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2006-04-09_Words Remembered_Palm Sunday_Christs Words on the Cross

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Words Remembered

Christ’s Words on the Cross   |   Shaun LePage   |   Palm Sunday, April 9, 2006

I. Introduction

A.   Words. Vowels and consonants all jumbled together in a multitude of ways in a multitude of languages. English alone has almost 990,000 words. Millions of words are spoken every day. The average man speaks about 2,000 words every day. The average woman speaks about 7,000. Shakespeare used about 24,000 words total in his complete works. In fact, he invented about 1700 words. Since the beginning of time, people have been talking and writing and publishing and memorizing and reciting and—now—emailing and posting and blogging…words.

B.    The majority of these words are forgotten. They get deleted. They get tossed in the trash can. The spoken words are rarely recorded, so they soon stop ringing in someone’s ears.

C.   But other words linger. Some burn their way into the memory of a person who is touched by them or flattered by them or hurt by them. Some words linger because of their greatness. Some are too profound to be forgotten. Some are spoken at just the right time in just the right place by just the right person and they will always be remembered.

D.   Some of the words we—as Christians—remember every year are the words shouted in a parade long ago. There was only one entry in the parade—a man riding on a donkey. But the crowd was bouncing with joy and excitement! The Bible tells us “all the city was stirred”! They waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9; NASB).

E.    Less than one week later, that same crowd had very different words for Jesus—one of those words was: “staurwqhtw!”—“Crucify Him!” The crowds, the religious leaders, even condemned criminals—we are told—insulted Him with words.

F.    There were other words that day—spoken by Jesus. Some were shouted for everyone to hear. Some were—no doubt—whispered for the few who stood nearby. The words Jesus spoke while hanging on the cross are among the most remarkable words ever recorded. They are among the most studied. The most cherished. As He hung on the cross, Jesus spoke 41 Greek words. Perhaps He spoke more, but only 41 are recorded for us. Those 41 words make up seven statements. Remarkable statements. If we consider who was speaking them and what He was going through and what He was doing for us, we must listen. We must study them. We must let them change us.

G.   We will look at them in the order that I believe they were spoken.

II.   Body

A.   Luke 23:33-38

1.     Here we have Words of Forgiveness for His Murderers.

2.     “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

3.     How they must have hated Him. He was dying by one of the most horrible forms of human execution ever invented by human creativity—but that wasn’t enough. They weren’t satisfied with that. They also mocked Him. The sign Pilate put up, declaring that Jesus was the King of the Jews, may not have been a joke to start with, but the crowd turned it into one.

4.     They were wrong. This was a complete distortion of justice. Jesus was clearly innocent and everyone there knew it. He had every right to defend Himself and curse His murderers. But Jesus practiced what He preached—and He preached forgiveness. Remember Matthew 5:43,44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

5.     This prayer was answered on Pentecost in a huge way. The Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and Peter stood and told the crowd, “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified! Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…” Verse 41 tells us 3,000 of them believed that day, repented of the sin of the murder of Jesus and received the forgiveness Jesus prayed for.

6.     “Father, forgive them?!” Drink those words in for a moment. Consider how astonishing those words were coming from that mouth, at that moment. Consider the greatness of those words. Consider the example those words are to those who are facing persecution. The first Christian martyr—Stephen—obviously was forever changed by those words. As he himself was being stoned to death, the example of His Lord was fresh in his mind. Acts 7:60 tells us Stephen said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!”

7.     Who in your life have you not forgiven? Who is it that you consider unforgivable? Please don’t let it escape your notice that those who were sinning against Jesus were not repentant. They were not saying they were sorry—they were mocking Him! They were insulting Him. They were killing Him by lying about Him. Who is it you can’t forgive?

8.     Wurmbrand story?

B.    John 19:25-27

1.     Here we have Words of Provision for His Mother.

2.     Long before this day, when Jesus was eight days old, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple. A righteous and devout prophet named Simeon was there. The Holy Spirit had told Simeon that he would not die until He had seen the Christ. He held the child and praised God and blessed Mary and Joseph. Then he said to Mary, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul…” (Luke 2:34,35). Imagine the pain and helplessness Mary must have felt as she watched Jesus being tortured and executed. This was—no doubt—the sword Simeon spoke of.

3.     She was probably widowed by this time and in a very touching, personal moment, He made sure that she was going to be taken care of by a believer. She had other sons—half-brothers of Jesus, the biological sons of Joseph. This is clear from at least four passages. Listen to this one, Matthew 13:54-56: “He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?” Mary had other children to take care of her, but they did not become believers until after Jesus rose from the dead (John 7:5). John was a believer and even more than that, He had been as close to Jesus as almost anyone. Mary and John had something very special in common—their great love for Jesus.

4.     Jesus once again sets an example to us. Here, He shows how we are to care for our family members—especially our aging parents. Paul would later write in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” So, you see, providing for your families is what believers do. Christians work so they can take care of their own. Christians who provide for their families—and take care of their aging parents—actually model Christ.

C.   Luke 23:35-43

1.     Here we have Words of Grace for a Criminal.

2.     Such a beautiful story! “Paradise” is the same word used to refer to the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis (2:8; LXX). Could there be any more of a contrast? The beautiful garden of heaven contrasted with the horrible place to which this criminal’s sinful life had led him?

3.     Matthew tells us that everyone—including both of the criminals (27:44) on either side of Jesus were insulting Jesus as He hung there on the cross. But Luke tells us one of them had a change of heart. What caused him to stop insulting Jesus and start defending Him? We aren’t told, but doesn’t it seem obvious that this man was watching Jesus? And even as Jesus died, He proved Himself to be the righteous and holy Son of God? Perhaps this man heard Jesus whisper the prayer, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Perhaps he watched as Jesus showed tender love for His mother. The Holy Spirit convicted him of his sin and showed him his need for Jesus Christ. This man understood—as the Holy Spirit worked in his heart—that Jesus was God and King.

4.     His request was simple: “Remember me.” Remember me?! Remember what? The part where you lived your whole life for yourself? Or, did he want Jesus to remember the part where he robbed innocent people because he was too lazy to work and earn an honest living? Or maybe the part where he insulted Jesus as He was dying? No, “remember me” is a simple request for mercy. He acknowledged Jesus as God and King and innocent. Then He threw Himself at the mercy of Christ. This is salvation by grace through faith. He had nothing to offer. He could not schedule a quick baptism. He could not toss a coin in the offering basket. He could do nothing except trust Himself to the kindness of His God and King.

5.     You and I are really no better off. Paul told the Ephesians “no one can boast” about his works. O—to be sure—some do and think those works will save them, but they are sadly mistaken. The Bible makes it clear that every single one of us is saved in the same way—by God’s grace! What does “grace” mean? Listen to Ephesians 2:8,9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Grace is a gift—the gift of God.

6.     Jesus taught us such a valuable lesson as He hung on the cross, dying for our sins. Because we are His, we should be people of grace—loving those who don’t deserve it, accepting those who have screwed up their lives and know it, giving generously to those who have nothing to offer us in return.

D.   Mark 15:33-36

1.     Here we have Words of Heartache for His Father.

2.     Jesus cried out in the words of Psalm 22 which looked forward to the day when Jesus would somehow be forsaken by His Father.

3.     The night before Jesus went to the Cross, His sweat was “like blood.” That’s not some invention of Hollywood. Listen to Luke 22:44: “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” Whatever this means exactly, the point was that He was in “agony.” Before the crown of thorns was in place. Before the scourge had shredded His back. Before the nails were driven through His flesh. He was in agony. Why? Two verses earlier in Luke 22:42, Jesus’ fervent prayer is quoted: “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” What exactly was this “cup”? The crown of thorns? The scourge? The cross? No—none of the above. Jesus was not asking to be spared the physical pain. What was it Jesus dreaded? He did not dread the wrath of man, but the wrath of God! The “cup” was this moment—the moment when the Father would pour the full force of His wrath on the sacrificial Lamb of God and for the first and only time in all eternity, the Son was forsaken by the Father. We’re not told exactly what that means. We’re not given a description of what happened at that moment. We only know what Jesus said at that moment. Words of loneliness. Words of great sorrow. Words of heartache beyond our understanding. Listen to how the Scriptures attempt to explain this moment for us:

a)    Isaiah 53:9,10: “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering…”

b)    2 Corinthians 5:21: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

c)    Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us…”

4.     John MacArthur writes, “We cannot begin to fathom all that was involved in paying the price of our sin. It’s sufficient to understand that all our worst fears about the horrors of hell—and more—were realized by Him as He received the due penalty of others’ wrongdoing. And in that awful, sacred hour, it was as if the Father abandoned Him. Though there was surely no interruption in the Father’s love for Him as a Son, God nonetheless turned away from Him and forsook Him as our Substitute.” (The Murder of Jesus, pgs. 220-221)

5.     As I consider this moment, I am struck by the selflessness of Jesus. He gained nothing from this horrible moment. But we—and many others—gained more than we have even begun to appreciate. This tremendous selflessness, this indescribable sacrifice for others, is the supreme example of how we are to offer ourselves up for the people in our lives—especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. Look at Philippians 2:1-8.

E.    John 19:28,29

1.     Here we have Words of Need for the Weak.

2.     Earlier, Jesus had refused “wine mixed with myrrh” (Mark 15:23). That was offered to deaden the pain, but Jesus chose not to do that. He did not want to be a drunken Sacrifice.

3.     But now—probably moments before He died—His humanity was on display. Crucifixion caused the victim to experience incredible thirst due to the great loss of blood. This time, He was offered “sour wine”—vinegar. He drank it. This was a way of confirming His physical suffering. He did not “check out” somehow. He endured the Cross in human flesh as our High Priest. The God-Man who was able to serve as the Mediator between God and man.

4.     Turn to Hebrews 4:14-16. This passage tells us the significance of the fact that Jesus—in His humanity expressed His need for something to drink. We can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace” because our High Priest can “sympathize with our weaknesses” and understands what it is to “need” something. When we need “mercy and grace” we can go to the throne of God and ask for it and receive it because of who our High Priest is. The God-Man.

F.    John 19:30

1.     Here we have Words of Victory for Sinners.

2.     It’s actually one word in the Greek: “Tetelestai.” It’s a cry of victory. Imagine that—He looked defeated, but He was claiming victory. Jesus must have been looking back—throughout the time since Adam and Eve plunged mankind into sin and God immediately began His work of redemption. All the laws. All the sacrifices. All the Scriptures were now fulfilled because the work of Christ was completed—it was finished. He had completed the work the Father had given Him to do.

3.     This is why we do not have to supplement the work of Christ with our own works. He finished it. We don’t have to finish it. It is complete and we can add nothing to it. We either rest on the finished work of Christ or we don’t. It’s that simple.

4.     Now, this does not mean we don’t work. We work because we have been saved apart from works. We work for God because we are grateful for the finished work of Christ. This is how we bring Him glory—not how we get to heaven. Jesus prayed in His high priestly prayer in John 17, “I glorified You (Father) on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.” The time to go to the Cross had finally arrived and Jesus spoke of it as though it had already taken place. But the point is that He glorified His Father by doing the work He was given to do. We do the same. We glorify the Father through our works of obedience. 

G.   Luke 23:44-49

1.     Here we have Words of Trust in the Father.

2.     Jesus had repeatedly predicted His death. At one point, He stated that He would lay down His own life. He said in John 10:18, “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.” In Luke 23:46—probably the last of the seven sayings, He communicates once again that He was in control. He chose the moment of His own death.

3.     But I think these words also communicate His trust in the Father. Jesus is the perfect model of submissiveness to the will of the Father.

a)    He told us to pray—in the Lord’s prayer—“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

b)    He then practiced what He preached. He prayed—the night before He went to the Cross, “Not as I will, but as You will…Your will be done.”

c)    The struggle we are allowed to witness there—between the humanity of Christ and the deity of Christ—reflects our own struggle. We have the Holy Spirit within us, struggling against our human flesh. The struggle is between God’s will and our own. The one who walks by the Spirit is simply the one who trusts God. No matter the potential of suffering. No matter the potential for loneliness or fear or poverty, the spiritual man or woman will choose the Father’s will over his or her own.

d)    But here’s the beauty of it: We will never be disappointed with God’s will. We will only be disappointed with our own when we have rejected His. Jesus set the example for us. In the Father’s “hands” we will never go wrong. We will never be disappointed.

III. Closing

A.   “Take Me Home” (No Wonder They Call Him The Savior, pgs. 65-66.)

B.    Most words get deleted or trashed. But, the words of Jesus on the Cross deserve to be remembered. Treasured. Because He is our Savior. Because He is our example. Let these words of Jesus echo in your ears—today and tomorrow and this week. I hope you’ll revisit them with us on Good Friday and more often in the years ahead.

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