How will you respond to Christ crucified? Part 4

2 And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. 3 Then they said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they struck Him with their hands.” John 19:2-3

The Bible tells us, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18). The cross of Christ does not make sense to the unbeliever.

“What would you think if a woman came to work wearing earrings stamped with an image of the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima?

“What would you think of a church building adorned with a fresco of the massed graves at Auschwitz? . . .

“The same sort of shocking horror was associated with the cross and crucifixion in the first century.” 1

We are learning from John 18:28-19:3 how various people respond to Christ crucified. Some of us are…

– Like the Jewish leaders, we may refuse to believe in Jesus because of our self-righteous religious pride (John 18:28-32).

– Like Pilate, we may refuse to believe in Jesus because we are too busy with life to truly live (John 18:33-38a).

Similar to Barabbas, we believe in Jesus’ death for our freedom (John 18:38b-40).

There is a fourth possible response to Christ crucified and it is seen at the beginning of John 19. LIKE THE ROMAN SOLDIERS, WE MAY REFUSE TO BELIEVE IN JESUS BECAUSE WE ARE NOT CONCERNED ABOUT ETERNAL THINGS (John 19:1-3). Although the Jewish leaders sought the death penalty for Jesus (John 18:31), Pilate recognized Jesus had done nothing deserving of execution (John 18:38). In Chapter 19, John continues the account of Jesus’ trial before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Pilate wanted to release Jesus but he did not want to offend the Jewish leaders who were determined to put Jesus to death. The trial of Jesus before Pilate was rapidly reaching a crisis that Pilate wanted to avoid. In an effort to satisfy the Jews, Pilate ordered that Jesus be flogged. “So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.” (John 19:1).

Pilate may have done this thinking that once the Jews saw Jesus in such a beaten state, they would ask for His release. But what is a scourging? Is it merely a beating with a whip? To make such an association is like comparing an electric shock to a lightning bolt.

“Scourging was a standard preliminary to a Roman execution. Only women, Roman senators, or soldiers (except in cases of execution) were exempt. The victim was stripped, bound to a post, and then beaten with a short whip, or flagellum, made of braided leather thongs to which were attached small iron balls and sharp pieces of bone. Jewish law limited scourging to thirty-nine strokes (M. Makkoth 3:10). Because this was a preliminary to execution, care was taken not to kill the victim. Yet suffering under the scourge was intense. Josephus tells of a man whose bones were laid bare by scourging (Jewish Wars 6.303-4). Eusebius reports of how veins, arteries, entrails, and organs were exposed to sight by the scourge (Historia Ecclesiastica 4:15).” 2

The scourging should have satisfied the bloodthirsty mob, but it only incited them to greater demands. “And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe.” (John 19:2). The soldiers decided to enjoy a few laughs at Jesus’ expense. Because He claimed to be King of the Jews (John 18:33-37), they decided to mock Him. They “twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head.” These thorns remind us of “the curse of thorns caused by human sin” 3 (Genesis 3:18). Christ would bear this curse as He hung on the cross.

The soldiers also placed a “purple robe,” normally worn by military officers or men of high rank, on Jesus. “Then they said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they struck Him with their hands.” (John 19:3). They mocked Jesus as they greeted Him with the words, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they became physically abusive and struck Jesus with their hands. Matthew and Mark also report that they hit Jesus on the head with a stick and knelt before Him and spat on Him (cf. Matthew 27:30; Mark 15:19). Though Pilate and the soldiers no doubt thought they were merely exercising the might of Rome over a simple Jew, they were actually fulfilling biblical prophecy about the Messiah in detail” 4 (cf. Isaiah 50:6; 53:5).

While this mistreatment of Jesus is repulsive to us, we have also observed similar experiences in the news where prisoners in America are brutally treated by law enforcement officers or prison guards. But before we condemn them, we need to ask ourselves what we would do if we were in a similar situation. For example, if someone had killed our co-workers, would we want to avenge their deaths? Or if someone sought to kill us, would we be all calm and collected or would we want to retaliate?

These Roman soldiers did not deliberately reject Jesus like the Jewish leaders did. They probably were not familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures that pointed to Jesus as the promised Messiah of Israel. Like a lot of people today, they were not religious. Their job required them to scourge and crucify prisoners often. Perhaps they were simply having fun to decrease the monotony of their profession. Or maybe they were trying to distance themselves from the human suffering they were causing to their prisoners much like a doctor or nurse that works in an emergency room dealing with constant trauma. They must distance themselves emotionally from those for whom they provide medical care.

Perhaps you can identify with Roman soldiers who were not interested in eternal matters, but who were simply living for their jobs and trying to have some fun at the same time. It is important to understand “that the issue is not, ‘Is there a hereafter?’ The real issue is, ‘Is Jesus Christ the One He said He was?’ Why? Because Jesus Christ is the One who spoke more about heaven and hell than any other man in the Bible.

“He spoke about heaven when He said, ‘Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also’ (John 14:1-3). He spoke about hell when He said, ‘And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell’ (Matthew 10:28).” 6

So if you do not believe there is a hereafter, please realize that Jesus Christ believed there was a hereafter and the Bible explains that Jesus is “the way” to that hereafter (John 10:9; 14:6; Acts 4:12). But if Jesus Christ was not who He said He was, what He taught about the hereafter does not matter.

“Once again, we are brought face to face with the resurrection – the one thing on which Christianity stands or falls. The challenge anyone faces, therefore, who denies there is a herafter is the challenge of disproving the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Only if the resurrection is disproved can the teachings of Christ about the hereafter be ignored.” 7

But the resurrection of Christ is the most attested fact of history. A former persecutor of Christianity writes in the Bible, 3 That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once.” (I Corinthians 15:3-6). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead was that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses. This is more than enough evidence to stand up in a court of law.

Just as history proclaims that George Washington was the first President of the USA, so history proclaims that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead. Just ask former atheists, Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel, who set out to disprove the resurrection of Christ only to be persuaded by the historical evidence that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. You can check out the evidence that persuaded them to believe in Jesus in their books (McDowell – The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict 1999/The Resurrection Factor 1981; Strobel – The Case for Easter Revised 2013).

You may not care about the hereafter because you do not view heaven as a very exciting place. For example, George Bernard Shaw, once explained, “Heaven as conventionally conceived, is a place so inane, so dull, so useless, and so miserable that nobody has ever ventured to describe a whole day in heaven, though plenty of people have described a day at the seashore.” (~ Harlan D. Betz, Setting the Stage for Eternity) 8

Don’t go by your perception of heaven. Go by the explanation the Bible gives. 1 Then I saw a new earth (with no oceans!) and a new sky, for the present earth and sky had disappeared. 2 And I, John, saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven. It was a glorious sight, beautiful as a bride at her wedding. 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, ‘Look, the home of God is now among men, and He will live with them and they will be His people; yes, God Himself will be among them. 4 He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of that has gone forever. 5 And the One sitting on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new!’ And then He said to me, ‘Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true: 6 It is finished! I am the A and the Z—the Beginning and the End. I will give to the thirsty the springs of the Water of Life—as a gift!” (Revelation 21:1-6 TLB).

Every molecule, atom, proton, and neutron in existence today will disintegrate only to be replaced by a glorious new creation… The idea that God will make everything new may seem too spectacular to be true, but He says this promise is indeed faithful and true (21:5). His people will experience complete satisfaction in the new creation, symbolized here by the metaphor of thirst being quenched from the spring of the water of life (21:6). The refreshing satisfaction of downing a cold glass of water when you’re parched is nothing compared to the spectacular satisfaction to come.” 9

Would you like to live forever in a perfect, problem-free place called heaven? If so, understand that Jesus Christ is the only way to get there (John 10:9; 14:6). You may ask, “Why?” Because only Jesus Christ has paid the price of admission into His heaven when He died in our place on a cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30).

You may ask, “Why did Jesus have to die for me?” Because the Bible tells us that our sin – the wrong things we do, say and think – separate us from God (Romans 3:23; 6:23). In fact, if we were to pay the price for our own sin, we would spend eternity in a terrible place called the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). But Jesus loved us so much that He took our place and punishment on the cross, was buried, and then rose again (Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3-6).

The Lord Jesus now invites you to trust in Him alone for His gift of eternal life. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). This requires faith and humility on your part. Faith to believe that God really loves you and will give you eternal life, and humility to admit that He is God and you are not.

As a drowning person must trust a lifeguard to save them through no effort of their own, so you must place your trust in a Person – Jesus Christ – as your only way to heaven. The good things you have done will not get you to heaven. Only Jesus can save you from your sins. The moment you place your trust in Him for eternal life, you can be certain that you will live with Jesus forever in His glorious heaven.

Prayer: God, some of us reading this today may have thought that this life on earth is all there is. Like the Roman soldiers, we may not have cared about Jesus Christ or the hereafter. We were more interested in living for our jobs and having a good time. But now we are beginning to wonder if that is the best way to approach life on earth. What if this person called Jesus of Nazareth really did claim to be God? What if it is true that He loves me and died in my place on a cross and rose from the dead, proving that He really is God? What if He is preparing an incredible place for those who believe in Him to live with Him for all of eternity? Do I really want to risk missing out on all of that? As best I know how, God, I am asking You to show me if Jesus Christ is the real deal? Thank You.

To learn more about Jesus, please explore this website or www.knowing-Jesus.com.

ENDNOTES:

1. Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: New International Commentary on the New Testament series, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), pg. 68.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 337-338; cf. William D. Edwards, Wesley J. Gabel, Floyd E. Hosmer, “On the Physical Death of Jesus,” The Journal of the Amerian Medical Association 255 (March 21, 1986): 1457.

3. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. pg. 688.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1821.

5. Adapted from Steve J. Cole’s message on June 7, 2015 entitled, “Lesson 95: What Will You Do With Jesus? (John 18:28-19:16)” at www.Bible.org.

6. EvanTell’s The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2014), pg. 1108.

7. Ibid.

8. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How To Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publication, 2012), pg. 304.

9. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pp. 2420-2421.

Is Jesus Christ Alive Today? (Video)

This video is about the everlasting hope that is found in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Why do millions of people around the world celebrate Easter? What evidence is there that Jesus Christ is alive today? Discover the answers to these questions and much more. Please share this video with those you want to see in heaven.

Scripture are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted. The song “Because He Lives I Can Face Tomorrow” by Jesusman, is Public Domain Mark 1.0 and is therefore not subject to copyright. Pictures are used with permission from Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing/ www.Freebibleimages.org, www.Goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses.

Christ’s claim demands that we embrace the Cross

“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He.” John 8:28

The third implication of Jesus’ claim to be the light of the world (John 8:12) is this: CHRIST’S CLAIM DEMANDS THAT WE EMBRACE THE CROSS (John 8:25-30). When Jesus said, “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24b), the religious leaders are disturbed by His words, “I am He.” The word “He” is not in the original Greek which is why it is in italics in the New King James version. When Jesus said, “I am,” He was claiming to be the Self-Existent God who spoke to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:13-14). So these Jews ask Him, “Who are You?” (John 8:25a). “Who are You to be saying such things to us?” And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning.” (John 8:25b). Jesus assures them that He was saying nothing different from “what” He had “been saying”about His identity since “the beginning” of His ministry.

“I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” (John 8:26). Jesus knew His audience better than anyone. He tells His listeners that He has “many things to say” to them, some of which will “judge” them for their unbelief. However, all that He would say would be “true” because it all comes from the Father who “is true.” His message was for “the world” of unbelieving humanity.

When believers are witnessing to the unsaved, it can be easy to get sidetracked from the central message of the gospel, that is, Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). This is especially true when sharing the gospel with members of a growing cult or false religion. Members of these groups often try  to steer the conversation away from Christ crucified to focus on the central part of their beliefs. Although there is a place for the study of false religions and cults, the best way to expose what is false is to preach the truth about Jesus Christ.

A few years ago I had the privilege of baptizing a new believer in the Philippines who had been a member of the Jehovah Witnesses cult for thirty years. When I asked him how he got saved, he said that a caring believer shared the gospel clearly and simply so he could transfer his trust onto Christ crucified alone for his salvation. You don’t have to know a lot about a cult or false religion to effectively share the gospel with their members. But you do need to know Christ crucified and His gospel message (I Corinthians 2:2)!

The apostle John tells us, “They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.” (John 8:27). Christ’s audience “did not understand that” He was referring to “the Father.”At this point in Jesus’ conversation with the Jewish leaders, it looks hopeless for them, doesn’t it? If I had been Jesus, I would have thought, “Why bother with these guys?” But He doesn’t.

Knowing their ignorance, blindness and pride, He graciously says to them28 Then Jesus said to them, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. 29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.’ 30 As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.” (John 8:28-30). Many of these very men who had been rejecting Him now believed in Him.

What made the difference? Christ presents three proofs of His identity as God. The first proof is the cross. What does Jesus mean, “When you lift up the Son of man” (8:28)? When you see Jesus on the cross then you begin to understand the facts about His true identity as the Messiah-God – “You will know that I am He.” Christ’s enemies will realize that Jesus is the Self-Existent God when they crucify Him. That is what He is saying. When He is lifted up on the cross He gives Himself for the sins of the world (I John 2:2). He laid down His life for us. So look to the cross. For at the cross is the Lord of Glory (I Corinthians 2:8). At the cross is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). At the cross is the One Who infinitely loves us and washes away all our sin and shame (Romans 5:8; Revelation 1:5b). At the cross is the innocent Son of God (Matthew 27:54). At the cross is the Redeemer of our sins (Ephesians 1:7).

A second proof of Jesus’ claim to be God is His message which did not originate with Him, but from His “Father” (John 8:28b). Christ’s teaching was not independent of His Father’s. He continually depended on His Father to give Him the words to say. He did this to provide an example for us. We cannot live the Christian life without depending on the Lord moment by moment (John 15:5; Romans 8:11-15; Galatians 5:16-18).

Then Jesus repeats that His Father “sent” Him which does not mean that He is “alone” (John 8:29a). Even though Jesus’ countrymen had rejected Him, His Father had not abandoned Him. Likewise, our Father in heaven and Jesus and the Holy Spirit will never abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). They are constantly with us to provide all we need to live for them (Philippians 4:19; 2 Peter 1:2-4).

The third proof of Jesus’ claim to be God is His perfect obedience to the Father (John 8:29b). Christ “always” did those things that please” His Father. Jesus is not only sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15), but on every occasion, He does what pleases God the Father. Only God could obey God’s commands at all times. The proof of Jesus’ deity is His perfect obedience to the Father. No one before or after Him has ever lived a sinless life on earth.

A few years ago on a three-hour flight to the eastern United States, I sat next to a young woman who claimed to be an agnostic. When I asked her if anyone ever took a Bible and showed her how she could know for sure she would go to heaven when she died, she said that no one had and that there was no need to do that with her. When I asked her why, she gave me several reasons why she did not need Christianity, including all religions lead to God, Christians are nothing but hypocrites, the Bible has been translated so many times that it is no longer accurate, and that Christianity is incompatible with science.

When I attempted to respond to each of her objections, she seemed disconnected from what I was saying. The more I talked, the less she responded and I began to realize that only the Holy Spirit could lift the blindness from her heart and mind (John 16:7-11; 2 Corinthians 4:4). I then pointed her to the cross of Christ, explaining how much He loved her. I told her Jesus would meet her where she is at and answer her questions about Christianity if she is honest about her search for truth. He is not threatened by her questions any more than He was with the apostle Thomas’ questions. I don’t know if she ever made the decision to believe in Christ, but one thing I do know, Jesus loves her and proved it when He died in her place for all her sins (cf. Romans 5:8)!

In conclusion, Christ’s claim demands that we GET THE FACTS RIGHT … for when Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World” (John 8:12), He was stating unequivocally that He was God in human flesh.

Christ’s claim also demands that we BE SURE ABOUT OUR FUTURE. Have you believed in Christ alone to provide a future resurrection and never-ending life for you (John 8:24; 11:25-26)? Or have you rejected Him? There is no middle ground. You will either be with Jesus for eternity (John 3:36a; 11:25-26) or forever separated from Him in the lake of fire (John 3:36b; Revelation 20:15).

And finally, Christ’s claim demands that we EMBRACE THE CROSS. Jesus gave up His life for us on the cross. He forfeited His life so we can live for Him now, so that His light can shine through us to help others. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says: “And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”

When I preached this message at the provincial jail chapel in the Philippines a few years ago, we provided candles for each inmate. At this time, our ushers lit the candle of each person at the end of a row in the chapel. Then we focused on Jesus’ words, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12). I then said to the inmates, “Look what happens to this room when each of us follows Christ and allows His light to shine through us (other candles were lit by those with a lit candle). The light dispels the darkness, doesn’t it? Together we can make an eternal difference here at the provincial jail and in our country and world. Have you decided to follow Jesus? Do you want God to use you to lead others to Christ and disciple them?

What about you? We are seeing unprecedented expressions of darkness in the USA and world. More now than ever, our world needs the light of Jesus Christ!!! Will you let Jesus shine in and through you as you follow Him and make disciples of Him? A single light penetrates 50 miles of darkness. Darkness cannot overcome light (John 1:5). We are on the winning side. Let’s live like winners!!!      

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please shine Your light through us so that others can receive the hope of everlasting life by believing in You. Please raise up armies of Your disciple-makers around the world who will shine brightly for You and Your glory! In Your name I pray. Amen.

A Look into the Future – Part 4 (Video)

This is the fourth in a series of videos about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the most significant event on God’s Prophetic Calendar – the Second Coming of Christ to earth.

The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com. The music and video scene in this video is used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”