, you do this, come down from there, If you are the Son of God.’  You know, going back to the wilderness after the 40 days that Jesus fasted, the tempter, Satan himself came, and Satan said similar things, he said “If you are the Son of God”, Matthew chapter 4, verse 3.  Ultimately that is what’s going down here.  Satan is ultimately influencing these people.  “If you are the Son of God”, just mocking, just the demonic realm.  Satan thinking he’s got his moment.  The chief priests, the scribes, the elders, it says they mocked, the word for “mocked” there means they act like little silly children that poke at each other.  So they have that weird little sarcasm, you know, little kids taunting each other.  ‘Ya, ya, ya, ha, ha, ha.’  That’s kind of what they’re doing, in the Greek it says.  [The 2nd resurrection is going to be very interesting for some people.] 


We suffer abuse because Jesus is our elder brother, if indeed we are of Christ


So, we look at the cross today, we’re reminded of the abuse Jesus endured, the pain he endured, but we’re also reminded of the shame, the shame.  Now not shame because he did anything wrong, but shame because he was being shamed, he was being disgraced.  And that is a fulfillment of prophecy, in Psalm 69, verse 7, “Because for your sake I have borne reproach, shame, shame has covered my face.”  And then verse 19 of the same Psalm, “You know my reproach, my shame and my dishonor.  My adversaries are all before you, reproach has broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness.  I look for someone to take pity, but there is none, and for comforters, but I found none.  They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”  So we have a sense of his heart, he was there.  [Interesting when David penned this.  David lived from 1040 to 970BC, so lets say he penned this Psalm halfway through his life, 1000BC.  This prophecy is over 1000 years old when it was literally being fulfilled by Jesus on the cross.]  He was experiencing the heaviness of it, ‘Somebody just comfort me right now’ and the people were like ‘Aah.’ Just scoffing, wagging their heads.  And as people, we experience similar things, don’t we?  We sometimes have that sense of being shown dishonor and shame, often because of being a Christian, and in this world.  In our country [the United States of America, of all places] it seems that that becomes more and more common today, that to be a Christian is to seem to be, you know, you’re seen as foolish, or ignorant or a religious nut or whatever.  But Jesus knew that sense of just being mocked.  He experienced the shame, he endured the shame.  When I read this, I say, ‘Lord I don’t want to be embarrassed, man, I don’t want to be ashamed of you, I see what you did, I want to go in boldness, I want to be all the more bold, Lord, for Christ.’  You go tomorrow to high school, you go tomorrow to college, you go to your workplace, man, God give you just the reminder that they just mocked him, they just scoffed at him.  And you’re his follower, man.  Blessed are you if they persecute you, man.  Be bold, be strong.  Remember too, Jesus said “For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him the Son of man will be ashamed when he comes in his own glory, and his Father’s and of the holy angels.”  Man, I can see why he says it, ‘Don’t be ashamed of me, I’m not going to be pleased if you are.’  Because look at what he endured. 


From the sixth hour to the ninth hour—some major Messianic prophecies fulfilled here


Verses 45-50, “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama Sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’  Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, ‘This man is calling for Elijah!’  Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to him to drink.  The rest said, ‘Let him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save him.”  And to me that is so twisted, that this man would actually think that Elijah might come and save him, and here it’s like a game to you.  ‘Maybe Elijah will come and save you.’  And you’re like there sitting at the foot of the cross, part of this whole deal, that’s weird reasoning.  Yet you would go ahead with it.  “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit.”  The sixth hour to the ninth hour, that would be from noon to three pm.  Depending on the Gospel you might have the Roman time.  John seems to use the Roman clock, which as time goes on would be more prominently used.  Matthew seems to be using, of course he’s writing to the Jewish audience, he’s using the Jewish time of day.  We know, putting the Gospels together, 6 o’clock in the morning is when the trial occurred with Pilate.  The crucifixion began at the 3rd hour, where the Roman time would be 9am.  The darkness began at noon, which it says here is the sixth hour, and lasted until 3pm which was the ninth hour on the Jewish clock.  At the ninth hour, at the end of the time of darkness Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”  And as we look at the cross we’re reminded, there’s the physical pain, there’s the abuse, there’s the shame, but now there’s this darkness, there’s a radical thing happening here.  And it’s a thing between God the Father and Jesus, there’s a very spiritual thing, a very powerful thing happening here.  We look here and we’re reminded of the judgment he endured.  And to wile away for three hours, the creation actually got dark, maybe there was a thing going on between him and the Father and it was being reflected in the creation, that indeed there is this separation going on, so he even yells out what he does.  But between the Father and him, there is that separation, so there is like a cloud of darkness there.  For three hours, he takes on the sin of the world and becomes sin, 2nd Corinthians 5:21, “He who knew no sin became sin for me”, he took on my sin, I’ve done all this yucky stuff, man, I’ve done all this foolish stuff, and I’ve done it, I deserve the outcome---he took it on, he took it on, and paid the price.  And that price, man, the judgment, the wrath of God, the full strength, the full cup, and it effects even the creation.  There’s something going on, cosmically, a radical thing is taking place, it’s dark for three hours.  And that is fulfillment of the prophecy of Amos, Amos chapter 8, verses 9 to 10.  And Isaiah even 500 years before, Isaiah said, “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him.  He has put him to grief, when you make his soul an offering for sin.  He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hands.  He shall see the labor of his soul and be satisfied.  By his knowledge my righteous servant shall justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities.  Therefore I’ll divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul unto death.  And he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:10-12).  He labored, man, he bore my sin, and it was dark for three hours, and he was separated from God.  The judgment shows the separation, the separation, the separation I deserve.  The wages of sin is death, separation from God.  Now, Psalm 22, again when David prophecied there, when he spoke out and cried out what he did, this Messianic Psalm, Psalm 22, verses 1 to 3, it’s interesting, it says this, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?  Oh my God I cry in the daytime, but you do not hear; and in the night season, and am not silent. But you are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.”  And so he cries out, ‘Oh God, oh God, oh Father.’  But he says ‘You are holy’, and that’s what’s going on, it’s the holiness in God and the sin of man, and there’s separation, man.  There’s the judgment.  You look at the cross, you consider the judgment, judgment I deserve, separation I deserve.  And what a miserable state, there’s no worse state for a man to be in and a woman to be in than separated from God.  Here’s the Son separated from the Father.  Someone said, ‘He’s calling for Elijah, it probably was one of the Roman soldiers that said, didn’t understand Hebrew, so he said, ‘Oh he’s calling for Elijah.’  And so you have them running and getting the sour wine and putting it up to him, and somebody actually saying, ‘Let him alone, maybe Elijah’s going to come, let’s just watch this, man’, kind of weird.  And then Jesus cries out, we learn in the other Gospels, in Luke he says “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  He cries out and then he said “It is finished” according to the Gospel of John.  That word is telesti, and telesti to the merchants meant to them this way, it was a Greek word that was used in the market, and the merchant would use it this way, meaning “the debt is paid in full.”  You’ve paid off the debt, telesti.  You love to hear that, paid off, in full!  So Jesus says, “It is finished”, and then he dies.  And the judgment that he endured for me, for you, included death.  He absolutely died.  He experienced death, and all that death is, he died.  He completely died, in every way, all that it means.  That’s what the judgment included, he died so I wouldn’t have to die eternally.  He died so that I could know God, and not be separated from him.  So he dies. 


Some very  radical things happens at the moment of Jesus death


Matthew at this point, now as we’ve come close to the end of our time we’ll just move quickly here to the end, but Matthew now shows us, this isn’t like a nice little story.  Wasn’t just like a guy that had a lot of great things to say, and then died in this radical way, and then we have a theology that comes from it.  Matthew is even showing us, that there’s something at this instant that happened, there’s something that’s been unleashed, there’s a radical thing going on the moment he dies.  Verses 51-56, “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after his resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.  So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’  And many woman who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, were there looking on from afar, among whom where Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.”  Matthew’s showing us that something happened at that very moment, something that effected the creation, it effected so many aspects of life. At the very moment that he dies there’s this massive veil in the Temple, which was made of this woven fabric of seventy-two twisted plaits of twenty-four threads within each plait, it was this massively woven very heavy veil.  It was sixty feet long, thirty feet wide.  It was this massive thing that separated the Holies of Holies from the Most Holy, it was that one thing that separated out and kept hidden the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat where God would meet with the nation of Israel.  And nobody had access to it, only the high priest had access once a year, and they even had to put a rope around his ankle in case he died while he was in there.  That’s where God met with the nation.  It was God with us, but yet there was separation.  And when Jesus dies, at the very instant he dies, that veil goes RIP!!! right down, from top to bottom.  And it just ripped.  And there was this sense, there’s something was going on, as if God was satisfied.  Something had happened at that point.  That where when God would dwell with man there had to be that separation, that veil.  But now something’s happened, and it’s different.  It’s a new era, man.  It’s a new deal.  Josephus, I think this is intriguing because, Josephus the secular historian of the 1st century there, he tells of a quaking in the Temple before the destruction of the Temple, there was some sort of earthquake that hit the Temple.  Then the Talmud, this religious rabbinical writing, the religious leaders have the Talmud, certainly the Talmud would not validate that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, but the Talmud actually speaks of an earthquake 40 years before the destruction of the Temple.  And that would put it about this time [exactly, 70AD – 40 = 30AD].  Well, obviously that veil was torn, because now there was this means for man to have a completely different access to God, there was no more that separation.  The writer of Hebrews says that when Jesus died, now we have access, I can come confidently, man, my hands can be defiled, I am a sinner, but if I come to Christ and ask for forgiveness and healing, I am forgiven.  I can approach God as if I had never sinned (read Hebrews 4:14-16).  I come in the holiness of God, his death was so powerful.  Matthew’s showing us that element of propitiation, that God is satisfied, a holy God, and Jesus is the propitiation, sacrifice.  In every way he’s provided the means to reconcile me to God.  And that’s what that word propitiation means, it is that sense of the divine judgment being satisfied, it means to render favorable, turn one toward another with an eye of favor and pleasure.  God is holy, I’m a sinner, and suddenly God can turn towards me, I can turn towards him, there’s the propitiation, he’s satisfied, I can have access to God.  So the Temple veil rips right down.  Incredibly the graves are opened, which is pretty wild.  There are people that were dead a moment ago that are now up, walking around the city, and I’m sure that was trippie, to be in the city, ‘Hey Joe, wait a minute, what are you doing here?’  And who knows, maybe some other big-hitters were walking around the city.  There was this sense then of liberation, the curse meant death.  We were in bondage to the grave, and Jesus, he dies, and at that instant the graves are opened and people are walking around.  There’s this sense of the propitiation, and there’s also this sense of the liberation, a radical thing has happened.  Man has been set free.  You and I are set free in Christ, doesn’t matter what we’re dealing with or what we’re going through, man, there’s power, there’s freedom, there’s life, free from the curse.  The Centurion says ‘That’s wild, man, this guy’s the Son of God!’  And let’s just read to the end. 


The Burial of Jesus


Verses 57-61, “Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus.  This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him.  When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.  And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.”  We know this is a good man, he’s actually a council member, he’s a religious leader.  And John says he’s a secret disciple, but not any more.  Because the death of Jesus Christ has influenced him in such a way that he actually goes, and as a prominent council member he goes right to Pilate, asks for the body.  Pilate gives him the body.  When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in clean linen.  We know Nicodemus, another Pharisee was with him.  He’s got all kinds of aloes and herbs, 75-pounds worth, they wrap up the body of Jesus.  He’s without a doubt dead.  Forget all the other silly theories, this Jesus is dead, that’s what Matthew is showing us.  He’s absolutely, positively dead.  And they laid his body in Joseph’s new tomb, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, which he had hewn out of the rock, and rolled a large stone against the tomb, and departed, and Mary Magdalene was sitting there, and the other Mary sitting opposite the tomb. 


The Setting of a Roman Guard Over Jesus’ Tomb


Verses 62-66, “And on the next day which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, ‘Sir, we remember, while he was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’  Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night and steal him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’  So the last deception will be worse than the first.’  Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.  So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting a guard.”  This guard, these are these Romans soldiers, they’re killing machines.  When they’re given an important job like this one, if they fail in their job their lives would be taken.  In some instances if a Roman soldier fell asleep on the job, they would take the torch nearby and light his clothes on fire.  There’s a whole Roman Guard, there’s a good load of soldiers that are assigned to the tomb [a Roman Guard was made up of at least 40 men].  To these religious leaders, this guy [Jesus] has been a troublemaker, the last thing they want is for the disciples to steal the body.  They understood that he indicated he was going to raise from the dead, and they’re like, ‘The last thing we want is somebody stealing the body and saying he rose from the dead.’  So, they put the Guard there, they put Pilate’s seal there, this is a government deal, you mess with it, you’re dealing with the Roman government. And his body was in there, and Matthew is showing us, man, that people come up with these goofy theories about how Jesus didn’t die.  But they’re all nonsense, because the simple truth is he did.  And he was in that tomb three days [and three nights, a full 72-hours] and nobody got the body.  Nobody stole the body, because he rose from the dead.  Let’s stand together.  [connective expository sermon on Matthew 27:27-66, given somewhere in New England]


Related links:


Prophecies about Jesus’ 1st coming, and his last six days:


What is Gnosticism?  See:


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