Jack Graham - Killing Jesus
If you'll take your Bibles and open the Word of God to Luke chapter 23, we're going to bring a message called "Killing Jesus". It's all in this week that changed the world. Jesus entered the city on Palm Sunday. He came in as a King; He went out of the city on a cross as a criminal. He came in riding a donkey as the Lion of the tribe of Judah; He went out on that Friday as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of world". Jesus is betrayed, He is bound, He is beaten to the bone, and He is blasphemed and taken to a cross. The cross was designed by the Romans to be a deterrent to crime. It was the full force of public execution. It was a long death and there was a lot of blood.
Jesus, like everyone else who was crucified would die a shameful death, naked and bleeding. The artistry and media hides the nakedness of our Lord, and rightly so. But the man on a cross was humiliated and shamed in his nakedness before the world. A man could spend days on a cross, dying; days. In fact, the cross was designed for a lingering death, a slow excruciating death. It was said that a man dying on the cross would die a thousand deaths there! Death would become a pleasure and a prayer for someone dying. To elongate the suffering the Romans would put a little pedestal or platform on the cross so that the man that was nailed there or hung there could push up his weight in order to breathe, because death on a cross was death basically by dehydration and suffocation. You would die in your own fluids as your lungs would fill up. The loss of fluid, the loss of blood slowly and painfully... Jesus died. Physically it was excruciating.
As a matter of fact the word excruciating comes from the word crucify. So physically the pain was unbearable. But the mental anguish and the torture was even greater for Jesus. He was mocked and abused and attacked. Cruel Roman, callous Roman soldiers played games and gambled at the foot of the cross to own the last piece of property that Jesus possessed. He died with nothing. Religious leaders according to verse 35 scoffed; they spat upon Him, jeered Him. Maybe even worse, those who stood by for this spectacle... Luke calls it a spectacle... it was for the curiosity seekers, like watching a train wreck, but much worse. Religious leaders and the indifference and the cold and the callous and the curiosity seekers all were there. The disciples weren't, except for John.
Mary the mother was there and a few of the godly women who followed Christ, but interestingly enough in verse 49 it says, "And all of his acquaintances", those who were once called disciples, intimate followers of Jesus are now acquaintances, standing on the outside for fear of their own lives. Those who followed Him from Galilee stood at a distance, watching these things. When Jesus died they beat on their chests and walked away. That is the cruelest moment of the cross. Luke goes on then to begin with seven statements that our Lord made on the cross. He includes three of the final words called the seven sayings of Christ on the cross. He includes three of these that we will look at today, but there are seven of them. And in them we see the heart of God. It's like a window into eternity when hear the heart of God and understand the meaning of the cross because it's not just what happened, but why it happened that matters! And we understand why it happened through the words of Jesus Himself.
And these are powerful and unique words because Jesus is unique Himself, because of who said them and when He said them. Jesus was on the cross from approximately 9:00 AM on that Friday morning to 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon. He spoke these words that we're about to review. Crucifixion would have made it almost impossible to speak. Remember, you're suffocating on the cross. And so to speak on a cross was a loving and compassionate thing to do. Every time Jesus spoke in life, lives were changed. The dead were raised, the lame walked, the blind would see. But when He spoke from the cross these words are wonderfully precious. First, the words of mercy in verse 34, Luke 23:34: "Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.'"
In the midst of this incredible agony, most victims of the cross are cursing, crying, screaming, but Jesus is praying. He is praying a prayer of forgiveness. He expresses grace and mercy and offers forgiveness to all who believe. It's a prayer to the Father. Notice that the relationship between God the Son and God the Father is totally intact. Jesus never lost, even on the cross His sense of Son-ship, even in the moment He cried out, abandoned by God, He relied upon God His Father. And in spite of everything that He had been through, He still let nothing threaten His relationship to the Father. "Father," Sometimes in the midst of staggering losses and severe crosses we wonder, "God, are You there? Am I Your child"? We wonder even if we pray or if we pray, our prayers connect! Never doubt! Because of the cross, because of Jesus, that your relationship with Christ is forever; your relationship with God the Father is never broken.
Jesus entered His earthly ministry with a perfect relationship and fellowship of the Father. He said, "I must be about my Father's business". Now He is finishing the Father's business. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do". His hands and His feet are incapacitated; nailed to a cross. Love kept Him there, not nails. And yet He has a ministry of intercession and advocacy to forgive. It's actually written by Luke in a tense of the language which means He said this over and over again and again. "Father, forgive them. Father, forgive them". Perhaps He said it when He was nailed: "Father, forgive them". Or when He was mocked: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do". Or when He was jeered, or when people walked away: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do"!
Amazing love! He could have said, "Father, condemn them"! He could have said, "Oh, God, judge them"! He could have called the heavenly host, angel armies to defend Him and destroy them. But He prayed, "Forgive them; they know not what they do". This was a prayer for ignorant sinners. This is a prayer for people who didn't know but should have known who He was. This is the blinding power of sin, the ignorance of sin. But Jesus made it possible for us to be forgiven, for us to be free. He was under the dominion and the power of darkness, and on that cross so that we could be set free. Forgiveness is not cheap! It is free but it is not cheap: it cost Him His life and His blood! And here, Jesus, like our heavenly advocate, as He is today, is pleading with the Father that we would be forgiven. He was praying, not just for the Romans and the Jews and the curious crowd. "Father, forgive them", includes you and me, who climb up into the "them", who are then wrecked by grace.
Our lives changed by the forgiveness of our sin. "Though your sins be as scarlet", like the blood of Jesus that washes away our sins. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow". Then comes a word of grace. In verse 43: "Assuredly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise". Now Jesus was crucified, not alone, but between two criminals who basically were thugs, they were thieves, they were men who deserved to die, according to Roman law. They were guilty of their crimes. Jesus is the Innocent One on the middle cross. Have you ever wondered why the Scripture is clear that there were three crosses there? What a picture this is! You have One on the middle cross, Jesus, who is dying for sin. "But God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us".
So you had Jesus the Redeemer on the middle cross, dying for sin. On one hand is a thief who is blaspheming Christ, abusing Him, mocking Him, as the others. "If you are the Messiah, save yourself and save us". He's mocking Jesus! He does not fear God, and he ultimately dies unrepentant, rejecting Christ. Here is a man dying in his sin! And on the other side another thief who ultimately responds and receives the grace of God and says, "Lord, today, you know, let me be with you in Paradise". Luke 23:42, "Remember me! Remember me when you come into your kingdom"! Here is a man dying, repentant, receiving Christ; he's dying to sin! And in effect with the three crosses you have all humanity: the Redeemer, the Savior of the world and on one hand, those who reject Him and die in their sin, and on the other hand, those who receive Him, repent of their sin and die to their sin!
And so we have three crosses and Jesus in particular responds to this man, who prays for mercy. One commentator I was reading, said, that man who responded and received Christ was the luckiest man ever to die on a cross! Lucky! That of all the men who were crucified, and there were thousands of them in the day of the Romans, this guy managed to get himself crucified next to Jesus! That he could find grace and hope and healing! There's so much theology that we learn from this thief on the cross who died.
So much theology: for example, Jesus said, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise". No soul sleep, waiting for some future day; not a purgatory or place of waiting, but "Today you will be with Me in Paradise". The fact that this man had no works to bring, no good... You know he had nothing basically but bad works. A condemned criminal, he couldn't promise to do better, to live a better life. He had no life to live! It was over! Titus 3:5, "Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy He has saved us". You're not saved by your baptism; this man couldn't be baptized. You're not saved by your good deeds or your lack of bad deeds! "Nothing in my hands I bring; simply to the cross I cling".
The other Gospel writers speak of these words from the cross: There was a word of compassion, John 19:26 and 27, when Jesus spoke to John of His mother, and His mother of John, and said, "'Mother, behold your son; and son John, behold, your mother.' And from that hour that disciple took her to his home". In that moment Jesus thought of others. Mary was broken hearted at the cross, just as Simeon had said, "Her soul is pierced". But Jesus loved His mother and His mother needed to be saved just like anyone else. Mary is not the advocate to God. Jesus is the one Mediator between God and Man. Mary needed a Savior just like anyone else. "Behold, your mother". He put her in a spiritual family with one of His disciples. It's so important that we care for our families and that the spiritual family, the people of faith, the family of Christ, His church, would care for one another.
There is a word of anguish in Matthew 27:46. He speaks in the Aramaic "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani"? "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me"? Now we're on holy ground, as darkness, described here in Luke, covers the earth... We don't know what that darkness was. We know it was the darkness of death spiritually; we know it was the darkness of the storms of the wrath of God that are being poured out upon Jesus. There is an awesome mystery here. Basically for the next six and half hours there was darkness over the scene at the cross as the Son of Man, the Son of God, the King is dying in anguish! "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me"? Some have tried to let Jesus off the hook, to say, "Well, He just was emotionally responding! He just felt abandoned". NO! He was abandoned! Because God turned His back on His darling Son, not because He was displeased with Him but because He was pleased that He was dying for the sins of the world!
Habakkuk 1:13, "Yet, He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity". God is so holy, holy, holy that He cannot look upon the judgment of His own Son. The sin, "He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God". So in that darkness Jesus cried out! Martyrs have testified to the comfort of God's presence when death would come, when stones would be hurled; yet Jesus not as a martyr, and not just as a man, not some kind of super hero but as the Son of Man, He cries the cry of hell! "My God, why have You forsaken Me"? In that moment in some way that we cannot comprehend this side of eternity, in a finite moment, Jesus was bearing the infinite sin of all Mankind.
Luther, the reformer, said, "God, forsaken of God! Who can fathom that"? There was a word of need expressed in John 19:28: Jesus said, "I thirst". Dehydration is setting in. His humanity is dying. Jesus is not a deified man or a humanized god. He is the God-Man; He knows the pain, He knows the thirst. Ultimately this was the echo of a man in hell. Remember, Jesus told the parable in Luke of that man who was in hell and said, Luke 16:24, "Send someone just to dip his finger in water and touch my tongue because it is awful in this place"! This is the anguish and the agony of hell! "I thirst"! It is the heart cry of the emptiness of every person without God! Spiritual thirst. Then finally, or sixthly, there is the word of victory in John 19:30, when Jesus cried, "Tetelestai! It is finished"! meaning "paid in full", "mission accomplished".
This was not the cry of a victim but of a victor! This was the cry of a champion! "Tetelestai! It is finished"! And while the demons of hell were shrieking when He died that He is finished, Jesus was not finished but the powers of evil were finished! The powers of darkness were finished! The plan of salvation is now complete! The sufferings of Jesus on the cross are now complete! He has won the battle of the ages! Colossians 1:13, "He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love". 1 Corinthians 15:55, "O, death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory"? Satan's power to the believer is now just a bluff! He has no authority over you! Satan has no power over you! Satan has been defeated! They overcame Him by the blood! Revelation 12:11, "The word of their testimony; they loved not their lives unto death".
You see, Jesus conquered sin, death, hell and the grave! He finished the work the Father had sent Him to do! And He wins, and therefore, we win! "We are more than conquerors through Christ"! And then finally, finally there is a word of trust, back in Luke 23, verse 46: "Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit". Even at death, Jesus is in charge, fulfilling the promises and the prophecies of God. He commits His soul to the Father just as we do when it comes time to breathe our last; we commit our souls and our lives, our spirits to the One who gave Himself for us. There is hope in the face of death. Look, we know this is not the end of Jesus. We know something that the world may not know: that He was buried and on the third day He rose again, that the end, when we killed Jesus, was just the beginning, and it's a new beginning to all who believe. It means that my life is not fleeting. It means that my failures are not fatal and my death is not final. And neither is yours if you will come to the cross and believe and respond and receive and repent of your sin so that you can be forgiven, set free and forever be with Him.