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.

When the Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want for security

“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6b

What is a Christian? A person who goes to a particular church? A person who is very religious? Someone who lives a moral life? A person who has some lofty goals? A person who believes certain facts? Someone who practices a bunch of dos and don’ts?

The Bible teaches that a Christian is someone who believes in Jesus Christ alone for everlasting life, and therefore knows the only true God and His Son, Jesus Christ personally. After all Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). You may ask, “What is eternal life?” Jesus explains, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). The word “know” refers to an intimate knowledge of God, not just an awareness of certain facts.Notice that the primary focus is on one’s relationship with God(“life”), not the duration (“eternal”), although both are true.This is not just a future promise, it is a present reality for all believers in Jesus. Eternal life is knowing the only true God personally in one’s experience forever.Eternal life is not static or unchanging. It can be experienced at deeper and deeper levels as we grow closer to the Father and His Son.

In Psalm 23, King David is talking about his personal relationship with God. When we read “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” most of us probably think of heaven. But David is not thinking so much about where he will be after death, but with Whom he will be. In Psalm 27:4, David writes, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” David longed to be in the Lord’s house because then he would be in the Lord’s presence. Heaven is primarily a place where we will be with Jesus Christ.

Jesus refers to heaven as His Father’s house. “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 14:2-3). According to Jesus, heaven is a real place where there will be “many mansions.” Jesus is referring to literal homes or dwellings that will be in the New Jerusalem which will descend from heaven to the new earth after the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 21-22). The New Jerusalem will be fifteen hundred miles high, long, and wide (Revelation 21:16). God promises that in our future home “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). What a great source of comfort this provides for those who are deeply troubled by the death of believers today.

Christ does not have any doubts about the existence of our future home in heaven when He says, “If it were not so, I would have told you” (14:2b). In the Greek language, the phrase “If it were not so” expresses that the condition is unfulfilled. In other words, if heaven were otherwise, and it is not, Jesus would have told them. Christ took for granted that there would be plenty of rooms for all the saved people in heaven.

In anticipation of their reunion with Him, Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (14:2c). Yes, Jesus was leaving His disciples, but He would not forget them. He would occupy Himself preparing a real place where He and they would dwell together forever. He was going to make ready the place where He would welcome them permanently. Certainly, Jesus would not go to prepare rooms in heaven for His disciples if He did not expect that they would finally arrive there. He was sure they would make it to heaven. He would see to it.

Then Jesus said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself” (John 14:3a). Just as the first century bridegroom in Palestine would send for his bride when all was ready, so Christ would do the same when He had completed His work of preparing a place in His Father’s house for His bride, the church (cf. Ephesians 5:22-24; Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-3).

Think about this! God created the universe in six days (Genesis 1), but Jesus has been preparing our place in heaven for almost two thousand years! Remember, Jesus was the Son of a carpenter (Mark 6:3) and no doubt He was a perfect Learner growing up. He would know how to build some incredible mansions in heaven. So heaven is going to be a fantastic place – a real place! We will live in mansions made of gold and walk on streets of gold (Revelation 21:18, 21). It will be an incredible place of splendor. The glory of Jesus will shine and light everything, not even a shadow exists there (Revelation 21:22-23). Jesus is the center of heaven and all praises will ring to Him. The joy shall never end there. Heaven is a place of inhabitants. It is not empty. It is filled with people, people who have believed in Jesus Christ for eternal life (John 3:5, 15-16; Revelation 21:27).

When Jesus said, “I will come again and receive you to Myself” (14:3b), He is not referring  to the Resurrection or the death of a believer, but to the Rapture or removal of the church from earth which could happen at any moment (cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). At any time, Jesus Christ could come back for His church with believers who already died to meet living believers in the clouds. This truth is intended to comfort and encourage believers whose loved ones have died in the Lord.

Jesus said, “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3c). In Jesus’ mind, what would make heaven so special is that they would be with Him and He with them. Yes, Jesus is preparing a wonderful place for us in heaven. But all the beauty of that place will not match the beauty of His presence.

This is exactly what David is saying in Psalm 23:6b. And you know what else? David was absolutely certain he would dwell in the house of the Lord forever. He said, “I will dwell…”, not “I might…” or “I hope to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” When the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want for security that lasts forever.

No other religions offer this kind of security. All other religions can only offer an “I hope so…” or “I think so…” type of assurance that is filled with doubt and uncertainty. Why? Because all other religions are based on the performance of broken sinful people. All other religions are based on founders who are still dead in their graves.

But Christianity offers absolute assurance and security because going to heaven is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ (John 19:30) Who died on the cross for all the sins of the world and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:1-8), proving that He is God (Romans 1:3-4). Christianity’s Founder conquered death when He rose from the dead and He is alive today to give everlasting life freely to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26).

Psalm 23 begins and ends with the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ! Do you know Jesus personally? I am not asking whether you know about Him. Millions of people have been brought up in Sunday School and know about Jesus Christ. People from other religions around the world are familiar with the name of Jesus Christ. They may know some of the facts, but they do not know Jesus personally. I am not saying you do not know Psalm 23. Scores of people can quote this Psalm who do not know the Shepherd. Do you know Jesus Christ as the only One who can give you everlasting life? Do you know for certain you will go to heaven when you die?

Because of the Coronavirus, we are living in very uncertain and insecure times. You can have security that lasts forever if you will believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Jesus is not asking if you are religious because He never said he who is religious has everlasting life. He is not asking if you believe God exists because He never said he who believes God exists has everlasting life. He is not asking if you pray every day or read a holy book every day because He never said he who prays every day or reads a holy book every day has everlasting life. Jesus is asking you, “Do you believe in Me?” because he said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.”

The word “believe” in the Bible means to trust or depend upon. Trusting in Jesus is a lot like riding on an airplane. When you ride as a passenger on an airplane, do you need to push the airplane to get it off the ground? No, of course not. Do you need to flap your arms to keep the plane in the air? No. All you must do is trust a Person, your pilot, to take you to your destination.In the same way, Jesus does not need us to help Him give us everlasting life and a home in heaven. No amount of our good works can save us from the Lake of Fire because they are all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9). All Jesus asks is that we believe or trust in Him alone to give us everlasting life and a home in heaven (John 6:47). Only Jesus can take away our sins because He paid the penalty of our sins in full (John 19:30) and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:1-8), proving that He is God (Romans 1:3-4).

Believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life, and you can say with David, “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Why?Because theBible says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (I John 5:13). The Bible does not say you may “think” or “hope” that you have eternal life when you believe in the name of the Son of God. It says you can “know” with absolute certainty that eternal life is yours.

Pastor G. Campbell Morgan tells of an incident that took place in London years ago. A young girl from his church was dying. She had just given birth and it appeared it would cost her her life. Pastor Morgan looked on as the doctor did his best to take care of her. She was delirious and kept saying, “Doctor, I don’t want to go on alone. Doctor, please, I want to take my baby with me.”

The doctor tried to help her and said, “My dear, your baby will have loving care. You need not be afraid. You cannot take the baby with you. The gate through which you go is only wide enough for one.” Pastor Morgan then stepped in and touched the physician’s shoulder and said, “Doctor, don’t tell her that. Tell her the gate through which she is about to pass is wide enough for two – for herself and for her Shepherd. He who brought her to this place will not desert her now, but He will see her safely to the other side.”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my Good Shepherd, thank You for the security You give me during these uncertain times. Thank You that I can say with David that “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” because You are faithful to Your promise of everlasting life to all who believe in You. I praise You not only for Your past and present faithfulness, but also for Your future faithfulness which guarantees You will safely deliver me to my home in heaven where I can enjoy Your presence forever! Please precious Lord, lead me to those who are ready to receive this message of everlasting hope and security in You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.