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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Skip Heitzig » Skip Heitzig - On the Road to the Cross

Skip Heitzig - On the Road to the Cross

Skip Heitzig - On the Road to the Cross
TOPICS: Easter, Resurrection, Good Friday

Good Friday to y'all. I know we call it Good Friday, but I'm calling it great Friday because great is the Father's love toward us. And we are celebrating the great act of redemption that comes only through Jesus. I am so happy to see you. Welcome to all of you. It's great to see you in your unmasked beauty. So we have a couple of different groups here. We have people that are here under the trees. We have folks right over here, God bless you guys over there, hope you're doing well, over by Solomon's Porch, people behind us over here, in front of you. And we have people, we're going to get a shot of this, over in the greenbelt. Yes. Come on. Make some noise here. Welcome the people who are in the greenbelt. Good job.

Now, those of you in the greenbelt, we're going to be quiet. You're going to make some noise for us and say, hey. There. Can you hear them? Yeah, good. Well, the theme this year that we have chosen is on the road. You've seen this with this really cool '69 Mustang that's out here. Every guy here is having problems not wanting that car, not coveting that car. That's a '69 Mustang. And the hood was opened. Smoke was coming from it a minute ago. The idea is that everybody on the road of life has problems. You might have a breakdown. You need some help. That's what redemption is all about.

And so we have chosen this theme, on the road. And there's three parts to it. This last weekend, we were looking at Matthew, chapter 21, where Jesus was on the road to Jerusalem. He told his disciples on the road that He was going up to Jerusalem where they would arrest Him, and He would be crucified. Today, we're going to look at on the road to Golgotha, or Calvary, the place where Jesus gave his life. And then on Easter, we're going to be looking in Matthew, chapter 24 on the road to a Emmaus, that great story of our Lord coming up to his two disciples who were walking that road and having a conversation with them.

Today, I'm looking at the Gospel of Luke, chapter 23, for this installment of on the road to Golgotha. Now, Jesus walked the road of suffering. There is a road in Jerusalem they call the Via Dolorosa. It's Latin for the way of sorrows. And it is traditionally the road that Jesus took after the sentence was given to Him. And He took his cross, and He went toward Calvary, toward Golgotha, where He gave his life. Since the Byzantine era, since, like, 353, 360 AD onward, every year on Good Friday, Christian pilgrims have taken that route with a cross of some kind in a celebration annually of the steps that Jesus took from the Antonia Fortress, the place where the sentence was handed over by Pontius Pilate, to the place where He gave his life. It's about 2,000 feet. It's 600 meters. Of course, that journey for Jesus began long before this day. It began when He was born in Bethlehem, just a few miles south of Jerusalem.

About five, six miles south of Jerusalem, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. And He was on the road from that moment on, all the way up to His death, walking toward the cross. The journey took Him from Bethlehem down to Egypt for a couple of years to escape Herod the Great, who wanted to murder Him. He was there for a couple of years. And then the journey took Him from Egypt back to the land of Israel, past Jerusalem, up north to an obscure village, a nondescript area known as Nazareth. And for 30 years, it would be as though the journey stopped. Jesus was growing up in relative obscurity in Nazareth. But a few days before this event that we are considering, Jesus was on the road again, not quoting the Willie Nelson song here. But he traveled south, went through an area known as Peraea on the other side of the Jordan River, across the Jordan, went to Jericho. And then, from Jericho, He went up to Jerusalem.

So that journey of 33 years now, three years of public ministry, 30 years growing up in Nazareth, has brought Him here to Jerusalem. And now, on the road, He takes his final steps, His final steps on the way of sorrows, the road of sorrows, going through the city of Jerusalem to the place where He would be crucified. When He stood before Pontius Pilate, and we're going to read a snippet of that here, He stands on part of the road that John calls the pavement, the pavement. It was a courtyard area where prisoners were often handed their sentence. And then, from the pavement, from that part of the road, He went toward Skull Hill, where He died. He died at Calvary. He died at Golgotha. All of those are different words for the same place, just different languages. Golgotha is Hebrew. Calvary is Latin. Kraníon, or Cranium, is Greek. They all mean the same thing, the skull. He went to Skull Hill, where He died.

So when people ask you, where do you go to church, really, you go to Skull Church. That's what Calvary means. It's the place of the skull. It's the place where death was meted out to enemies of the Roman Empire. We're going to look today at some characters that were on the road that Jesus met. First was Pontius Pilate. It was Pilate that put Jesus on the road. We read in Luke, chapter 23, that the crowd shouted, crucify him! "He said to them, why? What evil has he done? I have found no reason for death in him. I will therefore chastise him and let him go".

This is Luke 23, now verse 23. "But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that he be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. And as He released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder, had been thrown into prison", that is Barabbas, "but he delivered Jesus to their will". Pontius Pilate was the one that put Jesus on the road to the cross. Now, there are moments in history that define people in that era. There are questions that people ask and answer that define who they are and define their moment in history and, in this case, in all of eternity.

I heard a story about a man who went to a Super Bowl game. He didn't get great tickets, but, after all, he was at the Super Bowl, nonetheless. He was seated in the very upper row up, up in the nosebleed section, way in the corner. He couldn't see very well, but he was so excited to be at the Super Bowl. But about halfway through the first quarter, he looked down, and he saw an empty seat that was right by the field. And he thought, I can't believe it. It's Super Bowl, and nobody is sitting in that seat. So he made his way down. He found an elderly gentleman sitting there. And he said, excuse me. Could I sit here? The man said, sure, you can sit here. Then the young man said, I can't believe that this seat is not occupied. And the man said, actually, that's my wife's seat. And she and I have gone to the Super Bowl our entire married life. We have never missed a Super Bowl since 1967 until this year. She died recently, and so this seat is empty. The young man said, I am so sorry that you lost your wife. But I would think you would be able to get a friend to go with you to the Super Bowl or a relative to come with you to the Super Bowl. And he said, the old man said, no, they're all at the funeral.

Now, that answer defined that old man, defined him as somebody who was selfish and had his priorities wrong and wouldn't even have the kindness to go to his own wife's funeral. Likewise, Pilate asked a question and answered the question that defined him forever. He said, though not in this gospel but in the Gospel of Matthew, as he faced Jesus, he said, what shall I do with Jesus, who is called the Christ? That was the question. And then he gives his answer. He gave in to the will of the people. They prevailed. Their voices, it says here in the Gospel of Luke, prevailed.

Now, Pontius Pilate heard a lot of voices that day. He heard the voice of his wife that day saying, have nothing to do with this righteous man. I've had a dream about Him. He heard the voice of his conscience saying, this man is innocent. Let Him go. And on several occasions, knowing he was innocent, he said to the people, I find no fault in him. Let him go. He also that day heard the voice of Jesus speaking to him about truth. But the voice that he gave into, the voice that was the loudest, it says, was the voice of the people, for it says here, "their voices prevailed".

At first, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus over to the Roman soldiers, who punished Him. They scourged Him. Most of us know what that is by now, that each soldier, two of them, had whips with leather thongs attached, bits of bone and glass, metal that were embedded in that leather. And they delivered diagonal blows to the victim on the back. And the straps, because they had the glass and the metal, would grab into the flesh, lay hold of it, and then lacerate it. And history tells us that many victims who were flogged this way did not even survive that. Because it would dig into the deep tissues, through the muscles, into the viscera. Even organs were exposed to sight. Jesus went through that. And Pilate was hoping that would be enough for the people. But it wasn't. They still cried out, crucify him. Crucify him. Jesus faced Pilate. But He didn't go through one trial.

According to the New Testament, Jesus faced no less than six separate trials. Trial number one was before Annas, the high priest. Trial number two was before Caiaphas, the high priest. Trial number three was before the entire Sanhedrin, the Jewish rulers, early in the morning. Trial number four was before Pontius Pilate. Trial number five was before Herod, the tetrarch of the Northern District in Galilee. And then the sixth trial, once again, was Pontius Pilate, where he said, crucify him. And he gave over to the people. So Pilate put him on the road. The second character we meet is a guy by the name of Simon, Simon from an area known as Cyrene. Simon helped him on the road. We are told in verse 26, "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".

A man walking on the road comes into Jerusalem. The gospel stories give us his name. His name is Simon. I'm going to tell you a little bit about him. And the Roman soldiers conscript him to help Jesus carry the cross all the way to Calvary, to Golgotha. Of course, this is Rome. And Rome has the authority to do whatever they want. But it was highly unusual for anybody to help anybody else carry the cross. Because Roman law dictated that the criminal must bear his own cross to the place of execution. And indeed, in John, chapter 19, as Jesus faces the sentence of Pontius Pilate, we're told, and Jesus going forward, or going out, bore His cross. But he didn't make it all the way. We don't know why. We're not told. He could have fallen down. He could have been exhausted. It could be that the Romans simply wanted to speed things up and get them to Golgotha quickly because, after all, it was Passover. But Pilate gave the order.

Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus along the road. Cyrene is an area of Northern Africa. We know he was Jewish because his name was Simon. And that's a typical Jewish name. He was a Jewish man who was from North Africa, Cyrene. If you know your history, especially World War II, is the area of Tripoli. Some of you remember the Marine song from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli. Tripoli is in North Africa. That's the area of Cyrene. He was a Jewish person from the area of Northern Africa, from Cyrene, who was in Jerusalem. I'm guessing there were several people from Cyrene there. Because there were enough Jews living in Jerusalem, or at least visiting Jerusalem and living in Jerusalem, to merit having their own synagogue in Jerusalem. We know they were there on the day of Pentecost. It says there were Cyrenians there.

We also know in Acts, chapter 6, that there was a synagogue that Stephen preached the gospel in called the Synagogue of the Freedmen. Do you remember that, the Freedmen? And then it says afterwards, in parentheses in that text, people from Cyrene and Alexandria. That would be in Egypt. So they had their own synagogue in Jerusalem. Simon, being a Jewish man, was visiting for the Passover. There's no record that he'd ever met Jesus before. I'm guessing he didn't, unless he had been there a few days before and maybe heard Jesus in the temple. He's just walking on the road. And the Romans see him, and he looks like a big enough guy to handle the job. So they compel him, or conscript him, to carry the cross. But here, to me, is where the story gets good. Because Simon seems like just a random guy that the Romans pick out of the crowd to carry the cross, right? It's just a random guy. But you, who follow Jesus Christ, know that God doesn't do random. He's never random. There's always a purpose behind it. And there was a purpose behind Simon.

Well, the fact that it names him is interesting. Because there's a lot of people in the story that are unnamed. But they name him. And they name him in the other Gospels, as well. In Mark, chapter 15, it even says, "Simon from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus". Now, you and I don't know what that means, but the only reason somebody would identify the name of the person and name the guy's sons is if the audience understood who he was talking about. So he introduces him, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus. We know that Mark wrote his gospel to Christians who lived in Rome. So evidently, Christians in Rome knew who Alexander and Rufus were. It's not until we get to the book of Romans, chapter 16, again, this is the church in Rome, where Paul says this, greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord and his mother and mine.

So we're starting to get a picture of a family who has been transformed, a man, a Jewish man named Simon, who came to believe in the merits of the cross of the one that he was carrying that cross for to go to Golgotha. His wife, whoever she was, gets saved, becomes near and dear to the church in Rome. Rufus, the son, becomes a leader in the church in Rome. And this family becomes so close to Paul the Apostle that he says, it's like having my own mother, his mother and mine. Something else. In Acts, chapter 11, and you don't have to turn there, but you may want to remember this or ask me to give these scriptures to you afterwards, as well, in Acts, chapter 11, it says, "Now, those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenas, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with him, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord".

Well, now we understand that there's a church in Cyrene, not just a synagogue filled with Jewish people, but there's a believing assembly of Christians who are sending out missionaries. And they send missionaries to Antioch to preach the gospel. Something else. Two chapters later, Acts, chapter 13, "Now, in the church that was at Antioch, there were certain prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simian, who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. And they ministered to the Lord and fasted. The Holy Spirit said, now separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them".

So now we know that Simon and his wife were saved. Their son Rufus was influential in the Church of Rome. There's a church that gets started in Cyrene. They send out missionaries to Antioch. One of them becomes a teacher, a pastor, in Antioch and is part of the group that sends Paul the Apostle out on his missionary journey, all of that from a random guy walking down the road. God doesn't do random. And I want you to know whatever part of the road of life you are on and life seems haphazard and random, you just remember this story. God doesn't do that. God has a purpose behind that person, behind that event, even though you don't get it right now, you don't understand. Maybe Simon thought, man, I've got other things to do besides carry a cross for a criminal. But then he comes to have a faith relationship with Jesus. His wife has one. His sons have one. A church gets started. And people from his hometown go out and pastor that church. Amazing story.

So Pilate put Him on the road. Simon helped Him on the road. There's another group of characters we meet on the road, a group of women, unnamed women. Women mourned Him on the road. We are told in verse 27 of Luke 23, "A great multitude of the people followed him and women, who also mourned and lamented Him. But Jesus, turning to them, said, daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed, the days are coming in which they will say blessed are the barren wombs that never bore, breasts which never nursed. And they will begin to say to the mountains, fall on us and to the hills, cover us, for if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry"? A group of women on the road are part of the parade route from the Antonia Fortress to Golgotha. Very strong language is employed in the text when it says they were lamenting and mourning. It speaks of somebody beating their breast in deep grief.

Again, they are unnamed. Who are they? And why are they there? The best guess is that these were professional mourners, professional mourners. We don't get this in the West because we don't do this in the West. But in the East, they did that. They thought that when a person dies, you need to make a huge wailing and weeping. And so you would actually hire people to come to the funeral and shout and scream and mess their hair up and tear their clothes. And the louder and weirder it sounded, the more you loved that person. It was always done that way, professional mourners. A few years ago in England, there was a group of people that started a business. Listen to this. It was called Rent a Mourner. And it was for this purpose. The idea is that people who are really in mourning because they lost a relative shouldn't be engaged in the weeping and the howling and the wailing. They should be involved in greeting guests and really going through the process of mourning. So they would offer services as professional mourners. And they got between $30 and $120 per event, not including tips, professional mourners.

That was very common in the New Testament era. They probably didn't know Jesus. In those days, most professional mourners hired for events like this did not even know the relatives or the family. They got a wage. They wailed. They tore their clothes. They threw dust in the air. And people understood, that's just what we do. And especially for somebody esteemed like Jesus, you should have some kind of presence of mourning people in that event, especially if He is so ill treated by the Roman Empire. By the way, just as an aside, just a little FYI, never in the New Testament do we ever read of women being hostile to Jesus but always being tender and sweet toward him. We find plenty of men who are hostile toward Him all the way through. But when it comes to women, they were always non-hostile, non-aberrational, very accommodating, very sweet toward Him.

I think that there were lots of sympathetic women who saw the plight of Jesus. And here's a group of them. I don't think they were believers. I just think they were professional mourners. But they could have been sincere, and they could have felt very sympathetic. But they weren't true disciples. There's a lot of people like that today. There's a lot of people that they kind of like Jesus. They're not opposed to Him. They think He's wonderful. They're attracted to His tenderness. But they're not true disciples of Christ. They don't really follow Him. There's been no repentance in their life. They're just attracted to Him. And so Jesus says to them, as they're weeping, don't weep for me. I'm not the victim. You are. And He pronounces judgment on Jerusalem. These are words of judgment as He talks about the city that is going to fall in 70 AD. He's already predicted it several times. He did it on the Mount of Olives a few days before this. He said the city is going to be surrounded by enemies and be destroyed. This temple is going to be destroyed.

So He says, don't weep for me. I'm not the real victim. You need to know that Jesus was not a victim. He was the victor. He said, nobody takes my life from me. I lay it down of myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it again. And that's what He's doing. He's giving his life. So He says to them, don't weep for me. Weep for yourselves and for your children. You're going to be victimized by the Roman government. And He quotes a passage from Hosea the prophet, chapter 10. "Hills, fall on us. Mountains, cover us". That's what you're going to say when Jerusalem falls. You're going to say that to the hills and the mountains, like Hosea the prophet wrote about.

Now, fast forward. You don't have to turn to it, but Revelation, chapter 6. There's the sixth seal during the tribulation period. And the same text out of Hosea is quoted, that people, during the tribulation period when God judges the world, will say to the mountains, fall on us and to the hills, cover us. Hide us from the presence or the face of him who sits on the throne. Hide us from the wrath of the lamb, for the day of his wrath has come. And who is able to stand? So Jesus has a few words to say to these women. Don't weep for me. Weep for yourselves and for your children. So Pilate put Him on the road. Simon helped Him on the road. The women mourned Him on the road. Another group we meet is a group of criminals, two criminals. Criminals accompanied Him on the road, for we are told this.

Verse 32, "There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death". So they were part of that parade that left the Antonia Fortress, were sentenced to death. They're walking with Jesus in that group all the way out to the place of execution. "And when they had come to the place called Calvary, where they crucified Him and the criminals, one at the right hand and the other at the left". Now, we know, because we've read the story before, we know what happens to one of them. One of them, one of the criminals, comes to believe in Jesus, has personal faith in Jesus. It's a true foxhole conversion. They're at the point of death, and one of them comes to believe in Jesus Christ. Here's what I love. Jesus always had people like this around Him. He always had sinners around Him. He always had riffraff around Him. And it always caused a stir. People would always gossip. Man, You have the wrong kind of people around You, Jesus. Let me be Your PR person, get some good people around You.

But Jesus loved sinners. He was called the friend of sinners. It's only appropriate that when He dies, He is surrounded by those same people that He loves so dearly. They're walking with Him on the road. One of them comes to believe in Jesus, as I mentioned. He puts his faith in Jesus Christ. He confesses Him. He says, Lord, Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom. Now, that little statement reveals not only is he confessing Jesus as Lord but he is trusting in Him and in who He was. Remember me when You come into Your kingdom. He believed that Jesus was a king who was going to establish a kingdom. And then, third, he made it personal. He said, remember me when You come into Your kingdom. And faith always has to be personal. You know that, right? We like to say God has no grandchildren, only children. You must make a personal commitment, a personal decision. You can't live off the faith and commitment of your parents or grandparents. It has to be real to you. You have to be his disciple as well as anybody else.

So you have two criminals. One was crucified on one side. One was crucified on the other. Both were equally as close to Jesus as the other. Both had a unique opportunity. One gets saved and goes to heaven. One is damned and goes to hell. Amazing. Both had the opportunity, both so close. But one exercised faith and believed. And because he believed, Jesus said, today, you will be with me in paradise. And I want you to know if you're here today, you've been brought by a friend or a relative, you're at this communion service, we kind of think that people who come to these services are all born-again believers, but it could be that you don't have a relationship with him that's real and personal, the Bible promises whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. I'm encouraging you to do that if you haven't done it, right where you're seated, no matter what part of the campus you're at, no matter where you are in cybersphere, if you're watching this, this is being live streamed around the country and around the world, it's on local radio, as well, no matter where you're at, call upon the name of the Lord.

So we have Pilate, who put Him on the road. Simon helped Him on the road. Women mourned Him on the road. Criminals accompanied Him on the road. And finally, the Father heard Him on the road. And I'm going to conclude with this little statement. "Then Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do. And they divided his garments. And they cast lots". That's an unexpected thing to hear Jesus say. You would think that after the treatment He got from the Jewish leaders, from the Roman leaders, that Jesus would be hanging on the cross saying, "Father, smite them. Father, get even with them. Father, go after them". Maybe He would have addressed the crowd and said something like, just wait for three days, buddy. "I'll be back. And I'm going to come and get you". But He didn't say that. I don't know why you're clapping for that. He didn't say that. I would say that. I say that when I drive on Osuna Road. I say that.

There's so many bad drivers in Albuquerque. And I see them, and I marvel at them. And I pray for them all the time. You don't know what, I'm not going to tell you what I pray for them. You may just want to remember this. I pray Psalm 58 for them. I won't even tell you what that is. But Jesus said, Father, forgive them. You know why He said that? Because that's our greatest need. That is humanity's greatest need. Your greatest need is to be forgiven. And if you're watching this, you're not a part of this, or you're here today and you haven't entered into a relationship with God, you can be forgiven.

So you put your name there. You insert your name there. Father, forgive Skip. Father, forgive Tish. Father, just insert your name there. Father, forgive. That's what He loves to do. And so we're going to take communion. And our communion board is coming right now to pass that out. And we're going to all take the elements. We're going to take it together, these beautiful tokens of the sacrifice of Jesus as He came to the end of his road, which is the beginning of our road. Because that road led to the cross but then to resurrection. And then He promises new life to us. You take these elements, and you hold on to it as they're being passed out.

If you feel unworthy to take the elements, you're in the right place. We're all unworthy. All of us are unworthy. He makes you worthy. You take those elements, and you thank Him for forgiveness. You personalize it. There's the story of a preacher named John Duncan in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was in church one Sunday. They were passing out communion. He noticed a young girl, a teenager, who was crying. And the communion elements came by, and she turned her head and put her hands up as if to say, no, I can't take it. I'm not worthy. And John Duncan came over, put his hand on her shoulders, and said, take it, lassie. It's for sinners. So you take it, lassie, and laddie. Take it here. It's for sinners. It's for us. He was on the road and went to the cross for you and for me.

Father, thank you for the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses a man, a woman from all sin. Thank you that we can pause on the road of life. We can gather here in this amphitheater outside on such a beautiful day that you have provided, in the amphitheater, in the greenbelt, via computer or device all around the world, and enter into communion with you because of what Jesus has done for us.

If you've never given your life to Christ, right where you're seated, right where you are, pray and ask Him to come in. Say:

Lord, I admit, I know that I'm a sinner. I admit it. Forgive me. I believe in Jesus. I believe He died on a cross for me, shed His blood for me, rose from the dead for me. I turn from my sin. I repent of it. I turn to Jesus as Lord and Savior. Fill me with Your Spirit. Help me to walk with You.

And then you take it, lassie. It's for sinners. Does everybody have the elements? Wait just a few more minutes till we all get them passed out. Hope you guys are doing OK in the sun. You doing OK over there? Good. Ah, that breeze. Thank you, Lord. Little mercies. Peel that clear little piece away from the top. Get down to the bread. As you hold on to that bread:

Father, we thank You. This represents the body of Your son, the Lord Jesus, broken for us, broken that we might be healed, broken the we might be forgiven. Lord, sometimes we feel broken on the road, broken down on the road. Thank You that Jesus walked on the road to the cross, that those of us who have broken lives might be restored. We remember this day what happened on that day. In Jesus's name, Amen.

Let's take the bread. And as you hold the cup:

Lord, we're mindful of the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for us of which Your word says the blood of Jesus Christ, God's son, cleanses a man, a woman, from all sin. You told us to remember the sacrifice. So many people around the world drink alcohol. They drink to forget. We drink to remember what happened, to stimulate our memory that what happened on that day was so significant that the effect of it has lasted throughout history, that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. How thankful we are for that. In Jesus's name, Amen.

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