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Tree of Life 7

Tree of Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:56
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God’s Plan of Salvation Completed
Luke 23:26, 32–46
Last week, we looked at Jesus’ public ministry, His teachings about the nature of God’s kingdom of grace, and His miracles, which revealed His identity as God’s Son as well as His power over creation, the devil, and death itself.
This week, we will look at that climactic moment each of our Old Testament sermons pointed forward to—
when the seed of the woman crushed the serpent’s head;
when God provided the Substitute for Isaac and each of us;
when Christ, the great Passover Lamb, was sacrificed;
when David’s Son — Jesus—slayed Satan, the giant;
and when Jesus was sealed in the lions’ den of death.
Now, after three years of ministry, the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of blasphemy, that is, speaking lies and insults against God. They bribed Judas, one of the Twelve disciples, to hand Jesus over to them to be tried at a time when the crowds that followed Jesus would not be around. So after celebrating one final Passover, Jesus was betrayed by Judas and handed over to the Jewish leaders. They worked quickly behind the scenes to get Jesus falsely convicted and sentenced to death by the Roman governor, Pilate. Jesus then willingly went to the cross to die for the sins of the world.
Isn’t that remarkable? Jesus reveals the love that fills Him. Though He has every reason to lash out at us ungrateful creatures whose sins nailed Him to that tree—He pleaded instead for the heavenly Father to turn from the wrath and punishment we deserve and to give us forgiveness— “Father forgive them, for they no not what they do.” In essence, He was saying, “Father unleash Your furious wrath over their sins on Me instead of them.”
Then we hear Luke record this amazing conversation:
Luke 23:39-43 “Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.””
Many Christians have found great comfort in Jesus’ promise to this repentant thief. After all, this was a deathbed confession. The thief had no time and no opportunity to make amends for the wrongs he had done. His death was rapidly approaching. Yet out of pure love, grace, and mercy alone—without any merit on the part of the thief—Jesus forgave him and promised him that very day he would be with Jesus in paradise.
When death approaches us or a loved one, what sweeter promise can Jesus Christ give when we are racked with guilt, remorse, and regret over the things we have said and done and the things we have left undone and unsaid? Jesus suffered for all those sins as our Substitute, and He completely satisfied God’s wrath. Now we can die in peace knowing our Savior will bring us home with Him.
As we return to Luke’s gospel, it is 12-noon when Jesus was cast into darkness:
Luke 23:44-45 “Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened...”
In His parables, Jesus often spoke of the judgment to come, how believers would be welcomed into the glorious presence of God while unbelievers would be bound hand and foot and cast into the outer darkness. At that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, we are told. Now, that bitter agony of hell has come upon Jesus. His hands and feet immobilized by the nails in the cross, cast into the utter darkness of a sunless sky, and weeping and gnashing His teeth as He endured the fiery wrath of God for all of our sins. Jesus paid for each of our sins, moment by moment. His heel was being bruised by the serpent’s fangs. He was the ram caught in the thicket by its horns, sacrificed as our substitute. He was the Passover Lamb shedding His blood that the angel of death might pass over us on Judgment Day.
Finally, at the end of those three dread hours, Jesus cried out in agony,
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? (Matthew 27:46)
We are the ones who should have been forsaken throughout this lifetime and through all eternity, suffering the agony of the undying fires of hell. But Jesus suffered that in our place. As a result, we who confess our sins and trust in Him will never know what it is to be truly forsaken by God.
Shortly after, John records the completion of Jesus’ suffering and payment for our sins:
John 19:28 “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!””
Then, after drinking the sour wine, He loudly proclaimed the completion of our salvation,
“It is finished.” (John 19:30)
Jesus used a Greek accounting term we could easily translate, “Paid in full.”
Oh, what sweet comfort and reassurance that single Greek word brings. The debt of our sins is paid in full. There is nothing we have to do to win our place in God’s heaven. There is no punishment in this life or after, no purgatory, nothing awaiting us when we die but the outstretched hands of our Savior and God our heavenly Father.
Even the dread of Judgment Day is removed. When Jesus looks upon us, His believers, He will see no sin or guilt, only His holiness shining back into His eyes. Spotless and pure through His blood, His Baptism, we will rejoice in His presence forever.
Finally, restored to His Father, Jesus offered His final prayer, recorded for us by Luke.
Luke 23:46 “And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last.”
And with that, Jesus died.
As the sun lowered in the sky, the Jewish leaders asked Pilate to break the legs of the criminals, to speed up their deaths so they would not die on the Sabbath, when it was not lawful to take them down.
Pilate granted their request. The centurion, the Roman soldier in charge of the crucifixion detail, gave the orders, and the legs of the criminals on Jesus’ sides were broken and both quickly died—fulfilling Jesus’ promise to the repentant thief, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.”
But when they came to Jesus, they saw He was already dead, so they did not break His legs Instead, a soldier took a spear and pierced Jesus’ side. Water and blood flowed out of the wound, proving without a doubt that Jesus had indeed already died. Since then, the Church has associated the water with Holy Baptism and the blood with Jesus’ body and blood in Holy Communion. These physical elements remind us that the benefits we receive in each of those sacraments flowed from Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
By the way, God gave one law through Moses regarding the treatment of the Passover lamb. Not a single bone was to be broken. That was fulfilled in the death of the Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ.
When evening approached, a prominent Jewish leader named Joseph of Arimathea appeared before Pilate. He was secretly a disciple of Jesus and requested permission to remove Jesus’ body from the cross and bury Him. Pilate granted him permission.
So Joseph along with Nicodemus, another secret disciple who was a prominent Pharisee, removed Jesus’ body, wrapped it in linen and spices, and laid it in Joseph’s own never-before used tomb, which was nearby. They rolled a large stone over the entrance and left—just like Daniel’s lions’ den. The loyal women who had followed Jesus from Galilee followed behind and noted where the tomb was. Then they went off to buy spices so the day after the Sabbath they could return and more properly bury Jesus’ body.
Jesus’ suffering and death fulfilled God’s promises throughout the Old Testament. It satisfied and stilled God’s wrath against our sins and rescued us from an eternity in hell. Satan, sin, and hell lay vanquished. Now one last enemy remained to be conquered—death. Jesus, like David when he killed Goliath, would accomplish His great victory over death for us as our Champion on the third day.
The huge stone rolled over the entrance of Jesus’ tomb, may bring to mind when we talked about Daniel as he spent the night in the lions’ den, a huge stone rolled across the entrance. The next morning, King Darius stood outside the tomb, doubtfully asking Daniel if his God had rescued him from the lions. When he heard Daniel’s strong voice respond from behind the stone, the king was filled with wonder, joy, and amazement.
Something similar happened on the third day when Jesus rose from His tomb.
There are more than enough sightings recorded for us in the Bible to prove Jesus’ resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15, St. Paul, one of those eyewitnesses, writes,
1 Cor. 15:5-6 “He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.”
Paul’s point is clear, at least at the time he wrote 1 Corinthians. Witnesses were still alive who could testify they had seen the risen Christ, as had Paul himself.
After Jesus left Joseph’s empty tomb, there was nothing to see there except the empty linen cloths which Joseph and Nicodemus had wrapped around Jesus when they buried Him. But those empty cloths spoke volumes to any who would think about them. And they answered one of the strangest lies that was passed among the Jews.
When the guards went to the chief priests to report to them that there had been an earthquake, an angel came down from heaven and rolled the stone away from the tomb, They found the body of Jesus was missing. The only thing in the tomb were the cloths Jesus had left behind.
Rather than admit they were wrong and seriously consider that Jesus might be the promised Savior, the chief priests bribed the guards instructing them to spread the story that they had fallen asleep and Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body.
Any reasoning Jew should have seen through that. It was widely known that Roman soldiers who fell asleep on their watch would immediately be executed—especially if that person or thing they were watching had been stolen as they slept. Also, it was an undeniable fact that Jesus’ disciples had abandoned Him at His arrest after Jesus had stopped Peter’s attempt to defend Him. Even now the disciples were quaking behind locked doors for fear of the Jewish leaders hunting them down as well.
But an even stronger argument against that story were the empty grave cloths themselves. If the disciples had stirred up the courage to sneak in during the night to steal Jesus’ body, if they had been able to sneak past the sleeping guards and silently roll the stone away, why would they risk taking the time in the tomb to unwrap Jesus’ body? They would have had every reason to expect that body was beginning to decay. Wouldn’t it have been smarter to take the body with the wrappings intact around it?
No, the empty wrappings were a beautiful testimony that Jesus had risen and was alive. But the first witnesses didn’t recognize that right away. Mary Magdalene, a woman who had followed Jesus, saw the grave cloths. She rushed back to the disciples, and told Peter and John someone had stolen Jesus’ body. Peter and John ran out to inspect the tomb. They went in and saw the linen cloths lying where Jesus’ body had been, but they didn’t see Jesus. Confused by this, they returned to the city.
Meanwhile, Mary had returned to the tomb. We read in John 20:
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain. . . . They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to Him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that He had said these things to her. (John 20:11–18)
Later that afternoon, Jesus appeared to two of His followers as they were leaving Jerusalem and walking to a nearby village called Emmaus. He asked them why they were sad and their faces downcast. In amazement that this stranger didn’t know what had happened, they related the events of Holy Week—Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, then His stunning arrest, trials, and crucifixion, which had shattered the men’s hopes that Jesus would redeem Israel. They also related how the women had said Jesus had risen, but they didn’t believe them.
Finally, Jesus took them through the Old Testament, showing from passages like those we looked at in our first weeks together that the Christ had to suffer and die and afterward enter into His glory. Then when they stopped for supper, He revealed Himself to them as He broke the bread for them.
They rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the Twelve and learned that Jesus had appeared privately to Peter earlier in the day. Then as they were relating their experience along the road, Jesus came and stood among them. They were terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost—an indication that Jesus must have materialized out of thin air. Had He knocked on the door or climbed in a window, no one would have thought it was a ghost. He showed them His hands and side, inviting them to touch Him and see that He had flesh and bones. He even ate some of their fish to show it was really Him, risen from the dead.
When the Twelve gathered that night, there were two missing—the betrayer Judas, who had killed himself when he learned Jesus was condemned, and Thomas, who had not been with them that night. Through the following week, the disciples assured Thomas they had seen Jesus, but he refused to believe, insisting that he must put his fingers in Jesus’ nail-marked hands and put his hand into the spear wound in Jesus’ side or he will never believe. One week later, while the doors were locked and Thomas was with them, Jesus appeared to them.
John 20:27-28 “Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!””
Jesus’ resurrection was proof of His victory over Satan, sin, death, and hell. It also assures us that when He returns, He will also raise us from the dead. We need not fear death. In fact, Jesus will raise all people from the dead—believers and unbelievers—and all will stand before Him to be judged.
Think about it. Not a single child of Adam and Eve will be able to escape standing before our Judge, God’s Son, Jesus Christ on Judgment Day. It doesn’t matter how they died, what happened to their bodies—Jesus will raise all of us and each of us, and we will stand before Him, our eternal destiny in His hands: living in bliss with Him in the new heavens and the new earth or suffering eternal torment in the fires of hell with the devil and all his angels.
If that strikes terror into your heart, it should. Because all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. None of us has lived the perfect life God demands for anyone who would dwell with Him in His restored creation. But Jesus Christ lived that perfect life in your place and mine. He took our failings, our sins, our offenses upon Himself and suffered and died on the cross to pay the penalty of death and eternal suffering we deserve.
That is the story of our Savior and the great salvation He won for all humanity.
Over a period of forty days, Jesus appeared to His followers to assure them of His resurrection, show how He had fulfilled the promises throughout the Old Testament, and teach them what He had accomplished by His suffering and death.
On the fortieth day, Jesus ascended into heaven in the sight of His disciples. He now sits at the Father’s right hand in heaven. He intercedes for us and governs all things that happen on earth for the benefit of His Church as it works to bring the Good News of Jesus’ salvation to all the world.
Through pastors, missionaries, and each of us Christians, Jesus Christ continues to minister to people, proclaiming the Good News of God’s mercy and grace, confronting sin, and forgiving repentant sinners. He builds His kingdom, His bride the Church, and on the Last Day will return to completely restore His creation and live with us through all eternity. Amen.
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