Sunday, April 24, 2022

“The Word of the LORD Came to Me” [Matt's Messages]

“The Word of the LORD Came to Me”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
April 24, 2022 :: Jeremiah 1:1-19 

If you have a bookmark, you might want to move it to Jeremiah, because, Lord-willing, we will be here for quite a while. Probably a year or more if we take breaks along way. 

Studying Jeremiah on Sundays as a church gets us kind of back on track with our big project that we have been pursuing for the last twenty years. Starting in 2003, I began to preach through the Big Story of the Bible, kind of systematically working our way through the Big Story in the Old Testament, and then toggling over some to the New Testament and then back again.

Some of you have been along for the whole ride. Others of you have come in along the way. And some of you are new and don’t know what I’m talking about!

In 2003, we started in Genesis. In 2005, it was Exodus. In 2007, it was Numbers (because that’s where the story carries on). Then in 2009, it was Joshua. And after each of the Old Testament books, we did a New Testament book. And some of those took awhile like Luke and Acts and Romans and Matthew

But we’ve been returning on a pretty regular basis to the Big Story in the Old Testament. After Joshua, we did Judges. Then Ruth. Then 1 and 2 Samuel. And then in  in 2016 and 2017, we did 1 and 2 Kings.

Does anybody remember 1 and 2 Kings? Remember: thumbs up and thumbs down? Those kings had just one job–keeping their kingdoms strong in the covenant, but they failed again and again.

And then the nation split into two. North and South.

Do you remember how many thumbs-up kings there were in the north? The kingdom called “Israel.” 10 Tribes. How many thumbs-up kings? ZERO! And so eventually, the Lord destroyed them through the Assyrians.

The southern kingdom was called what? “Judah.” And they had some thumbs-down but they also had some thumbs-up kings.

And they also had a prophet who lived at the very end of the tragic time of 2 Kings, and his name was “Jeremiah.”

So getting into Jeremiah kind of merges us back into our big overarching study project.

Like so many other things, covid disrupted our project, and while I enjoyed returning to Philippians and 1 Peter and marinating in the Psalms for a couple of years, I think it’s time to get back into and moving forward in that epic Big Story.

Another one of the reasons I decided to preach Jeremiah right now is that I know we need more of the prophets in our spiritual diet. I have not preached very much from the Old Testament prophets. Aside from Hosea and Jonah, I haven’t preached any of them all the way through. In fact, I can only remember one message I’ve done from the Book of Jeremiah in twenty-four years here as your pastor!

And it’s not like the book of Jeremiah is small or insignificant.

Jeremiah might be the longest book in the Bible. Depending on how you count. If you are going, not by pages or chapters or verses, but by Hebrew words, it IS the longest book in the Bible. It’s about 5% of your Bible! With 66 books out there, 5 percent is a big percentage of real estate!

As we read it, there will be lots of familiar things. Some crazy stuff, too. Maybe stuff you’ve never heard before buried in there–like the time Jeremiah was supposed to bury and then dig up some of his clothing. But lots of familiar things are in there like the most famous verse–Jeremiah 29:11, “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD...” We’ll get there.

And even more foundational–Jeremiah is the book that our Lord Jesus quotes at His Supper when He talks about the “New Covenant.” That’s from Jeremiah chapter 31. “The New Covenant.” It’s so important! No salvation without it.

But often Jeremiah is ignored and goes un-preached.

How many of you have heard a sermon series that went all the way through all 52 chapters of Jeremiah? Anybody? 

Some of you, all you know that Jeremiah was a bullfrog.

That’s actually a different Jeremiah! But many of us know all the words to that song by Three Dog Night and don’t know hardly anything about the real Jeremiah in our Bibles, God’s Word.

We need to fix that.

So let’s go back in time, more than 600 years before was Jesus was born, and read the first three verses of Jeremiah chapter 1 which set the stage for the whole thing. Jeremiah chapter 1, verse 1.

Jeremiah is not an easy book to study. It’s challenging.

Partially, because it’s so long. It’s hard to wrap your mind around something so big.

And it’s not just long, it’s from long ago. Just reading those first three verses, I’ve probably already gotten most of you lost. “Who are all of these people and when did all of this go down?” “Jehoiakim? Zedekiah?”

To complicate things further, Jeremiah does not proceed in chronological order. Fifty two chapters, but the order is not chronological! Not even close. In fact, it’s hard to figure out what the order actually is. 

For the last several months, I’ve been reading a stack of books on Jeremiah to get ready for this series, and all of the commentators seem have their own idea of how the book is structured. Some of them actually try to rearrange it into a different order. People have been doing that with this book for 2,000 years.

I’m not going to rearrange it for you into chronological order. 
I believe it’s a work of art that isn’t supposed to be read chronologically. It’s more like a music video or a movie with flash backs and flash forwards or a panorama that hits you in different ways as it speaks to you as you read through it.

But everybody agrees that chapter 1 is chronological. It’s a great starting place and gives a good chronology for us. Chapter 1 tells the story of the calling of the prophet Jeremiah into his prophetic ministry. It’s his “start date.”

And the first three verses also tell us about the beginning, middle, and end of his ministry. It definitely does orient us, so let’s look at it more closely. V.1

“The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.”

So this book is full of Jeremiah’s words. And we learn that this Jeremiah was the son of a priest (so he might have become a priest himself, though there is no record of it). And he’s from Anathoth, a city about an hour’s walk north and east from Jerusalem. In the territory of Benjamin. Modern day “Anata.” In the southern kingdom of Judah.

And verse 2 says, “The word of the LORD came to him.” That’s really big. More on that big thought in a second. 

When did the word of the LORD come to him? When did he start in ministry? V.2

“The word of the LORD came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah...”

Okay. Anybody remember if Josiah was thumbs-up or thumbs-down?

His grandfather was the very worst king Judah ever had. Manasseh. And his daddy Amon was awful, too. But Josiah was basically thumbs-up.

He was really young. He started at age 8. And he was a reformer. It was during his reign that they found the book of the law in the temple. Do you remember that story? Josiah began to clean things up. It didn’t last long. The people weren’t really into it. We know that because of what they went right back to doing right as soon as he died.

But Jeremiah began his ministry in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign which we can date to 627 BC. 

The word of the LORD came to him.

And stayed with him. Jeremiah then was a prophet for 40 years. Look at verse 3.

“...and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.”

There are actually 2 other kings of Judah during that time period, “Jehoahaz” and “Jehoiachin,” but they each only lasted 3 months. These three are the big three. Josiah, Jehoikaim, and Zedekiah. 

Josiah was king from 640 BC to 609 BC. Jeremiah started in 627. And Jehoiakim was king from 609 to 597 BC, and he was absolutely terrible. Two thumbs down. He’s going to show up as a villain in this book again and again. Wait till you hear what he does in chapter 36! And then Zedekiah, who was also terrible but in a different way because he couldn’t make up his mind, was king from 597 to 586 BC.

And so that means that Jeremiah was a prophet in Judah from 627 to part way through 586, and that’s about 40 years.

40 years of prophecy.
40 years of decline.
40 years of speaking God’s word but people not listening to him.
40 years of steady, gradual, tragic decline.

And then the exile happened.

One of the worst moments in all of the Old Testament.

When all of the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant: offspring, land, and blessing–all of those promises were pulled back, seemingly cut-off. 

The people were taken out of the land out blessing and into cursing.

The exile was one of the worst moments in the Bible since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

The Book of Jeremiah tells us in its first three verses, that this book is a prophecy of a tragedy.

Jeremiah is going to faithfully prophecy for 40 years, and it will not change the course of history. They will still go into exile. That’s kind of depressing.

I think that’s one of the reasons why Jeremiah does not get preached very often.

Because it’s very sad.

Jeremiah himself is very sad. This is a very personal book. We get to find out what it is like to be a prophet. Jeremiah tells us what it’s like, especially in how he talks to the LORD.

But frankly, what it’s like is kind of painful.

Jeremiah is often called the “Weeping Prophet.” The sad one. He probably also wrote Lamentations, about the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 and the exile. No wonder he was sad.

It’s hard to be a prophet. At least to be a true and faithful one in an age of decline.

Because prophets tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear.

But that’s one of the reasons why we should read this book. Because it tells us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear.

The first thing that the LORD told Jeremiah was that he was going to be a prophet, and he didn’t have any choice about it. Look at verse 4.

“The word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’”

There’s our title for today’s message, “The Word of the LORD Came to Me.”

That’s one of Jeremiah’s favorite phrases. I think he uses it more than any other prophet does. 

The word for “came to me” could be translated, “happened to me.”

Yahweh showed up and started talking to Jeremiah. And He gave Jeremiah something he had to say. It wasn’t something he chose.

It wasn’t like, “What do you want to be when you grow up, Jerry?” And Jerry’s like, “I want to be a prophet.”

No, Jeremiah was minding his own business, and the LORD hit him with it.

“The word of the LORD came to me...” BAM!

Notice how personal this is. “Came to me.” We get the inside story, from Jeremiah’s own personal perspective. 

The LORD speaks directly to Jeremiah and tells him that He has always known him, and always chosen him to be a prophet. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

“This isn’t something you have a choice about, Jeremiah.”  The word for “appointed” is more like “given.” “I’ve given you to be a prophet since before you were born.”

Now, that’s really encouraging and also kind of scary. What’s really encouraging is that the LORD knows us from before we are born and from before we can do anything good or bad. And this knowing is not just information, it’s election [like we saw in 1 Peter 1!]. Jeremiah was chosen by God before he was even formed in his mother’s womb.

And that also reminds us of the sanctity of human life. That unborn people are people, too. And that they matter like the PRC is always telling us.

But it’s also a little scary for Jeremiah, because it’s clear that this is something he’s not going to get out of.

He’s been appointed a prophet, or a spokesman for God, a prophet to the nations. Not just a prophet to Judah or about Judah (though that will be most of his work) but to and about the nations around Judah, as well. They will factor in heavily in this books, especially in chapters 46 through 51.

But it’s not an accident that Jeremiah is going to be a prophet. It didn’t just happen to him. This was Yahweh’s plan from the beginning. And Jeremiah is going to do it!

But, surprisingly, Jeremiah doesn’t want to do it! He doesn’t feel qualified. Look at verse 6.

“‘Ah, Sovereign LORD,’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.’”

And he might have been very young. This isn’t just an excuse. Some scholars think that he might have been in his early teens. Like 13 or 14 at this time. 

The Hebrew word here means “youngster,” and it could stretch from infant to young adult. He’s saying, “I’m just a kid.” I’m not “a speaker.” Not yet.

What’s really interesting to me here is that Jeremiah talks back to God!

Jeremiah is not afraid to tell the LORD what he is thinking and feeling. We’re going to see that again and again. He’s not saying, “No.” He’s not a Jonah here, running the other way.

But he is hesitant. And he does tell the LORD what he is thinking. He is thinking, “I am only a kid.”

Verse 7. “But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD.”

That’s really important.

I have three points for you this morning as we come down to the end of this message. Three things the LORD is saying to Jeremiah about His words in this chapter. 


The LORD says to Jeremiah, “You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” “You don’t get to choose your audience, and you don’t get to choose your message. As my prophet, I want you to speak my words.” [Insight from C.J.H. Wright]

But you don’t have to be afraid! Because you are speaking my words, you don’t have to be hot stuff yourself. You’re not on your own. Don’t say, “I am only a child.” Say, “The LORD will be with me.”

Do you see how that changes everything?

What are you tempted to put into verse 6 of your life?

“Ah, Sovereign LORD...I can’t do that thing you want me to. I am only ________.”

Maybe you feel too young.
Maybe you feel too old?
Maybe you feel too quiet. You’re an introvert.

“I’m only a single. I’m not married.”
“I’m new to the faith. I’m not mature yet.”
“I am poor.”
“I am only...” what?

The LORD says, don’t say that. Say, “The LORD will be with me.”

Because He will!

Now, you and I are not prophets. Jeremiah had a special unique calling.

But you and I can speak God’s words. And do it without fear.

Believe that Jesus Christ is risen today.
And tell others that Jesus Christ is risen indeed.

Did you do that this week?

If not, why not?

“Because I am only....”

“Because someone might...”

V.8 “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD.”

He says that 168 times in this book. “Declares the LORD.”

That’s like a divine mic drop.

“I will be with you.” “Declares the LORD.”

The Lord says the same thing to you and me, doesn’t He?

“I am with you always to the very end of the age.”

Therefore, “speak my words.” Look at verse 9.

“Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘Now, I have put my words in your mouth. [I wonder what that was like?!] See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.’”

This is where I have gotten the title for our whole series on Jeremiah.

We’re going to call it, “Uprooted.”

Because that’s what Jeremiah’s words are going to do.

Jeremiah is appointed or given as a prophet over nations and kingdoms–not as a king but as a prophetic spokesman for God. And when he speaks for God, then nations and kingdoms are going to be 6 things:

torn down
and replanted.

Notice that four of those are destructive and two of them are constructive. Four of them are negative and two of them are positive in outcomes. The first four are about devastation, and the last two are about restoration.

And that’s how this book will be. It will be like 2/3 doom and then 1/3 hope.

And the hope will shine all the brighter because of the darkness of the gloom.

The joy is greater because of the sadness.

By the end of the book, the whole kingdom of Judah will be uprooted.

Heather Joy has been weeding her garden recently. It’s that time of the year. She had a whole wheelbarrow of weeds one day this week. Heather joy takes a great joy in ripping those things out, roots and all. Dirt flying everywhere. Gleeful look on her face. And rightfully so. I’m happy for her. 

But imagine, for a second, being the plant. Ripped up, roots and all.

When we started 1 Peter this fall, we were thinking about Afghani refugees. Now we also think of Ukrainian ones. Ripped up, roots and all.

And Jeremiah was getting his people ready to be uprooted, as well. You know how Peter was writing to the exiles and foreigners?

Jeremiah is getting his people ready for exile, too. This book is a perfect follow-up to our last one. And prepares us for being uprooted, too. Or to realize that we are already uprooted as we try to live godly lives in an ungodly world. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven while we sojourn through the kingdoms of this world.

And look forward to the time when we are fully replanted. When our joy is made full.

These 6 verbs–uproot, tear down, destroy, overthrow, build, and plant–will show up over and over again as we read Jeremiah. Because this was the mission Jeremiah was chosen for. To speak God’s words to the nations and watch things happen.

Except they don’t always. It often seems like God is not keeping His word. 

Jeremiah is going to prophecy doom and destruction for 40 years! And not only does his preaching not bring revival, but it doesn’t bring total destruction for 40 years. So, from the beginning the Yahweh had to make it clear to Jeremiah that He would be bringing all of His words to pass. Look at verse 11.

“The word of the LORD came to me...” 

He says it again. This happens three times to Jeremiah in chapter 1.

“The word of the LORD came to me: ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’ ‘I see the branch of an almond tree,’ I replied.”

There are a lot of almond trees in Anathoth, and they are spring trees. They are the among the first to bud in the spring. 

Which trees tell you that the spring has come? We are waiting for the spring to really come, right? When do you know that that’s happened? I like the forsythia. When I see those yellow buds open up and the daffodils, too. Then I know that spring has come.

The Hebrew word for “almond” is “shaqed.” Well, the LORD has a pun planned for Jeremiah. What do you see, Jeremiah? I see a “shaqed.” v.12 "The LORD said to me, ‘You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.’” The word for “watching” is “shoqed.”

You see a shaqed? Well, I am shoqed. Just as you know that when you see an almond branch, that spring will come, you can know that I am going to see that my words are fulfilled. It’s not always going to seem like it. But I’m going to see to it myself. “Shoqed.”


Yahweh says, trust that my words will be fulfilled. Wait for them. Watch for them. Because I am watching for them. The Lord takes this personally. He is not going to leave it up to chance. He is not going to leave it up to someone else.

Did your mom ever ask you to do something, and then watch you to make sure you do it? “I’m not leaving until you put that away.” The LORD is doing the same thing with His words.

Do you believe that? I’ll bet that it feels to some of you in this room right now like the Lord has dropped the ball. 

“When is He going to do what He said?”

It felt like that many times to the people of Israel living through the story of the Old Testament. But this is the truth right here, “I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”

“I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”

The LORD Himself is supervising the perfectly-timed enacting of His words.

Wait for it. 

Wait for His promises to be fulfilled.

And His threats!  Look at verse 13.

“The word of the LORD came to me again: ‘What do you see?’ ‘I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north,’ I answered.”

Do you see the picture in your mind’s eye?

There is a big boiling pot with spaghetti in it. Or maybe chicken stew. I don’t know what’s in it.

But it’s tilting your direction. You’re sitting to the south of the pot. And the boiling pot is tilting away from the north and towards you. What do you think is going to happen? Y

ou’re going to get burnt. You’re going to get scalded.

That’s what the vision was for Jeremiah.

“The word of the LORD came to me again: ‘What do you see?’ ‘I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north...’” Verse 14.

“The LORD said to me, ‘From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,’ declares the LORD. ‘Their kings will come and set up their thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem; they will come against all her surrounding walls and against all the towns of Judah. I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made.”

Now, He doesn’t say here who is coming from the north. It’s maybe too early in Jeremiah’s ministry to reveal that. 

It’s not the South though. It’s not Egypt. The enemies will be coming from the North, and we know now that eventually it was Babylon.

From the beginning of his ministry, Jeremiah knew that the LORD was going to bring judgment on Judah.

All he had to do was wait. The boiling pot was going to be poured out. Yahweh has declared it. They can expect siege warfare. They can expect disaster. They will be scalded.

And here’s why. Not because of the geopolitical realities of the day. The LORD uses those politics, but it’s not why Judah would be scalded.

They will be judged because they had forsaken the LORD. They had worshiped idols. They had worshiped “what their hands had made.”

We’re going to see this again and again in the book of Jeremiah.

There is painted in this book a beautifully ugly portrait of sin. Jeremiah poetically and powerfully explains to us what sin really is.

And it’s what brought Judah down. God wasn’t just having a bad day when the exile came. The exile was the judicial results of hundreds of years in the making of forsaking the LORD.

What’s amazing is that He was so patient and waited so long! But He was watching to see that He word was fulfilled.

And that’s true of the happy and hopeful promises of Jeremiah, as well. In many ways, we are still waiting for them to come to fruition.

The New Covenant has been inaugurated in the blood of Jesus and ratified by the resurrection of Jesus. But we are still waiting for the return of Jesus and the kingdom that He promised.

We are still in some ways uprooted and waiting to be planted forever in the kingdom.

But it will happen. Just wait and see. And while you wait, stand with God’s Word.


Yahweh says in effect:

"Speak my words." I’ve put them in your mouth.

"Wait for my words." I’m watching to see that they will be fulfilled.

And "stand with my words." Stand up for them. Fight for them. Don’t back down from them. No matter what anybody says. Look at verse 17.

“‘Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.”

The ESV translates this, “Dress for work,” Jeremiah.

“[P]repare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:13).

Roll up your sleeves (Ryken).  And don’t back down. If you cower before men, I will give you something to cower about. V.18

“Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land–against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD.”

I love that. I want that.

I want to be a fortified city.
I want to be an iron pillar.
I want to be a bronze wall.

I want to be ready to stand with and for God’s word against all comers.

That’s one of the biggest reasons why I’m tackling the prophecy of Jeremiah with you, because I need to grow in this.

I do not like being unpopular.

I like to be liked. I’ll bet that you do, too. But Jeremiah was set from the beginning to be unpopular.

Notice who he has to be prepared to stand against! Verse 18

“...against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land.”

That’s everybody. That’s everybody inside. It’s not the nations that Jeremiah has to contend with. It’s his own people!

This is the story of the book. Jeremiah did not like being unpopular either.

But he was prepared to do it because the word of the LORD had come to him.

He felt those words. He had them inside of him. He says that they were like a fire burning in his bones (20:9). He had to speak them. Whether people wanted to hear them or not.

You and I need to prepare ourselves to be uprooted.

And to say what needs to be said [with love!] whether people want to hear it or not.

Jeremiah had a backbone. Jeremiah had a spine.

He was not “only a child.” For 40 years, he was a fortified city, a iron pillar, and a bronze wall. He was unpopular, but he was invincible. Not because he was so great, but because (v.19), the LORD was with him and rescued him.

And that same God will be with us if we will stand with His words.

“Declares the LORD.”

Sunday, April 17, 2022

“I Have Seen the Lord!” [Matt's Messages]

“I Have Seen the Lord!”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
April 17, 2022 :: John 20:1-18

Jesus was dead and buried.

Over the last two Sundays, we have been reading about the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ. Two weeks ago, we started in chapter 19 as Jesus was made to carry His own cross to His own execution.

And then He was nailed to it and then He fought to breathe. Fighting against asphyxiation while hanging there nailed to the wood.

Excruciating pain and anguish and agony and thirst and horror and shame. And then death.

True death. Not faked. Not almost there. But certifiably dead. His executioners knew their business, and they had accomplished their mission. Jesus was killed.

And then He was buried. A couple of disciples who had been “secret disciples” stepped out of the darkness and at some risk to themselves took possession of the lifeless corpse, the body of Jesus, and laid it nearby in a freshly dug tomb that had never yet been used by the owners. Everybody knew where it was. 

It was close to Skull Hill where Jesus was killed, in a little garden nearby–very easily locate-able  even in the dark. 

Even though He had died with nothing and treated as less than nothing, in His burial, He had been treated royally wrapped with 75 pounds of spices intertwined in linen strips. But it had been done hastily because the sun was going down and the Sabbath was beginning.

And all night Friday and all day Saturday, nothing happened.

Jesus was dead and buried.

And with Jesus, all of His disciples’ hopes were dead and buried, as well.

Jesus was dead and buried.

And then came Sunday morning!

Look with me at the historical record. John chapter 20, verse 1.

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.”

It’s early early on Sunday morning. Mary was one of the women that was there on Friday and had to watch that monstrous thing happen to Jesus. She went to the tomb, the other gospels tell us, with those with other women to finish the rush job that Joe and Nick had done on Friday evening as the Sabbath fell. 

And as the sun starts to come up, Mary sees that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.

What does she think? Does she think, “Hooray! Christ has risen indeed!”

No. That’s not where her mind goes.

She thinks of one thing only, “Grave robbers.”

“Those guys put 75 pounds of expensive spices in that tomb. Myrrh and aloes. Somebody’s probably made off with the body. I better go tell Peter.” v.2

“So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!’ [“It’s terrible. He’s not only dead, but now His body is stolen.”] So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.”

Remember, the “other disciple” is probably John the guy writing this story out for us. He’s so bowled over by the idea that Jesus loved Him. He can’t get over it. And he’s full of grief.

He and Peter run to the tomb, leaving Mary behind. V.4

“Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. [I love those “eyewitness” details. There’s not deep spiritual point to that. It’s just history. It’s just how it all actually happened. John got there first but for some reason stayed outside. Maybe he couldn’t bring himself to look. V.6] Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. [Classic Peter, right?!] He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. [This does not look like the work of grave robbers. They left the valuable spices in the linens?! They folded up the head cloth?! I don’t think so. V.8] Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)”

Peter has seen it with his own eyes, but he’s not sure what he’s seen. The other gospels tell us that he went away marveling over this and trying to figure it all out.

But John says that at moment, he got it. He got it. He understood. 

Jesus is alive!

John didn’t understand that the Old Testament had always pointed towards the Messiah dying and rising again. Like Psalm 16, verse 10 that we studied last year on Resurrection Sunday out there in the big parking lot. Where David wrote (ultimately for the Christ), “You [LORD] will not abandon me [CHRIST] to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”

John says he didn’t understand all of that, but he did believe that Jesus was alive again. And so should we.

I want to give out two points of application this morning, summed up in just two words. And here’s the first one:


Like John here in verse 8, believe that Jesus of Nazareth has come back from the dead. This isn’t a myth. It’s not a fable or a fairy tale. It’s not just a metaphor. A nice story to explain how sweet the season of Spring is. This is reality. This is historical fact. And it changes everything.

Believe that Jesus has risen from the dead.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed.

Indeed. For real, in other words.

Ryen, Jordan, and Leo have come to believe that Jesus is alive again and that’s why they are going through with baptism.

None of them want attention. 
None of them love to speak in public.
All three of them believe that Jesus is alive.
All three of them believe Jesus was dead and buried and is alive once more.

Watch them show it by being buried in the water and coming back out again themselves!

Do YOU believe?

I love how John has not yet seen the Risen Jesus and yet he already believes. Because that’s like us, right? 

Have you seen the Lord? It would be wonderful to see Him with our own eyes, and one day we will. Somebody is just about to in the next part of the story.

Do you believe? Here’s how blessed you are if believe: John said earlier in chapter 1, “[T]o all who received [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God...” (1:12).

Ryen, Jordan, and Leo have become children of God!

They believe that Jesus died for their sins and came back to life to give them eternal life with Him.


Mary did not yet believe. She didn’t understand what had happened. Apparently, she made her way back to the garden and missed Peter and John and everybody else. And she just stood there outside the tomb and cried. V.10

“Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying.”

The Greek word for “crying” there might be better translated “wailing.” She was sobbing. She was overwhelmed with emotion. I’ve only cried like that a few times in my life. One time was 23 years ago today. 23 years ago this weekend our oldest daughter, Charis, died in utero.  And I wailed in that hospital room like I had never wailed before.

Mary’s Lord was just as dead, and now His body was stolen. She was inconsolable. And then she saw something mysterious and amazing. V.11

“As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, ‘Woman [madam], why are you crying?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don't know where they have put him.’ [v.14]

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.”

Why was that, do you think?

It might have been because it was still early and dark.
It might have been because she was looking through tears.
It might have been because she didn’t look very closely.
It might have been because she was somehow kept from recognizing Him.
It might have been because He looked different after having been tortured, either he looked worse or He looked better than she had just seen Him a couple of days ago.

We don’t know.

Personally, I think it’s just because she didn’t expect to see Jesus!

Jesus was dead.

And then He speaks. Verse 15.

“‘Woman,’ he said, ‘why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’ [I see a twinkle in His eye. He can see what’s going to happen when the light dawns for her.] Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’ [She saw what she expected to see. But He was not what she expected to see. Verse 16.] Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ [Just like He always did! [an insight from D.A. Carson] She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).”

What a moment!

Can you imagine?
Can you imagine what she felt like?

His sheep know His voice.

It was Him!
It was the Teacher.
It was the Lord!

It was Jesus back from the dead.

In my mind, she falls at His feet and grabs Him around the knees.

I can’t imagine how I would have felt if our daughter had come back to life.

I wouldn’t have ever let go of her.

But Jesus says, “Let me go. Okay. Let me go.”  Verse 17.

“Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'’”

I think the point there is, “It’s okay, Mary. I’m not going anywhere just yet. I am going to be ascending to the Father, but there is still more time for us to be together. It’s understandable, but you don’t have to cling to me.”

“Instead, I have a mission for you. Go tell my brothers (the disciples) that I am ascending to my Father.

But He’s not just my Father. He’s your Father.

He’s not just MY God (even though He’s mine like nobody else’s), but He’s also YOUR God.

You disciples are children of God because you believe in me.

Go tell them that!

And that’s our second and last point of application this morning:

#2. TELL.

Believe that Jesus has risen indeed. 
And tell others that Jesus has risen indeed!

Mary did. Verse 18. “Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.”

That’s what you and I are supposed to be doing with our lives in 2022.

Just like Mary. We’re to go and tell the brothers, like everybody here, and go also and tell the world that Christ has risen indeed.

And that’s what Ryen, Jordan, and Leo are prepared to do right now.


Messages in this Mini-Series:

1. "Here They Crucified Him" - John 19:17-30
2. "They Laid Jesus There" - John 19:31-42

Friday, April 15, 2022

"Misquoted" by Russell Muilenburg

My friend Russell Muilenburg has published his first book!

Russell and I have known each other for more than a quarter of a century, having met during summer Greek (also known as "suicide Greek") at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School back in the day. Then in our first semester at TEDS, we had the exact same schedule and got to spend a whole lot of time together. After seminary, we've stayed in touch and have continued to encourage each other as we walk through the ups and downs of ministry in the 21st century. 

Russell is a good thinker and a gifted teacher. I've always profited from reading (and, with permission, copying from) his sermons. I'm glad that he's started to provide resources for a wider audience (check out his website:

It was a joy to provide my endorsement for this new release:

"'Everything happens for a reason,' including you picking up this thoughtful little book by my friend Russell Muilenburg. In Misquoted, Russell interrogates several of the hackneyed sayings we Christians have been known to overuse. But Russell doesn't just dunk on and debunk Christian cliches--he also shows how each trite adage can also reveal a kernel of biblical truth and how we can be more discerning in what we say to each other, especially when we are going through hard times. I recommend that you 'just follow your heart' and start reading Misquoted today."

Sunday, April 10, 2022

“They Laid Jesus There” [Matt's Messages]

“They Laid Jesus There”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
April 10, 2022 :: John 19:31-42

In this story, from the beginning to the end of this message today, our Lord Jesus Christ will be dead.

We know that Jesus is not dead right now. That’s what we’re getting ready to celebrate next Sunday. Amen? “Raise your joys and triumphs high!”

But in this story, in the passage of Scripture that we are considering this morning, John chapter 19 verses 31 through 42, Jesus. is. dead.

Totally dead.

No breath in His lungs. No beating in His heart. No brain-waves in His skull.

Last week, we read about His dying. We started in verse 17 and watched Him carry His own cross to His own execution. And we read about His crucifixion. Nailed to a cross. Fighting against asphyxiation. Excruciating pain and anguish and agony and horror.

Shame. The execution squad gambling for His last stitch of clothing. 

A mocking placard pasted above His head charging Him, in effect, with sedition and insurrection and rebellion.

Incredible thirst. And then He cried out, “It is finished,” and He gave up His spirit. And He died.

He wasn’t pretending. He wasn’t faking. He wasn’t acting.

After He died, nobody yelled, “Cut!” And then He smiled and got down from the cross. It wasn’t an act. It wasn’t just a show. No, Jesus was executed and died. Jesus laid down His life, and He died.

He was now a corpse. Nailed to a cross.

And He’s going to stay a lifeless corpse throughout this message. He’s not going to do anything. Say anything. Teach anything. His body is just a carcass.

In fact, when we go to sing our closing song this morning, we are only going to sing the first three verses. And not the one about the resurrection. 

You’ll have to come back next week if you want to sing more about the resurrection.

Today, in this story, Jesus will stay dead.

I think it’s good for us to think about Jesus being truly dead. The Bible emphasizes it. It gives us these twelve verses in John’s gospel and more in the others about what happened on Friday night and all day Saturday. 

And the Bible emphasizes that Jesus not only truly died but was buried.

The Apostle Paul said that Jesus’ burial was an essential part of the gospel of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). It matters that He was buried. The Apostles’ Creed that we’ve been confessing with the whole church throughout space and church history is very concise, but it makes sure to include that Jesus “...was crucified, dead, and buried.”

We all want to get to the resurrection, but we have to through the death first. And the burial first.

Most of the pronouns change at this point in the story. There are a lot fewer “he’s” and there are more “it’s” to describe His body. John keeps saying, “the body of Jesus.” Because He has given up His spirit.

This body is a corpse.

Just hanging there suspended in the air, nailed to the cross.

He is dead.

Now, they don’t all realize it at first.

Nobody is checking His pulse. He could be hanging on. Victims of crucifixion could last for days. 

But this was a holy week for the Jews, and they wanted the whole thing hurried up. Look at verse 31.

“Now it was the day of Preparation [the day before the Sabbath of Passover Week], and the next day was to be a special Sabbath [the Sabbath of Passover Week, the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread]. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.”

They wanted things sped up.

The Romans liked to leave the criminals on the cross until the vultures ate them off.

The crucified were a warning to others. They were billboards hanging there saying, “This is what happens when you rebel against the power of Rome!”

But the Jews (who did not normally participate in crucifixions, they didn’t have the power to do that. The Jews could stone somebody but not crucify them at this time. The Jews) were taught by Moses to never leave someone hanging overnight.

[Read Deuteronomy chapter 21 to see that and how they followed that law in the book of Joshua chapter 8.]

And they especially didn’t want that mess hanging there during the Passover. How gauche! How tacky! How unholy and unclean.

So they asked Pilate to have the three criminals’ legs broken.

What would that do? If you can’t push up on the stake, you die much more quickly of asphyxiation. Look at verse 32.

“The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.”

“This one is already checked out.”

Think about this. The men on either side of Jesus are still struggling to breathe and might for days. The other gospels tell us that they deserved to be there and had heaped abuse at Jesus. But then one of them repented and asked Jesus to save him right then and there, and He did!

Jesus died, and that guy was still alive. But he won’t be for long because the soldiers have broken have legs.

But they didn’t have to break Jesus’ legs. He was dead already.

He was dead already.

Further proof? Verse 34.

“Instead [of breaking his legs], one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.”

Did that hurt Him?

He just got pierced in the side with spear. Did that hurt?

No. It didn’t hurt because He was already dead.

And apparently, “the blood from the heart mingled with the fluid from the pericardial sac to produce [a] flow of blood and water” from out of Jesus’ side (Carson, 623).

I don’t know why the soldier did it. Perhaps to confirm His death which it assuredly did. But maybe just out of cruelty and brutality and perversity?

Either way, it proved that Jesus was dead.

He didn’t flinch. He just flowed. His fluids just flowed out His side.

The color would have drained out of His skin.

He was gone. And His body still nailed to the cross.

Look at what John says in verse 35.

“The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.”

I think that John is talking about himself. He’s saying that he saw this monstrous thing with his own eyes and, he’s telling us this so that we might know the truth from an eyewitness so that we might believe.

And here’s what we need to believe–Jesus was dead. Totally and truly dead.

John says, “Don’t believe anyone who says that it was faked. Jesus didn’t just pass out. Jesus didn’t just ‘swoon.’ He died. He was so dead they didn’t break His bones. And blood and water came pouring out of His side. I saw it. Believe me. He was dead.”

That historical fact will be very important when we get to chapter 20!

But, amazingly, just because Jesus is dead doesn’t mean that He isn’t doing anything!

Jesus is so wonderful that even though He was truly dead, He was still accomplishing great things!

Today, I want to point out two and apply them to our lives in 2022.


That’s the point John makes in verses 36 and 37.

“These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken,’ and, as another scripture says, ‘They will look on the one they have pierced.’”

Here He is dead, and Jesus is still fulfilling holy Scripture.

Just like Psalm 34:20 predicted, the Messiah had no broken bones.

He was just like the Passover Lamb. According to Exodus chapter 12, the Israelites were not to break the legs of the Lamb of the Passover. And guess what Jesus was?!

And Zechariah chapter 12, verse 10 predicted that the guilty, “will look on the one they have pierced.” [That’s quoted again in Revelation chapter 1, verse 7 for a greater fulfillment still yet to come.]

Did these soldiers know what they were doing?

Were they trying to fulfill Scripture?

No. And they probably never realized that they were!

But John could see that the Lord was doing it through Jesus even though He was dead.

John keeps pointing this out again and again in his gospel. God is keeping His promises. God is fulling the Scriptures. Everything that He said was going to happen did.

And not even the death of Jesus would stop it! 

In fact, the death of Jesus just carries it all along to its inevitable fulfillment.

Even though He was dead, Jesus was fulfilling Scripture.

Now, think about that and apply it to your life.

Just how committed is the Lord to fulfilling all of the Scripture?

Do you know what the Scripture says is going to happen?

If not, why not? It is more trustworthy than anything else you could rely on.

What is the weather going to be tomorrow? You reach for your weather app, right? How trustworthy is that? And yet you reach for it.

Have you reached for your Bible to see what is going to happen to the world? To you? What has God promised you? And how sure is that?

Even in His death, Jesus was fulfilling the Scriptures that pointed to His coming and the manner of the death that He would die on our behalf.

Do you see how powerful this Lord is? Someone might say, what kind of power is it that suffers through crucifixion? And I would say, what kind of power is triumphant even through the tragedy of crucifixion? More than that, what kind of power predicts ten hundred years before the fact that a certain man would die a certain way, with no broken bones? What kind of powerful sovereignty is it that makes a promise to a rebellious people that they would see a pierced God and then goes through with the painful reality of it five hundred years later?

This is God, friends. Only God does this.

And He was doing it while Jesus was dead!

And John says he saw this with his very own eyes and has told us so that we also may believe. Do you believe?

What are you counting on?

What are you counting on for your salvation?

So many count on such flimsy things like their own goodness, their own good works, their net worth, their family connections, their denomination. 

What if we counted on something much more powerful that looked powerless?

What if we counted on the fulfillment of Scripture by a dead man?

Remember 1 Peter 3:18? “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

Even though He was pierced and dead, Jesus was bringing you to God. 

“The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.”


Look at verse 38.

“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away.”

I think this is truly amazing.

The other gospels tell us that Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man and a member of the ruling class in Israel. He was actually a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Ruling Council, and had disagreed with their verdict in the trial of Jesus.

In fact, he was a disciple of Jesus. He was one of Jesus’ disciples.

But verse 38 says that he was a secret disciple.

Is that a thing? It can’t be for long. A secret disciple is an oxymoron.

Joseph feared his fellow Jews. 

Until Jesus died. And now he steps out into the open and asks Governor Pilate for permission to take the body of Jesus off of the cross.

This is something that the Romans didn’t normally do. Sometimes if a family asked, they would let them have the body for a burial. But often the family would not ask because asking would associate them with the convicted criminal! 

The Jews wanted the bodies down and hidden away. Who knows what they would have done with the body if Joe hadn’t shown up and asked for it. A shallow grave in a ditch somewhere, maybe. Or somewhere His disciples could not gain access.

But here is Joe from Arimathea publicly asking for permission to take the body and bury it himself.

And it’s not just Joe. It’s also Nick. Remember Nick at Night? V.39

“[Joseph] was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night [John chapter 3].” Nicodemus was the man whom Jesus told, “You must be born again.”

“You must be born again.”

And I think he was. But he too was a secret disciple until this moment. He, too, was as leader among the Jews. A teacher!

But he had come in darkness and stayed in the darkness until Jesus was dead.

And now, Nick has stepped into the light and is putting his life at risk to identify with and bury the body of Jesus.

This is bold witness!

Let me ask you:

Are you trying to be a secret disciple?

“Oh, yeah, I follow Jesus, but I never talk about Him.

I follow Jesus, but I never raise the flag. I’m just quiet about it. I don’t make a big deal about it.

I don’t try to get others to follow Him. I’m not a fanatic.

I’m a secret follower of Jesus.”

The people who are getting baptized next Sunday have come to believe that they need to tell the world that they belong to Jesus now.

They are no longer going to be silent or secret.
They are going to be public and visible and audible.

Out of the darkness and into the light.
Out of secret and in the open.

They are going to witness to Jesus as their Lord.

How about you?

This week is a great week to go public.

This is a great week to start a conversation. This is a great week to hand someone a yellow Easter book and offer to get together with them to talk about it.

It’s probably going to get harder in our culture to admit that you follow Jesus. At one time, it was seen as a good thing. And then it was a neutral thing. And in some quarters now it’s a negative thing.

And, to a great extent, Christians have done the damage to our own reputation. Many who have professed faith in Christ have lived lives that did not show the true beauty of Christ and given Him a bad name.

We need to truly follow the true Christ.

But we need to do it publicly and without fear of reprisal. Joe and Nick did it when Jesus was dead!

How much more should you and I do it when we know the rest of the story?!

Even though He was dead, Jesus was inspiring bold witness.

And not just bold witness but bold worship.

Look at what they did for this body. Verse 39 again.

“Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”

That’s a whole lot of spices!

Seventy five pounds! They must have had servants come with them to carry all of that to the burial and help with the body.

That was a weight of perfume that was reserved for royalty. This was an anointing fit for king.

And a King He was! Nicodemus had come to recognize that. Joseph of Arimathea ha come to recognize that.

They recognized King Jesus’ worth.

Their fear of the Jews had turned to faith in Jesus, and they put their money where their faith was and witnessed to and worshipped Him.

Even though He was dead.

Even though they were burying Him.

Notice that they buried Him nearby. Very near where He was crucified.

The garden was very close. The sun was going down. There wasn’t much time until the Sabbath began and the work would cease. 

They had to get Jesus buried. There was a new tomb there. It was probably owned by Joseph of Arimathea himself. The rich would cut these tombs into the side of a rocky hill and put a whole family in there over time. This one was completely empty. Nobody in there yet.

Except Jesus.

Interestingly, this probably also fulfills Scripture, right? Remember Isaiah 53? Prophesied 700 years before Jesus was even born:

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. [Verse 9] He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.”

He was dead then buried in a rich man’s grave.

Near where he was crucified. A very findable spot. Easy to locate. They all knew where Jesus was laid.

That historical fact will be very important when we get to chapter 20.

But we will leave that for next week.

This week, let’s just simply ponder what Jesus could accomplish even while there was no life in His body.

He was still fulfilling Scripture. And that means that nothing can stop the Scripture from being fulfilled. Count on it. Believe.

And He was still inspiring bold witness and worship. Count on it. And join the ranks of public disciples like Joe and Nick.

Having the courage to follow Jesus out in the open in the light, come what may.


Messages in this Mini-Series:

Sunday, April 03, 2022

“Here They Crucified Him” [Matt's Messages]

“Here They Crucified Him”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
April 3, 2022 :: John 19:17-30

“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
On Which the Prince of Glory Died
My Richest Gain I Count But Loss
And Pour Contempt On All My Pride” 
(Isaac Watts, 1707)

The authors of the four gospels do not spend hardly any time on the sheer horror of the crucifixion.

They don’t describe it.
They don’t give the details.

I think that one of the reasons for that is that everybody in the Roman world knew what crucifixion was. You didn’t have to describe how awful it was. 

Everybody knew.

I think another reason is so that we don’t get fixated on the gore. We can sometimes take a perverse pleasure in picturing pain and miss the point. The gospel writers never miss the point.

But everybody knew.

All John has to say is what he says in verse 18, “Here they crucified him,” and everybody knew how unthinkably awful was what happened there to Jesus.

D.A. Carson describes it this way, “Here, in this public place where all could see him, the soldiers crucified [Jesus]. In the ancient world, this most terrible of punishments is always associated with shame and horror. It was so brutal that no Roman citizen could be crucified without the sanction of the Emperor. Stripped naked and beaten to pulpy weakness, the victim could hang in the hot sun for hours, even days. To breathe, it was necessary to push with the legs and pull with the arms to keep the chest cavity open and functioning. Terrible muscle spasm wracked the entire body; but since collapse meant asphyxiation, the strain went on and on” (PNTC, pg. 610).

That’s what was going on in verse 18. That’s what was happening to Jesus. And we saw it live and in person, we would probably puke.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tempted to not think about that. I’m tempted to turn my mind away to “nicer” things. But I believe that we should not look away. We should survey the wondrously awful Cross.

“See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?”

And there was so much going on when Jesus was crucified.

So much more than just a painful gasping and the agony of the nails.

The Apostle John, in reflecting back on those crucial hours, saw many things coming together around and through Jesus as He was crucified there.

I want to point out four of them that I’ve noted in verses 17 through 30.

As they crucified Him...


Jesus has lived His perfect life, and done His amazing miracles, and taught His kingdom teaching, and for all of that goodness He has been feared, hated, arrested,  flogged, judged, dragged from court to court, from Jewish court to Roman court, beaten, spat upon, mocked, yelled at, and scourged. 

And now He’s been made to carry His own cross. V.17

“Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others–one on each side and Jesus in the middle.”

The part of Jesus’ Cross that He probably had to carry was the crossbeam. See here on the sculpture Josh has shared with us, his artwork, again this year, this part that goes horizontally. Often the vertical piece was permanently in the ground as a stake.

And the victim was made to carry His own crossbeam to the place of execution which was called Skull Hill (“Kranion” in Greek). “Golgotha” in Aramaic. Later “Kranion” or “Skull” would be translated into “Calvary” in Latin. That’s where we get that word.

This is the place outside of Jerusalem where Jesus died. “Here they crucified him.”

And, just as Isaiah predicted, He was “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). He was crucified in between two bad guys. Probably rebel insurrectionists, terrorist guerrilla fighters. 

Each of them, all three of them, nailed to their crosses and struggling to breathe and slowly dying.

It was a common practice to put up a placard either hanging around the neck or nailed above the head of the criminal being crucified with the charge inscribed on it–that which you were convicted of and being executed for.

This would be a deterrent for other criminals. “See what happens to you if you do this?!”

What was Jesus’ crime? Look at verse 19.

“Pilate [the Roman governor] had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.”

The language of the natives, the language of their overlords, and the trade language spoken by everybody. It was proclaimed in such a way that everybody who could read knew what it said, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

Oh boy, the Jewish leaders were not happy about that. They were happy He was dying. But they had pretty much manipulated the situation so that He would. Pilate didn’t want to execute Him, but he was weak and felt like his hands were tied. So he washed his hands and had Jesus crucified.

But he was going to do it his way. Verse 21.

“The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, ‘Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’”

That doesn’t mean that he believed it. But it does mean was stubborn and wasn’t going to be manipulated any further. He was going to proclaim what he was going to proclaim. He probably thought it was ironic!

And it was ironic, just not in the way Pilate thought.
It was ironic because it was true.
It wasn’t just ironic; it was prophetic.

Pilate was unwittingly witnessing to the true identity of the “Prince of Glory.” He was (and IS!) the “King of the Jews.” And, more, the King of the whole world!

What is the right application of that except to bow?

To worship Jesus as King. He was being enthroned as King even as He was being crucified. He may be the strangest King there ever was, but He’s the greatest King there ever will be! And He was being proclaimed as King, universally proclaimed as King, even as they crucified Him there. Worship Him. 

“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small (to give to Him):
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

And not just worship Him, but proclaim Him now, as well.

Tell somebody about Jesus in the next month. Do some evangelism. Be bold and share about your faith in your Lord. Tell somebody that Jesus is your King.

As they crucified Him...


I love how John could see how these people who were doing such evil things were unwittingly accomplishing God’s plans at the very same time. Look at verse 23.

“When the soldiers crucified Jesus [don’t forget what’s happening, don’t look away, when this four man execution squad crucified Jesus], they took his clothes [robe, belt, sandals, head-covering], dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. [It was a “tunic” like an undershirt that went from neck to knees. And woven like that, it was too valuable to cut into four pieces. V.24] ‘Let's not tear it,’ they said to one another. ‘Let's decide by lot who will get it.’”

“I’ll roll you for it. This guy won’t be needing it any longer.”

Don’t miss how awful this is. When this little game of chance was over, our Lord was hanging there exposed. But even in that shaming act, these soldiers were carrying out God’s plan.

The Apostle John saw in their gambling, God’s promises. His mind went back to Psalm 22, the one that begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We read it together just about one year ago out in that parking lot right there in the drizzle.

The John says, “That’s Psalm 22, verse 18!” Look at v.24. John writes, “This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, ‘They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.’

King David wrote that 1000 years before Jesus was born. It’s terrible, and it’s wonderful at the same time. Because it means that nothing can stop the promises of God, even the scariest of them. And that means that you and I can trust in the promises of God, even the sweetest and most unbelievable of them.

God can use all kinds of horrible things to effect His good plan for His children.

I mean, on a grander scale, that’s what was happening as Jesus was crucified, right? This was a terrible injustice. This Man hanging on the Cross. This shouldn’t have happened!

And yet it was also God’s plan being carried out. On the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter told the gathering, “This man [Jesus] was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23).

They should not have done that, but praise God they did. These soldiers should not have gambled for His clothes, but praise they did. V.24, “So this is what the soldiers did.”

Praise God that no matter how He does it, He always keeps His promises, Amen?

Let’s trust those promises! Do you know His promises? Do you know what He has promised to do? Nothing will stop Him from keeping them. In fact, He will use everything, even the bad things, to bring them to fruition.

Even these soldiers stealing his last earthly possessions. At this moment, He had nothing. No things. And He’s about to lose His family. Because He’s about to lose His life. V.25

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. [We’ll hear more from here when get to chapter 20. Right now, of the four women, Jesus focuses on His mom. V.26] When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”

Most Christians scholars believe that this disciple is John the Apostle and gospel-writer himself. He’s too humble to say his name, too bowled over to have been so beloved like this.

Jesus saw his mother who is about to have that sharp sword of grief pierce her soul (Luke 2:35), so He tenderly arranges an adoption for her. He provides for her and really for John, as well. Likely, Joseph has died and Jesus’ half brothers don’t believe in Him yet, so He puts these two together to watch out for each other.

Here’s what I am amazed at here:

That He’s thinking about them at all.

I don’t know about you, but if I were being crucified, I’d be thinking about being crucified. I would be full of terror and rage at what was happening to me.

But Jesus is full of love!

Even as they crucified Him...


His beloved mother, and His beloved disciple. And you know that He was caring for you and me, too.

I think it’s terrible that these women had to be there watching this monstrous thing happen.

Yet Jesus was in control. He was in charge even as He hung dying. He was making arrangements.

He was making arrangements! He was making arrangements for His loved-ones. Including arrangements for you and me.

Even as they crucified Him, Jesus was caring for His loved-ones.


I love how John knows that Jesus knows exactly what He’s doing.

Pilate didn’t realize what he was doing.
The Jews didn’t realize what they were doing.
The soldiers didn’t realize what they were doing.

But Jesus knew exactly what He was doing. Look at verse 28.

“Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ [He knows exactly what He’s about. He’s fulfilling Scripture on purpose. Psalm 22 also says “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth...” Psalm 69:21 which we also look at a year ago sings, “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.” Jesus is doing this on purpose. He’s genuinely thirsty because they’re crucifying Him here, but He says this now to make sure that we understand that He’s fulfilling Psalm 22 and Psalm 69. And so are the soldiers once again. V.29] A jar of wine vinegar [cheap sour wine] was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips.”

He knows that this moment has come. The completion moment, when He’s bringing everything together. 

And now His mouth is moistened so that He yell out with a loud cry. V.30 “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

In Greek, it’s just one word, “Tetelestai.” It takes three in English to say it, “It is finished.”

He’s not saying, “I am finished” as in “I’m a goner” or “I have lost.”

He’s saying that His mission is accomplished.
He’s saying that He’s won the victory.
He’s saying that His suffering is over and Has accomplished its purpose.
He’s done what the Father sent Him to do.

Just a few hours earlier, He had prayed to His Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4).

And now that work is completely done. And so Jesus can lay down His life and give up his spirit.

He’s in control even of the moment of His death. With these words on His lips, “It is finished.”