Sermon: The Cross According to Jesus (Luke 23:26-31)

The Cross According to Jesus

Luke 23:26-31

Introduction

The court proceedings are over.  Herod and Pilate have declared Jesus to be innocent of all crimes.  Yet, this innocent Man is on His way to be crucified.  To keep the peace, Pilate has sentenced a known innocent Man, One he and Herod both declared innocent, to His death, a death by crucifixion. 

Luke doesn’t tell us anything about what happens to one who is crucified.  Matthew and Mark both report that after Pilate had released Jesus to the will of the people, Jesus was scourged.
Matthew 27:24-26 (ESV)
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”
25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
A Roman scourging was a very intense torture.  The victim was stripped of clothing and bound usually bent over so the back skin and muscles were tight.  The two soldiers one on each side holding a rod with leather strands and on the ends of the strands were tied bits of bone, sharp pieces of metal and even glass.  When the whip hit it actually implanted these sharp objects into the victim’s back.  The torturer would then pull back the whip ripping deep into the victim’s back.  Many times the scourging itself would kill the victim.  Many times, after it was over the victim’s skin was all but gone and vital organs even exposed.  It seems by the accounts; Jesus’ scourging was especially brutal.  It’s amazing that He lived through it.
This torture was so severe that Roman citizens were exempt from it.  After the scourging, Jesus was not recognizable as a man.  Barely alive He is forced to pick up the cross beam and carry it to the site where He would be crucified.
Beloved, never forget…
Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
If you were there that day and witnessed Jesus coming out of the Praetorium beaten beyond recognition with a purple robe and a crown of thorns pressed deep into His scalp, you too would be weeping and feeling sorrow for Jesus.  Jesus has a response to all who would feel remorse and sorrow for Him…”do not weep for Me but weep for yourselves and for your children.”

Jesus Christ the Teacher and healer, One who went from town to town preaching the Good News and healing all who were brought to Him was beaten and bloody and about to die. 
Matthew 27:27-31 (ESV)
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him.
28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him,
29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head.
31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

I wanted us to feel the weight of what Jesus was enduring and that every bit of it was so that He could reconcile us to God.  When we begin to understand that a crucifixion was horrific in its torture and that Christ was there in our place we must begin to see just what is involved and what it took for God to forgive us. 

We learned that repentance must accompany forgiveness.  In God’s case not only is repentance necessary but also restitution.  Someone must be punished and for those who place their trust in Christ, He is the One who takes our place of punishment.

Primary Claim

The cross is Jesus’ greatest achievement, what man meant as an instrument of torture and death, God used as an instrument of life and reconciliation.

This is God’s Word for us today, please hear it…

Luke 23:26-31 (ESV)
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?”
1.  The Right Place at the Right Time

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.
So far, nothing concerning Jesus was an accident.  I hope by now we can all see that event after event was being accomplished by God’s divine plan.  Even to the degree that God used sinful people to accomplish it.  God’s Providence continues…
Luke simply tells us that the man who carried Jesus’ cross beam was named Simon and he was from Cyrene.  Cyrene is modern day Libya.   
Luke weaves his narrative very carefully in just a few simple words, he shows us that all those in Jerusalem who were out to have Jesus eliminated were in complete agreement.  They led Him away to be crucified.  In contrast to those seeking Jesus’ death is Simon of Cyrene, an outsider, one whom no one has really ever even met.  Simon is not famous; he’s not one who stands out.  However, God knew Simon and it was Simon whom God wanted to carry His Son’s cross.  So, in God’s amazing providence, Simon is at the right place at the right time.  Yet for Simon, I’m sure in that moment he thought otherwise.
What seems to be a situation of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong place at the wrong time was in fact the exact right place at God’s appointed time.
No one knows for sure what all Simon heard that day while he was carrying Jesus’ cross.  He most definitely heard the Gospel.  He did hear this next part…

Primary Claim

The cross is Jesus’ greatest achievement, what man meant as an instrument of torture and death, God used for an instrument of life.
2.  Do Not Weep For Me

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.’
The cross according to Jesus is not death or defeat but eternal victory.  He wants those who are seeing Him suffer in agony to realize that their tears are, in a sense, being wasted on Him because unless they repent something worse will happen to them. 

It’s not easily apparent, who these women were.  It seems from what many scholars believe, they were women who wept and mourned all Jews who were lead away by the Romans to be crucified.  They wept over the fact that Rome was in power.  They wept because it was Jewish folks who were often crucified.  If this is true, they were not necessarily weeping for Jesus but for all those who were crucified that day.

This was what was known as the Jewish death wail.  It was often done as a lament for the dead or in the case of Jesus a lament for One about to die. 

Jesus knows what judgment awaits the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  He has already wept Himself for them…
Luke 19:41-44 (ESV)
41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,
42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side
44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
The cross according to Jesus is not something that should illicit continual weeping from those in Jerusalem because the cross is the plan and purpose of God to save many.  Jesus commands them to take their tears and begin weeping for themselves.  The sadness of the cross should and must point to sins yet to be cleansed.  Weeping should occur for those whose sin God will demand payment for.  Jesus will endure an unbelievable judgment bearing the sins of God’s people.  Yet this judgment will last but a few hours.  He knows that the sins left unpaid will bring God’s eternal punishment.
Jesus was God so payment for eternal sins could be made.  For man to pay for sins committed against an eternal God requires an eternity of punishment.  That is why Jesus tells these mourners that they had better start weeping for themselves and for their lost children.

The cross according to Jesus demands that the lost weep over their sin.  Someday, all the lost will mourn and weep because of sin.  I pray today that we have all trusted Christ as Lord and Savior and that our sin was paid in full on the cross.

Not only does Jesus tell them to weep for themselves and their children because of sins eternal punishment but also because of sin’s immediate punishment.

Not only is the cross the symbol of salvation for Christians, but because of the cross we must realize there is punishment for sin.  The cross is proof that all sin will be punished.  Isaiah told us that the cross was planned by God and we can see that God’s hand is at work bring all these events together to produce the death of Christ for sin.  Since this is taking place as a payment for sin, then the cross is a symbol that all who are outside of Christ will suffer even a worse fate.  Sin is punished!

Jesus no speaks what is know as the unholy Beattitudes…

Blessed are the barren

Blessed are the empty wombs

Blessed are the breasts that have never nursed

Why would Jesus say this?  When the day of judgment comes, which by the way it did about 40 years later, the agonies and tortures were so severe that it was a blessing for all the women who’s agonies were not multiplied because they also had children suffering.  Many writers call the Jewish wars the most horrible thing in human history ever to be recorded. 

This event would be so terrible that those suffering would welcome death…

30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’
 3. God’s White-Hot Judgment

31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Finally, Jesus draws an allusion from a common proverb or saying of the day.  He compares what is going on currently to Himself to what will take place in due time to those in Jerusalem.

It seems a little confusing at first, but here is what Jesus is getting at…

The contrast in physical realm is between wet, green wood compared to dry wood.  Green wood makes good hotdog sticks because the wood will not easily burn as compared to a dry branch that will immediately burst into flames.

Jesus’ logic goes like this…If God does not spare Jesus (green wood) from certain judgment (we know that even though Jesus was sinless and innocent He was bearing the sin of His people).  Then how much more ready for judgment are those evil unrepentant sinners in Jerusalem (dry wood)?  His point is do not weep for Me, even though I’m being executed it’s not my sin but the sin of others I’m dying for.  Rather weep for yourselves and your children because you all are dry wood ready for God’s white-hot wrath and will immediately burst into eternal flames.

As we read history, we see that everything Jesus predicted concerning Jerusalem’s destruction took place in 70 AD. 

Please understand, even the horror of their destruction by the Romans in 70AD will be nothing as compared to eternal destruction in the last day.  If people cry out for death and ask that the mountains fall on them in Jerusalem, how much more will they cry out when faced with God’s eternal wrath?

We should see here that these words of our Lord even within hours of His death are words of warning and words of hope should these women see their great need and repent.

4. Simon’s Conversion

There is something amazing going on as God’s providence takes a twist and Simon hears and believes.

Primary Claim

The cross is Jesus’ greatest achievement, what man meant as an instrument of torture and death, God used for an instrument of life.

As Jesus spoke these words, there was one who listened.  Simon, who wanted nothing more than to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem, would be forced to carry Jesus’ cross.   It just so happened that he was at the right place at the right time.  I’m sure at first he was thinking otherwise.  I’m sure as he walked up onto the scene he wondered what crime this Man was guilty of?  I’m sure he thought that it must have been a horrible act to warrant a death sentence.  But then, as he was made to carry Jesus’ cross, and heard Jesus’ words, his own heart began to melt within him.  Why was this noble and seemingly righteous Man about to be put to death?  Why would One about to die as a criminal be speaking to others about repentance even in the face of His own death?  I’m sure Simon thought something isn’t quite right here.  It may very well be that when Jesus spoke to the crowd even then about repentance that Simon repented and believed.  Perhaps one who came to worship on Passover saw in Jesus the real Passover Lamb. 

Mark’s Gospel tells us something more about this Simon of Cyrene…
Mark 15:21 (ESV)
21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.
Mark tells us that he had two sons, Alexander and Rufus.  Both of Simon’s sons would later hold prominent positions in the Church and Simon’s wife was sort of a spiritual mother to the Apostle Paul.  Years later, Paul remembers Rufus and Rufus’ mother and sends them a greeting as Paul ends his letter to the church in Rome…
Romans 16:13 (ESV)
13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.
Something happened to Simon as he followed the Lord, carrying His cross.  Simon was converted.  Simon repented.  Simon, just as surely as he took up the cross and was following Christ, literally, took up his own cross and followed Christ with his life.
Luke 9:23 (ESV)
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

I pray today that as we listen to Jesus through the Gospels that we too become passionate followers.  Who could have ever guessed that this Simon of Cyrene would be converted?  Not only Simon but also his wife.  Not only his wife but his two sons.  Not only this but they would meet and minister to the Apostle Paul?

All this because Simon was at the wrong place and the wrong time…or maybe all things work together for those who are called according to God’s purpose and Simon was really at the right place at the right time.

So the cross gets amazingly brighter and lovelier as our Lord, even at the point of His death, cares for the daughters of Jerusalem and man behind him who was forced to carry His cross.

God’s providence is truly amazing!

This is the cross, according to Jesus.  Grace Community Church, do not weep for Jesus but weep for all who are not it Christ.  If you are not a follower, weep for yourself.

 

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