Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 7, 2017
Open your Bibles to John 19:16-42. Today we continue our examination of the cross of Jesus Christ. This is part 2 of the sermon, “It is Finished.” If you recall, last week we primarily examined the physical realities of the cross. We discussed the cross-beam in which Jesus attempted to carry, the location of the crucifixion, the nails in his feet and hands, the sign that hung above his head, and the excruciating agony of his death. Why did we do this? Because this was God’s will to display the death of His Son is such a violent way, and we should not stick our heads in the sand. We must get close enough to smell the blood of our Savior, and weep with sorrow and joy that it was our sins that placed him there, and that it is this sacrifice that reconciles us to God.
Today, we will turn from the physical realities to focus more on the spiritual realities of the cross. This hour of glory was not just about the gore of torn flesh, it was about justice and love. It is about the apex of God’s glory. So with that, let us read the text again for a second week, and then unpack what God was doing when he killed his own son.
That You Also May Believe
As we begin today, I want to draw your attention to verse 35, “He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe.” Who is John speaking about in this verse? He is speaking about himself. John is testifying about what he saw firsthand; with his own eyes. John was an eye-witness to Jesus' life, Jesus' death, and as we will see shortly, Jesus' resurrection. John was not the only one. The death of Jesus Christ was a public spectacle, not a private one. Present at the cross were Roman guards, the Jews, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalen.
And John, one of the eye witnesses, tells us very specific details about this public event, why? Verse 35, “that you also may believe.” The purpose of giving us such detail is faith. So how does knowing that Roman soldiers cast lots for the clothing of Jesus help us believe in Jesus? How does knowing that Jesus said I thirst, and that they gave him sour wine to drink help us believe in Jesus? How does knowing that not one bone on his body was broken help us believe in Jesus? How does knowing that his side was pierced help us believe in Jesus? The answer is found in verse 24, 28, and 36. Verse 24, “This was to fulfill the Scripture.” Verse 28, “to fulfill the Scripture.” Verse 36, “For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”
John was very intentional about what he wrote and why he wrote it. He wanted to provide evidence that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, and the Savior to those who place their faith in him. And the evidence that John provided through his eye witness account were things that happened to Jesus that were prophesied hundreds and hundreds of years before Jesus was ever born.
The first one found in verse 24 is about the dividing and gambling for Jesus' clothes. This event was prophesied in Psalm 22:18, written 1000 years prior to Jesus' birth. It says, “they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
The second one in verse 28 is about the thirst of Jesus and the offering of sour wine. This is also a fulfillment of Psalm 22:15 where it says, “my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.” However, it is also a fulfillment of Psalm 69:21, also written 1000 years before Jesus' birth. It says, “and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.”
The third is found in 36, that not one of his bones should be broken. This is a fullfillment in two ways. First, in Exodus 12:46, where the bones of the Passover Lamb was not to be broken. The Passover was implemented 1500 years before Jesus was born, and this is what it says, “It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones.” If you recall, the crucifixion took place during the Passover, and John has already declared in John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus is the true Passover Lamb. The second Old Testament verse that speaks of no bones being broken is found in Psalm 34:20, “He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.”
The fourth is found in verse 37 regarding the side of Jesus being pierced. This is a fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10, written 500 years before Jesus birth. This is a book that the men have been studying on Saturday mornings during Catalyst. It says, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”
The Apostle John in his account of the crucifixion is doing what we did a number of weeks ago on Easter Sunday, when we looked at some of the numerous Old Testament passages that pointed to the Messiah and asked, is Jesus the long awaited for King of the Jews, and the answer was an overwhelming yes. The evidence makes any other conclusion illogical. Just like it is in regards to the death of Jesus that we are examining today. Not only is Jesus the long awaited for King, but also his death has been long awaited for. This is what the Old Testament points to, the death of the Son of God. But why? Why was it God's plan to crucify his son?
The Wages of Sin
The first answer to that question is because of sin. All the way back to Adam and Eve we see that the penalty of sin is death. God warned Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed his will and ate from the forbidden tree they would die. And die they did. God was good on his promise. We are told in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—“ All men die because all men are sinners. And as it says in Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death.” This death includes a physical death, a spiritual death, and a final death. We die physically because of sin, not because we get old, or we get sick, or we get into an accident. Sure, those are the means of death, but ultimately we die physically because we are sinners.
Spiritually we are dead upon birth. We are spiritual stillborns. Because of Adam's sin, we inherit a heart of stone. Ephesians 2:1, says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
Then there is the final death. This is what the Bible calls the second death, whereby sinners are cast into Hell and fully and finally separated from God's goodness, with no hope. Jesus calls this eternal torment. We read about this second death in Adult Sunday School today. Revelation 2:11, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.” It is also called the second death again in Revelation 20:6.
God created human beings and gave them life. Life is all we have. If we do not live, then we are not us. The rejection of God, which is what sin is, must be punished. The appropriate penalty for such a rebellion against an infinitely Holy and awesome God must be a captial punishment. It must be the highest penalty, which for humanity is death. Therefore, because of sin we are first born spiritually dead, then we eventually physically die, and absent Christ humanity will experience a second death in Hell. And all this death is due to our sins. It is the just punishment for our rebellion against a Holy God.
Therefore, if Jesus is going to achieve for us forgiveness and grant us eternal life, the only way this can be accomplished is by Jesus dieing in our place. Jesus must become a substitute on our behalf and accept the punishment that we deserve. 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin.” If Jesus didn't die in our place, then we are still unforgiven, and destined for God's eternal wrath.
Perhaps the best summary of this truth and perhaps and perhaps the best summary of the Gospel in the entire Bible is is found in Romans 3:23-26. Please turn in your Bibles with me to this text. Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
This is what was happening at Calvary. God put forth his son as a propitiation by his blood. Propitiation means to appease the wrath of God. God put forward his son as a satisfactory payment for the penalty of our sin. The death of Christ is not primary about being an example, it is not a set of unfortuante consequences, it is about substitutionary atonement. Jesus paying (propitiating) the penalty for your sins, past, present, and future.
And let me be clear, this is a one for one exchange. There is no partnership. Either Jesus was your substitute or he wasn't. Either Jesus appeased the penalty for your sin, or he did not. You can't claim the sacrifice of Jesus and also claim your own sacrifice. Salvation is in Christ alone. Galatians 3:10 says, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” If you rely on your own sacrifice, i.e. works, in any way whatsoever then you do not have faith in the sufficiency of Christ as your substitute, and you are still cursed, which means you are still destined for Hell. This is what is so dangerous about Catholicism, and why I do not hesitate to call it out for its satanic false teaching. With its sacraments, purgatory, and penances, it has created a religion of works. And the Bible is abundantly clear your works will only earn you one thing, God's curse. This is why it says in Romans 3:25 that this substitution must be received by faith. Faith alone. Grace alone. Christ alone.
The death of Christ enabled God to be just and the justifier. You see this in Romans 3:26, “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” The death of Christ allowed God's justice to be upheld. The penalty of our sins was truly paid. And by putting forth Christ as a sufficient and complete substitute, God is also the justifier. He pays the penalty through the blood of His Son, the lamb of God who takes away our sins. Therefore, through the death of Jesus God gets the complete glory on both sides of the equation, just and justifier. Which leads us to another reason that God killed His Son on Calvary.
For the Praise of His Glorious Grace
As I just stated, because God is just and the justifier, God gets all of the glory. This is the point of all creation, the glory of God. This is why the sun shines, this is why the grass grows, this is why you breathe, for the glory of God. The universe was created to praise the glory of God. If you have time today, read Psalm 148. It summarizes this reality. However, where do we see the infinite brightness of God's glory? Calvary. It is at Calvary that God perfectly displays His justice and his grace. The cross is necessary to know the one true God. Why? Because the one true God is a God of justice and a God of grace. The cross is the apex of all creation, because it is the apex of God's display of his glory.
Perhaps one of the grandest chapters in the Bible of this truth is found in Ephesians 1:3-14. Turn with me in your Bibles so that you can see it for yourselves. Ephesians 1:3-14. We will read it in its entirety. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight9making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,e to the praise of his glory.”
The Apostle John drew our attention to God's sovereign plan that was foretold in Exodus, and Psalms, and Zechariah, but the plan of forgiveness through the blood of Christ originated long before 500 B.C., long before 1000 B.C., and long before 1500 B.C. The cross was in the mind of God before the foundation of the world. Calvary was always the plan. Calvary's was always God's will. Why? Look at verse 6, “to the praise of his glorious grace.” Verse 12, “to the praise of his glory.” Verse 14, “to the praise of his glory.”
The cross is not ultimately about us. It is ultimately about Him. Too often we make the story of Jesus death about us, and it is, but only secondarily. The story of the cross is about radiating the glory of God as just and the justifier. It is on the cross we see wrath and grace of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
God has created the best possible universe, sin and all, so that his elect can for all time know him and his glorious grace. This is what Calvary is about.