Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 23:44-49 – The Death Of The Innocent One

Grace For The Journey

We are continuing our series of studies in the Gospel of Luke entitled, “Certainty in Uncertain Times.”  Luke has attempted to write an orderly account of the life and death of Jesus so that his readers may be certain of the things they have heard.  We are slowly inching towards the end of Luke’s account.  Now we are at the pinnacle of the life of Jesus – His crucifixion.  As we reflect upon our study of Luke thus far, we will recall the repeated declaration of Jesus’ innocence.

  • Luke 23:4 – “Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find no guilt in this man.’”
  • Luke 23:14-15 – “And [Pilate] said to them, ‘You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him.  No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him.’”
  • Luke 23:22 – “And he said to them the third time, ‘Why, what evil has this man done?  I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.’”

Despite the fact that Jesus was never declared guilty of anything, the Jewish leaders persuaded Pilate and the people to crucify Jesus.

Even when Pilate presented an opportunity to have Jesus released, the Jewish leaders called for a convicted criminal to be released instead.  We read in Luke 23:18-23, “But they cried out all together, saying, ‘Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!’  (He was one who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection made in the city, and for murder.)  Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, but they kept on calling out, saying, ‘Crucify, crucify Him!’  And he said to them the third time, ‘Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.’  But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail.”  At the command of Pilate, they led Jesus to Golgotha to be crucified along with two criminals.

While Jesus is on the cross one criminal asked Jesus to remember him, while the other questioned why Jesus does not save Himself. 

This leads us to our text this morning.  Throughout the book of Luke, and particularly in the last two chapters we have studied, Luke has sought to show the innocence of Jesus.  Our passage this morning is the crowning moment of Luke’s emphasis on Jesus’ innocence. 

In addition to the clear theme of the innocence of Jesus, we also see explicit evidence of God’s controlling hand at this moment.  We are taking our time throughout the end of Luke.  This morning we are studying the crucifixion and death of Jesus.  We will look at three reactions that came from the crucifixion and death of Jesus, the Innocent One.

Creation mourns the death of the Innocent One (vv. 44-46)

We see right away in verses 44 and 45 that this event is marked by a striking sign – darkness over all the earth, “Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.  Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.”  In case you are curious what time that would have been, according to the Jewish time keeping system it would have been 12 PM to 3 PM.

There was darkness over the land for three solid hours. That is a big deal.  Obviously, it is not normally dark in our state from 12 to 3 PM. It would not have been normal for Jerusalem either.  Some have attempted to explain this darkness as a solar eclipse. That attempt is silly.  Remember, this is happening during the Jewish Passover.  The Passover took place during the full moon phase.  I am told that an eclipse during the full moon phase is impossible.

Instead, we can explain this darkness as evidence that God is fully aware of what is happening.  In Scripture when darkness covers the earth it is usually a sign of an eschatological event or the judgment of God.  In any case, we can be sure that this darkness is not a good thing. Rather, it is a sign that God is not pleased with the events taking place.

God is still absolutely 100% in control at this time, and He shows it by His creation crying out through darkness covering the Earth.

Next, in the latter part of verse 45, we are told that the temple veil, or curtain, is torn in two.  This does not mean that someone tore the veil as if one of Jesus’ followers were there tearing the temple veil.  Rather, it means that God Himself tore the veil.  Most biblical scholars agree that this veil or curtain was the one that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place.  The Holy Place would have been the place where only the high priest was allowed to go and intercede with God on behalf of the people.

The symbolism of the tearing

Of this veil is no small matter.

This would have been a catastrophic event for devout Jewish worshipers.  For centuries they worshipped God in this matter. They were never allowed to be in His presence.  This is in effect breaking down the barrier between God and man.  We will look more into this truth toward the end of our study.

Finally, we see Jesus exercise dominion over God’s creation and human life itself by willingly yielding His life at His appointed time.  Verse 46 tells us, “And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’  Having said this, He breathed His last.”  Jesus was not blind-sided by His death.  He was in control.  He laid down His life under His own control.  This statement not only shows Jesus giving Himself to God, but it shows Jesus’ humble obedience to the Father.  Some of the other Gospels give a more detailed account of the horrific nature of the crucifixion.  Luke, however, focuses on Jesus’ innocence and His obedience to the will of God.

Normally crucifixion was a slow death.  However, Jesus simply gave His life up willingly to the Father.  The phrase “Into your hands I commit my spirit” is a quote from Psalm 31:5.  This moment was foretold long ago.  Jesus was in control.  He willingly gave His life on the cross.  Not only did creation respond to the death of Jesus, but the people did also.  In verses 47-49 we see that the people are moved by the death of the Innocent One, “So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, ‘Certainly this was a righteous Man!’  And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned.  But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”

We see three different perspectives to the death of Jesus in these verses . . .

1) We See The Reaction Of The Centurion.

A centurion was a Roman officer with leadership over 100 soldiers.  He probably would have witnessed most of the events leading up to this point.  At the least, we know that he witnessed Jesus’ interaction with His enemies, His interaction with the two criminals, His brutal crucifixion, His prayer to the Father, the darkness over the earth, and the death of the Son of God. 

The centurion says, “Certainly this was a righteous man.”  Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospel report the centurion saying, “Certainly this man was the Son of God.”  Luke, however, uses “righteous” or “innocent.”  This fits with his theme of showing the innocence of Jesus.  This is certainly not a problem or contradiction between the Gospels.  Rather these are complimentary accounts that lead us to the same point . . .

That Jesus is who

He claimed to be,

The innocent,

Righteous,

Son of God.

If there was any doubt left that Jesus was innocent, the Roman centurion lays that to rest in verse 47.

2) We See The Response Of The People In The Crowd.

Luke tells his readers that those in the crowd “beat their breasts.”  There are a few verses in the Bible that speak about people beating their breasts. 

  • In Nahum 2:7 and Isaiah 32:12-13 we are told this was a sign of grief or pain. 
  • In Luke 18:13 the tax collector beat his breast while praying to God which was a sign of contrition or repentance.

The reason for the crowd beating their chests was probably some of both.  They were probably feeling grief, guilt, contrition, humiliation, and confusion.  They were probably absolutely overwhelmed with emotion as they witnessed the death of the Righteous One.

Remember, just hours before, the crowd was responding in quite a different way toward Jesus. 

  • Luke 23:35 tells us that the rulers sneered at Him.
  • Luke 23:36 tells us that the soldiers mocked Him.
  • Luke 22, Mark 15, and John 19 tell us that they struck Him. 
  • Mark and John add that they also mockingly bowed down and worshipped Him.
  • Luke 23:21 tells us that when Pilate asked what he should do with Jesus, the entire crowd shouted, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”

There is no reason for us to think that all of these people automatically accepted Jesus as the Son of God and the one Savior of the Universe.   However, something changed in their minds that day about Jesus.  They were horrified at what they had done to this Innocent Man.

We also see that that Jesus’ acquaintances and the women who followed Him stood at a distance watching these things.  Luke doesn’t tell us exactly what Jesus’ followers are thinking or feeling.  We can be sure that they were horrified, confused, heart-broken, and scared.  This is not what they expected of their coming Messiah.

This would have caused His followers to take a long hard look at the life and death of Jesus and try to make sense of it all.  They expected a conquering Messiah.  One who would bring power to the Jewish people, establish justice and truth, and bring God’s kingdom to earth.  As Jesus neared the end of His life, He repeatedly showed that this was not the kind of Messiah that He was to be.  However, no one expected it to end like this.  I am sure His followers were absolutely devastated.

So, here we are.  Everything that Jesus had lived for, His 33 years of life, His three years of ministry, His miracles, His sparring with the religious elite, His brilliant answers to His objectors, His innocent perfection comes down to this moment; and, His death on a cross.

The death of the Innocent One not only caused creation to mourn, it not only moved the people that were there, but . . .

3) It Changed Mankind Forever.

We see in verses 47-49 that humanity is changed by the death of the Innocent One.  Not only were the people that were present at the crucifixion changed, but everything about human civilization is now changed. 

The door that leads to a

Relationship with God

Will soon be wide open.

The tearing of the veil in the temple was a clear sign that now mankind is able to approach the throne of God. 

When that veil tore, it signified that Jesus’ death was the perfect sacrifice, and that He was the Perfect High Priest.  Hebrews 9:11-14 describes it for us, “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.  Not with the blood of goats and calves, bit with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once and for all, having obtained eternal redemption.  For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to god, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

These verses tell us that Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come.  He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world.  With his own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.  Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity.  Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God.  For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.

In Hebrews 10:19-22 the Bible tells us, “Therefore, brethren, having boldeness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the vail, that is His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

These verses tell us that we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.  By His death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.  Since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him and what He did upon the cross and the empty tomb.  For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Listen to the lyrics of one of my favorite modern worship songs:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea:
A great High Priest, whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end to 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
To look on Him and pardon me

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise the One,
Risen Son of God!

Behold Him there, the Risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I am,
The King of glory and of grace!

One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God
With Christ, my Savior and my God1

The death of Jesus Christ changes everything.  It is part of the key moment in the history of human civilization.  Ever since the creation of our planet, God was pointing mankind to this moment.  Since the death of Jesus, people have looked back to that moment as a sign of God’s grace to the world.

No event in the history of mankind

Has been so monumental.

I  am so glad that there is more to the story!  Jesus did not stay dead, but He conquered death and rose from the grave.  He appeared to over 500 people.  He promised that He would return one day.  Finally, He ascended into Heaven and sent us the Holy Spirit.

Jesus offers us the opportunity to be saved from the punishment that we deserve for our sins because He paid a punishment that He did not deserve.  We are guilty, He is innocent.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:18a, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.”  Just as the blood of animals was shed by the high priest in the most holy place in the temple, so also Jesus shed His blood for the atonement, or payment, of our sins.  The Bible tells us in Hebrews 9:22b, “For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”

 Creation mourned the death of the Innocent One, the people were moved by the death of the Innocent One, and humanity was changed forever by the death of the Innocent One.

I challenge you to take a look at the death of Jesus.  What do you make of it?  Is this simply a myth?  Is it a terrible tragedy?  Or, is it part of God’s plan to bring redemption to a world of sinners who desperately need it?

Robert Stein, a biblical scholar, says, “What was taking place was not simply the death of an innocent Jew by crucifixion.  It was not just the death of a righteous prophet.  It was far, far more.  This was the death of God’s Son by which He is able today to be the Savior of the world.”

I mentioned earlier that Jesus’ followers did not know what was going on at the death of Jesus.  We, however, are blessed with the ability to look back knowing the significance of Jesus’ death.  God has revealed to us through His Word that there is only one way for us to be made right with Him, and that is through Jesus Christ.  If you have not taken a hard look at Jesus, I urge you to do so now.

The Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

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 23:39-43 – 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. 

And

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,

And

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

Or

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,

But

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.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 22:65-71 – Jesus On Trial, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

Verse 65 shows us where our sinful nature will lead us, “And any other things they blasphemously spoke against Him.”  These religious leaders not only mocked, beat, blindfolded, struck Jesus, they also “blasphemed Him.”  Was any of this a surprise to Jesus?  700 years before this trial of Jesus, the Prophet Isaiah said the Messiah would receive this sort of treatment as God’s Suffering Servant.  The Bible says in Isaiah 50:6, “I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting” and in Isaiah 53:3, “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”  Jesus was not surprised by the actions of these temple police.  The very fact that He submitted Himself to their actions shows the depth of His love for callous sinners.  Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus did this, “for the joy that was set before Him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame.”

They mocked, beat, blindfolded, struck, and blasphemed Him that night.  That was some trial that evening, wasn’t it?  So next morning what happens?  Verse 66 says, “As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying.”  The Sanhedrin – and again this is the Jewish Council of 70 leaders.  The term in verse 66, “elders of the people” is a synonym for the Sanhedrin.  They came together and led Jesus into their council.  It was against Jewish Law to convict a man in the evening so here they are now in the morning to continue the case of “God on Trial.”  In this passage . . .

There are things we may learn about Jesus

And things we can learn from Jesus.

I. What We May Learn About Jesus.

We have already seen He is on trial for claiming to be God.  I want you to notice the three titles for Jesus in these verses, all of which mean basically the same thing, that Jesus is God.  Three titles for the same person: He is the Christ, the Son of Man, the Son of God.  First . . .

1) He Is The Christ – Verses 67-68.

“Christ” is not Jesus’ last name.  It is a title.  It occurs some 25 times in Luke’s Gospel.   It is a Greek word that means “Messiah.”  It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew term, “Messiah,” and it means “the Anointed One.”  It is a title.  That is why we often read it in the Bible as “the” Christ.  Like in verse 67: “If you are the Christ, tell us.”

We read in verses 67 and 68 the Jewish leaders ask, “’If You are the Christ, tell us.’  But He said to them, ‘If I tell you, you will by no means believe.  And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go.’”  Jesus is not being evasive here.  He is simply saying, “You guys have already made up your minds not to believe.  I am not going to dignify your question with the answer you seek.”  Of course, He is the Christ.

Luke has made this clear from the very beginning of his Gospel.  

  • Jesus is born and the angel appears to the trembling shepherds and says, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). 
  • Simeon met Jesus in the temple when Jesus was just 8 days old because the Holy Spirit had told him, “He would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26).” 
  • When Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  Peter answered, “You are the Christ of God” (Luke 9:20).

Christ is the title for the One who is “of God”

And comes “from God” to be man’s Savior. 

There is another title Jesus takes that refers to His being of God and from God . . .

2) He Is The Son Of Man – Verse 69.

Son of Man is the way Jesus most often refers to Himself.  It is used over 80 times in the Gospels mostly by Jesus referring to Himself.  Rather than saying, “I,” Jesus often said, “the Son of Man.”  In fact, verse 69 is the last time in Luke’s Gospel where He will do this, “Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”  Jesus is referring to Himself as “the Son of Man.” 

This title comes from Daniel, chapter 7.  It is a great title referring to the Messiah, the One who is “of God” and “from God.”  700 years before Christ. Daniel prophesies about the Messiah.  He writes in Daniel 7:13-14, “I was watching in the night visions, behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days [the Heavenly Father], and they brought Him near before Him.  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”

This is Jesus!  He is the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy.  He is the Christ, the Son of Man, referred to in Daniel 7. 

The third title is . . .

3) He Is The Son of God – Verses 70-71.

Verse 70 says, “Then they all said, ‘Are You then the Son of God?’  So He said to them, ‘You rightly say that I am.’”  Here is the third title of Jesus that also means He is “of God” and “from God.”  Perhaps it is the most obvious: Son of God.  If there was any doubt that Jesus was more than mere man, more than a Jewish Messiah who was simply human, that incorrect notion is removed here.

They ask Jesus, “Are You then the Son of God?”  Jesus’ answer wisely deflects responsibility back upon His questioners.  He answers by saying, “You rightly say that I am.”  This is so wise.  Mark, in his Gospel, just has Jesus responding, “I am” (Mark 14:62), but Luke gives the added detail here that Jesus deflects responsibility back upon those questioning Him.  He says, “You rightly say that I am.”  In essence, Jesus is saying, “You are using the right title, a title you must believe to be true, a title you will one day give an account before your Creator as to what you did with Me.  You rightly say that I am the Son of God.  What are you going to do now with this knowledge?  Now I am on trial, but one day you will be on trial.  You are using the correct title.  Do you believe it?”  Classic.

Of course, Jesus is the Son of God. 

  • At His baptism the heavens opened and the Father said to Jesus, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22). 
  • At His transfiguration the voice of the Heavenly Father “came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, Hear Him!” (Luke 9:35).

He is the Son of God.  The Jewish leaders were blind to this truth.  But they understood clearly that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God which is why they respond as they do in verse 71, “And they said, ‘What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.’”  Jesus’ reply in the previous verse is understood as an affirmation of His being “of God” and “from God.”  The Jewish leaders had long desired to “catch Jesus” in something He might say (Luke 11:54; Luke 20:20, 26), so now they have got what they wanted.  They are ready now to condemn Him and to kill Him.  And they will kill Him, on the basis of His claiming to be “of God” and “from God.”

This is the doctrine of the Trinity: Jesus is God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three persons joined together in One Divine Being.  One in essence, three in Person.  Other religions wrongly claim Jesus is not God. 

  • The Mormons do not believe Jesus is God the way orthodox Christianity does.  They believe Jesus “became a god.”  They believe Jesus was a created being, the brother of the devil and of all people.  Not the same Jesus of the Bible. 
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses also wrongly believe Jesus was a created being – that He was Micael the archangel who became a man. 
  •  Muslims also wrongly believe Jesus was a created being, a prophet, but not God.

But in the Bible, Jesus Christ is “of God” and “from God.”  Referring to Jesus as “the Word,” the Bible says in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1).  The name “Immanuel” is the name an angel gives to Jesus when announcing His coming to Joseph (Matthew 1:23), which is a title for the Messiah in Isaiah 7:14.   This is why the Jewish leaders moved to condemn and kill Jesus as verse 71 indicates.  Jesus is the Christ; the Son of Man, and the Son of God. 

That is what we may learn about Jesus. 

II. What We May Learn From Jesus.

There are three things I want to draw from these truths that should have a great impact on our daily lives . . .

1) When Worried, Remember Jesus Is In Charge.

Because He is God, He knows all things.  Nothing happens that takes God by surprise.   We noted that earlier when we talked about whether or not Jesus was surprised by the way He was treated by these temple police.  He knew this was coming.  That is why He told His disciples this would happen.  Remember His “passion predictions?”  Three times He had said, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed, beaten, and delivered over to death, and He will rise on the third day” (see: Luke 9:22, Luke 17:25, and Luke 18:32-33).

He knew this was going to happen because He is God.  He knows the future and He has complete control over all things.  He could have stopped the arrest, the trial, and the crucifixion because He is God.  In John 10:18 He says, “No one takes it [My life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”  He could have stopped this whole thing, but He does not because He has come to die.  He has come to save us.  He is not surprised by the events.  He is not worried because He is in charge.

If He is not worried and He is in control of your life then you do not need to worry.   Remember Jesus is in charge.  He is God.  He knows all things and He always does what is right.  He is in control of your situation.

What worries you?  Your family?  Your bill?  Your health?  Will you face anything worse than what Jesus faced?  Mocked, beaten, blindfolded, struck, and blasphemed.  And all of this mysteriously in keeping with God’s perfect plan.   Whatever you are facing now, There is a freedom that comes when you can say, “God is on this.  He is not surprised so I will NOT freak out.  It is going to be okay, because God loves me, He has a plan for me, and He always does what is right.”

When worried, remember Jesus is in charge. 

Here’s something else we can learn from Jesus . . .

2) When Mistreated, Remember Jesus Is Your Example.

Some of you have been hurt by others, assaulted by others, and abused by others.  The Bible says in Hebrews 4:15 that, “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses.”  In Jesus we have someone who knows what it is like to be hurt, assaulted, and abused.  We have a God who knows what we are going through and can sympathize with our hurts.

How did Jesus respond to that mistreatment?  He just “took it,” didn’t He?  Because God is in control and always does what is right, even mistreatment at the hands of others is somehow in keeping with His perfect, sovereign, ways.  The Bible puts it this way in 1 Peter 2:21-23, “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

What are we to do you do when people mistreat us?  The Bible says look to Jesus for your example.  He did not return insult for insult but rather, “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”  In other words, Jesus took His mistreatment and turned it over to the sovereign care of the Heavenly Father.  We are to do the same.  When people mistreat you, remember that God is on His throne, and He will judge those who spoke ill of you, mistreated you, or ridiculed you.

When worried, remember Jesus is in charge.  When mistreated, remember Jesus is your example.  Thirdly . . .

3) When Weak, Remember Jesus Is Your Strength. 

Verse 69 is powerful.  After telling the Jewish leaders that He is not going to dignify their question about His being the Messiah with the answer they seek, Jesus makes this powerful statement in verse 69, “Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”  In other words, in just a short while – referring to His death, resurrection, and then ascension to the right hand of the Father – hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”

When weak, remember Jesus is your strength.  He is seated at the right hand of the power of God!  No matter what you face, Jesus is your strength.  He is at the right hand of the power of God, and He will grant you His strength and power to get through it all.

What joy to remember where we are headed when this life is over!  Jesus says, “Hereafter.”  Like Jesus, we may go through difficulties and dangers here, but hereafter we share in the glory of the One who sits at the right hand of the power of God.

Here, we endure hardships; hereafter we enter heaven.

Here, we receive ridicule; hereafter we receive reward.

Here, we suffer death; hereafter we enter into eternal life.

When weak, remember Jesus is your strength.

In this passage Jesus was put on trial.  He is still put on trial today.  People mock Jesus today in secular university, in the media, and in homes across your city.  Every time you complain about God’s way you are prosecuting God.  You are mocking Him and ridiculing Him.  But one day it will be we who are on trial.  You will be on trial.  I will be on trial.  Will you be ready to face Him?

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 22:62-64 – Jesus On Trial

Grace For The Journey

We are studying our way through the Gospel of Luke and our study today begins in verse 62, where Peter was weeping for having denied Jesus.  Jesus has been arrested in the cover of darkness and taken away by the Jewish leaders and Luke continues telling us about what happened to Jesus that evening.    

Our study today is called, “God on Trial.”  That is what is going on here in this passage.  Jesus Christ is on trial for claiming to be more than a man.  Some of you have been lied to and you have been told that Jesus never claimed to be more than a man.  You have been told Jesus never claimed to be God.  Well . . .

  • He was not crucified for being a good person. 
  • He was not crucified for doing good things. 
  • He was not crucified for teaching love, peace, and forgiveness. 

He was crucified for claiming to be God.  In this short passage Luke combines two meetings of the Jewish Sanhedrin Council (Mark 14:53-65; Mark 15:1) and gives us the essence of what happened in that trial.

In verses 63-64 we are told, “Now the men who held Jesus mocked Him and beat Him.  And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, ‘Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?’”  Note the verbs: they mocked Him, beat Him, blindfolded Him, and struck Him.  These are the “men who held Jesus.”  These are the leaders of the temple police, the guys who are like police officers for the Jewish Sanhedrin, that council of 70 elitist Jews of the Sadducees and Pharisees.  These temple police officers mocked, beat, blindfolded, and struck Jesus.

I think is important to take some time to learn what the Bible teaches about the deeply corrupted state of human nature.  There is much debate today on the question, “Are humans good or evil?”  A simple, straight-forward answer from the Bible to that question is found in Romans 3:10-12, “As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God, they have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no not one.” 

English writer G.K. Chesterton, known for his wit as well as his insight, once wrote, “The word ‘good’ has many meanings.  For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.”  His words strike at the heart of a question theologians, philosophers, artists, and many others have debated for millennia: Are people good or evil?  Is man’s nature on the side of the angels or the demons?  Are we beings of light or darkness?  Why do otherwise good people do evil things?”

People are split on the subject.  A few years ago, Debate.org, a website devoted to arguing such questions and polling the public on them, asked, “Is human nature good or evil?”  Their results, which are not scientific, show 49% of respondents answering that it is good and 51% saying that it is evil.

Some Christian churches teach a doctrine of total depravity.  Theopedia defines this doctrine in this way: “. . . as a consequence of the Fall of man, every person born into the world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.”  This belief does not mean that mankind is utterly evil, that is, that people are totally incapable of good.  It means that, while not all of human nature is depraved, all human nature is totally affected by depravity.  Even the goodness that we do, then, is tainted by our sinful nature.  This agrees with God’s description of the tree from which Adam and Eve partook in Genesis 3: It was a tree that allowed them to know good and evil (Genesis 2:17; 3:22).  Human goodness is insufficient to satisfy the righteous requirements of God.

It is somewhat surprising that more people, especially Christians, do not know the basic nature of mankind.  It should be evident from the lives of men and women throughout history.  For Christians, who should know their Bibles, a cursory survey of Scripture brings out many plain statements that show what God thinks of human nature.  No philosophizing or critical thinking, even by the greatest of human minds, will change God’s view into something else.

God Sets The Record Straight

In Genesis 6:5, God Describes The State Of Mankind In Stark Terms.

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  His response was to send the Flood to wipe mankind almost completely from the planet.  He would start again with Noah’s family, his sons, and their wives.

Immediately after the waters receded and the ark was emptied, Noah makes a sacrifice to God for their deliverance.  The Bible tells us in Genesis 8:21, “And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.’”  Did the Flood change anything?  Millions of people died, billions of animals died, uncounted trees and other plants died.  But the human heart did not change; it remains “evil from his youth.”

The Human Heart Did Not Change After God Gave His People The Covenant And His Commandments.

While they were still in the wilderness, God commanded them to wear tassels with a blue thread on their garments.  The tassels were to hang down below any other garment so they would always be in sight.  Why did God require this?  He explains in Numbers 15:39, And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined.”  “Harlotry” here is a metaphor for idolatry.  Their hearts and their eyes were inclined to worship something other than God, just as every other human being is inclined to do.

The Psalms Contain Direct And Unambiguous Statements On What Man’s Nature Is Really Like.  Let’s just look at three . . .

The Bible says in Psalms 14:1-3, (which Paul quotes in Romans 3:10-12), “The fool has said in his heart, ‘(There is) no God.’  They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good.  The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.  They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.”

We are all corrupt.  No one – “not one” – is good.  The only thing that saves us is the blood of Christ.  The Bible concludes in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  This is just another way of saying that man’s nature is “only evil continually.”

In Psalms 51:5, which appears in David’s prayer of repentance,, is an interesting one.  This verse says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”   Those who believe in original sin believe that David is saying that he was born a sinful person. However, that is a misinterpretation.  The truth is a bit simpler.  He means that he was born into a sinful world, and even his mother, whom he probably loved more than anyone else other than God, was a sinner.  Put another way, David is saying his mother was a sinner when he was conceived, and when he was born, he was born a sinner too.  Sin and sinful people had surrounded him his whole life.  A baby is born a fairly blank slate, certainly having done no sin, but the influence of one’s sinful nature, other sinners, along with his fleshly nature invariably get the better of him, and before long, he sins.  In his way, David is telling God, “Because I was born with a sinful nature, and with all the sin around me, it is not surprising that I sinned too.”

In the next verse, Psalm 51:6, he declares that God “desires truth in the inward parts.” In other words, God wants people to change their natures, which only He can do, as the last half of the verse explains, And in the hidden parts You will make me to know wisdom.” David is essentially repeating what God said in Genesis 8:21, “, “. . . man’s heart is evil from his youth.”  But he wanted his nature changed from evil to good, from dirty to clean, from lies to truth.  Only repentance and a renewed relationship with God would enable that to occur.  And, truth be told, it will never be completely changed until the resurrection from the dead.

More Old Testament Assertions

Other Old Testament Wisdom And Prophecy Books Concur With The Earlier Statements About Human Nature.  

In fact, the entire Bible speaks with a single voice on the matter.  It is impossible to brush aside the reality of sin and the tendency of all people toward sinfulness, selfishness and self-interest . . .

Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”  What Solomon is saying here may at first not seem to be relevant.  Solomon is telling us that even the deeds we think are right are sinful, for if they were not sinful, they would not end in death.  Death is the result of sin (Romans 6:23).  Even the “good” things that we do without God are ultimately sinful because they arise from a corrupted nature.

In Ecclesiastes 7:20, Solomon makes another statement to back this up, “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.”  Notice that he is speaking of “a just man,” not an evil man or a corrupt man.  The best citizens among us, those we raise to judgeships and listen to in church, have their own sins, and even in their doing of good, they cannot keep out the taint of sin.

The Preacher doubles down in Ecclesiastes 9:3, “This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.”  People’s entire lives are full of sin, evil, madness – and then they die.  Not even good and just men, as others think of them, are truly good and just.  Like all the other “sons of men,” their hearts are full of sin.

Israel 1:4-6 describes Israel at its most corrupt, but it is typical of all mankind – “Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters!  They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward.  Why should you be stricken again?  You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints.  From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores . . .”  God describes Israel as totally cancerous with sin – and Israel was His chosen people!  If the Israelites, to whom God had revealed Himself (Amos 3:2), were this corrupt, how sinful is the rest of the world without God’s revelation?

Of course, we cannot exclude Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Our hearts are unfathomably corrupt and deceptive. Trying to feel good about ourselves, we lie to ourselves about how selfish and self-serving we are.  So, God asks, “Who can know it?”  We do not recognize the depths of our own sinfulness.

Proof From The New Testament

In Matthew 7:11, Jesus does not mince words, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”  He calls the people in His audience – His own disciples (Matthew 5:1) – “evil.”  It cannot be any plainer – right from the mouth of our Savior!

Mark 7:22-23 appears in a passage that many think Jesus spoke only to dispose of the law against eating unclean meats, another misinterpretation.  He was making a far larger point concerning the nature of humanity – “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

So, in the Judgment, we cannot say, “The Devil made me do it” or “The world was so corrupt, I did not have a chance.”  Despite outside influences, each of us makes the choice to sin or not.  Our choices reveal what is in our hearts, and too often we choose these wicked activities and others beside.  We cannot foist the blame onto others because our sins come from within.

The Bible explains the state of individuals before conversion in Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”

We were always influenced by Satan, the prince of the power of the air.  We all walked according to the sinful course of the world.  We all fulfilled our lusts.  All of us were children of wrath, that is, we were under judgment because of sin. Our nature is corrupt to the core.

Finally, the Bible says in 1 Peter 4:3, “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles – when we walked in licentiousness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.”  He could have named a hundred more sins, but the point remains . . .

We were all like the unconverted people in the world.  

We were all cut off from God and living in sin, just like

All the rest of humanity from the time of Adam and Eve.  

There have been no exceptions apart from Jesus Christ.

What Can Be Done?

It is overwhelmingly clear that human nature, fashioned by the influence of Satan, this world, and our innate selfishness, is not good but evil.  God lets us know many times and from many different angles that this is the reality of mankind.  We are sinful creatures. 

What can we do about this state of human nature?  

How should we conduct ourselves, knowing that we

Though God has called us, still have this nature within us?

The Bible gives us the answer in Titus 3:1-7, “Remind [the brethren] to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.  For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.  But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

By the grace of God, we have been given a rare and wonderful opportunity to rise above the rest of humanity.  Through our relationship with Jesus Christ we are now heirs of God, possessors of the hope of eternal life and of the knowledge of God’s purpose.  We are, as Jesus said, to be lights shining in the darkness of this evil age.  The Bible says, it is our responsibility as God’s children in this world to fight the evil human nature within us through God’s power and instead to surrender to God so that we display His nature in all of our actions – toward the world and toward one another – as we prepare for our ultimate work in His Kingdom.

When weak, remember Jesus is your strength.  He is seated at the right hand of the power of God!  No matter what you face, Jesus is your strength.  He is at the right hand of the power of God and He will grant you His strength and power to get through it all.

What joy to remember where we are headed when this life is over!  He says, “Hereafter,” yes, “Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”  Like Jesus, we may go through difficulties and dangers here, but hereafter we share in the glory of the One who sits at the right hand of the power of God.

Here, we endure hardships; hereafter we enter heaven.

Here, we receive ridicule; hereafter we receive reward.

Here, we suffer death; hereafter we enter into eternal life.

When weak, remember Jesus is your strength.

We will conclude our study of the rest of the verses next time.  In this passage Jesus was put on trial.  He is still put on trial today.  People mock Jesus today in secular universities, in the media, and in homes across the world.  Every time you complain about God’s way you are prosecuting God.  You are mocking Him and ridiculing Him.  But one day it will be we who are on trial.  You will be on trial.  I will be on trial.  Will you be ready to face Him?

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 22:54-62 – Courage, Cowardice, and Compassion

Grace For The Journey

Today we will be continuing our study in the Gospel of Luke. We are in chapter 22 beginning with verse 54.  Before we look at the verses we have for today, I want to share with you the stories of two men.  Both men lived around the turn of the twentieth century.  Both were Englishmen.  Both led lives closely tied to the sea.  However, both men were very different.  One man was known as a man of courage and the other will forever be remembered as a coward. 

The story of a man of courage goes likes this: In 1914 Sir Earnest Shackleton made plans to be the first person to conquer one of the last great frontiers.  He determined to be the first person to cross the continent of Antarctica.!  He chose 56 men to accompany him on this adventure – 28 in each of two ships that would approach the continent from opposite sides.  Shackleton and his 27 shipmates (and one stow away) would approach from one side while the other ship would approach from the other side and lay supply depots across the second half of the continent. 

Before the expedition could officially begin Shackleton’s ship The Endurance became trapped in the ice and after 8 long months of being stuck in the ice the ship began to break apart from the pressure and Shackleton gave the order to abandon the ship onto the ice.  After 6 months on the ice Shackleton ordered the men into the small boats that had been salvaged before Endurance sank. They took to the sea and 5 days later landed on an inhospitable rock known as Elephant Island. This was the first time they had stood on solid ground in 497 days!  Later that same month (now April 1916) Shackleton and 4 of his men took to one of the small boats and braved the open and icy ocean to reach South Georgia Island (the closest inhabited land) 800 miles away.  Sixteen days later, after enduring a storm that sank a 500-ton steamer also bound for South Georgia Island, Shackleton and his men landed on the south shore of the Island and after climbing the icy mountain range to the North shore Shackleton reached help for his men.  Shackleton made numerous attempts to reach his men on Elephant Island in the following months and was stopped by Ice until he finally reached his men on the fourth attempt 4 months after leaving them behind. 

One of the aspects of the story of Earnest Shackleton was his dependence on God throughout the entire ordeal.  He made a point of taking his Bible with him when he abandoned ship.  He led his men in the reading of that Bible daily while they were camped on the ice.  He even tore out a few Psalms to keep close to him and read to others when they were forced to abandon all but food and provisions when they boarded the small boats to reach Elephant Island.

Why do I tell you this story?  Because it is a story of courage.  During 3 years of dangerous and hopeless situations, Shackleton never lost courage which allowed him to keep all of his men alive in freezing weather and in the face of sure starvation.

The second story is one of cowardice, the story of J. Bruce Ismay.  Ismay, like Shackleton, was British and lived a life connected to the sea but he was not a sailor or an explorer.  Ismay was a business man – a man of great self-importance.  Upon inheriting his father’s position as the chairman of the White Star Ship Line he commissioned the building of the largest, most luxurious, and most efficient ships ever built.  The second of these ships to hit the open ocean was to become the most famous ship ever, RMS Titanic. 

Ismay often accompanied his new ships on their maiden voyage and Titanic’s first voyage in 1912 was no exception.  As the story goes, Ismay walked the decks of Titanic making it known that he was in charge of the ship and that even the captain answered to him.  It is even rumored that the ship continued its dangerous speed through a known ice field at his command.  One would think a man of such commanding confidence and presence would have been graceful under the pressure of the disaster he had played a part in.  But as it happens Ismay, found himself not standing with the captain as his ship went down but in one of the life boats with his back turned to the ship so he would not have to see his ship go down along with the 1500 people (women and children included) that did not have the good fortune of being in one of the few lifeboats on the ship.

Today we are going to be looking at a passage that tells the story of a man that could be placed in the camps of both Shackleton and Ismay.  We are looking at a man that displayed great courage one moment and great cowardice the next.  Yet, we are also looking at a man that learned a valuable lesson that stayed with him throughout the rest of his life.  A lesson on courage, cowardice, and compassion.

Before we jump into the text let’s remember where we were last week.  Last week we watched as Jesus was betrayed and arrested. We watched as everyone around Jesus betrayed Him through sin and we saw how our sin makes us guilty of the same betrayal. But remember the setting.  It was night.  A band of soldiers had come to arrest Jesus and Peter (even though we know it was misguided) made a courageous effort to protect Jesus from being arrested.  Remember how he drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of those there to assist with Jesus’ arrest?

Even though it was not what Jesus had in mind and He had to fix the mess Peter made, Peter showed what I would say was pretty impressive courage as he wielded one of the two swords the disciples had in the face of a full detachment of the temple guard.

That brings us to the beginning of our passage today and to our first point . . .

I. Believers Can Be Courageous.

Verses 54-55 tells us, “Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house.  But Peter followed at a distance. Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them.”  It says “having arrested Him” – that is Jesus.  They brought Jesus into the house of the high priest.  This mob of people that were not fans of Jesus arrest Him and then lead Him to the place where those who are most threatened by Him and those who want to get rid of Him live. They take him into the proverbial “lion’s den.”

Look what it says about Peter.  It says, “Peter followed at a distance.”  Some of us might be tempted to throw a stone or two at Peter even at this point and say something like, “why was he following at a distance?” “Why wasn’t he right beside Jesus, after all he said he was willing to die with Him?”  But I do not think I would throw that stone.  Why?  Because my question is “Where are the rest of the disciples? Where are the rest of the people who just a couple of days earlier had been cheering Christ on as he entered Jerusalem?”  When Jesus was arrested they had run for the hills.  Maybe some of them were already back in the upper room where Jesus would find them hiding after His resurrection.

I think it was pretty courageous of Peter to be one of only two disciples that stayed even within sight of Jesus.  I think it took even greater courage when he saw that they were taking Jesus into the house of the high priest that he went in and actually sat down among those who had just arrested Jesus.  Think about it, he was a follower of the one who was arrested sitting in the middle of those who had done the arresting. I think that showed some real backbone.

Why do you think he was able to have such courage?  I think he had some good godly reasons and I think he had some very human reasons . . .

  • He Was Drawn By His Own Curious, Need To Know Nature.

We know Peter was never one to be quiet or to do well with being in the dark on a subject.  This would be one of the reasons that he stumbled in his thinking and actions many times.

  • He Had Been Emboldened By Jesus Himself.

Jesus was in command of the situation when He was arrested.  He rebuked everyone for their betrayal (including Peter).  He had said that this arrest must be permitted, and according to John’s Gospel even those who were there to do the arresting fell down before Jesus at one point. 

  • He Had Witnessed Jesus Perform Yet Another Miracle.  

He had healed the servant of the high priest whose ear Peter had cut off.  Peter was no doubt strengthened in his courage because of the strength of the one he followed.

I think we too can have courage for these reasons as well.  We can have courage in the face of difficulty, ridicule, sickness, uncertainty, and fear if we remember the power and control of the One we serve. If we will remember that nothing will happen to us that is outside the power, knowledge and plan of God we will have the courage to face any hardship and the courage to follow Him even when it may be a little scary or difficult to do so.  If we stay close to Him we can be counted in the camp of the courageous.  However, we are human, we are fallen, and we are sinners as Peter was. Which means we can easily go from the camp of the courageous into the camp of the cowards.

We can see from the Scripture that not only can believers be courageous but . . .

II. Believers Can Be Cowards.

This is a very important thing for us to remember and I think the Bible bears that out.  I believe that is why all four of the Gospels relate to us the account of Peter’s denials.  The reason we need to be aware of our own cowardice as believers is because until we face our weaknesses, fears, and sins we cannot come to Christ for His grace, forgiveness, strength, compassion, and grace.

In verses 56-60 we see Peter’s cowardice and see what message it might have for us, “And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, ‘This man was also with Him.  But he denied Him, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know Him.’  Why do you think Peter suddenly went from courageous to cowardly?  Why do you think he suddenly denied Jesus when this servant girl confronted him?  Do you think maybe because it was the easy thing to do?  Don’t we often fall into sin and even denial of Christ because it is the easy way out?  Think about it.  Here is this lowly servant girl asking him about himself, what is it going to hurt to just tell her a little lie just to get her off his back.  I mean after all she is really just a nobody.  He will probably never see her again after this night.  What is the harm?

The harm is that it is not what

He was called to do as

A follower of Christ.

He was expected to follow Christ’s example.  He was expected to do his best to bring glory to the Lord.  Telling a lie about himself is not the way to do that.  What is worse, denying in his lie that he even knows Christ is not the way to do that. 

I know that none of us are likely to go that far, or at least I hope we would not, but in a sense, we deny Christ every time we do something in front of others that would make them wonder if we indeed follow Christ as we say we do. 

  • Every time we lose our temper.
  • Every time we are unkind.
  • Every time we speak in a way to tear someone else down.  

We deny Christ because it is the easy thing to do.  It is much more difficult and takes much more courage to keep our cool when we want to fly off the handle in anger.  It is much more difficult and takes much more courage to be kind when we are tempted to treat someone the way we may feel they deserve.  Or maybe we go along with the ways of the world because it is easier than standing up for our beliefs.  Oftentimes we lament how much more worldly things are today than they were a few years ago.  TV is increasingly more vulgar and violent.  School and athletic organizations are increasingly callous toward those who would prefer to be at church on Sunday’s and Wednesdays.  But do we do anything other than complain?  No, we simply take the easy way out and do as everyone else and continue watching TV and allowing our schedules to be planned away from church without ever speaking up.  t takes courage to do things that are not easy. 

Peter also denied Christ and was a coward because he was afraid.  Verse 58 tells us, “And after a little while another saw him and said, ‘You also are of them.’  But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’  Peter’s simple denial had not worked.  The easy way out had not removed the suspicion that surrounded him.  The rumor was spreading that one of Jesus’ followers was among them and another individual persists in accusing Peter.  At this point Peter is starting to fear for his own safety, so having already denied knowing Christ he now denies even who he is.  He says he is not one of Christ’s followers so he will not have to answer any questions or put himself on the line. 

Do we ever deny Christ out of fear?  Maybe not with words the way Peter did but perhaps without actions.  Have you ever been in the presence of someone whom you knew was not a Christian and fearfully chose not to share Christ with them?  Maybe you were afraid they would be angry with you.  Maybe you were afraid they would reject you.  Maybe you were afraid that they might ask a question you could not answer.  Maybe you were afraid you would just make things worse and drive them further from Christ.  Whatever the fear, it drove you to deny who you are by keeping silent about the one you serve.  Taking the easy way out is the way of the coward, fear can rob us of our courage and so can frustration.

Look at verses 59-60, “Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, ‘Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are saying!’  Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.”  This time someone confidently pointed to him as one who followed Jesus.  They even gave supporting evidence to give validity to their accusation.  John, in his Gospel, even says it is a family member of the one whose ear Peter cut off.  Look how Peter responds, “I do not know what you are saying!” with the implication that the man does not know what he is talking about either.  In Matthew the Bible even tells us that Peter began to curse and swear with an oath that he was not a follower of Jesus.  As the night wore on Peter’s nerves were tested.  He became increasingly anxious and now in his great frustration because he has not been able to get them to leave him alone, he explodes.

Does frustration ever cause us to explode and become cowards?  Absolutely.  When we are frustrated. we become cowardly dads and husbands that yell at or belittle our families rather than leading them in the way God has called us to do.  Rather than teaching our children to obey and patiently guiding them we ignore them until we cannot ignore any longer and then like a coward explode on those we should be loving.  When you become frustrated moms and wives you may be tempted to go silent and be inwardly angry instead of courageously encouraging you husband to lead or teaching your children by example to honor God.

Frustration is a cowardly denial

Of the power of Christ in our lives.

It will rob us of our courage every time.  It quickly causes us to feel as if we have not only hurt those around us but it will also quickly cause us to see that we have ceased to rely on God for strength and courage.  This is where Peter finds himself.  As soon as he has exhausted himself in his cursing and frustration and denied Jesus for the third time he hears the rooster crow.  At this he remembers what Jesus had said to him less than 24 hours earlier, “You will deny Me three times before the rooster crows.”

We might ask why he didn’t remember this during the night when he was denying he even knew Jesus.  The answer could be any number of things: fear, excitement, adrenaline, fatigue.  But it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that he went from courageous to cowardly and recognized it.  The good news is, that this is not where we end with Peter.  He does not stay forever in the camp of the cowardly.  Why?  

Because . . .

III. Believers Receive Compassion.

We receive the compassion and grace of Christ and His forgiveness!  Verse 61 says, “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.  Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’” It says Jesus turned and looked at Peter.  Folks, this was not a look of I told you so. This was not a look of anger. This was not a look of disappointment. It was a look that said “Peter, I knew you would deny Me and still I love you and I forgive you.” It was only this kind of look that could have caused Peter to react the way he did.  We see that in verse 62, “So Peter went out and wept bitterly.”

Peter did not feel he had been reprimanded, he did not feel he had been rejected, he did not feel he had been accused.  He felt like he had received a look of love and compassion when he did not deserve it.  He experienced the grace of God.  He was given love and forgiveness that he had not earned.  And it caused him to weep bitterly.

It caused him to draw closer to the God and Savior he loved and served.  It caused him to enter back into the camp of the courageous where he ran to the tomb of Jesus, where he listened to his risen Savior, where he spoke boldly of Jesus when he was threatened not to do so, where he even died a martyr’s death, as he from that day forward courageously served the Lord.

That is the kind of change we should long for . . .

That is the kind of encounter we should long for . . .

The compassion and grace from the Lord that brings confession and courage in our hearts and lives. A courage that causes us to say Jesus and the grace He gives is worth any difficult or dangerous thing that comes our way.

The compassion of Christ is something that we should value in such a way that we would have the courage of Krishna Pal.  Pal was one of the first four Hindu Bengalis that William Carey led to the Lord after 7 years of mission work in Burma.  Krishna Pal, his wife, his sister-in-law, and a friend were to be baptized but were threatened numerous times by other villagers.  After the threats, only Pal was willing to follow through with his baptism because he believed their threats, bribes, and false gods were “a trifling in comparison to the riches of Christ and his grace.” 

That is the courage we should strive for.  But we should take heart in Peter.  Knowing that if we have failed or should we fail in our courage for Christ in the future He will look upon us with His compassion and grace.  And that will cause us to regain our courage in Him and follow faithfully in His strength.

So this today, if you find yourself in need of His compassion.  If you find yourself in the cowardly camp of denial, fear, or frustration reach out to Jesus.  Receive his compassion, weep bitterly at your failure, and stand tall and courageous in His grace and forgiveness.

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 22:39-46 – Praying During Life’s Encounters

Grace For The Journey

The passage this morning begins with, “Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives” (Luke 22:39).  Luke is telling us that after spending a considerable amount of time indoors, inside the upper room where Jesus and the disciples ate the “Last Supper” together and where Jesus did some important teaching, that they are now going outdoors and outside to a favorite gathering place, the Garden of Gethsemane in the Mount of Olives.

It was about a 15-minute walk from the house with the upper room in Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives in Gethsemane.  That word “Gethsemane,” means “olive press.”  There were and still are a number of olive trees scattered around Gethsemane and there are actually trees there today that date to the time of Jesus.  Trees that are 2,000 years old!  You could visit Jerusalem today and lean against an olive tree there that, perhaps, Jesus Himself leaned against 2,000 years ago.  The Bible teaches that Jesus and the disciples gathered there frequently and spent the evenings outside there under the sky, maybe because of the overcrowding in Jerusalem that week as it was Passover Week.

That is a little background before we study this passage.  It is important to remember the context of Jesus’ recent teaching.  Jesus tells Simon that Satan plans to shake up the disciples, to “sift them as wheat” (Luke 22:31).  Jesus tells Simon in particular that He has prayed for him that his faith would not fail.  This is what every Christian should do, to pray that our faith would not fail.  Jesus had taught earlier back in chapter 11 that we should pray regularly, “Lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:4).

Now what we read in our passage this morning is a failure on the part of the disciples to pray.  And – do not miss this – their lack of prayer helps us understand why they stumbled in the coming hours, why Peter denied the Lord three times and why the remaining disciples would all run away when the going got tough. 

It is pretty clear this passage is about praying.  The word “pray” occurs in some form nearly half a dozen times in this short passage.  The passage begins with Jesus telling the disciples to pray and ends with Jesus telling the disciples to pray; then in the middle you have Jesus Himself praying.  When someone starts talking about prayer, preaching about it or teaching about it, we often find ourselves a little uneasy.  It is easier to talk about prayer than to actually pray, so it is helpful to remember that . . .

Prayer is not so much a discipline

To be worked into a routine,

But rather a means by

Which we talk to God,

To commune with God.

The Bible is God talking to us, prayer is our talking to God.  The Bible is God talking to you and your prayer is your talking to God.  It is not really important how “perfect” those words come out of our mouths.  Someone has said, “God can pick sense out of a confused prayer.” 

Of course, it is wise to begin each day talking to God in prayer.  John Bunyan wrote, “He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.”  I read where early African converts to Christianity were especially disciplined to have a regular time of prayer.  Each one would find a private place in the thicket where he would pour out his heart in prayer.  So frequently would these men and women find their place of private devotion each day that the grass would be worn away from the path they took to their daily spot of prayer.  You can imagine that when one of these brothers became negligent in his daily prayer that it would be readily apparent to the others as the path lost that well-worn look.  When this happened, one of the other Christians would find him and kindly say, “Brother, the grass grows on your path,” and this was a way of saying, “You have neglected to do the most important thing each day, to pray.”

But prayer is not only what we do

At the beginning of a day

Or at night before bedtime,

But prayer is something we do

Frequently throughout the day.

Remember that prayer is our talking to God, so there are many times we should talk to Him when facing different challenges and difficulties.  From this passage we will see three different times we should pray to God.  First:

1) Pray When You Are Tempted: Verses 39-40,46.

Verses 39 and 40 tell us, “Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him.  When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  There it is, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  That is the same phrase Jesus uses again at the end of this passage.  In verse 46 is says, “Then He said to them, ‘Why do you sleep?  Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.’”

Pray when you are tempted.  What was the temptation the disciples faced?   The immediate temptation was the temptation to sleep rather than stay awake and be an encouragement and help to Jesus.  But the temptation also included challenges and difficulties they would face in the coming hours.  Jesus would soon be arrested and led away to the cross and they would be tempted to deny Him and to flee from Him.  The temptation to abandon Jesus in times of difficulty is one reason Jesus teaches in Luke 11:4, “…And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”  We may also be tempted to abandon Jesus when we were are tempted to sin in some matter of personal holiness, tempted to speak hatefully to someone, tempted to sexual impurity, lust, tempted to do something we shouldn’t, tempted to take something that isn’t ours, tempted to complain, to be bitter, to not forgive.  Jesus says, “Pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

J. C. Ryle said, “To be assaulted by temptation is one thing, but to enter into it quite another.”  Throughout the day we should pray regularly when we are tempted.  Let me give you an example.  Most of you know 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith …”  That is God talking to you.  Now when you are tempted, you talk to God.  You say, “God, I am tempted to do something I know is wrong.  Your Word says, ‘Be sober, be vigilant; because my adversary the devil is going about like a roaring lion trying to devour me.’  God, help me to resist him and to stand fast in the faith.’”

Can you do that?  That is pretty easy, really.  Praying when tempted is not difficult.  The problem is that we do not do it.  And if we do not do it, we will find ourselves in sin.  Jesus says, “Pray, lest you enter into temptation.”  Try that out this week.  Whatever temptation you find yourself facing, do this: Stop . . . Bow your head . . . And talk to God.  Watch how just the doing of that helps you re-focus on truth and to avoid the lies of the adversary, the devil.  Pray when you are tempted.

2) Pray When You Are Troubled: Verses 41-44.

This is prayer during times of agony and stress; intense moments where you feel like you and your world are coming apart.  How many of you have been there?  Some tragedy you are facing, or a crisis, or a sudden turn of events, or you are very concerned about someone else, a friend, a family member, or you are troubled in your spirit.  It happened to Jesus – Verse 41 tells us, “And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed.”

Before we move on, note the posture of Jesus in prayer.  Prayer can take any form and the usual form of prayer in Jesus’ day was to pray standing up, but here Jesus kneels.   Matthew, in his Gospel, tells us Jesus eventually got down and prostrated Himself (Matthew 26:39.  This how most of us find ourselves when we are troubled in spirit?  You can pray in any number of postures.  You can pray standing, or sitting, or lying down.  You can pray with your eyes open or shut, head bowed or remaining upright.    When it comes to prayer . . .

It is not so much

The position of the body

As it is

The attitude of the heart.

There are times, when you are troubled, that you find yourself kneeling down and eventually prostrate on the ground pouring out your heart to God.

I remember hearing Adrian Rogers preach a sermon once where he was talking about a time he was making sure he was truly saved.  He was either a senior in high school or beginning college and he was by himself one evening on a baseball field.  And he said he got down on the ground to pray and he did not feel that was down low enough so he lay down on the ground with his face to the ground and that did not seem low enough.  So he said he dug a little hole in the dirt there for his face and placed his face down into that hole and he prayed.  I have felt that way, at times, haven’t you?  It is easy to prayer when we are troubled.  But how should we pray is the important thing. 

Listen to the content of Jesus’ prayer in verse 42, “Saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’”  Jesus says, “If it is Your will, take this cup away from Me.”  That “cup” to which Jesus is referring is not a literal cup, but a metaphorical way of speaking of someone’s portion, of something given to him.  For example, how many of you know Psalm 23?  Remember the part where David says, “My [what?] runneth over?”  My cup.  The psalmist is like, “God, You have given me this and that and my cup is more than I can drink in!”  Similarly, the cup to which Jesus is referring is a cup that He must drink, a portion given to Him, but unlike the cup in Psalm 23, which was a cup filled with God’s blessing, this cup is a cup filled with God’s wrath.  It is a cup that Jesus must drink in order to die for our sins.

In John’s Gospel when Peter takes out his sword in the Garden and slices off the ear of the High Priest’s servant, Jesus says to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:11).  The imagery is seen throughout the Old Testament, just a couple of references here:

  • Psalm 75:8, where the Bible says, “For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is fully mixed, and He pours it out; surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down.”
  • Isaiah 51:17, where the Bible says, “Awake, awake!  Stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury; you have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling, and drained it out.”

This cup is a cup of God’s wrath poured out because of sin.  Jesus, in drinking that cup, is taking upon Himself the punishment we all deserve for our sin.  He takes that upon Himself.  If you can imagine that cup sitting before God from all eternity and imagine that every time a person sins, the wrath of God for that sin goes into the cup.  Every single time you sin, you deposit into that cup something that needs to be punished.   Every single time.  Imagine just from those who are members of your church if you passed around a cup and each one present envisioned every single sin they had ever committed or would commit in the future, every single sin going into that cup.  That cup has is filled from the very first sin by Adam and Eve until the Lord comes.  Adam and Eve’ sin was the first ones to go into the cup.  And every sin throughout history goes into the cup.  Each one of those sins requires judgment, requires punishment.

The Bible in these verses that Jesus will willingly drink that cup of God’s wrath to take upon Himself the punishment we all deserved.  Someone said it is like . . .

A dam of water breaking,

And the water begins to rush

Out violently forward to destroy

Everything in its path and

Jesus stands in front

Of all the water like a wall

To absorb, to “drink in,” all of the fury

So that we are protected and saved.

As the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that we might In Him become the righteousness of God.”  The Bible also says in 1 Peter 2:24, “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.“  And in 1 John 2:2, the Bible says, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

The part of the prayer of Jesus where He says in verse 42, “Father if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me,” is Jesus’s way of saying, “If there is any other way, please allow another way.”  Why does He ask for this?  Well again, imagine taking upon yourself the wrath of God poured out for every sin committed by every person throughout history!  So here is Jesus, the God-Man, two natures in one person, two natures that cannot be divided but can be distinguished.  In His human nature, Jesus seeks some other way.  But in His divine nature He says, “Your will be done.”

By the way, praying, “Not my will but Your will be done” is an excellent way to pray, isn’t it?  It is a great prayer of faith.  It is not a cop-out.  It is asking for what you desire, but then saying, “God, I trust You as the One who always does what is right.  So while I am asking for this or that, I am trusting You to know me better than myself.  Let Your will be done.”

Jesus says, “If there’s some other way …”  But there is no other way.  Jesus must drink the cup of God’s wrath if we are to be forgiven of our sin.  He must become our substitute.  This is the only way God can at once be both just and the One who justifies (Romans 3:26).

love Jesus shows for us by dying is a death for us, a substitutionary death.  It is more like we are both in the water and you are drowning and I take off my life preserver and throw it to you and I die and you live.  That is the kind of love Jesus shows for us by drinking the cup of God’s wrath, taking our sins upon Himself, dying for us that we may live and go free.

Jesus is agonizing in the garden and what happens next?  Verse 43 tells us, “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.”  Note that the angel does not remove the suffering!  Modern notions of angels coming and fixing our hurts and sending us happily on our way are not helpful.  Sometimes it is God’s will for us to suffer.  Sometimes our prayers are not answered the way we would like.

A little boy’s father was a pastor.  The little boy noted every Sunday that as his dad stood in the pulpit, just before preaching his dad would bow his head for a moment.  The little boy asked him, “Why do you do that?”  His dad said, “I am praying the Lord will help me preach well.”  The boy said, “Well, why doesn’t He answer your prayers?!”  Sometimes God does not answer our prayers the way we would like.  Sometimes it is God’s will for us to suffer.  But God will also see that we are strengthened during the time of trouble: “An angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.”

Verse 44 says, “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”  Imagine bearing the burden of the entire world’s imputed sin, all of the sin of every person throughout the ages imputed – or placed upon – Jesus.  The strain of this is so great, the idea of bearing this burden so weighty, that Jesus is literally “agonizing” over us, praying more earnestly, so much so, “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.”  Some see the word “like” here as Luke’s way of saying that Jesus did not literally sweat blood, but more that He sweat in such a way that His sweat dropped like blood drops from a body.  On the other hand, there are accounts both modern and ancient, of people sweating blood when undergoing extreme anguish or pain.  Blood vessels burst causing a person to both sweat and bleed at the same time.  The point is that Jesus is agonizing over the matter of dying for our sins.  It was a time of intense trauma and difficulty.

Jesus prayed when facing trouble.  How much more should you and I pray when troubled?  God says in Psalm 50:15, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” 

That’s what Joseph Scriven wrote in 1855:

Have we trials and temptations?  Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Pray when you’re tempted.  Pray when you’re troubled.  Thirdly:

3) Pray When You Are Tired: Verse 45).

There are times when you are so emotionally drained, so thoroughly exhausted because of grief and sorrow that you just feel like you can sleep forever.  Someone you love has passed away, or something has happened, and you are down and depressed, and just plain tired.  How many of you have been there?  It is natural.  It happened to the disciples.  Verse 45 tells us, “When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow.”  The other Gospel writers tell us that Jesus finds them this way three times.  Three times He comes and finds them sleeping.  Luke, in his compassion, provides this detail that Jesus found them “sleeping from sorrow.”  Why were they sleeping from sorrow?  Evidently the words Jesus had been sharing with them about His future suffering and death are beginning to sink in.  It is remarkable, really.  Not too long before they were ready to take up swords and battle the enemy.  Peter had said, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33).  Here they are now asleep.

There’s so much grace here in our Lord.  He does not go over and kick them and berate them for sleeping.  “Hey! I thought you guys were ready to go to battle for Me, what’s the deal?!”  Rather, He lovingly says, “Why are you sleeping?  Rise and pray so you don’t enter into temptation.”  Such love, such compassion, and such grace!

The best thing you can do when you are in sorrow and pain is to pray.  Talk to God.  When you are hurting this week, talk to God in prayer.  Say to Him something like,  “Lord, You have said in 1 Peter 5:7 that we are to cast all our care and anxiety upon You because You care for us.  So right now I am coming to You and I am saying that I do not understand why this happened and I hurt and I am in sorrow, but I am trusting in You.  Comfort me with the assurance of Your power and presence.”

Pray when you’re tempted.  Pray when you’re troubled.  Pray when you’re tired.

Prayer is what makes the difference in the Christian’s life.  Prayer is what brings peace.  The Bible says in Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  God will take care of you, Christian.  God will never be arrested for child neglect.  He will take care of you.

So, pray when you are tempted . . . Pray when you are troubled . . . Pray when you are tired.  And experience the peace of God.

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.”