Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Which One Am I?

Which One Am I?

Text: Matthew 27, Mark 14, John 19


I want to go to with me now to the last night of Jesus life on earth.  Have you ever considered what it must have been like for those who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  If you could have been at the crucifixion, what role you would have played? What character in the story would you have been?  What role of  those involved with the most important event of history, would you have played?  Is the relationship I have now with Jesus and indicator of who I would have been then?  Let's look at three sets of people whose life was forever changed by the decisions they made that day.  Then let us look at our own life and the choice we must make over 2000 years later because of that same event.

I.  Two Disciples Mark 14:42-46, John 18:10-11

Mark 14:42
 42  Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand. 43. And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44  And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead [him] away safely. 45  And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him. 46  And they laid their hands on him, and took him.
John 18:10
 10  Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. 11  Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? 12  Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, 13. And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year.

    Go with me to a garden it is night time and very late.  As we enter the garden we pass by several men huddled together in the night air fast asleep.  A little further up the path we see 3 other men also asleep and then there in the distance we see a lone figure.  We can't quite hear what he is saying but you can see that he is praying and the prayer pours from his soul, like the beads of sweat that run from his forehead.
    He finishes the prayer and walks back to the group of men sleeping now we see it is Jesus.  He wakes them up them with a question.  "Could you not tarry one hour in prayer?"  They join the other group and they begin to walk back towards the entrance of the garden.  Jesus senses others coming toward them in the darkness.  Just as they approach the brook which marks the edge of Gethsemane a crowd of soldiers and guards from the temple appear.  In their hands are spears,  swords and clubs.  A man is in front of the crowd, trying to act as if he is not leading them.  Judas rushes to Jesus and kisses him in greeting.  Jesus looks at his disciple and says, "Judas, betrayest the son of man with a kiss?"  Judas knows he has not fooled the Lord.  Not now with 30 pieces of silver in his money bag for betraying his Lord nor all the other times he had stolen from the bag instead of giving to the poor.  One of the servants of the high priest steps forward to take Jesus away.  Suddenly from the shadows behind Jesus a man leaps forward with a short sword and strikes at the man arresting his Lord.  The blow was aimed for the man's head, but Peter is only a fisherman not a soldier and the blow is a glancing one that takes off the man's ear.  Jesus steps between Peter and the wounded man before the crowd of soldiers can respond.  "Put up thy sword, the cup which my Father had given me, shall I not drink it?  This is their hour, and the power of darkness."  Jesus reaches to the wounded man's head and with a touch heals him.
    As you stand there with me in your mind’s eye, let me ask you a question.  If you were there at this moment, which disciple would you be?
                Would you be Judas, who betrays him with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver?  Or Peter who leaps from the darkness to defend his Lord?  Of course, you say, I would not be Judas!  I would not sell out the Lord, I would not betray the one who has taught me and whose power I have seen.  Yet today as you sit in the real world and not the world of your imagination and you have never fully given yourself to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are just like Judas, the betrayer of the Lord.
    Like Judas you cannot come to a full commitment of your life and heart to Jesus.  Like Judas the things of this world have your devotion and loyalty instead of Him.  Your 30 pieces of silver may not be the kind you can carry in a bag, they may be something else you treasure enough to refuse Jesus. It may be your pride, or your career, or you family or your friends. Whatever it maybe you have given yourself to it and betrayed Jesus who longs to make you his own.  
    You say, "No, I would be Peter."  Oh, I pray we would all be Peter, but that can only be true if you also like Peter while standing on standing on the mountain in Caesera Phillipi and Jesus asked, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Until you can make and believe that same confession you and I and all others will take our stand with Judas. Now in the garden betraying Jesus and later committing suicide. For you must realize that rejecting Jesus as Lord and Savior is suicide, the suicide of your soul, and suicide for all eternity.
                Now, let us move on several hours into the future.  Jesus has been convicted in an illegal trial, by an illegally assembled Sanhedrin. He is beaten by their hands, ridiculed by their words and spat upon by their spite.  So violent is their anger they even tear out his beard with their hands.  From this place of trial and torture, He is taken to Pilate the Roman governor, that the sentence of death might be pronounced and carried out. The sentence is passed and Jesus is led through the streets of Jerusalem carrying his own cross on his back, until he ascends a hill just outside of town called Calvary or Golgotha.

II. Two Thieves Mark 15:22 Luke 23:39-43

Mark 15:22-27   And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not. And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take. And it was the third hour, and they crucified him. And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS. And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.

Luke 23:39-43 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

      On the way to his execution, weary without sleep and without food for over 12 hours, Jesus falls under the weight and burden of carrying His own cross. The soldiers take the cross beam from Jesus shoulders and grab a man from the street, Simon of Cyrene, who is made to carry the cross behind Jesus. Finally, they arrive at the mount called Golgotha, the skull in Hebrew, in Greek it is called Calvary. Here the cross is laid upon the ground and Jesus weary and worn is thrown prostrate upon it. His arms and legs are stretched out and cruel spikes are driven into his hands and into his feet. The bone underneath fractured and broken by the cruel blows of the hammer. Now the cross is lifted, just as Jesus predicted, lifted up even as Moses had lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, now for all of time and history to see. The cross is cruelly dropped into the empty hole which will hold it, jarring and tearing the nail pierced hands and feet. As Jesus hangs from the cross, he is offered myrrh mixed with gall, a pain killer but he refuses to drink. He will not allow anything to deaden the pain and punishment of paying for the sin of all mankind. That price must be paid in full.   

                On either side are thieves who have also been condemned to die by crucifixion.  One thief joins in with the soldiers and the crowd hoping perhaps to be allowed to die a little faster or just hoping that by turning his anger on another he will not feel his own pain as much. The other thief though, looks at Jesus and sees a righteous man, the Messiah of Israel, the savior of the world.  Instead of ridicule or hatred, He calls out for mercy and forgiveness, “Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” And Jesus hears him and said to him, “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”  In the midst of his suffering, in the midst of dying, Jesus is still loving the lost.
       Which thief am I?  Which sinner am I?  Paul writes in the book of Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."  The issue is not whether I have sinned but what will I do about Jesus?  Would I revile him, curse him,  betray him?  We say no not us,  but to ignore Him and what he has done for us is to revile him, it is to curse him, it is to betray him.  We count the precious blood of Jesus Christ of no effect and trample his sacrifice for us underfoot!
       Which sinner are you today, one who would accept Him as Lord and call out for mercy? Or one which would scorn Him, ridicule him, Jesus God’s only son, and die without asking for forgiveness from the one paying the price for my sin. Will I accept or reject Jesus the Son of God who died in my place for my sin?

III.  Two Soldiers

Mark 15:33-41 and when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, behold, he calleth Elias.  And one ran and filled a sponge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down.  And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.  And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.

                Finally, look at the soldiers on Mt. Calvary standing around the cross. There is the soldier who swung the whip and struck the Lord thirty-nine times with the scourge, a leather whip with nine straps tied to a handle. The strands of the whip were usually braided with bits of lead, bone or stones.  So that with each lash they would bruise, tear and lacerate the flesh, leaving the skin tore open and the muscle exposed and shredded. 
Over there is the soldier who braided the thorns into a crown and put it upon the head of Jesus to mock and torture him. The thorns are not rose thorns but thorns from the desert, huge with two inch shafts and sharp as needles.  He took the crown and forced it down onto the head and brow of Jesus. The thorns piercing down to the bone, tearing the scalp and embedding themselves.   
At the very foot of the cross, right under his pierced feet a group of soldiers are gambling for the only thing Jesus ever really owned on this earth, his cloak and his robe.  One takes his shoes another takes his robe and since his cloak is woven in one piece they gamble over it rather than tear it in pieces. 
                At the sixth hour, the world turns black. No, this is not an eclipse but God the Father turning his back on the Son as the sin of the world is placed on him. Then, Jesus cries out, "My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?" For the first time in all of eternity he is separated from the Father. He calls out with a loud voice and he gives up his life.  The earth shakes in agony as its creator dies and for three hours the heavens and the earth are covered in blackness as they mourn his death.
The centurion, who was in charge of all the soldiers that day, hears the cry of death from Jesus lips, he feels the earthquake and sees the blackness. He puts in words what his heart now realizes, "Truly, this was the son of God." 

    Now, which of those soldiers would you be?  Would you beat Jesus who never did anything more than love people?  Would you force the thorns down onto his head, laughing as the blood runs from his brow?  Would you gamble for his clothes, while He hangs on a cross dying?
Our minds cannot bear the thought that we would drive nails into his hands and feet. That we could be so cruel to someone filled with so much love. Yet in truth I am just as responsible as they are. It was my sin that drove him to the cross as much as any soldier whip.  It was my sin that hammered the nails just as much as it was the arms of the soldier.

    A man painted a portrait of the Roman Soldier driving the spikes into the hands of Jesus.  He presented at the portrait to his pastor. as the pastor looked at the painting.  He noticed the face of the Roman soldier looked familiar.  He asked the painter who the soldier was.  "Pastor I painted myself into that scene.  For I know that I was to just as much to blame for the death of Jesus."
    All of us are as guilty as the soldiers that day but how many of us are have found ourselves at the foot of the cross and as the centurion, looked around at the darkness of my own sin, and hearing the voice of Jesus have then realized, “Surely, this is the Son of God?"


Which one of these are you?  Which soldier, which thief, which disciple?  They all made conscious choices about Jesus and his crucifixion, so must you. Do you choose to betray him or defend him?  To call out in mockery or to call out in mercy?  To ignore him or to confess him as the Son of God and your Savior?
One final scene which takes place not in the past but in  the present. The time we have witnessed was the most important in all the world's history, but the time you now are in is the most important in all of your history.
       In the book of Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
       Christ is standing at the door and knocking, seeking entrance.  In the book of Revelation it is a church he seeks to enter, but we do the scripture no harm by applying it to the door of our heart.  Jesus standing outside your hearts door, seeking entrance, knocking, waiting for you to let him in.
       A famous painting shows Jesus standing outside a door overgrown with ivy there is a light in his hand and love on his face.  As He knocks we notice in the painting that there is no latch or knob on the outside.  When someone noticed that the doorknob was missing, he told the painter.  The painter looked at the door and said, “This door is the door to our heart and it can only be open from the inside.”
                Will you open it today?

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