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Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Sermon / Homily on John 19:17-18

Christ Crucified (John 19:17-18)

by Ralph Bouma

And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst (John 19:17-18).

Christ "bearing" His cross is significant. This word bearing comes from the Greek word bastazo (bas-tad-zo), which means "to take up with the hands to carry or bear-to put upon one's self." Jesus bore His cross willingly, and we must take up our crosses willingly too. The Lord wants us to have our rebellion broken so we do not say that we have to bear a cross. He wants us to willingly follow our Saviour in the way of the cross. We need to write death on the self and flesh, and a cross is an instrument of death. See the harmony between this voluntary act of our Saviour and the Spirit of Christ we are to demonstrate in following His example.

Matthew 16:24-25 says: "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."

The Lord wants our will to be broken. He does not want us to serve Him out of compulsion. He wants us to serve Him out of pleasure, that it is our greatest desire to do His will. Romans 6:4-6 says: "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." When we take up our cross and follow Christ, we take up that crucifying instrument to kill everything that is the pleasing of the flesh. We walk in the Spirit, not after the flesh.

The sacrifice of Christ in offering Himself as a sacrifice for our sin fulfilled all the work the Father had given Him to do as was prophesied in Psalm 40:6-8: "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart." If Christ did not repeatedly emphasize "what was written of me" in the Scriptures that prophesied of Him, Satan would try to convince us that Christ was not the Messiah. Why would we want to crucify everything of the flesh unless Jesus is the example we are to follow? The fulfillment of these prophecies is our absolute proof that He is the Messiah.

The law is to be written in our hearts too as we see in Hebrews 8:10: "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people." If we lightly violate the law of God we are probably outside of His grace. The covenant of grace is that we, like Christ, will have the law of God written in our hearts and that it will be our greatest desire to do His will.

Nothing written concerning our Lord Jesus could fail. This will leave those who reject Him without excuse or argument. We read in Luke 22:37: "For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end."

After He was risen, our Lord reminded His little flock again what He had told them, which confirms how important this was. In Luke 24:44-47 we read: "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." It had to be so positively confirmed so that His law of the gospel might be obeyed- that repentance and remission of sins be preached. So many want remission of sins without repentance. Where is their change of attitude and humble obedience to the Father?

Without repentance there is no remission of sins as we see in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21: "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Reconciliation must come from both sides. We cannot say we have been reconciled to Christ if we have hearts of rebellion against His law.

Christ's crucifixion was prophesied in Psalm 22:16-18, where David was inspired to say: "For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture."

All these things were fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus as we see in John 19:23-24: "Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did."

The Jewish form of execution was stoning; therefore in this same prophecy David actually prophesied that Christ would be executed under the Roman law, the only place where crucifixion was used. He prophesied that the Jews would be under the Roman yoke.

The Romans were known for righteous judgment. We read in Acts 22:25-29: "And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born. Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him."

Pontius Pilate repeatedly told the Jews that he found no fault in Jesus, crucifying Him uncondemned. The Roman law was strict about abusing one who was "uncondemned," but crucifixion was reserved for condemned criminals of the highest order. Our Saviour had to die a malefactor's death to redeem malefactors. It was only justifiable for Him to die this way because He was made to be sin for us under the Divine law. We read in Luke 23:32-33: "And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left."

This was also prophesied concerning our Lord and Saviour in Isaiah 53:12: "Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." Every jot and tittle of the prophecies were fulfilled as we see in Luke 23:34: "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots."

Little did the chief priests realize that the venting of their malice brought about the perfect fulfillment of Christ in all the work the Father had given Him to do. Did these chief priests do this ignorantly? No. After He came out of the grave, they paid the soldiers who confirmed His resurrection to lie.

All these things are written for our learning-that we may not only see what we deserved as the penalty for sin-but also as Paul confessed in Romans 7:13-14: "Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin."

Can we sin lightly? Can we lightly do what we know is against the will of God when we see the penalty of our sin upon our Saviour? We read in Hebrews 12:3-4: "For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." When we see how Jesus Christ sweated blood seeking God's will, we need to ask ourselves how dedicated we are to seeking His will.

Sin "by the commandment" becomes exceeding sinful as we see the significance of John 19:19-20: "And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin." It is significant that this was written in these three languages. Nothing is insignificant in the Word of God. Hebrew was the Jews' language, the language of the religious order, the language of the Scriptures. Greek was the language of science of the educated Gentile world. Latin was the language of the Romans or of the law.

Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was the fulfilling of the prophecies of the Scripture in the final revelation of the True God as we see in Hebrews 1:1-3: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."

In science He is not only the Word "by whom also he made the worlds," but also who sustains all things as we read in Colossians 1:16-17: "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist -i.e., to bring or band all things together-."

A scientist told me that when you see the wonder of the creation, especially in space, it is unbelievable that God who created the universe would take notice of man. So I reminded him what David said in Psalm 8:3-4: "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" I reminded him that space is where the glory of God is contained, that God would give His own Son to redeem fallen man.

So also in jurisprudence, Christ is supreme. He is not only the Lawgiver, He is the Law Administrator. We read in 1 Corinthians 9:20-21: "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law." The belief that the law has been abolished is so abominable. We are not without the law to God, but we are under the law to Christ. How can we say we love God and violate one of the first four commandments? The first and great commandment, Jesus said, is to love God with our hearts, souls and minds. The second is to love our neighbors as ourselves, and that is the next six commandments. To gain those without the law, we must walk in the law of love.

A missionary told me that when he and those with him would go into a new area they would find someone with a swollen tooth and give them a shot of penicillin and pull their tooth. They would give vitamins to someone with goiter. They showed them love, and then they were ready to hear the gospel. They preached with their actions first.

Sadly, some blaspheme the name of Christianity because they see some who profess Christ living outside of the law of love toward God and neighbor. How can we tell others to repent of sin if we walk daily in that same sin ourselves? Our preaching has to begin with our walk of life, our actions.

All who were gathered to witness Christ's death could read His title in their own language. This was a foretaste of what we read in Acts 2:4-6: "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language." When the Holy Spirit accompanies the Word, you hear it in your own language. You can apply it to yourself.

The Lord confounded their language at Babel for rebellion, but we read in 2 Corinthians 3:15-17: "But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." When we come before the Lord with repentant hearts the vail is taken away, and the law is made spiritual. Now it is not the letter of the law but the spirit of the law. Not only can we not murder our brother, we cannot hate him. We cannot commit adultery with a woman, nor can we lust after her in our hearts. Our actions and our hearts must be changed. We are delivered from the tyranny of sin.

The Title that the Holy Spirit moved Pilate to ascribe to Christ as "King of the Jews" brought Him into death-publicly declared to be king, the very title His enemies vainly strive to deny unto this day. The cross thereby has become the very symbol of the power and authority of Christ and the Gospel. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5: "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."

Our Lord was numbered with the transgressors, but the Title written above our Saviour's cross distinguished Him from the others, and it could be seen and read and understood by all. He did not enter death as a malefactor but as King of the Jews.

Even though our Saviour had to suffer without the camp, and even though He had to bear our reproach, which we deserved, yet when He said, "It is finished," He was honored as King in His death. We read in Isaiah 53:8-9: "He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death."

Envy and jealousy are cruel as hell. The chief priests were not even satisfied to watch Jesus dying on the cross under such a title. We see in John 19:21-22: "Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written."

It is noteworthy that this is the first and only time the chief priests are termed "the chief priests of the Jews." The Holy Spirit thereby revealed that the Lord no longer owned them as His priests. Now Christ has become our High Priest. They had not only rejected the Messiah, but when the Great Antitype had made the atonement all types and shadows were done away. Their priesthood, the sacrifices and all the Old Testament rituals were abolished. Hebrews 9:11-12 says: "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us."

We also see in Hebrews 9:24-25: "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others."

Even as Christ took up His cross, He commands us, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). If we follow Christ's footprints we will find Him.

We are told why this is so important in Hebrews 9:27-28: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Are we following His footprints? Are we looking for Him, or do we just want an escape from hell? If we are looking for Christ, we will follow the tracks that lead to Him.

See Also:

Sermons for Good Friday

Sermon Collection Based on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross

Sermons for Passion Week

Passion Week Supplement in Malankara World

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