Sunday, April 10, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "Crucifying Jesus"

“Crucifying Jesus”
Certain of Jesus: The Gospel of Luke
April 10, 2011
Luke 23:26-43

Jesus was innocent.  Everyone knew it!  And yet, He was condemned.

At the end of His trial, the mob was yelling (v.21), “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”

And Luke says, “their shouts prevailed.”

The Roman governor, Pilate, released Jesus to their will.

“Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”

And that’s exactly what they did.

Verse 33 says it very succinctly.  “When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him...”

We don’t really understand that means!

If we saw a crucifixion, for real, we would probably puke.

Crucifixion is one of the world’s worst forms of torture and death.

And Jesus, our Lord, was being crucified.  Killed on a cross.

The Bible doesn’t go into the gory details.  It doesn’t have to.

Just knowing what it is, being nailed to a pole (nailed!) so that you have to pull up on your arms to breath otherwise your lungs will have no oxygen.

And then you can’t hold yourself up any longer so you slump down. But there’s nothing to rest on. And you can’t breathe.  And it hurts. And it hurts. And it hurts.

And there is no end to it. It can go on and on for hours and even days.  And then finally death.

That’s crucifixion.

That’s what they did to our Lord.

And as much as I’d like to skip ahead to chapter 24, we need to stop and think and consider and meditate on chapter 23 first.

This is what the whole book of Luke has been building up to all along.

How many times has Jesus predicted His suffering and death?

At least since chapter 9, Luke has presented Jesus as setting His face towards Jerusalem and knowingly choosing this destination–this destiny–for Himself.

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Our passage today in Luke chapter 23 is, in large part, about two major themes:  Judgment and Salvation.

The cross of Jesus Christ is about those two things.  Judgment and Salvation.

Let’s consider them both, one at time.  First, judgment.


Jesus, as we saw last week, has been judged.  He has been unjustly charged, unjustly tried, and unjustly sentenced.

And now, He’s been led away to judgment, to punishment, to death.  V.26

“As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.”


Probably because Jesus was too weak to carry His own cross.

He has been scourged with a whip that probably had both bones and metal in its tails. 
Whipped raw like that at least two times. The blood is pouring freely from his back.  You might be able to see his internal organs from behind.

The other gospels tell us that He has been given a crown of thorns for His head.

He is losing blood. He is weak.  He cannot carry the crossbeam, the horizontal beam all the way to the cross.  He might die on the road.  He will, at least, collapse.

So Simon from Cyrene is drafted.  Where is Cyrene?

Anyone hear about a country in North Africe called Lybia?

That’s where Cyrene was.

Mark tells us that Simon was the father of Rufus and Alexander.  Rufus was probably the same Rufus that we read about in the book of Acts.  He was a Christian.

I think it’s likely that Simon became one, too.

He picked up Jesus’ cross–a picture for us, perhaps, of discipleship.

Jesus couldn’t carry it Himself.  He was dying.  V.27

“A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.”

The crowd was probably curious not faithful.  And the women were, some of them, just professional mourners or women who were sad to see someone die. They didn’t necessarily believe in Him but they cried.

And Jesus is tender with them; He calls them, “Daughters of Jerusalem.”  But He tells them, surprisingly that their mourning is misdirected.  V.28

“Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' Then ‘'they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’' For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?’”

He’s talking about judgment.

Just a few days before this Jesus had predicted the destruction of Jerusalem that fell in the year 70 AD.

That destruction was God’s judgment on Israel’s unfaithfulness and unbelief and on their rejection of Jesus, their Messiah.

Jesus says, “Do not weep for me [even though he is dying an unjust and awful death!]; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' [The judgment is going to be terrible!]  Then ‘'they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’' [He’s quoting Hosea chapter 10, verse 8.  The wicked will desire relief from their misery in death! V.31]  For if men do these things when the tree is green [if they kill Jesus who is righteous and holy], what will happen when it is dry? [what is God through Rome going to do to unholy, unrighteous Israel?]’”


And that is a picture of Hell.

Hell is not in vogue today as an idea.

Hell is not popular.

There is a popular preacher right now that just came out with a book that suggest that hell is, at least, not permanent, and maybe not real in any future, after-death sort of way.

But that distorted idea of Hell does not take into account everything the Bible says about future judgment.

There is a Hell to be shunned and it for those who reject God and His Only Son, Jesus.

Rejecting Jesus Leads to Judgment.

What they were doing by rejecting their Messiah going to heap trouble down upon their heads.

So much trouble that they were going to wish that the mountains would fall on them.

The same thing is predicted in Revelation chapter 6, verse 16.  The just wrath of Jesus (the Lamb that was slain) will fall upon those who have rejected Him.
And they will cry out “to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”

Rejecting Jesus leads to judgment.  Inexorably.

Don’t reject Jesus or you will pay eternally.

But this is not just about judgment.

It is about salvation.


Verse 32 tells us that Jesus was not crucified alone.

It happened that on that fateful Friday, two other men were being crucified at the same time.  The Bible tells us that these two men were criminals.  Two of the gospels say, “robbers” or “thieves.”  Luke uses the word “kakourgos” which means basically “bad guys.”

Men who do bad things. V.32

“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left.”

The word for “skull,” which is what the hill was shaped like, is the Greek word “Kranion.”  The Latin for Kranion is “Calvaria” which is where we get the word “Calvary.”

It means, Skull Hill, the place of death.

And Jesus is nailed to the crossbeam and then hoisted up, lifted up to be crucified.

And two others are, as well, one on the right and one on the left.

Jesus is “numbered with the transgressors” just like He said He would be.

But He is not like them.

He is innocent and even loving towards His enemies.  At this moment!

He does not curse them (even though He has pronounced judgment upon them!).

No, instead He prays for forgiveness.  V.34

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

The thanks He gets for His merciful prayer is that they will gamble at His feet for His clothes.

He won’t be needing them!

By the way, this is a direct fulfillment of Psalm 22:18, “They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”

While Jesus hangs there bleeding, desperate for breath!

And if the pain wasn’t enough, there was also the continuous mocking.

V.35  “The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’  The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’  There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

And that’s right!  But they didn’t mean it.  They didn’t believe it.

They were just mocking Him. They were just insulting Him.

They were so happy that they had won!

If Jesus is all that why doesn’t He just get down from the cross?!?

The leaders mock Him.
The soldiers mock Him.

And even the other criminals being crucified mock Him!

The Gospel of Matthew says that both of the criminals on either side of Him were mocking Him, too (Matthew 27:44).

This went on for hours.

And then, there was this interaction between the three men being crucified.


“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’”

He’s talking about salvation.

Criminal #1, we’ll call him, we don’t know his name, basically said, “Save Yourself!”


If you really are Who you have claimed to be–and everybody in Israel knows Who you’ve claimed to be!–then save yourself (and us too!).

C’mon! Use your power and get down off of the Cross!

He, obviously, had no faith. No belief that Jesus was Who He had claimed to be.

This bad guy was rejecting who Jesus is.  And that leads to judgment.

The word for “insult” in verse 39 is “eblasphemei,” and, here, it means what it sounds like. He blasphemed Jesus.

He blasted Him and insulted Him and rejected Him.

And he is like all of us before we came to Christ.

No one is genuinely neutral about Jesus.  You are either for Him or against Him.

Some people would like to think of themselves as neutral on Jesus.  “On the fence,” we say.

“I like Jesus. I think he’s a good teacher. I think he was a good man. A prophet.  A holy man. We can learn a lot from him. He had a lot of great ideas.  I’m not against Jesus.”

But Jesus said, “If you are not for me, you are against me.”

Even if you aren’t hurling insults at Him, if you are not following Him by faith, you are, effectively, a bad guy, an enemy.  Jesus’ enemy.

Of course, what could it hurt?  They were both dying by crucifixion!  What was left but to say what you want say?!  This man was hurling his heart at Jesus. And it didn’t seem like it mattered.

Does it seem to you right now like nothing matters?

“Live, and then die, and then that’s it.

Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die!  And we’re worm’s food.”

Why not just let it all hang out?  Especially if life hurts.

“Save Yourself!”

If you don’t have to go through this, why choose it?

For this criminal hanging next to Jesus, it proved that Jesus was not the Messiah if He let Himself be crucified.

Because Messiah’s don’t die, much less die by crucifixion!

“Save yourself!  If you can...”

But there was something much deeper going on here than what it seems.

Things are not always as they seem.  And if your life seems chaotic and meaningless right now–hear this–things are not always as they seem.  God is at work.

Because Jesus was choosing not to save Himself–so that He could save others.

The fact that He stayed on the Cross was actually proof that He is the Messiah.

Messiahs do die. And this Messiah dies a sacrificial death.

Jesus was identifying Himself with sinners like you and me.

And the other bad guy–this is almost unbelievable–he “gets it!”

The other criminal gets it.

As far as we know, Jesus didn’t say anything to the first criminal. He is silent.

But the second bad guy rebukes the first bad guy! V.40

“But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don't you fear God,’ he said [remember, they are all being crucified.  Every word is excruciating to get out. Don’t you fear God], ‘since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’”


“Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’”


What’s going on here?!

This second bad guy is turning!

This bad guy is trusting!

This criminals has faith. He believes!

He recognizes that they are suffering justly. They deserve it.

But Jesus doesn’t.

Jesus is innocent.

Just like Pilate said last week at the trial!

Now, this criminal probably doesn’t know how right his words are.

He may not know that Jesus was perfectly sinless.  But he does know that Jesus is innocent of the charges that have Him on this cross.

And He has somehow come to believe that Jesus will inherit a Kingdom!

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

In essence, he’s talking about salvation, saying, “Save Me!”

SAVE ME!   Please!

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

He believed that Jesus was innocent, and more than that, he believed that Jesus was a King!

This man probably didn’t know that how it all worked, but he believed that Jesus did.

And he put his faith and trust in Jesus and asked Him to save him and give Him a place in His kingdom!


Save Me!

Not just get me off of this cross, but give me eternal life in the divine kingdom.

Forgive me.  Find forgiveness for me so that I can live in the Kingdom of God.

And save me!

Have you asked Jesus for that yourself?

That’s what He was dying for.

More than this man understood, Jesus was innocent.

He was perfectly innocent.  He had never sinned!

And at this moment, Jesus was taking on Himself the punishment, the penalty, the debt that we sinners had justly earned for ourselves.

When they were crucifying Jesus, He was not just coming between two criminals.

He was coming between God and Humanity.

And taking our place. “In my place, condemned He stood.  Hallelujah what a Savior!”

Jesus was saving sinners!

Like this one.  Like this criminal at His side. This is what our Lord said to Him on the Cross.  V.43

“Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’”

Isn’t this the greatest news in all the world?

This is the gospel.

This is THE great news.

For one, because it’s based on grace!

What did this man DO to go to paradise today?

Absolutely nothing!  This was a bad guy.

This was not a good guy.

He hadn’t gone to church.
He hadn’t given any money.
He hadn’t lived a fine upstanding life.
He hadn’t any good works to show to earn him some salvation.

He didn’t even have a chance to get baptized!

He was a bad guy!

And Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’”

It’s based on grace. It’s not based on what this guy did but on what Jesus did for Him.

And that’s how anyone is saved.

The Bible says, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”

It’s all grace!

You cannot impress God, but you can receive His grace on your behalf.

Are you a bad guy?

We all are.

We’re all bad guys!  But the question is, what kind of bad guy are we going to be?

The kind on Jesus’ left or Jesus’ right?

Will we reject (judgment) or will we believe (salvation)?

Because God is in the business of saving bad guys!

It’s all grace. 

Isn’t that the greatest news in all the world?

It’s also great because it shows how real change is possible.

This man really changed.  No, he didn’t have time to live out a full life of service to God. He didn’t have time to make restitution for his robberies.  He didn’t have time to change his lifestyle that got him here.

But he did change!  He changed from insulting Jesus to rebuking those who do.

He changed from unbelieving to believing.

He changed from shouting to asking.

He changed from wrong thinking to right thinking–on the Cross!

He’s being crucified, and Jesus is changing Him right then and there!

He changed from loving his own kingdom to wanting Jesus’ kingdom to come.

Real change is possible through Jesus–for bad guys!

Is there someone that you’ve written off as unchangeable?

“Well, they’re never going to change!  A leopard can’t change his spots.  Nothing can be done there.”


If this guy can change, so can whatever bad guy you are praying for.

It may not happen on your time-table.

But if God sets out to change a bad guy into one of His guys, nothing can stop Him!

Real change is possible because of Christ.

Isn’t that the greatest news?

Maybe you’re the bad guy you are praying about!

You wish that you were changed. Trust Him.  He is transforming you.

When He says, “You are saved,” He isn’t just saving you from the penalty of your sin, He’s saving you from the power of sin and changing you from the inside out.

Real change is possible.

This is great news, thirdly, because of the guarantee of the future.

Jesus promises: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

That’s a sure thing.

I love how this repentant criminal doesn’t have to wait!

He goes to paradise (heaven) the same day that he dies.

And so will we.  And so did any of your believing loved ones.

Absent from the body means present with the Lord.

Today.  Guaranteed.

Do you know that you are going to be with Jesus when you die, guaranteed?

That’s the promise here in verse 43.  If you believe in Jesus.

But it’s more than that.  There is a future kingdom coming that you’ll get to be a part of, too!

The bad guy believed that. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

His kingdom is coming!  And we will get to be a part of it forever and ever.

New heavens, new earth, new bodies–always with the Lord.

That’s the future that we have to look forward to.

And it’s all because Jesus died for us.

You Are Saved!

Saved by grace.
Saved for change.
And Saved for a glorious future, guaranteed!

That’s what He was doing when they were crucifying Jesus.

Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom
Jesus and the Judgment to Come
Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return
Jesus and Tragedies
Set Free By Jesus
Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom
Jesus and Jerusalem
Jesus at the Party
The Cost of Following Jesus
Jesus and the Lost: Part One
Jesus and the Lost: Part Two
Jesus and the Lost: Part Three
Jesus on Money
Sneering at Jesus
Jesus and the Great Chasm
Jesus Said to His Disciples...
Thanking Jesus
Jesus and the Coming Kingdom
Jesus Says, "Keep Praying"
The Proud, the Humble, and Jesus
Jesus Does the Impossible
Why Did Jesus Come?
Investing for Jesus in 2011
King Jesus
Jesus and the Temple
The Authority of Jesus
Jesus and Caesar
Jesus and the Sadducees
Jesus' Turn
Jesus and the End of the World
The Plan for Jesus to Die
Jesus' Last Lessons
Arresting Jesus
Judging Jesus