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Lamentation on the Road to Calvary

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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August 20, 2023 12:01 am

Lamentation on the Road to Calvary

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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August 20, 2023 12:01 am

Women wept for Jesus as He carried His cross to Calvary. Why did He tell them to weep rather for themselves and for their children? Today, R.C. Sproul continues his exposition of the gospel of Luke to describe the grave judgment that awaited Israel for its rejection of the Messiah.

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Behind the scenes in the eternity of God's providence, in the secret hand of that mystery, the primary cause of the selection of Simon of Cyrene was the eternal determinant counsel of God Himself. It was God, not the soldier, who ultimately chose this man, Simon, to carry the cross of Jesus. On the road to the cross, Jesus wasn't alone. Aside from the crowds who would have been there watching this spectacle, Jesus encounters several individuals along the way.

This is the Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind, as R.C. Sproul continues preaching his way through Luke's Gospel. One individual on the road to the cross was Simon of Cyrene, who had both the burden and the privilege of carrying the cross of Christ. Let's meet Simon and a group of others who received a strong warning from the lips of Jesus.

Here's Dr. Sproul. This morning I'm going to continue our study of the gospel according to St. Luke. I'm not going to read the lengthy passage that is in the bulletin because it's far too long.

I tried it last Sunday and didn't get anywhere near through that particular portion. So I'm going to begin at chapter 23, verse 26 of Luke's Gospel, and go to verse 36. Now ask the congregation please to stand for the reading of the Word of God. And as they led Him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene who was coming in from the country and laid on Him the cross to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed behind Him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for Him. But turning to them, Jesus said, Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed. And then they will begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills cover us.

For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry? Again, this is Luke's account of these events preceding the crucifixion of Jesus, supervised, superintended and inspired by God the Holy Spirit. This is the truth of the Word of God.

Please receive it as such and be seated. Let's pray. Our Father and our God, when we consider the events of that day, when the greatest sacrifice that was ever made for humankind was offered in the perfect atonement of Christ on His cross, we shudder and tremble within ourselves to even think about it. And now, our Lord, we ask that in this hour that the Word that we have heard, the preaching that we will hear, and the text will be so clear to us that in all of these things, You and You alone will be glorified. For we ask it in Jesus' name.

Amen. We read in chapter 23 and verse 26 that they led Him away, presumably from the judgment hall along the Via Dolorosa, the way of sorrows or the way of griefs, to make sure that He would go outside the city where He would be executed at Golgotha. And this was necessary to fulfill all of the symbolism of the Old Testament with specific reference to the Day of Atonement, when after the scapegoat was taken and the priest would lay his hands upon the back of the scapegoat, symbolizing the transfer, the transmission, the imputation of the guilt of the people to the back of the goat, they would then drive the scapegoat into the wilderness, into the outer darkness, outside the camp, outside the place that enjoyed the presence of God.

And so in all of these details of fulfillment of the prophetic messages of the Old Testament, it was necessary that Jesus would be killed outside the holy city, outside of Jerusalem, into the land of the outer darkness. And so they made it necessary for Him to carry His own cross, as was the custom for criminals that were to be executed. But Jesus had been more severely beaten than the average criminal. The scourging that He endured was so mutilating of His flesh that clearly the bones of His body could be seen beneath the flesh, and He was in a state of total exhaustion, and He simply did not have the strength to make the journey carrying the cross to the site of His execution.

And so He stumbled. Presumably just as He got outside of the gate of the city, within full view of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people that were gathered there for the spectacle of this execution, just an aside, my guess is that of all of the crucifixions that ever occurred outside the city of Jerusalem, this was perhaps almost certainly the most well attended. Tens and tens of thousands of people were there to celebrate the Passover. And when the news moved to the crowd that this famous Jesus was about to be executed, people came from every corner of the city to witness the event. Remember when we looked at the musings of the men on the way on the road to Emmaus when Jesus walked with them, and they were talking about certain things regarding His execution, and Jesus questioned them as if He didn't know what was going on and what they were talking about.

He said, what things? And they looked at Him. They said, are you the only person in Jerusalem that didn't know what happened there?

Of course, He knew better than anybody else what had happened there, but that was an indication again of the size of this throng of people that had gathered to witness the spectacle of His execution. And one of those people who would come in from the country was Simon of Cyrene. Presumably, he still lived in Cyrene, which was on a plateau about 10 miles from the Mediterranean Sea, which is now in Libya.

But here was this pilgrim who had come presumably for the Passover, and he was simply standing on the roadside being a spectator of this gruesome event. We don't know what the state of his soul was, but tradition tells us that at this time in his life, Simon of Cyrene was not a converted man. We know very little about him, but yet later on, we learn from Mark and also from the Apostle Paul of his two sons that were specifically mentioned, Rufus and Alexander, and of his wife, who were an integral part of the Christian community that later settled in Rome. So somewhere between the time of his being impressed into the service of carrying this cross for Jesus, Simon of Cyrene was converted to Christ Himself. Again, the tradition is that when he came to that scene and finished the task of carrying that piece of wood for Jesus, that he observed what happened on the cross. He listened carefully to the words that Jesus spoke from the cross. And again, it's part of the tradition that it was there and then that he became a Christian. Now, I don't know if that's true, but there are certain elements of the text that we know are true without dispute. The first thing is this, that Jesus of Nazareth was not crucified on a stick, that the crosses that were used were weighty pieces of wood, huge beams that were of enormous weight, so heavy that Jesus Himself was not able to carry the burden Himself. And when He stumbled and fell on the ground, I'm sure there was an audible gasp from those who were gathered around who looked at Him in the ignominy of His humiliation. And it wasn't like Simon of Cyrene jumped into the gap and said, let me help. Let me carry this cross beam for you.

No. He was obviously a reluctant intercessor when one of the soldiers who had the authority commanded Him to pick up that cross that Jesus dropped and carry it the rest of the way. And why did He choose Simon of Cyrene? I'm sure that it was spontaneous.

There hadn't been a lottery. There was no external reason that would be compelling for this soldier to choose Simon of Cyrene. Obviously, he wouldn't choose a 97-pound weakling for the task.

He would look through the group and see somebody like Steve Gooder that we affectionately called Boomer, huge, massive man, and choose him as an example of somebody who would obviously have the strength to do the task. But in any case, the secondary cause for the choice of Rufus by the soldier was whatever the soldier saw in Simon in order to choose him. Behind the scenes, however, in the eternity of God's providence, in the secret hand of that mystery, the primary cause of the selection of Simon of Cyrene was the eternal determinant counsel of God Himself. It was God, not the soldier, who ultimately chose this man, Simon, to carry the cross of Jesus.

You know, there's something odd about this. In the intention of God the Father, it would be only a few moments until He would pour out His unmitigated wrath upon His Son, pronounced a curse upon Him in the sacrificial offering that He was about to make. But still, even moments before this event, there was a tenderness in the heart of the Father who condescended to provide help for His Son to bear the cross. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I don't think that Simon's act of bearing the cross for Jesus earned him one scintilla of merit before God. There was no good work, enough that would cause Simon of Cyrene to enter the kingdom of God.

And again, it's assumed that it wasn't even voluntary that he was done. He was doing this under duress, and he was probably cursing beneath his breath when he was chosen by the soldier to stoop down and pick up that burden and put it on his own shoulders and start to plod along behind Jesus. I'm sure he couldn't wait for the journey to be finished, that he could rid himself of that filthy instrument of death, drop it at the foot of Calvary, and let the soldiers take it from there to finish the execution. And yet, at the same time, no human being, in my opinion, in the history of the world ever received a greater honor than did Simon of Cyrene. And from all eternity, it was God who chose him in His Son's hour of desperate need and passion to assist Him in providing the atonement for us. After his conversion, you can only imagine the conversations that would take place in the following years, family reunions, any time that he would get together with his wife and with his sons, and they would talk about the past. I'm sure the first thing that Simon would say is, I carried his cross.

What an honor. It was probably on his tombstone. This man carried the cross of Jesus Christ. Now, Simon wasn't the only one that Jesus encountered on the road, but as the text goes on, we read that there was a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for Jesus. And turning to them, Jesus said, daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. Now, we don't know whether these were just a group of women who were standing by the wayside and observing the misery that Jesus obviously was experiencing, and their hearts went out in compassion to Him, and they were mourning and lamenting, and Jesus called them the daughters of Jerusalem. Some speculate that there was a group of women in some kind of guild in Jerusalem that were named the daughters of Jerusalem, like the daughters of the American Revolution or some such group.

But it simply could mean that He just addressed them as a group of women who were there and called them the daughters of Jerusalem. I remember when the first time I went to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which is my favorite art museum in the whole world, including the Louvre, I was able to see this mammoth collection of paintings by Rembrandt von Rhein. And my favorite of all of the Rembrandt paintings that I have two copies in my home, they're not the original, I can assure you.

The original was there hanging in the Rijksmuseum, and it was a portrait. And the title of the portrait in Dutch was Jeremiah laments the destruction of Jerusalem. And in that painting, you see the weary, weeping prophet crouched over leaning on the text of sacred Scripture in a portrait of visceral agony. And in that motif in which Rembrandt is known for, there's this light that comes out of nowhere in the midst of the darkness. And if you look very closely at that painting, that light in the background is produced by the flames that are swallowing up the holy city of Jerusalem.

And so, in what was called in German by the art critics, the Valkbar and Auchinblich, the fruitful moment, where poets and artists like Rembrandt would make scores of sketches in order to capture the quintessence of a person in one scene. He settled on the scene of lamentation, of Jeremiah sobbing over the destruction of the city. Well, that word has a powerful connotation, that word, lamentation, of which Jeremiah wrote a whole book by that title, Lamentations. A lamentation is not simply a moment of sadness. It's not simply an expression of grief.

As I said, it's visceral. It goes into the center of one's being when they express this ultimate mourning and sadness. And that's what these women were experiencing when Jesus looked at them. They were mourning. They were lamenting. They were crying.

They were groaning as they beheld the obvious agony of Jesus. And He stopped, and He looked at them, and He said, daughters of Jerusalem, don't weep for me. Weep for yourselves, for your unborn children, for the day is coming very soon where you will not consider barrenness a curse but a blessing. As you will say on that day, blessed are the barren. Blessed are the wounds that never gave birth.

Blessed are the breasts that never nursed. What's Jesus talking about? Anyway, He's looking to the future judgment of God on Jerusalem, on the destruction of Jerusalem where 1.1 million people were killed in the first century Holocaust when Rome destroyed the city, man, woman, and child. He says, that day is coming. Don't weep for me. Weep for yourself.

Blessed are those who have never given birth because you're going to watch your children be destroyed, and you will wish that they would never have been born. Then He says, they will begin to say to the mountains, fall on us, and to the hills, cover us. Let me just fast forward to a second to the book of Revelation where we read in chapter 6, when He opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake. The sun became black as sackcloth.

The full moon became like blood. The stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the great ones and the generals, the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and the rocks, fall on us, hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.

Do you see how upset I get when I see signs like that on I-4 that God is not angry and that this almost universal denial of the wrath of God? Nobody wants to think for a second about the wrath of God, but Jesus said, don't cry for me, because the wrath of Almighty God will come on kings, on generals, on the rich, on the powerful, on the slave, and on the free. And you all run and scurry and hide yourselves in caves, and then you'll start to scream. You'll start to talk to the hills. You'll talk to the mountains, and you'll beg the mountains and beg the hills to fall on you.

Why would anybody ever plead with a mountain to fall on Him? Jesus gives us the answer to that question. Hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne and the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of wrath has come, and who can stand? The question is clearly rhetorical. Who can stand? The answer is manifestly obvious.

No one can stand. But we're at ease in Zion. We're a troubled nation. We see grief and lamentation all around us, but we still distance ourselves from any confidence that God will ever judge our land. I have a son and a daughter, eight grandchildren, five great-grandchildren. I don't know about you, but I don't know how many times I've thought, what kind of a world are we leaving for our kids?

Sometimes I wish they would never be born when I anticipate what their future will probably be in the days to come. Fifty years ago, I heard Billy Graham preach a sermon when she said, if God does not judge America, He's going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. We're not just post-Christian. We're not just neo-pagan. We are neo-barbarian in the ethics that are practiced in this country. I know you get tired of my saying it, but 60 billion unborn babies, blood cries from the earth, and God hears every one of them.

We go nuts when five policemen are killed, and rightly so, but are neared by the bloody destruction of our unborn children. How long do you think God's going to put up with that? Jesus says, wait for yourselves.

Wait for your unborn children. Then He says, for if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry? It's a cryptic statement, but most scholars believe Jesus was referring to Himself. He was the wood that was not dry. It was a green wood that normally you don't put in the fire to burn. He was not kindling for God's wrath. His wood was green.

Our wood is dry. And Jesus is saying, if God takes me and exposes me to His wrath, what will He do to you who are the dry wood? A serious warning from Jesus.

Our only hope is to flee to Him for salvation. If you would like a clear explanation of the Gospel, whether for you or someone that you know, I encourage you to visit renewingyourmind.org slash gospel. You're listening to the Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind, and today you heard a sermon from R.C. Sproul, one of 113 that he preached through Luke's Gospel, and these sermons form the foundation of his expositional commentary series. And today, for a gift of any amount, we'll give you digital access to his commentary on Luke to help you dig deeper in your study of this Gospel. So visit renewingyourmind.org and give your gift today. Thank you for your generosity, as your support keeps Renewing Your Mind freely available to countless people around the world every single day. As Jesus' road to Calvary comes to an end, what happened while He hung there on the cross? That's where R.C. Sproul will continue next Sunday, here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-01 13:23:44 / 2023-09-01 13:32:11 / 8

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