Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 23:39-43 – How To Be With Jesus In Paradise

Grace For The Journey

We have been studying through the Gospel of Luke and we find ourselves nearing the end of this Gospel and that means, of course, we find ourselves nearing the end of the life of Jesus Christ.  Jesus has been sentenced to death.  He has been led away to be crucified on a Roman cross at a place called “Calvary,” or “Golgotha,” the place of the skull.  He is hanging on a cross between two criminals.  Last week we studied His prayer in verse 34 where Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  The Jewish rulers and the Roman soldiers had said, “If you are the Christ, save yourself.”  But as we studied last time, Jesus does not save Himself so that He may save others.  To paraphrase the popular song, “When He was on the cross you and I were on His mind.”

This morning we read about a conversation Jesus has with one of the criminals, a life-changing, and life-saving conversation.  Here is a remarkable passage about the last-minute salvation of a dying thief.  In the very last moments of his life, the dying thief trusts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

Dr. Vance Havner used to tell a story about this passage of Scripture.  He described how many so-called professing Christians have tried to use the account of the dying thief to defend their lack of commitment.  Havner told about a minister who was talking to one of these so-called Christians.  The minister asked the man if he was active in a local church.  The man responded, “No, but the dying thief on the cross wasn’t active in any local church and yet he was saved.”  The minister then asked whether the man had been baptized.  The guy said, “No, but then the dying thief on the cross was never baptized and he made it into heaven.”  The minister then asked the man if he had ever partaken of the Lord’ Supper, or whether he tithed or supported missional work.  The fella said, “No, but the dying thief never did any of those things and he was still saved and went to heaven.”  Finally, the minister said, “You know what?  The only difference between you and the thief on the cross is that he was a dying thief and you are a living one.”

We are right to point out that if this dying thief had the opportunity to come down off the cross and live his new life in Christ, he surely would have been baptized, become active in a church, give to missions, and so forth.  But he did not get that opportunity.  He was a dying thief and yet he died saved.  In the words of the hymn:

The dying thief rejoiced to see 

That fountain (of forgiveness) in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,

  Wash all my sins away.

Let’s take a closer look at these five verses and then I want to share with you a few principles that surface from our study of this text.  First, look again at verse 39, “Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”

This is now the third time Luke has told us about those who are taunting Christ.  We read last time how this is one of the fulfilled prophecies from Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.  Both Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 prophesy of Christ’s being taunted by his enemies.  Luke records the fulfillment of that prophecy as we read about the Jewish rulers taunting Christ, the Roman soldiers taunting Christ, and now one of the condemned criminals taunting Christ: “If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” 

Verse 40 tells us, “But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?’”  This second criminal sees something in Jesus that the first criminal does not see.  The second criminal sees the innocence of Jesus.  He says here in verse 40, “Do you not even fear God?”  That is, he is saying, “How can you blaspheme God here in these final moments of your life?!”  We, too, have been sentenced to death” . . . “And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong” (Verse 41).

The criminal says, “We deserve what we are receiving, but not this Man.  This Man has done nothing wrong.”  We have previously noted that . . .

One of Luke’s main points

In reporting the crucifixion is

To stress the innocence of Christ.

Luke recorded three times that Pilate had found Jesus innocent in verses 4, 14, and 22.  Luke reported Herod’s finding Jesus innocent in verse 15.  Now this criminal sees that same innocence as will also a Roman centurion see this innocence of Jesus when we eventually get to verse 47.

Then, the Bible records the request of the condemned thief in verse 42, “Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’”  Here is the second thief accepting the justice of his own condemnation and recognizing the innocence of Christ, recognizing also who Jesus is: the Messiah, Savior, Christ, King, Lord. 

Note the response of Jesus in verse 43, “And Jesus said to him, “Verily, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’”  That word “paradise” is a beautiful synonym for heaven.  It is used only two other times in the New Testament.  Paul uses the word “paradise” in 2 Corinthians 12:3-4 when referring to his being “caught up into Paradise” in some sort of vision or experience from God.  John also uses the term “paradise” to describe heaven when writing to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:7 where Jesus says, “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”

This dying thief is saved in the last moment of his life, having seen Christ for who He is and turning to Him to be saved.  Now, I want to share with you a few truths about salvation that are taught here in this passage.  This small passage of Scripture is tightly packed with three truths about salvation . . . Three things salvation involves . . .

I. Salvation Involves Mystery.

There is a mysterious element involved in salvation that is difficult to understand.  Jesus was talking about that mystery in the conversation He had with Nicodemus in John 3.  He said, “Nicodemus, you must be born again,” and Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus was talking about.  He said, “Are you talking about my entering my mother’s womb a second time?!  How can a person be born again?”  Jesus answered in John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  In other words, “You can’t put your finger on the precise moment at which a person’s eyes are opened and they see Christ for who He really is.”  It is a mystery.  Some see and some do not see.

John Newton described receiving God’s saving grace that way when he wrote, “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”  Can you explain salvation fully?  No, but like the man who had been born blind said in John 9:25, “One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” 

The other Gospel writers tell us that both criminals had railed against Jesus.  Both of them initially blasphemed and taunted Christ (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32).  But then something happened in this second criminal’s heart.  Something changed.  Something changed so that the second thief began to see Jesus for who He really is.

Many have speculated and conjectured as to what they think it was that changed the second criminal’s view of Christ.  We might add to their speculation by remembering that this crucifixion lasted for six (6) long and grueling hours.  A lot can happen in 6 hours.  Maybe this second criminal was recalling what he had overheard, hearing Jesus talk with Pilate about a kingdom not of this world.  Maybe the criminal had looked over at Jesus and heard his prayer back in verse 34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do,” and he gazed upon the title that hanged above Jesus’ head and read the words, “King of the Jews.”

Something happened.  Something changed his mind. 

That something

Is Someone.

I can hear Jesus saying, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

Jesus teaches plainly in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”  God draws us to saving faith by the work of His Holy Spirit.  Both criminals had witnessed the same things . . . 

  • They had both seen and heard everything that transpired on that day. 
  • They had both heard about Jesus.
  • They had both heard His prayer from the cross.
  • They both had been exposed to the truth about Jesus.

Yet only one believed. 

The only explanation is the gift of God’s amazing grace to open the heart of one of those criminals to see what he previously was blind to.  God by His grace through the man’s faith, in Christ alone, saved this man from sin.

But what a mystery!  The hymn-writer records this very mystery in the hymn, “I know whom I have believed.”  He writes:

I know not how the Spirit moves,
  Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
  Creating faith in Him.

God moves by way of the Holy Spirit, convincing men of their sin and creating faith in Him.  God does that.  Salvation is a mysterious gift of His grace.

JC Ryle concludes that this fact should teach us humility.  He writes, “How is it that under precisely the same circumstances one man is converted and another remains dead in sins, why the very same sermon is heard by one man with perfect indifference and sends another home to pray and seek Christ, why the same Gospel is hid to one and revealed to another.  We only know that it is so, and that is useless to deny it.”

Salvation involves mystery.  I was once dead in my trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), but God made me alive, He created my faith in Him and opened my eyes to see Christ for Who He is.  Salvation involves mystery.  

Secondly . . .

II. Salvation Involves Humility.

This second thief humbled Himself before the Lord Jesus Christ, confessing his sin, and acknowledging Christ as Lord and Savior.  He says to the other thief in verses 40 and 41, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?” . . . “And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds.”

He does not sound like the average criminal today, does he?!  The joke about jails and prisons is that everyone there thinks they are innocent.  But not this fella, he knows he is guilty.  So in humility, he says, “We receive the due reward of our deeds.”  That is like saying, “God, I know I am a sinner.  I admit I am guilty.”

If we ever hope to be saved

From the penalty and punishment

Our sins deserve, then we must

Humble ourselves before the Lord

And admit the errors of our ways.

We must – in humility – come to the Lord confessing our sin and repenting (turning) from our sin.

This passage illustrates that we

Are not saved by what we do. 

Our good deeds and acts

Of kindness do not save us.

This thief had nothing to offer Christ, he had not kept the sacraments or ordinances of the church, he had nothing to offer Christ – nothing.  We do not come to Jesus clutching a spiritual resumé of all the religious things we have done.  Jesus said, ““Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).  We come poor in spirit, we come like the thief–naked, poor, destitute, humbly.  As Augustus Toplady puts it . . .

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;

This second thief rebukes the first thief for failing to see the contrast between their just suffering and guilt with the unjust suffering and innocence of Jesus.  The first criminal had only cried, “Save Yourself and us!”  The second criminal cries, “Lord, save me!”

One thief made a demand for

What he believed he deserved. 

The other thief made a request for

What he knew he did not deserve

Salvation involves mystery, salvation involves humility.

Thirdly . . .

III. Salvation Involves Eternity.

Jesus answers the second thief’s request that he should be remembered in Christ’s kingdom by replying in verse 43, “Verily, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”  Which is to say a couple of things: 1) Jesus may have just as well said to the thief, “My Kingdom is not some faraway place in some faraway future.  My Kingdom is a present reality that may be enjoyed right now.  When you trust in Me you enter into that Kingdom.”

But note also, 2) The immediacy of the Christian’s entrance into heaven at the point of death.  Jesus says in verse 43, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”  Today.  The thief will not enter into some kind of ‘soul sleep,’ nor will you go to some kind of purgatory to be further purged from sin.  By the way, if the thief needed no purgatory, who in the world does?!

Jesus says that the thief will be with Him in Paradise “Today!”   The Bible is consistent in this teaching.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, yea, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”  Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the Christians at Philippi that he was not sure if he would remain alive and continue ministering to the believers there or whether he would, “depart and be with Christ, which (he said) is far better” (Philippians 1:23).  To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

At death, the non-Christian’s soul goes to hell and the Christian’s soul goes to heaven.  The body is buried, the soul goes to heaven.  What does that soul look like?  I do not know, but we will be able to recognize one another there.  There is biblical precedent for that as well as just common sense.  If we are going to a more perfect place, then we will possess a more perfect knowledge and awareness of one another. 

And while our bodies may be buried in the ground, one day the Lord will come again, He will return, and He will raise up our mortal bodies and change them into immortal bodies,  glorious body like His own (1 Corinthians 15:42-55).  Then our souls will inhabit that new body and we will live forever this way with the Lord.

What a tremendous comfort to those of us who have had Christian loved ones die!  Our mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters who died in the Lord are present right now with Him.  They are there right now in a beautiful place called heaven, a place Jesus refers to here as Paradise.  What a comfort to those of us who have lost our Christian loved ones.

These words may comfort us as we contemplate our own condition before God.  Some think, “Well it is just too late.  I am too great a sinner to be forgiven.”  Let me ask you, “Are you any greater a sinner than this thief?”  It is not too late to turn to Christ.  It only becomes too late at death.  But it is not too late right now.

One preacher (Samuel Johnson) is remembered for frequently using a short verse of poetry to illustrate the last-minute act of this thief in turning to the Lord.  It describes the wonder of the thief’s redemption at the very last minute.  The poem is just two short lines about a man who had been thrown from his horse and what he does just before hitting the ground . . .

“Between the stirrup and the ground,
I mercy asked and mercy found.”

This thief in the last moment of his life asked for mercy and, what a wonderful thing, mercy he found!

On the cross hang three men, two guilty men and one innocent Man: The first thief, the second thief, and Jesus Christ. 

One man died in sin. 

One man died to sin. 


One Man died for sin.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 23:32-38 – Needing God’s Forgiveness

Grace For The Journey

Jesus is making His way along the road of suffering, the Via Dolorosa; making His way to Calvary where He will be crucified, killed on a cross.  We pick up where we left off at verse 31 from last time and pick up the events now in verse 32.  One of the reasons we are slowing down a bit to focus on the crucifixion of Christ is because . . .

Christ’s death, and

Subsequent resurrection,

Is the pivotal event of Christianity.

A Christianity with no cross is no Christianity, at all.  Some wish to have merely Christian teachings and Christian principles, but no suffering Messiah bleeding on a cross; no substitutionary death, no vicarious atonement.  But a Christianity like that – a Christianity with no cross – is a religion with no life.  Without a cross, we have very little and we have very little to offer.  Without the cross and resurrection, we have nothing to offer when people scratch their heads in wonder, when they struggle with inexplicable real problems, and when they hurt deeply, all we have to offer them are hollow words, tired cliches, and empty platitudes – forms of godliness void of power.

It is hard to make sense of tragic events. Who pretends to fully understand what motivates an individual to randomly kill people.  This is precisely why a Christianity with no cross is of absolutely no lasting help here.  If Jesus were merely a good man, merely a moral man, merely a good teacher and nothing more, then we have nothing to offer the victims of such tragedies.  We have no real hope to offer those who mourn, no answers for those with questions, no light for those sitting in darkness.

But Jesus Christ goes to the cross for these tragedies.  He dies to provide hope for fallen people living a fallen world.  The cross means we may have life beyond the often senseless tragedies that are the byproduct a post-Eden world.  And the cross also means that God cares deeply about justice.  He is a God who will judge the wicked for their wicked deeds.

Our focus this morning is on the cross.  We have only 7 verses here and I want to give a simple descriptive outline of these verses and then I want to share with you the significance of this passage and what we are to make of this text; three things we note about Christ in this passage . . . :

I. He Suffers Crucifixion – Verses 32-33.

In verse 32 Luke tells us that Jesus is not alone as He is led away to be crucified, “There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death.”  We do not know who these two other guys are.  Luke calls them criminals.  You will remember that the rebel rioter named Barabbas had been released and it could well be that these two other guys were revolutionaries along with Barabbas, but we do not know for sure.  Luke simply tells us that they were criminals and that they were led away with Christ to be put to death.

Verse 33 tells us, “And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.”  That word “Calvary” is the Latin rendering of a word meaning “skull.”  In Aramaic it is “Golgotha,” which is how it is rendered by the other Gospel writers.  It was probably called “skull” because the place looked like a skull.  It was there “they crucified Him.” They nailed His hands and feet to a cross where He would suffer a slow and agonizing death.  Mark tells us Jesus was on the cross for six hours, from the 3rd hour to the 9th hour or from 9 AM to 3 PM.  The pain He suffered was “excruciating,” the very word meaning, “of the cross,” (“ex-cruciare,” “ex “ – “from,” or “out of,” cruciare, “the cross.” We use that word today to denote extreme pain and suffering.

Luke’s use of the phrase, “There they crucified Him,” suggests we should avoid embellishing Christ’s death by adding extraneous details of His pain and suffering.  Luke does not paint a huge, vivid picture here and neither do the other Gospel writers; just three words in Greek translated into four words in English, “There they crucified Him.”  You see . . .

The Gospel writers, along with the writers of the epistles,

Do not wish for us to focus upon the suffering

Of the Savior, but on the reason for His suffering.

We spoke of this last time when we talked about an over-focus upon the passion of the Christ in movies, plays, and Christian art that merely evokes our sympathies and tugs at our heartstrings, but does nothing to tell us why He suffered.

If we become merely emotional

At the scene of the crucifixion,

But know nothing of the purpose

For which Christ came,

Then we will remain only emotional.  

Jesus wants from us more than emotion.

Remember that He had said to the women back in verse 28, “Weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves.”

As God in the flesh,

Jesus needs nothing.

He does not

Want our sympathy;

He wants our souls.

The focus of the Gospel writers in reporting the crucifixion is . . .

A focus not so much

Upon the wounds of Christ,

But on the work of Christ.

Luke does not wish for us

To think so much about

The pain of the cross

As he does

The purpose of the cross.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.”

This is why He suffers crucifixion.

Secondly . . .

II. He Makes Intercession – Verse 34.

Verse 34 says, “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’”  From the cross Jesus intercedes for others.  To intercede is, “To intervene on behalf of another,” usually through prayer.  Jesus prays, asking the Heavenly Father to forgive what these people are doing to Him.  He practices what He had preached.  Do you remember the Sermon on the Plain back in Luke 6:27-28?  Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”  This was the way of Stephen prayed in Acts 7:60.  He had been persecuted for his faith and was being stoned.  Before he died this verse tells us, “Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”

Some of us may have forgotten that this is what our Lord requires of us, to “Love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who spitefully use us.”  Jesus says, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Now that is not quite right, is it?  They knew what they were doing, did they not?

  • Didn’t this crowd know what they were doing?
  • Didn’t Pilate and the Roman soldiers know what they were doing?
  • Didn’t the Jews know what they were doing?

Of course, everyone knew what they were doing: they were crucifying Jesus of Nazareth. Why, then, this statement? 

They knew what they were doing,

But they did not understand

The significance of what they were doing.

They were blind to the sovereign will of God in giving His Son to die for their sins.  This is the essence of Peter’s message later in the Book of Acts.  Peter is preaching in Jerusalem to the Jews and he says in Acts 3:17, “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.”

Paul says the same to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 2:7-8, “But we speak…the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages…which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

This is why Jesus prays as He does.  This is why He intercedes for the people.  He knows that they fail to understand the significance of His death.  And we have changed little in 2,000 years.  We stated the case a moment ago, didn’t we?

Many today are merely taken

With the passion of the cross,

Failing to understand

The purpose of the cross.

The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.”

He suffers crucifixion . . . He makes intercession . . . thirdly . . .

III. He Receives Condemnation: Verses 35-38.

The second part of verse 34, “They divided His garments and cast lots.”  There were usually 5 Roman soldiers charged with the task of overseeing a crucifixion and one of the perks of the job was getting the garments of the condemned person.  Like throwing dice, they determined who would get what.  They divided His garments.

It is easy to read that statement and fail to consider fully the implications of it.  If they divided His garments, then they must have taken His garments off of Him, which suggests He was perhaps entirely naked as He hung on the cross.  We can hardly imagine a more shameful and humiliating scene than the scene of Roman crucifixion.

Verse 35 tells us, “And the people stood looking on.  But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, ‘He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.’” The “rulers” are the Jewish leaders, the Sanhedrin Council.  They taunted Jesus. They “sneered, saying, ‘He saved others; let Him save Himself.”  Do not miss the irony of their statement.  They could not deny that Jesus had, “saved others.”  

  • He had saved a sinful woman in the home of a Pharisee (Luke 7:50).
  • He had saved a demon-possessed man (Luke 8:36).
  • He had saved a woman from bleeding to death (Luke 8:38).
  • He saved a little girl from death by bringing her back to life (Luke 8:50).
  • He had saved 10 lepers from leprosy (Luke 17:19).
  • He saved a blind man near Jericho who had sat by the road begging (Luke 18:42).
  • He had saved others.

They couldn’t deny that truth.  More condemnation in verse 36, The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine.” Sour wine or wine vinegar was the kind of wine the Roman officers drank.  They were probably offering Christ this wine to prolong His agony, prolonging His suffering by quenching His thirst.  They join the rulers in taunting Christ, as verses 37-38 tell us, “And saying, ‘If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.’  And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”  It was customary to have one’s crime stated in a title or placard above the condemned.  As far as Rome was concerned Jesus was crucified on political grounds, guilty of proclaiming to be King of the Jews.

What’s the Significance of This?

This passage demands from us at least two actions.

First . . .

1. Realize Scripture’s Fulfillment In Christ.

What we are reading in these 7 verses is the fulfillment of ancient prophecy concerning the coming Messiah.  The Old Testament Scriptures predicted that the coming Christ would . . .

  • Die among criminals (Isaiah53:12; Luke 22:37,
  • That His garments would be divided among others (Psalm 22:18).
  • That He would be offered vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21).
  • That He would be taunted (Psalm 22:7-8).
  • That He would make intercession for others (Isaiah 53:12).

Consider Psalm 22:7-8, written 1,000 years before Christ, “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!”

Consider Psalm22:16-18, “For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”

Consider Isaiah 53:3-7, 12, written 700 years before Christ, “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.  Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.  And He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Scripture’s fulfillment is in Christ.  It is nothing short of a miracle of God that these Scriptures written about a thousand years before the events are fulfilled precisely and perfectly in Jesus Christ!  Christ’s death on the cross was not an accident.  Christ’s death on the cross was the fulfillment of a plan.  In God’s providence, because of God’s love, He gave His Son to die. He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

This truth takes us to the second action.  First, Realize Scripture’s fulfillment in Christ. Secondly . . .

II. ReceiveSin’s Forgiveness In Christ.

Why does Jesus not save Himself?  Why does He not come down from the cross?  

He does not save Himself

So that He may save others.  

He does not save Himself

That He may save others.

Jesus had prayed in verse 34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

Do not miss this truth . . .

His prayer for their forgiveness

Is answered by His death,

Which brings them

Forgiveness of sin.

He died for you and me!

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”

That is why He didn’t save Himself, that He might save you.  He died for you.

So, Christ does not save Himself so that He may save others.  He had prayed, “Father, forgive them . . .”  That is, “Do not impute their trespasses to them.”  The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthian 5:19, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them.”

God does not count our sins against us,

Because He counts our sins against Him.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”  Christ does not save Himself so that He may save others.

“He saved others,” Has He saved you?

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 23:26-31 – Cling To The Old Rugged Cross

Grace For The Journey

We are in chapter 23 of Luke’s Gospel.  In these later chapters we are studying the events surrounding the betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  We have noted before how these events fulfill a very specific prophecy by the Prophet Isaiah who prophesied some 700 years before the events of Christ.  Especially in Isaiah chapter 53, we note these specific prophecies about the coming Christ, that He would someone “despised and rejected” … “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” the One, “Smitten by God and afflicted” … “wounded for our transgressions” … “bruised for our iniquities.”

It is a great prophecy 700 years before the events and we will be seeing in coming weeks the fulfillment of Christ’s being “numbered with the transgressors,” “bearing the sins of many, and Jesus’ being, “led as a lamb to the slaughter.”  We will be studying about that this morning as we pick up in verse 26, where it says that Jesus was “led away” to His crucifixion, led away as a lamb to the slaughter.

It’s only a few hundred yards from where Jesus was sentenced by Pilate to Calvary’s Hill.  If one were just casually walking along this path it would really only take a few minutes, but it will take Jesus much longer.  It will take much longer because He has been subjected to cruel trials and beatings.  It is very probable that He has been awake for the past 24 hours.  He has just been severely beaten by way of Roman scourging, an intense beating that sometimes resulted in death itself, so a man condemned to crucifixion might die before he is ever crucified, dying by the Roman scourging.  So, Jesus has just been scourged and He is now making His way to the cross.

There is a strange and morbid curiosity within man that causes him to slow down and gaze upon events of death and destruction.  We see it on the highway, a several-car-pile-up causes traffic to slow down as passersby by crane their necks, trying to catch a glimpse of what happened.  

There would have been some of that going on as Jesus made this journey along the street in Old Jerusalem, the path from His Roman scourging to Mount Calvary, a path in Latin called the Via Dolorosa, meaning, “the way of suffering.” He was led as a lamb to the slaughter.  Crowds of people had come out to watch the slaughter, to watch Jesus, along with two criminals, making their journey to Calvary’s Hill.  

Luke records for us in these few verses a couple of images that burn into our memories.  There are two encounters here in the text that Luke takes time to tell us about, one is a man named Simon who is forced to carry the cross of Jesus.  The other is a small group of women who are weeping for Him.

Let’s take a closer look at these few verses and these two encounters and then I want to share a couple of necessary responses to what we have studied.

Verse 26 tells us, “Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus.”  Despite the teachings of the Roman Catholic church and the movie industry, the Bible never once records Jesus’s stumbling as He carries the cross.  He may well have, but the Bible do not tell us so.  They simply record that Jesus is led away and that on His way to His crucifixion, a certain man named Simon is forced to carry the cross of Christ.  In fact, the phrase in verse 26, “they laid hold of a certain man,” is probably better understood as, “They seized a certain man.”  The idea is that they grabbed this guy who was minding his own business, making his way into the city. They grabbed him and said to him something like, “You there!  Pick up his cross and carry it!” It was not a request, it was a demand.  Roman soldiers could do that kind of thing.

Now we do not know Simon was forced to carry the entire cross, a cross we think of in traditional terms, a cross with two pieces, or whether he was forced to carry only the crosspiece, the heavy crosspiece that weighed as much as 100 pounds.  It was probably the crosspiece that Simon carried, but the point is that the Romans grabbed Simon and, apparently in an effort to expedite things, ordered him to pick up the cross of Christ and follow behind Jesus as they all made their way to the hill.

The Bible tells us in verse 26 that Simon was, “coming from the country,” which suggests he was coming into the city for Passover, most likely a Jew from a place called Cyrene.  Cyrene is modern-day Libya in Northern Africa.  There is this Jewish community in Cyrene and Simon has left there and has come into the city, or at least he is trying to come into the city, when he is told to pick up and carry the cross of Jesus.

Now that is all we read about this brief encounter here, but Mark’s Gospel tells us a little more about Simon.  Mark tells us in Mark15:21 that Simon is, “the father of Alexander and Rufus.”  Think about that for a moment.  Mark, in his Gospel, is writing primarily to a Roman audience.  He is writing to Christians in Rome.  He mentions Simon in the passage and then he says, in essence, “You know Simon.  He is the father of Alexander and Rufus.”  Why would Mark identify Simon this way if he did not expect his audience to know who Alexander and Rufus were?  

It is almost certain that Simon came to know Christ personally either the day he carried Jesus’ cross or sometime afterwards because he is mentioned in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  And Mark takes time to tell his readers exactly which Simon he is talking about.  Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit some years later in his letter to the Romans, closes out his letter with a number of greetings to the Christians in Rome and he says, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and greet his mother too because she has been like a mother to me.” (Romans 16:13).

Following Christ is a decision that impacts your entire family.  We are not certain how all this played out for Simon but at some time he receives Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  His wife comes to know Christ and his two boys, Alexander and Rufus, come to know Christ and become leaders in the church at Rome.  Following Christ is a decision that impacts your entire family.  Men, you follow Christ and your family will almost certainly follow Him, too.

Think of God’s providence here!

Simon is on his way into the city, no doubt stirred emotionally by the scene unfolding before him, a dark scene of cruelty and horror.  Surely he is shocked and taken aback by this harsh command from a Roman soldier. Simon is grabbed and thrown toward the cross and told to pick it up and carry it.  Yet, through these dark events, God is working out a perfect plan in the life of Simon and in the life of Simon’s family.  Through what at first appears to be a senseless tragedy, God is at work in Simon’s life, working out a plan for Simon’s salvation and the salvation of his family.  To quote William Cowper, author of the hymn, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” he writes,

“Behind a frowning providence

God hides a smiling face.”

God is in control . . . He loves Simon . . . He knows what He is doing.

Think about that application in your life!  There are so many things that at first seem senseless to us. “Why did this happen, God? Why did You permit this darkness, this evil, this pain, this health condition, this job loss, this breakdown of a friendship, of a relationship? Why, God?”  All we can see is “a frowning providence.”  Yet, hang in there.  Joy comes in the morning.  God is there.  He loves you and He knows what He is doing.

Verse 27 says, “And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him.”  There is a small group of women there who are weeping for Him and what does Jesus do?  Verse 28 tells us, “But Jesus, turning to them, said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.’”  Jesus addresses these women as, “Daughters of Jerusalem.”  That is an Old Testament way of referring to the nation of Israel (cf. Zechariah 9:9; Micah 4:8; and Zephaniah 3:14).

Why does Jesus tell these women to weep for themselves and their children?  Verse 29 gives us some insight.  Jesus says, “For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’”  That must have sounded strange.  But within 40 years the siege of Jerusalem would begin under Roman Military Commander Titus, who would eventually become the Roman Emperor. The Romans would lay siege to the city of Jerusalem and years of famine and disease would follow.  Hardest hit by the siege would be women, especially women who had small children.  It would be such a terrible time, says Jesus, that people would not celebrate the birth of a baby, but rather celebrate the fact that a person had no children at all, thereby being spared the horror of an early death.

Jesus had wept before for the city of Jerusalem.  You will remember this back in Luke 19:41-44 where He first spoke of the coming destruction of the city of Jerusalem.  He mentions it again in Luke 21:23, where He said, “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.”  This will be a horrible time when death will be preferable to life.  

That is the point behind the phrase there in verse 30, “Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’”  This Old Testament imagery from Hosea 10:8 illustrates what that day will be like when Jerusalem falls in AD 70.  People will prefer a quick death to years of suffering.  It is much like what will take place during the Great Tribulation in the end times.  You can read about that in Revelation 6:16-17, another time when people will cry out to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”  So, Jesus says, “Don’t weep for Me, weep for yourselves.  Within 40 years you will be facing a time of terrible judgment at the hand of the Romans. It will be so bad many will cry out to the mountains, ‘Fall on us and kill us, take us away from this suffering!’”  

Then verse 31, Jesus says, “For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”  This is one of those verses you come across in your daily Bible reading and you are like, “Whatever does that mean?!” and then you move on.  But you know what it means intuitively, right?  You know this is not a good thing.  Jesus has just been talking about judgment and the Roman destruction of the city of Jerusalem and He says, “For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”  In other words, “You ladies are crying for Me, but think about it: if the Romans are doing this now to Me, what will be done to you, what will be done to the city of Jerusalem?”  Put another way, “If this is how they burn green wood, just think how much greater will be the burning of that which is dry?”  If you have ever picked up sticks to burn in a campfire, you look for dry sticks because the green ones do not burn so well.  So, Jesus is saying, “If this is what the Romans do to the green wood, wood that is not ripe for judgment, think of how they will treat dry wood, wood that is absolutely ripe for judgment.”  If God has not spared His innocent Son from such tribulation (by permitting His crucifixion), how much worse will it be for a sinful nation when God unleashes His righteous wrath upon it (by permitting the Romans to destroy Jerusalem).

We come now to these two necessary responses.

In light of what we have just read . . .

I. We Must Die To Our Sin.

Judgment awaited the city of Jerusalem.  God will judge the city of Jerusalem for their refusal to repent and to trust God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  Judgment awaits all who reject God’s Son.  We must turn from our sin, which means to repent.  

We must turn from our sin

And turn to our Savior,

The Lord Jesus Christ.

I find it striking that these women are weeping, and Jesus says, “Don’t weep for Me. Weep for yourselves.”  Feeling sympathy for Jesus does not alone save.  We can cry and cry and have and show great emotion and still lack repentance.  We must look to Him as Lord and Savior. We must see that Jesus died in our place, bore our transgressions, and died for our iniquities.  Jesus says, “Don’t weep for Me, weep for yourselves. Judgment is coming. Don’t reject Me. Turn to Me.”

This is why feeling a certain way as we look at religious art does not alone save. Watching a film or a play about the passion of Christ does not alone save.  Even if we feel great sympathy for Jesus we are not responding properly to the Gospel if all we do is weep for Him.  If all we do is say, “What a terrible thing happened to Jesus when He was crucified,” and we fail to see that it is we who hammered the nails into His hands and feet, if we fail to see ourselves there at Calvary then we are weeping only for Jesus, feeling only sympathy for One who needs no sympathy, at all!  He is God.  He does not need our sympathy.  

He does not

Want our sympathy,

He wants our souls.

Jesus is say Do not weep for Me, Jerusalem . . . Do not weep for Me, whoever you are . . . Weep for yourselves.  Weep for your lost family members.  Weep for your lost co-workers.  Weep for the lost people in your community and across the world to the unreached people groups of the nations.  Weep for your sin, cry over your sins and come to Me and trust Me and receive Me and My righteousness.”

The Jews in Jesus’ day did not trust in the righteousness of Christ, but they trusted in their own righteousness.  They thought they could be morally acceptable in God’s sight by keeping the Law. That is how some of you think. “I can be a good person.  If I am good enough, God will accept me.”  But that is not true!  Weep for yourselves, repent, and come to Christ.  The Bible says in Philippians 3:9, “… not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”

That is how we are saved from our sins and from the wrath to come. Judgment awaits all who reject God’s Son.  I must die to my sin.  I must admit, confess, and agree with God, that I am a sinner deserving nothing but judgment and the wrath to come.  I come to a point where . . .

I understand Jesus died for my sin,

Took the punishment I deserved

And I am weeping for myself,

Feeling conviction for my sin,

And turning to Christ as my Savior.

And when you die to your sin and trust Christ as Savior, you are saved forever.   You are accepted by God forever.  Just like the chorus to the song, “Wash in me in Your cleaning flow, now all I know, Your forgiveness and embrace.”  He embraces us and because you did not deserve your salvation, you can do nothing to “un-deserve” it.  Your salvation is, “by grace through faith in Christ alone.”  Paul asks in Romans 8:35. “What shall separate us from the love of God?”  Paul answers affirmatively in Romans 8:39, “I am convinced that nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We must die to our Sin.  Secondly . . .

II. We Must Die To Our Self.

I think one of the reasons Luke tells us about Simon in verse 26 is because of the power of this imagery.  Here is Simon picking up the cross of Jesus and carrying it.  This is a powerful emblem of what it means to follow Christ!  We must die to our self.  Picking up the cross of Christ and carrying it daily is a picture of the Christian life.

Jesus had said in Luke 9:23-24, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”

We must die to our self.  Jesus asks in Luke 9:25, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?”  He said in Luke 14:27, “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” Bearing the cross of Christ and following Him means we love Him more than anyone or anything else, more than we love even our own lives.

Simon’s actions here in the historical realm portray

Vividly what is true in the spiritual realm.

We must pick up our cross and “bear it after Jesus.”  We must die to our self.  That is what the cross means.  We die.  We die to our self.  We die to our self-interests, our self-centeredness, and our self-assuredness.

This is why the symbol of Christianity is a cross, because Christianity requires that we die.  

  • The symbol of Christianity is not a bumper sticker, or a style of dress, or a particular Bible translation, or a particular church we attend. 
  • We are not Christians because we have a fish on the bumpers of our cars or because we listen to K-LOVE on the radio.  
  • We are not Christians because we read books and download Christian podcasts.
  • We are not Christians because we post words of Christ on Twitter or Facebook.

We are Christians when we take up and carry the cross, “the emblem of suffering and shame.”  We “cling to that old rugged cross” more than we cling to anyone or anything.

Judgment awaits all who reject God’s Son.  The Bible says in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, “… When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Grant us wisdom in these moments to die to our sins, die to ourselves, and accept the death of Jesus Christ as payment for our sins.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 23:13-25 – Jesus in Our Place

Grace For The Journey

I often ask myself if I am a receiver or reproducer of God’s Word.  Let me illustrate the difference.  Imagine being in Sudan.  You walk into a thatched hut with a small group of Sudanese church leaders, and you sit down to teach them God’s Word.  As soon as you start, you lose eye contact with all of them.  No one is looking at you, and you hardly see their eyes the rest of the time.  The reason is because they are writing down every word you say.  They come up to you afterward and say, “Teacher, we are going to take everything we have learned from God’s Word, translate it into our languages, and teach it in our tribes.”

They were not

Listening to receive

But to reproduce.

Now journey with me to a contemporary worship service in the United States.  As the pastor begins his sermon, some people have their Bibles open, while others do not have a Bible with them.  A few people are taking notes, but for the most part they are passively sitting in the audience.  While some are probably disengaged, others are intently focused on what the preacher is saying, listening to God’s Word to hear how it applies to their lives.  But the reality is . . .

Few are listening to reproduce.  

We are, by nature, receivers.

Even if we have a desire to learn God’s Word, we still listen from a default self-centered mind-set that is always asking, “What can I get out of this?”  But as we have seen, this is unbiblical Christianity.  

What if we changed the question

Whenever we gathered

To learn God’s Word?

What if we began to think . . .

“How can I listen to His Word

So that I am

Equipped to teach

This Word to others?”

This changes everything.

We left off last week at verse 12, so we will pick up today at verse 13.  You will remember from last time that the Jewish leaders had brought Jesus before two rulers for the purpose of having Him condemned.  They had never been on-board with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, and they did not believe Him to be the Messiah.  They brought Him before these two rulers: the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, and the Tetrarch of Galilee Herod Antipas.  Both rulers had found Jesus innocent of any wrongdoing, let alone anything deserving death.  Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate and we pick up at verse 13 with what happens next.

In reading this passage I nearly always find myself identifying with Barabbas.  Barabbas, who is guilty and condemned to die, is set free by the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate.  Jesus who is innocent of any wrongdoing is condemned to die.  One could even say that Jesus died in the place of Barabbas.  Jesus died as the substitute for Barabbas.  Jesus died in my place.  Jesus died in our place.  Jesus died as our substitute.

That word “substitute” is generally used “to designate the replacing of one thing for something of lesser or equal value.”  We go to the restaurant and ask if we can substitute one item for another, can we substitute a salad for the grilled vegetables.  Or, in the case of your children, you can we substitute French fries for the grilled vegetables.  We exchange one thing with another of lesser or equal value.

In my High School, a substitute teacher was usually regarded by the class–unfortunately – as a person of lesser value than the regular teacher.  If we walked into class and found a substitute teacher present, we thought we would have a day off – no offense to substitute teachers – I have done a little of that; this is just how many in our school seemed to operate.

The word “substitute” generally designates the replacing of one thing for another thing of lesser or equal value. You can never “trade up,” so to speak.  You cannot go into a restaurant and ask to substitute your grilled vegetables for another slab of ribs or expect to substitute your garden salad for a gourmet dessert – at least I am not aware one can do that.  If you know a restaurant that will do that, help a brother out and let me know!

If you will allow the rough and un-sanctified analogy . . .

There is a substitution

That takes place

In the Gospel

That allows

One to

“Trade up!”

The Gospel message gives us that perspective . . .

In the place of a condemned criminal

Stands a Substitute; not another criminal,

Nor even a person of equal worth and merit. 

But One of far greater worth and

One of inestimable honor,

A Substitute like no other.  

Jesus dies in our place.

I want us to go through this text and then afterward share some thoughts about what this means that Jesus is our substitute, what it means that Jesus is in our place.

First, let’s ground our study in the context of God’s Word.  Look at your Bible . . .

In verses 13 to 15, Pilate is calling court to order.  These verses say, “Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people (He’s convening the court case against Jesus), and said to them, ‘You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people.  And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him.” 

Luke’s main point in giving his account of the details is that Jesus is innocent of any wrongdoing.  This is his main emphasis.  

What is true of Jesus historically

In this criminal trial is also true

Of Jesus theologically in His Person.

He is innocent of any wrongdoing.  The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:19 that Jesus is, “a lamb without blemish and without spot.”  On this basis He is a fitting sacrifice, a fitting Substitute, a fitting Lamb who, as John 1:29 puts it, “takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

This is the greater story,

The meta-narrative,

Going on here.

But Pilate does not know this greater story.  He simply finds Jesus innocent of any wrongdoing, but he also feels the pressure of having to do something to satisfy the anger of the Jewish leaders.

Verse 16 tells us what he decides to do, I will therefore chastise Him and release Him.”  I know it is easy to find ourselves trying to feel some sort of compassion for Pilate, but we should resist that notion.  Pilate cares far more for how this situation plays out politically than he cares about doing the right thing.  Note the irony of verse 16 – Pilate finds Jesus innocent of any wrongdoing, but what does he say he will do in verse 16?  “I will therefore chastise Him – punish Him – and release Him.”  This was like throwing a bone to a dog.  

Pilate did not care for Jesus

As much

As he cared for himself,

For his political success,

For his legacy.

He reasons to himself, “Maybe this will satisfy these rabid Jewish leaders who are bloodthirsty for this innocent man’s death.  I will just have the man beaten.  Surely, that will do the trick.”

Verse 17 says, “(For it was necessary for him to release one of them at the feast).”  Some translations do not have verse 17.   In the older Greek manuscripts that statement is not present, and some feel the reason it is included in many newer manuscripts of Luke is simply because the scribes wanted Luke’s readers to know this fact about releasing a prisoner during the Passover.  The other Gospel writers report this tradition of releasing a prisoner during Passover.  Admittedly, it helps explain why the crowd replies as they do in verse 18, “And they all cried out at once, saying, ‘Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas’”there is this tradition, apparently a means by which the Roman authorities desired to show a bit of mercy by allowing the crowd to determine which prisoner may be released during their Feast of the Passover.  Pilate thinks they will be pleased with his releasing Jesus, but they cry out, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas.”

Luke tells us what Barabbas had done to get locked up in verses 19-22, “Who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder.  Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them.  But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”  Then he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.”

Again, remember that Luke is stressing the innocence of Jesus.  Three times, in verses 4, 14, and 22, Pilate says something like, “I find not fault in this man.”  Verse 23 says, But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed.”  The other Gospel writers tell us that the Jewish leaders actually stirred up the crowd in order to get their way.  They told the crowd what to say and so there was this large noise of people crying out to Pilate, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”  The people shouted Pilate down, yelling their demand that Jesus should be crucified, and their shouting won the day (Luke 23:23-24).

Verse 24 tells us, “So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested.”  Pilate caves-in to their request.  Sermons and Bible studies that deal with the failed leadership of Pilate and how important it is for leaders to not cave-in and to not compromise and so forth are sermons and Bible studies that miss the mark of Luke’s intended purpose here.  

This is not a lesson on leadership.  

This is a lesson on the death of Christ.

Verse 25 says, “And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will.”  Rather than releasing the innocent One, Pilate releases the guilty one.  Jesus stays.  Barabbas goes free.

I wonder what that scene looked like when the jailer told Barabbas he could go.  He had been found guilty of leading a riot in the city and for killing someone.  He had been sentenced to die and yet the jailer comes to his cell and tells him, “Hey, Barabbas. You are free to go.”  The jailer opens the cell door and motions for Barabbas to exit.  And I do not think for a moment that Barabbas hesitated or said something like, “Well, there must be some mistake.”  He is a criminal!  I think he got up as quickly as he could and ran out of that jail cell, out of that building, and out onto the streets, laughing all the way.

Yet, Jesus had died in his place.  What happened to Barabbas is symbolic of what has happened to every Christian?  The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:19a, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.”  Jesus in our place” means the just has died for us, that He might bring us to God.  

Jesus died as our Substitute

. . . Jesus died in our place.

This is the heart of the Gospel, summarized succinctly in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Jesus died in our place,

Paid the debt we owe,


Fulfilled the law

We broke.

Jesus in our place.

I want to share some important implications of “Jesus in our place.”  What does this mean?

Number one . . .

1. Jesus In Our Place Means God Loves Us.

A phrase is often used in the contemporary church without any theological underpinnings.   So many preachers, teachers, and Christians of all stripes believe if we just say, “God loves you” that people will somehow “get it” and “be moved” and change the world.  Maybe if we just keep saying it, people will feel it: “God loves you, God loves you, God loves you.”  Well, what does that mean?  How does God love me?

The Bible says in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  How does God demonstrate His own love for us?

While we were sinners,

Christ died FOR us,

Died as our Substitute,

Died in our place.

The Bible says in Romans 5:6. 9-10, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ dies for the ungodly . . . Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”  At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

There Is The Depth Of God’s Love!

I am guilty of sin . . . I am a law-breaker . . . I have broken God’s perfect law . . .

  • I hear Jesus say in Matthew 5:21-22, You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment,’” and I say to myself, ‘I am guilty of murder.’”
  • I hear Jesus say in Matthew 5:27-28, You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’   But I say to you that ‘whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart,’” and I say to myself, ‘I am guilty of adultery.’”
  • I hear Jesus say in Matthew 5:44, “’Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,’ and I say to myself, “You do not do what you are supposed to do, Terry. I am a law-breaker.”
  • I hear Jesus say in Matthew 5:20, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”   

And I think, “How will I ever get in?!  The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “The wages of sin is death.”  I deserve death, judgment, and hell for my sin, God help me! 

The Bible says in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  

Christ, who is innocent,

Is reckoned guilty

So that we, who

Are guilty, may be

Reckoned innocent.

This is the truth symbolized the weekend Jesus died on the cross in Passover, a holy day celebrated for hundreds upon hundreds of years as God’s people offered a lamb without spot or blemish as a substitute for their sin.  Every Passover lamb pointed forward to a more perfect sacrifice, a more perfect Substitute for our sin, the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus who lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died.

This is the theology undergirding the phrase, “God loves you.”  This is the theology that anchors the truth of John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son–gave to die–that whoever believes in Him should not die, but should live forever.”   How is that possible?  

Jesus in my place.

Jesus took my sin

Upon Himself,

Bore my punishment,

Bore God’s wrath, Died for me that

I might be saved.

He takes what belongs to me

– Sin –

And gives what belongs

to Him – righteousness.

This is the theology behind the phrase, “God loves you.”

It is important to think about what we mean when we tell people, “God loves you.”  Let’s be sure we are talking about a God who demonstrates His love toward us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).  That is a love I can understand.  You just say to me over and over again, “God loves you,” that does not really mean much to me.  But . . .

When you explain to me

That I receive His love

Even though I am a guilty

Transgressor, sinner, lawbreaker,

Murderer, and rebel against Him,

Well now I begin to sense

How great His love is.

And . . .

When you tell me

That I deserve death

Because of my transgressions,

Sins, lawbreaking, murdering, & rebellion,

But that God takes my place on the cross

For my transgressions, sins, and rebellion,

I am overwhelmed by that kind of love!

Jesus in our place gives meaning to the phrase,

Secondly . . .

II. Jesus in our Place Makes Possible God’s Acceptance of Us.

If I trust Christ and receive Him as my Lord and Savior, it means that I will always and forever be found “in Christ Jesus.”  I am in Christ.  This means God always sees me “in Christ.”  This means God looks upon me and sees my sin covered by the righteousness of Christ.  This means . . .

I am accepted by God

Not on the basis of

My personal performance,

But on the basis of

The infinitely perfect

Righteousness of Christ.

Pilate found no fault in Him.  He is, as the Bible says in 1 Peter 1:19, “a lamb without blemish and without spot.”  Because there is no fault in Him, then we who are “in Him” are faultless too.  There is no fault in Christ and therefore God looks upon us who are “in Christ” and says, “I find no fault in you.”

The Bible says in Romans 4:25, “Who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”  He died for our sins and was raised that we may be justified, declared righteous, declared “not guilty” of sin, accepted by God.

We are accepted by God forever.  We are always and forever acceptable in God’s sight. We can do nothing to lose this acceptance, nor can we do anything extra to make us more acceptable.  Our acceptance is found in Christ alone.  Again, “I am accepted by God not on the basis of my personal performance, but on the basis of the infinitely prefect righteousness of Christ.”

God’s love for me is a love that pours through His perfect love for His Son Jesus and what Jesus Christ did on the cross as my substitute.  When I sin, God does not love me any less, because His love is a perfect love that pours through His Son Jesus.  When I sin God does not love me any less and when I do well, God does not love me any more. Watch that tendency to legalism!  Our performance does not increase God’s acceptance of us!  God’s love is perfectly constant because it is a love bound up in His Son Jesus Christ, our Substitute.

What a joy to know that when we are “in Christ” we are forever accepted by God!  The devil wants us to doubt that acceptance.

Some of you struggle constantly with guilt and shame.  Guilt is the feeling we have that says, “I have done a bad thing.”  Shame is the feeling, “I am bad person.”  Jesus died and made us acceptable before God for both guilt and shame.

But some of you hear Satan whisper in your ear, “You are a bad person.  You are an unfit mother, you are a bad father.  You are a teenage failure.”  It is at these moments, Christian, you must look to the cross and see Jesus there who is your perfect Substitute, the Perfect One in your place who made an end of all your sin and made you acceptable to God forever.

As the hymn-writer puts it:

When Satan tempts me to despair

And tells me of the guilt within,

Upward I look and see Him there

Who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died

My sinful soul is counted free.

For God the just is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me.

Jesus in our place makes possible God’s acceptance of us.

Thirdly . . .

III. Jesus In Our Place Is The Content Of Our Gospel Witness.

This is the message of the Gospel.  This is what we are to share with our friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors.  When we share the Gospel in order to make known God’s glory from the community to the continents, we must tell the story of Jesus in our place.

It is not enough to . . .

Tell our neighbors

God loves them


Even that God

radically changed

Our lives.

We must tell them more than that if we are going to tell the Gospel story . . .  

We must tell them about

Jesus in our place.

This is the content of our Gospel witness.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

This verse is the climactical conclusion

Of Paul’s teaching about

Sharing our Gospel witness.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Do you hear that?  

This is the message we share with the lost.

It is the message of Jesus in our place.

It is not, “God just loves you and wants you to be happy,” it is, “God is doing something He does not have to do.  As people accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, He is reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them which is what they deserve, but reconciling lost sinners to Himself through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, Jesus who never sinned, Jesus who was made to be sin for us – in our place as our Substitute – that we might become in Him the righteousness of God.”

Jesus in our place is the content of our Gospel witness.

It is hard to read Luke 23 and not wonder what happened to Barabbas after he fled that jail cell.  Did he find his way back into the mob, the crowd that cried out, “Crucify Him?” Did he follow the crowd as they followed Jesus, carrying His cross, condemned to die? Did he watch from a distance as they drove the spikes into Christ’s hands and feet and crucified Jesus?  Did he wonder, “He died in my place?”

Have you seen Jesus there on Calvary’s cross?  Have you come to the cross as a guilty sinner and affirmed the truth of, “Jesus in My Place?”  Trust Him this very moment.

Pray a prayer like this, Lord Jesus Christ, I admit that I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed, but, through you, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope.  I thank you for paying my debt, bearing my punishment, and offering forgiveness.  I turn from my sin and receive you as Savior.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 23:1-12 – Treating Christ with Contempt

Grace For The Journey

We are studying our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke.  This is the best way to preach, teach, and learn the Word of God.  One of the reasons verse-by-verse expository preaching and teaching through books of the Bible is the best way to preach and teach is that it allows God to determine the topic of each sermon.  Rather than a preacher assuming he knows his congregation’s needs and then coming up with a topic and looking through the Bible for verses that go with it, we just turn to God’s Word and read through the Books He has given us and verse-by-verse God hits us where we need hitting.

Last time we were in Luke we were reading about, “Jesus on Trial.”  Jesus Christ is on trial before the Sanhedrin – the Jewish Council of 71 leaders – for proclaiming to be God.  In our passage today the Jewish leaders bring Jesus before the Roman leader Pontius Pilate and the ruler Herod Antipas.  Both will find Jesus innocent of any wrong-doing.  As we look at these verses today, we will note that while Jesus is found innocent He is nonetheless treated with contempt.

The last chapters of Luke show that God is on trial in the person of Christ.  While Jesus is the one on trial, it is others who may be found guilty of treating Christ with contempt, ridicule, and scorn.  

  • The Sanhedrin were guilty,
  • Pilate is guilty,
  • Herod is guilty.

They are all guilty of treating Christ with contempt.  But what about you?  What about me?  Are we ever guilty of treating Christ with contempt?  Are we ever guilty of disregarding the words of Christ or showing some lack of respect for who He is?  I do not want to answer those questions for you so much as I want to help . . .

You to always read

The Scripture

In such a way as

To see yourself,

To see your sin,

And to see your Savior.

It is too easy to read the Bible and note only how evil everyone else is.  What about you and what about me?  Are we, too, guilty of treating Christ with contempt?

Let’s think about that as we study the passage this morning, a passage I have divided in two halves, both of which stress the innocence of Jesus Christ.  This seems to be Luke’s main purpose in the way he reports the events of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Luke is not as wordy here as other Gospel writers.  His economy of words lays stress on the fact that this Lamb of God led away to slaughter is an innocent Lamb of God.

I. See Christ’s Innocence Before Pilate – Verses 1-5.

Verse 1 tells us, “Then the whole multitude of them [i.e., the Sanhedrin]arose and led Him to Pilate.”  If you look back at the end of the previous chapter, you be reminded that the Sanhedrin had their own little trial of Jesus. They found Him guilty of blasphemy. Remember this from last time?  Jesus proclaims to be of God and from God.  He refers to Himself as “Christ,” “Son of Man,” and “Son of God.”  All three titles underscore His deity, that He is of God and from God.  The Jewish leaders believe Jesus is guilty of blasphemy and therefore worthy of death.  They wanted to kill Him.

The problem is that they could not hand down a death sentence.  Only Rome could impose the sentence of capital punishment (See John 18:31), and so the Sanhedrin now bring Jesus to Pilate.  Pilate has the authority to impose the death sentence.  Normally Pilate would be in Caesarea, that was his home office, but because of the Passover, Pilate is in town at a satellite office in Jerusalem.  He is there because it seems half the world is in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.

Pilate didn’t care much for the Jews.  He had stolen a bunch of their money, taking it from their temple treasury and using it to build an aqueduct to bring water into the city of Jerusalem.  An aqueduct is not a bad idea but stealing money from others to build it is another story.  It would be like our mayor coming to First Baptist and taking money out of our church bank account and using it for whatever he wished. So, Pilate is a bad emperor and he does not care much for the Jews.

The Jewish leaders had found Jesus guilty of blasphemy and they want to have Jesus killed, but here is the problem:

Pilate will not care.  

He is not interested

In Jewish squabbles.

He is not into their religion.

So, the Jews spin the charges in a way that is less religious and more political.  They have entered the “spin zone.” They know Pilate will not care about their religious squabbles so they drum up some political charges, believing Pilate will listen to them now.  They present three political charges that are mentioned verse 2, And they began to accuse Him, saying, ‘We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.’”  How does Pilate respond?  Verse 3 tells us, Then Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

Pilate ignores the first two political charges.  Pilate is a shrewd politician.  He knows how the spin works.  These charges are baseless.  You and I know that.  Is Jesus really guilty of “perverting the nation,” trying to get people to rebel against Rome?

  • Wasn’t it Jesus who preached, “Love your enemies” (Luke 6:27-31)?  
  • Wasn’t it Jesus who preached, “Love your neighbor” (Luke 10:27)?

The second charge in verse 2 is that Jesus forbade people to pay taxes to Caesar. Remember what Jesus said in Luke 20:25, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s?”  This charge is also baseless.  But Pilate picks up on the last charge.  He is interested in this one as verse 3 tells us, Then Pilate asked Him, saying, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’”  Pilate is something of a king himself.  He had a lot of authority and served directly under the Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar.  He is interested in this charge: “Are You the King of the Jews?”  The word “You” is first in the original.  It probably went something like this, “YOU, King of the Jews?!”  Verse 3 goes on to tell us how Jesus responded, “… He answered him and said, “It is as you say.” 

Jesus is not being evasive here. 

Rather He is trying to avoid

Being misunderstood.  

He has forever

Been concerned

That His kingdom

Not be misunderstood.

Yes, He is king.  Everyone knew Jesus had proclaimed to be king of the Jews. That is why that very title was written above His head in three different languages at His crucifixion (John 19:20).  In Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, the title read, “King of the Jews.”

Verse 4 says, So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no fault in this Man.’”  John 18 helps us understand why Pilate is not concerned.  In John 18:36, John provides a little more detail.  Jesus tells Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”  Pilate only cares about Jesus’ declaring Himself to be king if he is talking about it in a political sense.  Pilate is checking to see if Jesus is a political rebel, whether He has designs for overthrowing the Roman Empire.  So long as Jesus is not threatening to take over Pilate’s job or trying to overthrow Caesar, for all Pilate cares Jesus can call Himself “King of the Universe” if He likes; just as long as He does not try to take over their kingdom in Rome.  So, Pilate says, “I find no fault in this Man.”  He sees Jesus as not being a threat.

Verses 5 to 7 tell us of the third charge that they bring against Jesus, “But they were the more fierce, saying, ‘He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.’  When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the Man were a Galilean.  And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.”  This is a classic case of “passing the buck.”  Pilate is thinking, “What am I going to do with this guy?”  He hears the Jews angrily bringing another charge which he knows to be false, but when he hears the angry Jewish mob cry, “Galilee,” he is like, “Is this Jesus from Galilee?  Well then send Him over to Herod” and he wipes his hands of the situation – at least, for now.

Luke tells us at the end of verse 7 that Herod “was also in Jerusalem at that time.” Remember, it is the Passover.  So, Herod the tetrarch over Galilee is in Jerusalem and the Jews drag Jesus before Him.  Luke has shown us Christ’s innocence before Pilate, now, secondly . . .

II. See Christ’s Innocence Before Herod – Verses 8-12.

Verse 8 says, “Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him.”  Remember Herod?  This is Herod Antipas.  Herod was, among many things, an adulterer.  Herod was married and started messing around with another woman, a woman who was married to his half-brother. Herod eventually persuaded this woman to leave her husband and so Herod marries his sister-in-law.  This is to say nothing of the fact that this woman he marries was also the daughter of one of Herod’s half-brothers, which would mean that Herod is also marrying his niece.  I mean this is just made for reality TV, right?  But, as if his dysfunctional family were not enough, Herod, of course, is also the one who had beheaded John the Baptist.

Luke writes in verse 8 that Herod “had desired for along time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him.”  Someone said, “We should pity great men.”  But is that true?  Many men are like Herod: rich, having nice things, being fawned over by self-seeking flatters and “yes men.”  Herod sees Jesus as someone who can entertain him someone who can do something for him.  Men who seem to have everything, but men who are empty inside, lost men, men yearning for meaning and significance.  

Verse 9 tells us, “Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing.”  The early church later saw Christ’s silence as a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”  Had Jesus spoken, do we really believe Herod would have believed?  He had heard the truth before from John the Baptist and eventually had him beheaded.  Jesus is responding exactly as He should.

J. C. Ryle says . . .

“What Herod [lacked] was not more knowledge,

But a heart and a will to act upon what he knew.”

Verse 10 says, “And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him.”  Yet . . .

Jesus is innocent.  

He would be crucified

As a lamb without

Spot or blemish.  

It is important that

We understand that.

This seems to be Luke’s primary point in reporting the events the way he is reporting them.  Jesus Christ is innocent of wrongdoing.  Later, in verse 15, we read that Herod found Jesus innocent of wrongdoing, innocent of anything deserving death.  Yet, in spite of His innocence, what does Herod do?  Verses 11 and 12 tell us, “Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe [to make sport of His being a king], and sent Him back to Pilate.  That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other.”  Isn’t that remarkable?  Two wicked people can unite together against an enemy.  In fact, may we be convicted at the irony: two wicked people can unite together against an enemy yet two Christians will divide over a friendship. 

What may we learn from this passage?  Let me give two action principles that surface from our study of this text.  First . . .

1. Stay Strong When Suffering Trials.

We were introduced to this principle last time we were in Luke.  Remember our reflection upon 1 Peter 2:21, “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.”  Luke tells us in this passage that Jesus is treated with contempt.  If you are a follower of Christ, you will also at times be treated with contempt.  If you are a follower of Christ, be prepared to be hated as Christ was hated.  Jesus says in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

Some of you were told that, if you followed Christ, it would be like heaven on earth, but you have found it to be otherwise.  Some of you struggle with ridicule, hurt, and scorn for following Christ.  Some of you have family who are not “on board” with your decision to follow Christ.  Others of you face persecution for your faith.  Because you are a Christian, someone no longer wants to hang out with you or talk to you.  Some of you have people in your life who are doing their best to make you miserable.

Remember a couple things . . .

(1) Never Forget That We Live In A World That Is Not As It Should Be.

We live in a post-Genesis 3 world, a world in which sin reigns.  Christ will return, and when He does, He will straighten out what needs straightening out and set everything right.  

But also . . .

(2) Remember That When You Suffer You Are In Good Company.  

The Bible tells us that “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.”  Listen again to J. C. Ryle, “The servant of Christ must never be surprised if he has to drink of the same cup with his Lord.  When He who was holy, harmless, and undefiled, was foully slandered, who can expect to escape?  “If they called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call them of his household?” (Matthew 10:25) . . . the most blameless character will not secure us against false tongues.  We must bear the trial patiently.  It is a part of the cross of Christ . . . We must sit still, lean back on God’s promises, and believe that in the long run truth will prevail.”

Can you do that?  Are you surrender to Christ enough to trust in the Lord and believe that truth will prevail?

The Bible says in Psalm 37:5-7, “Trust [in the Lord] … He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday [i.e., you can bank on it]. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.”  Can you do that?  Are you surrendered enough to trust in the Lord?  Stay strong when suffering trials.

Remember that it is from a Roman prison that Paul writes in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Learn from Jesus and stay strong when suffering trials.

The second action principle from this passage is . . .

2. Stay Sensitive To Spiritual Truth.

What I mean is, “Keep your conscience tender.”  Think about King Herod for just a moment. There was a time when Herod listened to the truth. There was a time in Herod’s life when He liked listening to preaching.  There was a time Herod enjoyed listening to the preaching of John the Baptist.  The Bible tells us in Mark 6:20, “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him.  And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.”

Quite a different picture of Herod in the earlier days when he first listened to spiritual truth.  He enjoyed hearing the preaching.  Herod was in awe of John.  He was convinced that John was a holy man, and he gave him special treatment.  Whenever he listened to him, he was miserable with guilt – and yet he could not stay away.  Something in John’s message kept pulling him back.  Or put another way, Herod used to listen to him and be profoundly disturbed, and yet he enjoyed hearing him.

In other words . . .

Herod heard the truth

And was convicted,


Never followed through.

And because he

Never followed through,

He hardened his heart.

His heart became tough

Calloused, and insensitive

To spiritual truth.

You get a callous on your hand, using a hammer or a shovel every day and tough skin forms around your fingers. You can stick a pin into that callous and feel nothing.

The Bible tells us in Psalm 95:7-8, “Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts.”  That is what happened to Herod.  He once had a soft heart, a sensitive heart to spiritual truth, but he allowed his heart to become calloused and eventually had John the Baptist beheaded.  Herod grows to be a hardened man who makes sport of the very one for whom John the Baptist had been a forerunner.

Some of you listen to preaching and teaching of the Word of God every week.  Do you follow through on what you hear?  The key to the Christian life is that it should lead us to obedience to God’s Word.  Herod enjoyed John’s preaching, but Herod was lost. Hear again what the Bible says in Psalm 95, “Today if you hear God’s voice: do not harden your heart.”  Was your heart once soft to spiritual truth?  Was your conscience once sensitive and tender to the Bible’s teachings (teachings about sexual purity, faithfulness in marriage, love for enemies, forgiveness to those who hurt you, teachings about trusting in the Lord with all of your heart, teachings about walking by faith and not by sight, teachings about not worrying, tithing, sharing your faith, reaching the nations).

Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.  Stay sensitive to spiritual truth.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”