Text: Matthew 27:32-44, NLT
32 Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. 33 And they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). 34 The soldiers gave Jesus wine mixed with bitter gall, but when he had tasted it, he refused to drink it. 35 After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. 36 Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there. 37 A sign was fastened above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. 40 “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!” 41 The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. 42 “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! 43 He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 Even the revolutionaries who were crucified with him ridiculed him in the same way.
Paul said in Romans 8:28, “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Being a child of God is so different from being of this world. We believers win by losing; giving may diminish our earthly assets but it increases our heavenly assets. We suffer humiliation so that we can someday be exalted. We live by dying, we grows by being diminished, and becomes full by being emptied. We grow spiritually when we suffer physically, we live by dying. We serve Christ although the world despises Him and those who serve Him. We strive to live sincerely but are accused of duplicity and hypocrisy. We are ignored on earth but well known in heaven. We get beat down by the world, but God lifts us up. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor materially but rich spiritually. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. We are servants who some day will rule angels. A lot of things that seem to be bad work for our good. Keep this truth in mind as we talk about the CROSS today.
THE CROSS DOES THREE THINGS…
I. THE CROSS IS THE GREATEST EXPOSITION OF MAN’S DEPRAVITY
The only diamond on the black velvet of Golgotha hill was Jesus. He was the only light on in the dark sky. This was not man’s finest hour. Even the best of the lot failed. Some will disagree but I believe the most commendable group at the cross were the women who were not afraid to come near. Not only did they have the courage to be present and near their Savior, they were loyal to the end. They stayed to make sure the burial was done right. But even the women were weak, helpless and frail. They could do nothing to stop this gross injustice. They had the will but they lacked the power.
Then there are the disciples who stood at a distance for fear of being treated the same way. Yes they loved Jesus but not as much as they loved their own lives. They went into a self-protection mode. To put it bluntly, they were cowards. If they had made good on their promise, there would have been 15 Crosses instead of 3 but when the going got rough, they got going, they ran like scared jack rabbits.
Then there are the pagan Romans. They are overwhelmed with concern, not! They are cruel and cold. They gamble for Jesus clothing while He hangs above them in agony.
Then there were the religious Jews. Wow! What an upstanding group of men. There are priest in the crowd, the intercessors and leaders of worship; there are Seminary professors in the crowd, the teachers of the law and there are the elders, the ruling body, the Sanhedrin. Seventy one of Israel’s finest. They were totally corrupt and filled with hate and envy. Can you imagine the members of our supreme court [which is not really supreme or the cream of the crop] going to an execution and heckling the condemned man on his way to the chair of the gas chamber. Would that show any class? Could you ever look upon such men with dignity and respect who would do such a thing. The demons of hell could do no worse. The infidels say, “Religion is the cause of more pain and injustice than any other thing in this world.” And I say amen, it was Religion that killed Jesus. Understand, Jesus did not come to establish a religion, He came to bury them all religions. Christianity is of God, religions are of the devil. Christ death even put an end to Judaism. No more sacrifices needed. No priesthood. No separation between God and man. The cross is proof that some of the most vile and wicked people on earth where religious garb.
II. THE CROSS IS THE GREATEST EXPRESSION OF GOD’S LOVE
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son….Jesus became the willing sacrifice for the sins of a lowly and despicable humanity. Bildad, one of Job’s friends said, “In comparison to God, people are maggots: we mortals are mere worms.” Paul said in Romans 5, When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
Dwight Moody was the Billy Graham of the late 1800’s. He’d been to England in the early days of his ministry and there he’d met a young English preacher named Henry Moorhouse. One day Moorhouse said to Moody, “I’m thinking of going to America.” “Well, if you should ever get to Chicago, come down tomy church and I will give you a chance to preach,” said Moody. Sometime later, after Moody had returned home, he received a telegram that said, “Have just arrived in New York. Will be in Chicago on Sunday. Moorhouse.” Moody was perplexed about what he should do. Frankly, he was just being polite when he invited Moorhouse to preach at his church. He’d never actually heard Henry Moorhouse speak and he, Moody, was just about to leave for a series of special meetings elsewhere. Finally, he said to the leaders of his church, “I think I should let him preach once. So let him preach once; then if the people enjoy him, put him on again.” Moody was gone for a week. When he got back, he said to his wife, “How did that young preacher do?” “Oh, he’s a better preacher than you are,” his wife said. “He’s telling sinners that God loves them.” “That isn’t right,” said Moody. “God doesn’t love sinners.” “Well,” said Mrs. Moody, “you go and hear him.” “What?” said Moody, “Do you mean to tell me that he’s still preaching?” “Yes, he has been preaching all week, and he has only had one verse for a text. It’s John 3:16.” Moody hurried off to the meeting. Henry Moorhouse got up and began his message by saying, “I’ve been hunting for a text all week and I haven’t been able to find a better text than John 3:16. So I think we will just talk about it once more.” And so he did. Afterwards, Dwight Moody said it was on that night that he first clearly understood the good news of God’s great love in Jesus Christ. On the final night of Moorehouse preaching at the Moody church he said, “If I could borrow Jacob’s ladder and climb into heaven and ask Gabriel who stands in the presence of God, Gabriel, how much does God love sinners. He said, “I think Gabriel would say, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in HIM will not perish but have everlasting life.” Calvary is proof that God love sinners. Other than Jesus, everyone there was a sinner and guilty of the death of Christ.
III. THE CROSS IS THE GREATEST EXAMPLE OF GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY WORKING IN CONJUNCTION WITH MAN’S FREE WILL.
In the present, on the very day that Christ was crucified, not one believer in Christ saw anything good about the day. It was the most horrible day of their lives. They were more than devastated. They were in despair. They were a pitiful, frightened, hopeless group. I am sure they wondered, “How could God allow such a horrible thing to happen.” Three days later, they had that hopes renewed and little by little, ever so slowly, the truth of the Cross began to take root in their lives. What appeared to be our worse day in history turned out to be our greatest. Who other than God can make bad things work together for good. Who, other than God can transform sorrow into joy.
In my 45 years of preaching I have meet several atheist and most of them were hard and bitter. Some are quick witted and sharp with the tongue. Some have a demonic power that will chill your blood. My first church out of Seminary had a family that I became endeared to: I saw two of the sisters the other day. There were 4 girls and two boys. The oldest girl married an agnostic/atheist. He was full of it and he enjoyed confronting preachers. His brother is law ask me to talk to him which I did to no avail. All he wanted to do was argue and I felt like I was casting pearls before swine so I told him, “When you get serious I will talk to you but until then, we are not discussing spiritual matters.” The man was vile, vulgar and committed sins I did not know existed [I was 25 years old at the time]. The man was a hedonist which including the pleasure of pursuing other women other than his wife. He even brought one of his girlfriends to his home and basically asked his wife to serve them. His oldest daughter who was 14 at the time hated his guts. Somehow, his wife loved him and never filed for divorce although there were times of separation. Of course he was a big drinker and smoker and he developed a bad cough. He was worried but the cough got worse. The doctor treats him for a few weeks and he is worse. They admit him to the hospital and run all kinds of test. Late one evening, his brother-in-law calls and said, “Preacher, I want you to go with me to talk Ken, they think he has cancer.” I agree and we go but it is the same old, same old…he is cursing and raring like John Wayne who vowed to whip the damn stuff. He had this macho, I’m not afraid of cancer, it cannot kill me attitude. The little hospital in the local town transferred him to Birmingham. The Brother-in-law, a gifted soul winner, called again. I never understood why he called because he did not need me. He was the most gifted soul winner that I had seen in my life. We go to Birmingham and get there sometime after dark. They have already run the test and talked to Ken. They told him that he had from 3-6 months, maybe a year if he agreed to do radiation and chemo. He was visibly shaken. We went to his room and talked until almost mid-night. Then we went to the lobby and tried to rest in the waiting area. About 2-3 a.m. we get a call from his wife, he wanted us to come up to his room. When we walked out at midnight he was lost but when we returned he was saved. He had got down beside his bed and prayed the sinner’s prayer. He started telling everyone: doctor’s nurses, anyone he came into contact with.
They sent him back to North Alabama where he got his treatment in the Quad Cities area and he lived for longer than they projected but he never had any allusions, he knew he was dying. He witnessed, he testified right up until the day he departed this world. Two weeks before he died, he came to our church and gave his testimony. He was very pale and extremely week; about 5 minutes was as long as he could stand and speak and this is what he said. When they told me I had cancer, I thought this is the worse day of my life. Then he said, But it was the cancer that brought me to Jesus and coming to know Him was the best thing that has ever happened to me.
The only one who can turn cancer into a victory is God. He has that ability to make bad things work for good. Calvary is all the proof we need.