His Atoning Death
I love to watch sports and I love to watch highlights too. Some sports shows will do what they call the “game changer” or the “game changing play.” What they mean by that is they show you a decisive play in which the outcome of the game was significantly altered. It might be where one team was going for a touchdown but they fumble the ball at the one yard line and the other team runs it back for a touchdown. Or when the pitcher needs one more strike to get the batter out and the next pitch the guys drills a home run.
There are pivotal moments in games, history, and wars, that we might label as a game changing moment. Maybe you have points in your life that were game changers. Jobs, kids, selling houses, etc. Today we are talking about the crucifixion of Christ. It is the greatest game changer of all time. It makes all other game changing moments of sports, business, etc seem trivial. Jesus death is the event that can alter ones the eternal fate. It is the hinge that the greatest spiritual realities turn on. We are going to read to see what it is such a game changer.
Let’s read Luke 23:1-49.
Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, "We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king." 3 And Pilate asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" And he answered him, "You have said so." 4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, "I find no guilt in this man." 5 But they were urgent, saying, "He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place." 6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that he belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. 9 So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. 12 And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other. 13 Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, "You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15 Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. 16 I will therefore punish and release him." 17 18 But they all cried out together, "Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas"-- 19 a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. 20 Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, 21 but they kept shouting, "Crucify, crucify him!" 22 A third time he said to them, "Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him." 23 But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will. 26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him.
28 But turning to them Jesus said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us,' and to the hills, 'Cover us.' 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"
32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!" 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" 38 There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews." 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." 42 And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43 And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." 44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, "Certainly this man was innocent!" 48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things. (Luke 23:1-49 ESV)
Let’s look at why the cross is such a big event.
- The Guilty Condemn the Innocent
The crucifixion center on a trial. When you read Luke’s account you feel the injustice of it. You feel the injustice because of the terrible things that happening to a man, but also the number of times it is said “they found no guilt in him” (v 4, 14, 22, 47).
a- False charges are brought to him. V2 says, “And they began to accuse him, saying, "We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar..." This charge was not true as in Luke 20:22 Jesus affirmed we should “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” False charges are brought against Jesus.
“False witness and slander are two of the Devil’s favorite weapons.” JC Ryle. Luke 293
The crowd V5 insisted on their way, or were urgent. they grew more strong, violent, more urgent in their persistent accusation.
b- Pilate, was the Roman governor of Judea. Without him this group of Jews had no power to put Jesus to death. In the midst of the loud irrational shouts of the crowd Pilates say, “I find nothing wrong in this man” (v4). His declaration of innocence stands out loud and clear. Human nature at its worst. If our Lord endured this don’t be surprised if people wrong you, state wrong things, etc.
c- When Pilate heard Jesus was Galilean sends him to Herod, the ruler of Galilee. This is the same Herod who killed John the baptist. Son of Herod the great who executed all children under two in Bethlehem in order to kill the messiah. He was the uncle of King Agrippa who killed the apostle James and tried to kill Peter.
Herod treats Jesus like a circus act. He has heard about Jesus and wants to see a show (v8). He asks him many questions but Jesus gives no answer. Jesus’ response to people was usually indicative of where their hearts were. The refusal here probably indicates where Herod’s was at. Herod also could find no fault in Jesus.
Pilate says in V14 that both he and Herod found nothing wrong with Jesus. Two judges are brought in and both declare Jesus is innocent. This is two people declaring him innocent. Two separate judges. It’s like the batter doesn’t think he really swung the bat so he appeals to the first base umpire. You have two guys confirming the same thing so it is established.
Jesus is innocent, and yet Herod ridicules and mocks him. Unjustly dressed him in robes. The garments of royalty to mock this alleged king. These two rulers mock an innocent man and they do not stand up for justice. People can be in the highest positions with all the amenities of royalty and have their hearts so far from peace. That day these two enemies who would have battled each other for jurisdiction became friends. They are united in their appraisal of Jesus.
e- The unruly crowd pushes for his crucifixion despite his innocence, and v22 “A third time (Pilate) said to them, "Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him." 23 But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed.”
f- The voice of the people is not always right nor reasonable. The people mock him, the soldiers ridicule, even one of the criminals on the cross mocked him. Though the other said, v47 “ "Certainly this man was innocent!"”
The injustice prevails as Jesus is condemned not because of guilt but because of the will of the will of the people (v25). People were created to do his will. But they instead choose to do their will. The crucifixion unmasks the true nature of every human heart. In this rejection of God we see the essence of our every evil. We crucify God and his will in order to appease our own desires.
"It is not enough to think about the gospel's "solution" without also thinking about how Christ redefines the problems for which his transforming power is the remedy." Richard Mouw
Sin is not merely an accident. It’s not just a misstep. It is the rejection of God to go our own way. It is choosing murderous ways over the way of God.
The one doing right is punished. He suffers what historians call “the most wretched of deaths” (Josephus) and “the most cruel and disgusting punishments” (Cicero). The ones doing evil, whether actively shouting for his death or being passive in standing up for an innocent man, go free. It is the great injustice.
It was right that the lamb of God should be found by those who slew him as a lamb without blemish or defect (1 Pet 1:19).
- The Accomplishment of the Cross
Why is this innocent man condemned. "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" (Luk 23:39 ESV). The guilty condemn the innocent. It was them that deserved the penalty of death for their sin. This innocent man has come to save them. The reality is that he cannot save himself and them. He chooses to lay down his life for their sin.
There is a great exchange on the cross. John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Almost 600 years before Christ was born the prophet Isaiah said this about the coming deliverer: (53:3-8)
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 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. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? (Isaiah 53:3-8 ESV)
This one took our sin. Took our death. Took our shame. Took our ridicule. Took the abandonment of God. Took the penalty. So that we might go free. So that we might enter into his kingdom and paradise.
The score was this: you had many sins. Many wrongs. God require zero. You deserved death. You were without God. Without hope. The game changer was Christ died for you. He took what your wrongs deserved and gave you what his innocence deserved. On the cross it’s your death he died. So you could be set free.
Now you can be forgiven. Accepted. Sins washed clean. You are set free from guilt! That is grace. You don’t deserve it, can’t afford to buy it. He purchased it for you!
The great exchange… money. Kids with candy.
The effect of being forgiven. Was reading about a pastor who had a man come to him after his wife was killed in a car wreck. He shared they were in an argument and as he became angry he drove faster. He eventually lost control of the car. She suffered fatal injuries. All he could say is, “I killed my wife.” The gospel had a powerful effect on his soul.
- Two Ways to Live
There are a mix of reactions from animosity, indifference, intrigue to belief. These can really be boiled down to two basic ways we can live: the path of faith and obedience or the path of rejection. This is most clearly seen in the thieves who are crucified with Jesus.
One thief died in mocking unbelief, having a heart hardened, impenitent, and unbelieving.
The other cried for mercy and was saved. That thief was saved having never been baptized, never belonging to the visible church, never having shared his testimony. It does not minimize the importance of these for those who have opportunity, but it does show the overriding importance of faith and belief. Today tells the the very moment. The instantaneous transformation of the state and plight of one who trusts in Jesus.
There is no middle way. V42 shows the stakes. It is about entering into God’s kingdom, which is paradise.
- The way of faith.
- The Way of rejection.
- The way of religion. Some say this third way is an option. We don’t like to be on extremes especially when the extreme goes a bad direction. We want religion without commitment. Religion without sacrifice. Its asking for a savior who didn’t bleed. A Savior who doesn’t rule. It is a kinder/safer way to reject God, but it is still rejection. We think religious duty without whole hearted commitment can work. Don’t buy into it. It is the way of rejection dressed up.
The Game Changing Effect of the Cross. Let me tell you how it moves you forward.
Moves you toward a life of devotion to God. This God came to earth and gave his life for you. No longer are you motivated to obey him just because he stands in authority over you like an impersonal rule book. **You should not obey God like you do a speed limit sign.** You are largely indifferent to a street sign. With God, You see his love, his devotion, his commitment to you and you cannot help but love him. Your heart melts just like when others tell you of their love, devotion, and sacrificial commitment. You want to live for them. Holiness.
“If we want proof of God’s love for us, then we must look first at the Cross where God offered up His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Calvary is the one objective, absolute, irrefutable proof of God’s love for us.” Jerry Bridge
The cross of Christ points out the holiness of God, the gravity of Sin, and the grace of God. Nothing shows the love of God more than this. If you are looking to know if God loves you then you look here. Don’t look to your job. Don’t look to your house. Don’t look to how many friends you have. You will always be disappointed by these. You look to the cross.
Moves you to love others. If he loved us when we didn’t love him, then certainly in order to honor him and his sacrifice we can go love others even when they don’t love us. We can go to people who won’t come to us. We can talk with people who won’t talk to us. We can make peace with those at war. And we can certainly find ways to love those in our own family. When we see his great love it brings humility to us. We are not trying to preserve our own reputation.
As Christ struggled up Calvary’s hill and bled upon it, His aim was to eradicate self-love and implant the love of God in the hearts of men. One can only increase as the other decreases. Walter J. Chantry
Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Phi 2:4 ESV)
Moves you to mission. He came to us on a mission. He love compelled him. When we see his love, when we see his intentionality. When we see his resolve to act and not sit back indifferent and self-focused it sets us in motion to reach others too. We are not content to rest in our well kept, isolated, houses, fearing what other might think of us. It shows there is something better to live for than being cozy.
2 Cor 5:14-15 “ 2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” Stop living for yourself! He came on a mission to save us. We should embrace the mission he has given to us.
Go find someone to make a difference in their life. Praying and reaching.
Has your life been changed by Christ? If you see no difference now versus then. If you see no difference today versus yesterday or two years ago, is the cross affecting you. Changing you?
- What injustices do you see in Jesus trial and crucifixion?
- What does the cross achieve for you?
- How does Jesus death on the cross affect you personally? How does it motivate you, cause you to look at life differently, etc?