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The Crucifixion

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
March 17, 2024 12:01 am

The Crucifixion

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 17, 2024 12:01 am

Having fulfilled His work of atonement, the crucified Lord Jesus delivered His dying declaration: "It is finished." Preaching from the gospel of John, today R.C. Sproul turns our attention to the cross and to these words announcing the triumph of our salvation.

Get R.C. Sproul's Commentary on the book of John for Your Gift of Any Amount: https://gift.renewingyourmind.org/3224/john-commentary

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Jesus says it's finished. Not that His life is finished, but His mission is finished. His purpose has been accomplished. Jesus said earlier in John's Gospel that I lay down My life.

No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. And upon that cross, Jesus did lay down His life for His sheep. You're listening to the Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind.

I'm your host, Nathan W. Bingham. Over the past few Sundays, as R. C. Sproul is preaching through this portion of John's Gospel, we have seen the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, His trial. And today we come to the moment of His execution upon the cross and the glorious declaration from His lips that it is finished. We'll stay in, John, until we get to Jesus' resurrection on Resurrection Sunday. But if you'd like to study John's Gospel account in its entirety, then please request R. C. Sproul's expositional commentary on John.

We'll send you the hardcover edition for a donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. There's much superstition and confusion surrounding the crucifixion of Christ. It's what really happened when the Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep.

Here's Dr. Sproul. Well, we've been working our way through the Gospel of John, and this morning we come to John's narrative of the crucifixion of Christ, and I will be reading that narrative in its entirety in chapter 19 of John's Gospel beginning at verse 17. So I'd ask the congregation to stand for the reading of the Gospel. And He bearing His cross went out to a place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha, where they crucified Him and two others with Him, one on either side and Jesus in the center. Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross, and the writing was Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. And then many of the Jews read this title for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, do not write the King of the Jews, but He said, I am the King of the Jews. Pilate answered, what I have written, I have written. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic.

Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. And they said therefore among themselves, let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be. That the Scripture might be fulfilled, which says, they divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.

Therefore the soldiers did these things. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, His mother and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, woman, behold your son. Then He said to the disciple, behold your mother.

And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. After this Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst. And a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there, and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on His hip, and put it to His mouth. And so when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, it is finished.

And bowing His head, He gave up His Spirit. Therefore because it was the preparation day that the body should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, for that Sabbath was a high day, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, that they might be taken away. And then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with them. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.

But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And He who has seen has testified, and His testimony is true, and He knows that He is telling the truth so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, not one of His bones shall be broken. And again another Scripture says, they shall look upon Him whom they pierced. If you have ears to hear the Word of God, let them hear.

You may be seated. Let us pray. Who is able, O God, to plumb the depths and the riches of the scene that we have just heard described? We know, O Lord, that its significance goes far beyond the mere descriptive narrative of what took place, that it is because of this event in space and time that we are now, centuries later, assembled in this house. Father, give us understanding for what transpired that day on Golgotha, for we ask that in the name of Christ.

Amen. Not by human planning, but in the serendipity of the providence of God, our lesson this morning in our adult Sunday school was on the cross of Christ. And so together we explored the various theories of the meaning of the death of Christ in terms of atonement. But as we are going in an expository manner through the Gospel of John, I will not be doing that now so much as looking at the narrative itself to see what light John sheds upon the crucifixion as he gives us his account, which amplifies certain things that are found in the synoptic Gospels as well. Obviously, none of the Gospel writers gives us a comprehensive portrait of all that transpired on that Friday afternoon. We know, for example, that it is recorded in the whole portrait of Jesus in the New Testament that he gave seven so-called words or statements from the cross.

John only includes three of the seven in his version, but we're going to confine our scope here this morning to John's view. He begins in verse 17 by saying that Jesus bearing His cross went out to a place called the place of the skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. Now, when it says in the text that Christ was bearing His cross, we might visualize as some artistic renditions have been in the past, Jesus struggling down the road bearing the complete cross on His shoulders.

That's not the way it happened, and that's not the way it was. It was customary for the Roman treatment of prisoners who were to be executed by crucifixion to prepare the vertical beam of the cross at the crucifixion site before the actual execution would take place. So before Jesus makes His way from the Praetorian outside the gates of Jerusalem to the place of the skull at Golgotha, the vertical piece had already been implanted in the ground. And what would happen was that the prisoners would then be given the cross piece, the cross bar, and it was their task to hoist it on their shoulders and carry it to the place of execution.

Now, on many occasions, they were not able to accomplish the task, depending on the severity of the scourging that they had received immediately before moving out to the execution site. And we do know from the other gospels that Jesus carried this cross beam out to the city gates, but then He collapsed in a state of complete exhaustion, and one passerby, Simon of Cyrene, was commanded by the soldiers to pick up the cross beam of Jesus and take it to the hill of execution. And once there, then the prisoner would be placed flat on the ground on top of the cross beam, and his arms would either be tied or nailed to the cross beam. In the case of Jesus, He was nailed to the cross beam. We don't know whether it was through the hands or through the wrists.

That remains a questionable point in the history. And then the prisoner, in this case Jesus, would be hoisted up on the vertical beam, and the cross beam would then be attached to that vertical beam usually through nails. And in addition to that, a tiny platform towards the bottom of the vertical piece would be affixed to the vertical beam as a place for the feet of the prisoner to be secured. And then the feet were either tied or nailed to the vertical piece of the cross. Now, the reason for that little platform at the bottom of the cross was so that the feet could exercise pressure and give the body an opportunity to raise the diaphragm and breathe during the act of crucifixion. And that may seem at first glance as an aspect of mercy given to the executed person.

On the contrary, it was done to prolong the torture, because prisoners dying by this method would basically involuntarily gasp for breath, and if that breath were not possible to gain, then they would die much quicker, usually by asphyxiation. And so this was attached to the cross of Jesus at this time. Now we're told that Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross, and it was there written in three languages, the language of the Jews, Hebrew, the common currency of Koine Greek in that day that had come about as a result of the conquest of Alexander the Great and his process of Hellenization, and thirdly in the Latin, which was the language of the soldiers, who of course were Romans.

And on this sign, the charge was printed, and that was customary as well for Roman crucifixions that whatever charge a person had that caused them to be executed was published at the scene of the execution by being tacked to the cross. And so Pilate writes as the charge against Jesus that He is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. Well that greatly upset the Jewish authorities because they didn't believe that He was the King of the Jews. And so they protest this, the Pilate, and they say, please change the wording of the charge and make it say this, He said He was the King of the Jews. Pilate by this time had had it with the Jewish authorities as we've seen in the previous weeks, and he simply dismissed their protest with the imperious words, what I have written, I have written, sounds like Yul Brynner in The King and I, so let it be said, so let it be done. That's the law of the Medes and the Persians.

I'm not changing what I have said, so live with it. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part and also the tunic. So if we look carefully at this and at the normal garb of a prisoner on that occasion, he would have five different pieces of clothing, and the undergarment, the seamless garment, was the tunic, and the other four garments were distributed among the four soldiers, but because this garment, the tunic, was a one-piece garment and significantly valuable, they didn't want to lessen its value by cutting it into four pieces, but rather they decided to gamble through the casting of lots, winner take all, at least of the tunic. Now there are a couple of things I do want to just comment on in passing here. In the first place, by way of… by the way, where's John? Thanks for setting this clock for me. It still says nine o'clock. You people are in for a long morning. Nothing worse than the minister's clock breaks right in the middle of the sermon.

This is just a parenthetical comment. I've had a couple of people who visited our church who were very much offended by our artwork, and particularly by the state of undress in which Christ is depicted in the crucifixion scene, and thinking that it is just unseemly to manifest a portrait of Jesus wearing only a loincloth. And what those people didn't understand was that the artistic rendition of the cross manifesting Jesus wearing a loincloth was already a compromise with historical accuracy for the sake of human decency. Prisoners who were executed by crucifixion in the Roman arena were executed naked. And that goes back to an ancient process by which the worst form of humiliation that could be imposed upon an enemy was to strip that enemy naked. And it would frequently take place if the Romans, for example, were victorious in battle.

They would take the officers of the conquered army and parade them down the street bare naked to reduce them to total shame and humiliation. And so if you can bear it in all probability, the Son of God was made a public spectacle in the shame of nakedness following the ancient custom. But we notice in verse 24, they said, Let's not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Now, please understand that John is not saying here that the Roman soldiers got together and they said, look, we better gamble for His garment because it says somewhere in the Old Testament that those garments are going to be gambled away and they'll cast lots for Him, and we've got to make sure that the Scripture gets fulfilled in every dimension. No, this is John's editorial comment that unintentionally when they go through this act of gambling for the garments of Christ, they are unknown to themselves and in an involuntary way fulfilling the precise details of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the death of the Messiah. And John is so jealous to make his reader understand that what happens here on the cross is not an accident of history, it's not fortuitous, but it has come to pass through the invisible hand of a sovereign providence. Then he changes his perspective for a moment and says in verse 25, Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. We don't know exactly from this sentence how many people he's talking about here. Is his mother's sister Mary the wife of Clopas or is it Mary's sister plus another Mary the wife of Clopas?

We don't know for sure. The structure of the Greek there is uncertain. But in any case, there are these women who are standing at the cross watching the execution. And when Jesus looks down from the cross, he sees his mother in the crowd. Do you remember when we looked at this painting over here in terms of the visitation and presentation of the infant Jesus to the temple at the time of Simeon and the prophetess Anna and the prophecy, we see this man dressed with a helmet in the back who was lurking over the baby and that depicts Satan and remember in that prophetic moment on the day of presentation that it was said to Mary that a sword would pierce her soul, speaking about the anguish she would endure in the future death of her son. So here the mother is watching her son who had been promised to be the Messiah of Israel, the very Son of God, watching him in this shame, in this suffering, in this humiliation, and she's transfixed by the vision and Jesus now looks at her. And he speaks to her from the cross.

And we read also in the text that the beloved disciple was there and that we know almost certainly refers to John, the writer of this gospel, the youngest of the twelve. And Jesus looks at his mother and he looks at John and he says to his mother, woman, behold your son. And then to John, son, behold your mother.

In other words, Jesus is not saying to his mother, mother, look at me. Rather, he's saying to her, look at John. Woman, behold your son, John. John, behold your mother. One of the last things that Jesus does before he dies is to look after the care of his widowed mother, and presumably his brothers are not even present in Jerusalem at this time, and so he commends John, he commends his mother to the care of John.

And we are told that Mary then goes and lives in John's house. One other thing in passing I want to say about that is that when Jesus says to her, woman, in our vocabulary, if I look at a female and say, woman, you know, look at me, that would be somewhat adversarial and confrontational, wouldn't it? But here Jesus is using the word that in the Greek is gunai or gunai from which comes the word gynecology, and we're all familiar with that, and it was the universal term for woman, but it also was used frequently as an honorific, that is as a title of endearment. So, you have to understand when Jesus says this to Mary, he's not saying, hey lady, look at your son.

It's a term of tenderness that he uses for his mother. He used the same term at the wedding feast of Canaan, and I might also add he used the same term with the woman caught in adultery, that in the midst of her shame and embarrassment, he treated her with this sensitive term. And so, in loving terms, he says to Mary, woman, behold your son, and commits her to John's care.

From that hour the disciple took her to his own. And after this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, again that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, said, I thirst. And a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there.

It's the kind of wine that the soldiers used, and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a hyssop, probably on a hyssop's stock, and reached it up to him and put it to his mouth to assuage his thirst. Now again, it's obvious that any victim of crucifixion hanging on the cross in the middle of the day's sun in Palestine would get thirsty in a hurry. And Jesus cries out in his human nature of his thirstiness. And we are told here again this is fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy of the suffering servant of Israel whose tongue will cleave to the roof of his mouth in his thirstiness. And Jesus cries out, I thirst.

And then what is most significant, I think, is this. When Jesus received the sour wine, his thirst had been assuaged, he said, it is finished. Tetelestai, it's a form of the Greek that indicates an action that has been totally completed. It comes from the verb form of the Greek word telos, which is a very important word in history of Greek thought. People look for the telos in things such as Aristotle's and telekinesis.

It is the word that means end or goal in person. Every time I read this, I think of an experience I had when I was a senior in college. When I was a freshman in college, I couldn't take what was called bonehead biology, biology 101, because I had a conflict with another course.

And so I wasn't able to get that graduate requirement out of the way until I was a senior. So I'm a senior in a class full of freshmen, and our biology teacher was a dear, sweet woman, really loved her. But on the first day of class, she made this comment. She said, we're going to be studying biology together, and this is a scientific enterprise, and we're not going to be interested in teleological matters.

Rather, we're going to confine our study to descriptive matters, trying to learn how it is that things operate in the biological realm, and not ask questions about purpose. Now, I'm a senior philosophy major, and I about jumped out of my chair. I couldn't believe what she said there.

I went up to her afterwards, and I said, Mrs. Frei. How can you rule teleology out of the scientific inquiry? How can you study anything and not be interested in its purpose or its significance? She said, well, we leave that to the philosophers.

Anyway, I haven't gotten over that yet. But this is what Jesus is concerned with here, purpose, the telestai, teleology. The significance of His whole life now comes to this moment, and He says, it's finished. Not that His life is finished, but His mission is finished. His purpose has been accomplished. The reason for His existence has now finally been fulfilled, and He understands that.

And then also this word is sometimes used in the commercial arena in the Greek world when it's the stamp that is put on a purchase if you buy it on installment, and the last payment has been made, and you see paid in full, that's the word that is used to telestai. I've done it all. I've drunk the cup to its dregs. And notice the next thing, He doesn't have to do anything more. We read, and bowing His head, He gave up the spirit. He said, nobody can take My life from Me, but when His mission is accomplished, when the atonement is finished, Jesus decides when He's going to die, and He gives up the ghost and dies, much sooner than it normally took for crucifixions.

Often the victim would hang for days before they would succumb to death. Very quickly, let's look at these few verses that deal with the final steps. We're told, because it was the preparation day, that the body should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, for the Sabbath was a high day. The Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken. Now again, the reason here is, if they break the legs of the victim, then the broken legs trump the position of that little platform at the bottom of the vertical piece.

And with the broken legs, then the victim cannot elevate its chest and gain any breath, and so they die quickly from asphyxiation. And the Jews are concerned here, not in putting Jesus out of the misery, but they're concerned again about the purity of their feasts. They've just killed the one for whom the feasts were established in the first place, but they don't want to be guilty of violating the Old Testament rules and regulations of having bodies hanging around on the preparation day that would bring a certain defilement to their feast. And so they request that Pilate kill these people quickly. And so he sends the soldiers there to break their legs, and they start with one thief, they break his legs, and they go, and the other thief to break his legs, and they come to Jesus, and lo and behold, he's already dead. No need to break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately, blood and water came out.

Don't ask me what that means. Some see a theological significance, a baptism in the Lord's Supper, and I think that's reading more into the text than what's there. Obviously, from John's perspective, the cardinal reason for establishing the fluid and the blood that comes out with the fluid indicates that death has really taken place and that Jesus is not just semi-comatose or in a swooning position, but that he's really and certainly dead. And then John's concern again is with the fulfillment of the Scriptures. And he who has seen his testimony, his testimony is true, he knows that he's telling the truth that you may believe. For these things were done that Scripture should be fulfilled. Not one of his bones shall be broken. And another Scripture say, they shall look upon him whom they have pierced. So the Old Testament speaks about the Messiah being pierced, and the Old Testament speaks about the Son of God not having any bones broken. Now, I love questions that people bring in the congregation, and one woman has brought to me more than once sort of a thinly veiled complaint about the language that I use in the liturgy for the Lord's Supper, because when I cite the apostles' words of institution from the eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians, you'll notice I say in the night in which Jesus was betrayed, he took bread, and when he had blessed it, he broke it, saying, this is my body broken for you. So one of our stellar students in the congregation comes up to me and says, wait a minute, I thought the Bible says that not a bone shall be broken. So why do you talk about his body broken for us? And I said, well, because that's in the translation, and that's in the liturgy that we've used for two thousand years. She says, well, it doesn't fit if the Bible says that not a bone would be broken.

I have two things to say to that. First there is, I have to tell you, a textual variant in the eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians, and there are some ancient manuscripts that do not include the word broken. They just say, this is my body for you. Although the best manuscript evidence would indicate that the broken is in there, there is some evidence to support our friend's claim. But apart from that, whether it's there or isn't there, it doesn't really matter because the text makes it clear that his bones are not to be broken, and not a bone was broken. His body was broken. His body is broken when you stick a spear in it. You've broken the skin.

You've broken the body. But the text, the promise of God for his Messiah was that his bones would not be broken. And so both are fulfilled, bones not broken, and he is at the same time pierced. They shall look on him whom they pierced.

Finally, let me just say this. In the middle of the description, John gives this statement, he who has seen has testified. He's an eyewitness to this. His testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth.

Now why does he put that in there? On the one hand, this is a form of an oath. It's as if John were now in a trial and he put his hands in the Bible and said, I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God. He is taking a sacred vow before God, confirming the accuracy and the veracity of what he has just reported. And I'm telling you this, he says, and this is the truth, and I'm telling you this truth why? So that you might believe. You see, faith is not supposed to be based upon a leap into the dark through a mindless act of credulity, but faith is to be an acquiescence into truth. That which is not true is never worthy of your trust or worthy of your faith or worthy of your belief. And we have many beliefs, all of us, that are not based on truth, that are not based upon any actual historical reality. But John is pleading with us here with his own vow before God saying, look, this is the sober unvarnished truth.

You can take it to the bank. You can believe it. And so I urge you today to believe, to trust the truths of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. If you're listening to Renewing Your Mind, and that was a sermon from R.C.

Sproul. If you're unsure why Jesus laid his life down to save sinners like us, or if you don't know if you've been saved, I encourage you to freely download Dr. Sproul's book, What Is The Gospel, at renewingyourmind.org slash gospel. Today's sermon, preached at St. Andrew's Chapel in Sanford, Florida, is from Dr. Sproul's sermon series through the entirety of the Gospel of John. And it was these sermons that began his work to write an expositional commentary on John. Until midnight, you can request the hardcover edition of that commentary with a donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. Better understand this beloved Gospel account from John as you slowly read through the text of Scripture and Dr. Sproul's insightful commentary. Own this commentary with a donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. Thank you for your generosity because it's fueling the outreach of Renewing Your Mind and Ligonier Ministries. As Christians, we often talk about the death of Jesus and his resurrection, but can easily skip over his burial, but that's what we'll consider next Sunday here on Renewing Your Mind. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-17 02:27:03 / 2024-03-17 02:39:02 / 12

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