It is our joy tonight to share in the table of the Lord and in order to prepare our hearts; I thought it might be wonderful for us to take a glimpse of our Savior, a glimpse of Him on the cross or around the scene of the cross.
Open your Bible if you will to John 19. The hymn writer said, "Many years ago, in the cross of Christ thy glory, towering are the wrecks of time, all the light of sacred story gathers around its head sublime." In the cross of Christ thy glory, Paul said that. He said, "I will glory in the cross." Whenever you look at the cross of Christ, there is reason for boasting, there is reason to glorify God because there is an inherent glory in the cross. It would seem that the cross would be the most humiliating, the most shameful, the most degrading event in the life of Jesus Christ. It would seem if ever there was a time when his deity was not visible, if ever there was a time when his glory was not manifest, if ever there was a time when the brightness of the reality of him being the image of the Father was somehow made dull it would certainly be at the cross. And yet, in every little tiny nuance of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, his glory shines through. No matter the Pharisees and the Scribes did, no matter what Annas and Caiaphas and Herod did, who put him through mock trials, not matter what the soldiers did, no matter what the crowd said, in every little nuance surrounding the event of the crucifixion, the glory of the Christ is visible. It is only visible, I think, to the spirit-trained eye, but it is nonetheless visible to the point of almost being overwhelming. John, the Apostle, who wrote this Gospel, was the master at extracting out of the event every glorious element. And I don't have the time to show you all of them, but some of those which might on the surface appear to be hidden become apparent with just the simplest consideration.
We're looking as we look at the narrative of John 19, "For those things which express the glory of Jesus Christ even in this humiliating, degrading execution." Chapter 19 begins with these words, "Then Pilate, therefore, took Jesus and scourged him." Pilate was an appointed Roman governor set to rule over the land of Palestine to keep a modicum of peace over a people, who were for all intense and purposes captive to Rome. Jesus had become a political issue. The Jews wanted him dead. Pilate really had no reason to execute him, except for the fact that he was being blackmailed by the Jews, who told him if he didn't kill Jesus, they would tell Caesar. They had already reported him twice to Caesar for acts of his own folly and so his job was in jeopardy and not wanting to be reported a third time by the Jews, who were already severely upset with his leadership, he acquiesced. I suppose he thought that if he just beat Jesus and bloodied him severely, and then dragged him out before the crowd with a crown of thorns on his head and blood running down his face and the purple robe and a mocking sort of royalty and if the soldiers hit his face with their fists enough, that the crowd would be satiated and their lust for blood would be satisfied. And so he scourged him and the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They began to come up to him and say, "Hail, King of the Jews" and to give him blows on the face.
Pilate came out again and said to them, "Behold, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him." Jesus, therefore, came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe and Pilate said to them, "Behold the man," when therefore, the chief priest and the officers saw him, they cried out saying, "Crucify, crucify". Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him for I find no guilt in him."
This is the third time he said it. Back in Chapter 18:38, it tells us he went out to the Jews and said to them, "I find no guilt in him." Isn't that interesting? There had been a trial before the high priest Caiaphas. There had been a trial of sorts before Annas, father-in-law of Caiaphas, who really ran the enterprise of the Temple. Both of them had attempted to bring an indictment against Jesus. There had even been an exposure to Herod. Everybody said he was guilty. There was no evidence. Pilate represented the Roman government, Pilate had an interrogation of Jesus, Pilate listened to all of the accusations that were thrown against him and you can believe that they piled up everything they thought would be formidable. It would be enough for a man to have one trial, but to have this multiplicity of trials before this multiplicity of judges and to have the evidence brought and re-brought, repeated and repeated, again and again, was more than any one man should've had to endure and the sum of it all was to put in the mouth of the Roman judge three times, "I find no guilt in him, I find no guilt in him, I find no guilt in him." Here is one of those wonderful little nuances that the Apostle John just loves because herein does the glory of Jesus Christ shine.
All of the religious trials brought no evidence of any sin against him. All of the Roman adjudication brought no evidence of any sin against him. In other words, the sum of it all was that there was no sin in this man. The world even in its major effort to find some reason to execute Jesus Christ came up empty and John reports the three occasions in which Pilate affirms the absolute innocence and perfection of Jesus Christ. The sum of all his trials is but to reveal his glory.
And then as you move onto in the 19th Chapter and come to Verse 16, John begins to open up some more things that speak of the glory of Christ. In Verses 16 and following, we read this, "So, he then delivered Him to then be crucified. He took Jesus, therefore, and went out bearing His own cross to the place called the Place of a Skull", which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him and with Him two other men, one on either side and Jesus in between. And Pilate wrote an inscription also and put it on the cross and it was written, "Jesus, the Nazarene, the King of the Jews." Therefore, this inscription, many of the Jews read for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek. And so the chief priest of the Jews were saying to Pilate, "Do not write the King of the Jews, but that He said, I am King of the Jews." Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." The soldiers, therefore, when they had crucified Jesus took his outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic. Now, the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. They said, therefore to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to decide whose it shall be that the Scripture might be fulfilled. They divided my outer garments among them and for my clothing, they cast lots."
Now, just in that brief glimpse of the scene at the cross, there are some astounding things. Back in Verse 16, look at one word, "Pilate," it says, "then delivered Him to them." It's an interesting word, "delivered". It literally means to be led. It does not mean to be driven, it does not mean to be dragged, which was the usual means of getting a criminal to a cross. It would be, frankly, well near impossible to lead a criminal to a cross because it wouldn't follow. He had to be either dragged by force or driven. Crucifixion was terrifying, the victim already having been beaten and scourged, in pain and fear, was usually driven. In the case of Jesus, he was led. That brings into play a wonderful verse in Isaiah 53:7, doesn't it? "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter." It doesn't take very long if you hang around sheep to find out you don't drive sheep, you lead them and they follow.
I'll never forget being in a sheep farm in Australia and learning about a Judas sheep. That's the name of a certain sheep that leads all the other sheep to slaughter. The Judas sheep heads into the barn toward the killing instrument, all the sheep follow. The Judas sheep goes through a trapped door and the rest are executed. You don't drive sheep to death like you do cattle, you lead them. Here is the Lamb of God, who goes willingly to his death, a glimpse of his glory.
Would you also notice that in Verse 16 it says, "They led Him to them to be crucified." That's interesting. At first glimpse, it doesn't seem too significant until you dig a little deeper and you find out that Jesus went from judgment to execution that's what it's saying. They led him from Pilate to the crucifiers. That's not how it was supposed to be. He was executed immediately after his trial. From the beginning of the trial before Pilate to the execution of Jesus Christ, couldn't have been more than two and a half hours. That's significant because the Jewish law mandated and the Romans affirmed it that execution could not fall without a two-day interval. There had to be two days between the trial and the execution, two days in which some new evidence might come to light, two days in which some final visitation with family and loved ones might take place, two days in which a man might search his own soul, but not for Jesus. They wanted him dead and they wanted him dead fast. So, He didn't go from prison to judgment to prison to execution. He went from prison to judgment to execution. Is that significant? Well, it's significant because it violated the law, it was very unusual. It's even more significant when you read Isaiah 53:8. It says, "From judgment, he was taken away." "From judgment, he was taken away and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living." The Prophet seems to see the same order, from judgment to execution. Another small wonderful glimpse of His Glory.
While the Romans and the Jews are doing their dastardly deed, they are fulfilling to the very letter, the minutest detail of prophecy. Interestingly enough, in Verse 17 we read, "They took Jesus there before he went out bearing his own cross." Up until the time Matthew 27:32 records that it was given to a man named Simon, Jesus was carrying it himself. You say is this important? Well, it's an interesting thing to remember that in the Book of Genesis, the one who was the type or the picture of Christ, Son of Abraham, namely Isaac, it says in Genesis 22:6, "Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac, his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife and the two of them walked together." Here is Isaac, the Old Testament picture of Christ walking to his own execution carrying on his back the wood on which his body would be laid for death. Can this be a typological picture equally prophetic as a verbal prophecy? Jesus carried his own cross, Isaac carried the wood of his own fire from which, of course, the Lord delivered Isaac. Little things that show the glory of Christ.
Verse 17 further says, "They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out." Out of what? Out of Jerusalem. Literally, He went forth. The Jews had a law and the law was nobody could be crucified inside the city limits. This we find in some Old Testament texts is parallel to the sacrifices for sin that God ordained among the Jews. Do you remember in the - I think it's the 29th Chapter of Exodus, it says in Verse 14, "The flesh of the bull and the tide and its refuse, you shall burn with fire outside the camp. It is a sin offering." You find the same thing in Leviticus 4:12, you find it again in Leviticus 16 around Verse 25 to 27 that the sin offering was taken outside the camp. You remember don't you the Hebrews 13, that great last chapter, Verse 11, it says, "The body of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin are burned outside the camp. Therefore, Jesus also that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered outside the gate." The sin offering had to be outside the city. Jesus, therefore, had to die outside the city and so they took him and he went out of the city to a place called Golgotha, Skull Hill. He suffered outside the gate. Another glimpse of His glory.
Men were doing their deed and all the while fulfilling prophecy to indicate beyond equivocation that this is God in human flesh, the anointed the one, the king, the Messiah, fulfilling prophecy. In Verse 18, it says, "There they crucified him." "There they crucified him," even the means of his execution fit the purpose and the plan of God from way back. In Numbers 21:6, "The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, 'We have sinned because we have spoken against the Lord and you intercede with the Lord that he may remove the serpents from us' and Moses interceded for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, 'Make a fiery serpent, set it on the standard and it shall come about that everyone who was bitten when he looks at it, he shall live.' Moses made a bronze serpent, set it on a standard or a pole, high and lifted up, it came about that if a serpent bit any many when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived." Here was the picture of Christ. Didn't He say as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, so shall the son of man be lifted up and referring, of course, to being elevated above the ground in full view of everyone on a cross. In Psalm 22:14, we read a description of death on the cross, "I am poured out like water, all my bones are out of joint" that's the kind of dislocation that occurs in crucifixion. "My heart is like wax, it is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potshard, my tongue cleaves to my jaws, thou just lay me in the dust of death for dogs have surrounded me and a band of evildoers has encompassed me, they pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me." Vivid description of crucifixion. The dislocation of the bones, the rending of the heart, the thirst, the compassing about of evildoers, the piercing of his hands and his feet, all of it. They look, they stare at me describe being lifted up in crucifixion.
In Isaiah 53:2, it says, "That when He comes, there will be no beauty that you should desire him. There is ugliness associated with a Messiah." These things speak of crucifixion. And so when it says "they crucified him," they were fulfilling prophecy and giving us a glimpse of his glory. Would you notice also in Verse 18, it says, "With Him, they crucified two other men, one on each side and Jesus in the middle." I'm sure John relished the putting of that into the text because that also takes us back to Isaiah 53. In Isaiah 53, it tells us, "His grave was a sign with wicked men." In Verse 12, it says, "I will allot him a portion with the great and he will divide the booty with the strong because he poured out himself to death and was numbered with the transgressors." He was counted as a criminal; he was killed along with the wicked. This too gives us a glimpse of glory.
Then down in Verse 23, it says, "The soldiers, after they had crucified him, took his outer clothing and made four parts, a part to every soldier." That probably went something like this, shoes, belt, headdress and outer cloak. That was fairly normal. The outer cloak, the headdress, the shoes and the belt. Those four parts went to each of the four soldiers that usually did these kind of executions, but there was one remaining garment that was an inner tunic that He wore close to his own skin. Since everybody now had one part, they had to gamble for that remaining part. They did. Isn't that interesting? Verse 24 said, "They said let's not tear it. Well, let's cast lots to decide whose it shall be." Why did they do that unwittingly? "In order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, they divided my outer garments among them and for my clothing or my tunic, they cast lots." Psalm 22:18 that is. The witless, wicked soldiers had absolutely no idea what they were doing. They were fulfilling prophecy to the very letter.
When they led Him from judgment to execution, they fulfilled prophecy. When they led Him rather than driving or dragging Him, they fulfilled prophecy. When they made Him carry the cross, they fulfilled the beautiful type of the Old Testament. When they took Him to execution outside the city, they fulfilled the intention of all sacrificed that was offered for sin to be outside the gate. When they crucified Him, they fulfilled prophecy that he would be lifted up that his bones would be dislocated that he would be pierced and so forth. When they crucified two thieves with Him they fulfilled prophecy that he would die among evildoers and be numbered with transgressors in His death and when they split up the four pieces of clothing and gambled for the fifth to the very letter, they fulfilled prophecy. We are never, never apart from a vision of the glory of Christ even in His execution.
One other in the middle of this text, Verses 19 to 22, "Pilate wrote an inscription. It was intended as sarcasm. It was his way to strike back at the Jews who had intimidated him by blackmail. He put it on the cross. It said, 'Jesus, the Nazarene, the King of the Jews.'" This was cynicism at its worst. Here's your king, take a look at him, this bleeding criminal, what a joke. And the fact that he put Jesus the Nazarene or Jesus of Nazareth even drove it deeper because the Jews believed that nothing good ever came out of anywhere but Jerusalem. Nazareth was way out in the sticks; nobody came from there that had any importance. What a joke, Nazareth. What a joke, King of the Jews. And then to just rub it in, Pilate put it in all the languages of the time so that everybody could read it. The Jews got the message and didn't like it so the chief priest came to Pilate and they said, "Do not write the King of the Jews, but that he said I am King of the Jews." Pilate said, "What I have written, I have written." Pilate in his cynicism, Pilate in his venting of his hatred toward the Jews, put on that cross the truth, didn't he? This was the King of the Jews. He put the truth. In an effort toward vengeance, in a venting of his hatred, he put the truth there. Amazing. Pilate had already said He was innocent and now Pilate says He is the king. On both counts, Pilate was right.
Back in John 11, I can't resist one other glimpse of the glory of the cross in a unique way. John 11:48, "Chief Priest Pharisees convened a council," Verse 47, basically to plot the death of Jesus. Verse 48, "If we let him go on like this, all men will believe in him and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." Pretty foolish thought they'd already done that. One of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that you, said to them, "You know nothing at all nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people and that the whole nation should not perish." What a statement. You know what he's saying? He's saying, look, it's better to kill this guy than to have the whole nation perish, you understand? It's politically expedient to execute Jesus to save the nation. Verse 51, This he did not say on his own initiative for being high priest that you, he propheticized that Jesus was going to die for the nation. The man was an absolute fool. But in his foolishness, he spoke the truth. He said better this man should die to save the nation. Little did he know that's exactly why he died, to save his people from their sins. In the folly of Caiaphas and the folly of Pilate, the indifference and apathy of the soldiers, in the whole scenario, one after another glimpse of the glory of Christ. You never can look at the cross from any angle and not see the majesty of the Son of God, who gave himself for us.
Father, we thank you tonight for this brief glimpse of our dear Christ. We thank you that no matter what men attempted to do and no matter how humiliating, how degrading the event, no matter how hostile, the leaders in the crowd, no matter unrighteous and ungodly they might've been, everything they did revealed the Glory of your Son. Father, we thank you that His Glory shines in the cross. And certainly it shines for us for we are apart of that people. Caiaphas said he would die to save and we come to this table with hearts filled with Thanksgiving to remember his death for us and to glimpse again His Glory.