A Close Look at the Cross

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A Close Look at the Cross

Matthew 27:11-54

Sermon by: Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - March 25, 2012

(Revised from sermon preached at McClendon Baptist Church - April 1, 2007)

*Today we will look at the darkest day in human history, the day when the holy Son of God was nailed to a cross for our sins.

*Max Lucado wrote: "The Cross: It rests on the time line of history like a compelling diamond. Its tragedy summons all sufferers. Its absurdity attracts all critics. Its hope lures all searchers.

*My, what a piece of wood! History has idolized it and despised it, gold plated it and burned it, worn it and trashed it. History has done everything to it but ignore it. That’s the one option that the cross does not offer. No one can ignore it! You can’t ignore a piece of lumber that suspends the greatest claim in history. A crucified carpenter claiming that he is God on earth! The cross: Its bottom line is sobering. If the account is true, it is history’s hinge. Period." (1)

*Today I want to ask you to move closer to the cross of Jesus Christ, but it is not always and easy journey. We are bound to see some things that are hard to look at: the suffering of our innocent Lord, and the ugliness of the sin that put Him there... -- the ugliness of our sin.

*It may be hard, but we must move closer to the cross to see the greatness of our Savior. We must move closer to the cross to find the life God wants us to have.

1. So come close today and first take a look at the Lord’s serenity.

*Look for the Lord’s calmness and composure in vs. 11-14:

11. Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, "Are You the King of the Jews?'' So Jesus said to him, "It is as you say.''

12. And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.

13. Then Pilate said to Him, "Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?''

14. And He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly.

*Pilate was amazed by Christ’s serenity in the face of His murderous accusers. Jesus uttered not one word of protest, when a word was all it would have taken to end that travesty of a trial.

*Earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus had asked the disciples: “Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than 12 legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53)

*Church that’s over 70,000 angels! -- And in Revelation 7:1 we see just 4 angels holding back all the winds of the earth. Jesus could have easily called for help. For that matter, He could have handled all the armies of Rome on His own.

*But Jesus was serenely silent before His accusers, because back in the Garden, He had already confirmed His commitment to die for us. There Jesus made the most difficult decision anyone has ever made.

*Matthew 26:37-39 tells us that,

37. . . He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.

38. Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.''

39. He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.''

*Luke 22:44 tells us that Jesus was in agony in the Garden, and as He prayed "His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." But Jesus prayed three times. "Father, Thy will be done." And after that, His heart was settled, even as the Lord stood before that mob.

*Come closer to the cross of Jesus Christ, and see the Lord’s serenity.

2. But also see His purity.

*Even a hard-hearted, Roman politician like Pilate could see the Lord’s purity in vs. 15-24:

15. Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished.

16. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.

17. Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?''

18. For he knew that because of envy they had delivered Him.

19. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, "Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.''

20. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.

21. The governor answered and said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?'' They said, "Barabbas!''

22. Pilate said to them, "What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?'' They all said to him, "Let Him be crucified!''

23. Then the governor said, "Why, what evil has He done?'' But they cried out all the more, saying, "Let Him be crucified!''

24. When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.''

*Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent. He knew that the chief priests wanted to kill the Lord, because of their envy. And at least three times Pilate declared that Jesus was not guilty.

*But if the Lord’s purity was so obvious, why were the people so easily persuaded to scream for His death? It was because the Lord was so different from who they expected the Messiah to be.

*Wayde Wilson explained: "From the time he was born until the day he died, [Jesus] was always doing things differently than people expected. He was a man on a mission. But the mission was one few could understand.

*Jesus taught us how to love like no man has ever loved. He was full of compassion. He extended grace when others were casting guilt. He said, 'The Son of Man has come to seek and to save those who were lost.' And that is what he did. He sought out the lonely, the hurting, the destitute, the forgotten ones, the guilty, the hopeless, the rejects of society. And his love transformed them. Everywhere he went, Jesus changed lives.

*But his methods were unorthodox. People kept trying to squeeze him into a box, and he was unwilling. He had obvious power. He could heal the sick, the deaf, the blind, the crippled, the diseased; it seemed his power was limitless. He even raised the dead.

*He claimed to be the Messiah, but about the time you’d expect him to put on a crown and take the throne, he’d pick up a towel and a bowl and wash his disciple’s feet. The Jews were looking for more power and less humility and love. They wanted fewer parables and more politics. They didn’t want a Savior, they wanted a deliverer. They wanted a warrior; they got what seemed to be a wimp. He wouldn’t play by their rules, so they crucified Him." (2)

*God is not always going to play by our rules. As He told us in Isaiah 55:8-9:

8. "My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.

9. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts."

*We may not understand what the Lord is doing in our lives, but He always does the right thing! God is good all the time!

*Corrie ten Boom went through the unspeakable horrors of a Nazi death camp during World War II. Her sister Betsie died in that camp, but Corrie was miraculously freed just a few days before she was scheduled to die.

*After the war, Corrie gave this testimony: "Often I have heard people say, 'How good God is! We prayed that it would not rain for our church picnic, and look at the lovely weather!' Yes, God is good when He sends good weather, but God was also good when He allowed my sister, Betsie, to starve to death before my eyes in a German concentration camp.

*I remember one occasion when I was very discouraged there. Everything around us was dark, and there was darkness in my heart. I remember telling Betsie that I thought God had forgotten us. "No, Corrie," said Betsie, "He has not forgotten us. Remember His Word: 'For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him.'"

*Corrie finished by saying: "There is an ocean of God's love available -- there is plenty for everyone. May God grant you never to doubt that victorious love, whatever the circumstances." (3)

*God is good all the time, -- and He had to be. Jesus couldn’t die for your sins, if He had to die for His own. But Jesus Christ did die for our sins.

*As Wayde Wilson explained: "Drunkenness and drug overdose were heaped on His back. Abortion, adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, every sin you can think of was added to the weight. Jesus Christ carried much more than the cross. He carried the weight of all of our sins on his shoulders. His own purity made that possible. (2)

*Come closer to the cross of Jesus Christ, and see the Lord’s purity.

3. But also see His loyalty.

*Jesus went through so much for us! Take a look at it in vs. 25-31:

25. And all the people answered and said, "His blood be on us and on our children.''

26. Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.

27. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him.

28. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him.

29. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!''

30. Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head.

31. Then when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.

*Also skip down to vs. 38-44, now on the cross:

38. Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left.

39. And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads

40. and saying, "You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.''

41. Likewise the chief priests, also mocking with the scribes and elders, said,

42. "He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.

43. "He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, `I am the Son of God.'''

44. Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.

*Why was Jesus willing to endure so much suffering and abuse? -- Because He was absolutely devoted to the Father, and He was absolutely devoted to sacrificing Himself for us.

*Come closer to the cross of Jesus Christ, and see the Lord’s loyalty.

4. But also see His destiny.

*The Lord’s supreme destiny is revealed to us in vs. 33-37:

33. And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull,

34. they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink.

35. Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: "They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.''

36. Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there.

37. And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

*None of this caught the King by surprise. All of this had been prophesied centuries before Jesus was born. Verse 35 was the fulfillment of a prophecy in Psalm 22. God’s Spirit gave this prophecy to King David over a thousand years before Christ was born. And it is just one of over 300 prophecies Jesus fulfilled!

*The cross was the God’s plan from before the beginning of time.

-Come closer to the cross of Jesus Christ, and see the Lord’s destiny.

5. But also see His majesty.

*Don’t miss the amazing, miraculous things that happened in vs. 45-54.

45. Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.

46. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?'' that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?''

47. Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, "This Man is calling for Elijah!''

48. Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave it to Him to drink.

49. The rest said, "Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.''

50. Jesus, when He had cried out again with a loud voice, yielded up His spirit.

51. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,

52. and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;

53. and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

54. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God!'')

*At least some of the Roman soldiers there that day got it. They got a glimpse of the majesty of Jesus Christ, and said: "Truly this was the Son of God!"

*Come closer to the cross of Jesus Christ, and see the Lord’s majesty.

6. But also see His victory.

*We get a glimpse of the Lord’s resurrection victory in vs. 50-53:

50. Jesus, when He had cried out again with a loud voice, yielded up His spirit.

51. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,

52. and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;

53. and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.)

*When Jesus rose from the dead, there must have been such a burst of life-giving energy that believers all over that graveyard rose too! It was a witness to the Lord’s resurrection, and a small taste of the victory that is coming to everyone who trusts in the Lord.

*Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He is risen! It was a victory for Him. And it was a victory for all believers. We know this, because in vs. 51 the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

*You see, in the Old Testament, God was almost unapproachable. His glory rested on the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem. Only the High Priest could go into the Holy of Holies, only once a year, and only by the sprinkling of blood to protect him from death. When the Priest went inside the veil to the High Altar, they tied a rope around his ankle, so if he fainted or died inside the veil, they could pull him back out.

*The veil in front of the Holy of Holies was no ordinary curtain. It was four inches thick! But when Jesus died on the cross, God tore that curtain in two from top to bottom. God was showing us that the door to Heaven and to Him was opened through the cross of Jesus Christ.

*One pastor was telling the children how this curtain miraculously split open. Then a little boy asked, "How big was the hole?" And the preacher wisely replied, "Big enough for anyone to get through." -- Big enough, that is, for anyone who will put their faith in Jesus. (4)

*Back up in vs. 22, the Roman Governor Pilate asked a question. It is a question for every one of us today: "What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" This is the most important you will ever answer: "What will I do with Jesus?"

*The cross of Jesus Christ cries out for us to trust Him, love Him, follow Him, and worship Him! -- You can get started right now, as we go to God in prayer

(1) Max Lucado Six Hour One Friday - Found in SermonCentral sermon “Your Face in the Crowd” by Ryan Johnson - Matthew 27:32-56

(2) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon “The Wounded Warrior” by Wayde Wilson - Isaiah 53:3-5

(3) SermonCentral illustration contributed by Jeff Simms

(4) Email from Sermonillustrations.com - 03132002

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