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“Do Not Weep for Me” (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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March 20, 2024 4:00 am

“Do Not Weep for Me” (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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March 20, 2024 4:00 am

Was it necessary for Jesus to die on the cross? Could salvation have been won through less brutal, less humiliating means? Find out why a crossless Christianity is not only futile; it’s dangerous! That’s our focus on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at tfl.org thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!





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Alistair Begg

Have you ever wondered if it was really necessary that Jesus die on a cross? Was it essential The day on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg explains why a crossless Christianity is not just futile, but it was a monument from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.

A large number of people followed him, including women, who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, Blessed are the barren woman, the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed. Then they will say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us.

For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry? God, as we study the Bible, we ask for your help in speaking and in listening and hearing and understanding. We look alone to you, and we pray in Jesus' name.

Amen. While we're dealing with Luke's record of Jesus' final steps towards the cross, he has been for some three years now touching and changing lives. The people who had been walking in darkness have seen a great light. He has declared himself to be the light of the world. Some people have been illumined by this light and have walked into its orb and have been transformed by it.

But the majority of the people have chosen darkness instead of light. And, of course, Jesus had said that that would be the case, and they merely fulfill by their own inclinations what he said would be true of them. But now, at this juncture, the teacher from Galilee, who had turned the other cheek, who had walked the second mile, now finds himself being led away outside of the city to be crucified. That's the opening phrase of verse 26.

It sets the context as they led him away. We've reached in Luke's Gospel a defining moment, a pivotal event. Indeed, world history will never be the same again, and the history of the individual lives of men and women also will be altered for all time. It's a definitive moment.

It's a pivotal moment in history. And I found myself, as I was writing in my notes, reaching for what is no longer contemporary song lyrics but actually ancient song lyrics, the song lyrics known only by grandparents. And I wrote down in my notes, the line it is drawn, the curse it is cast. And the slow one now will later be fast, and the present now will later be past. The order is rapidly fading, and the first one now will later be last for the times they are a-changing.

Now, these are the words of Bob Dylan, as some of you who have had an unfortunate childhood will know. And they actually concur with at least part of what Jesus said—namely, that the first would be last and the last would be first. And he has called people again and again through the course of his ministry to a defining moment in their lives. And in the events that have just unfolded, we've seen how Pilate has responded to the challenge of Jesus. Simeon, back in chapter 2, had predicted, taking the baby Jesus in his arms, that this child would be the cause for the rising and falling of many in Israel. In other words, he would be the cause of division. People said Simeon would be divided on the basis of Jesus.

In the events that are before us now, it almost appears as though Simeon was wrong. Because the people seem to be uniting rather than dividing, and they are uniting against Jesus. Herod and Pilate had been antagonistic to one another, but now they've become friends. Why? Because they are actually united against Jesus. The Roman authorities and the Jewish officials, who have frequently been at loggerheads with one another, are now working in cahoots with each other.

Why? Because they are united against Jesus. But as the story unfolds, it will become apparent all over again that the ministry of Jesus is oriented towards and is embraced by those who live beyond the margins of religious orthodoxy. And it's going to be a centurion in a couple of weeks who says, Surely this man was the Son of God.

It's going to be the bystanding crowd who beat their breasts and say to themselves, There was something dreadfully wrong here. And it is a reminder to us—a brief reminder in passing, but a necessary reminder—that the whole orientation of the gospel in Luke's unfolding of it is that Jesus is reaching out to the least and the last and the left out. He has not come to put together a group of religious professionals. He has not come to put together a marina full of evangelical boats that are all sailed around in the harbor where we can all point at one another's little craft and comment on one another's articulation of our sailing principles. Rather, he has called people to himself in order that we might go out and wrestle with those who are on the troubled sea, that we might follow the pattern of William Booth of the Salvation Army when he said, Some seek to live within the sound of church and chapel bell, but I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.

And Jesus here is rescuing men and women and continues to do so. Now, with all that by way of introduction, we come to these five verses. They're not the easiest of verses.

At least they weren't for me. You may find them easier than I did. I made three headings in my notes, and I'll tell you what they are in the hope that it might help you along. My first heading was simply, A strange thing happened on my way to the city. A strange thing happened on my way to the city.

If that makes you think of a funny thing happened on my way to the forum, then your mind works as mine does too. These words I'm putting into the mouth of Simon, who is the principal figure here in verse 26 and 27. A gentleman with a wife and at least two children, because they are identified as being Alexander and Rufus, Mark tells us their names in his Gospel. And this man, Simon, had left his home, a place, Cyrene, or Cyrene, which won't mean much to many of us until we take an ancient atlas and compare it with an atlas of the contemporary world, and then we will realize that Cyrene is Tripoli in modern-day Libya.

And that's where this man came from. He was presumably a Jew living in part of the diaspora in Tripoli, in Libya, in Cyrene. And when he left his home, in order to journey to Jerusalem, he surely could not have had in mind what would take place in his life on this particular visit. And as he made his way, finally, as Luke tells us, from the country into the city of Jerusalem, he was confronted by commotion, and not only was he confronted by this crowd following this sorry individual who was at this point bearing the crossbeam of his symbol of execution, but he was grabbed, somewhat unceremoniously, presumably by the soldiers, and they said to him, Hey, you! Hey, you!

Carry this! And before he knew what was involved, he was walking behind the bloodied body of this Galilean carpenter, whom, if he had not known before, he quickly discovered was none other than Jesus of Nazareth. And there is nothing to suggest that he had gone to Jerusalem on anything other than a routine journey. And here, in a moment in time, his life is completely scrambled, and he is walking behind Christ. Incidentally, the interest in the soldiers transferring the crossbeam from Jesus to Simon is presumably not compassion, but rather a concern that they will be able to complete the execution.

They don't want him dying or succumbing on the way to the skull hill. And so, since Jesus looked to be in such dreadful physical condition, they grab the passerby and thrust him into the action. So, as I say, if grandfathers tell stories to their grandchildren as they do, then this was probably right up at the top of the list in years that followed, when he sat with his grandchildren and he said, You know, I want to tell you that there was a day when I went to Jerusalem, and it was the strangest day of my life. A very strange thing happened to me on my way into Jerusalem. The very fact that his boys are mentioned in Mark's Gospel points us in a direction.

Admittedly, we need to be careful about this kind of conjecture, but I think there is a basis for it. The reason that Mark mentions that he was Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, is presumably because Alexander and Rufus was known to the early church. The Gospels were written, and the early church received them, and when the people read them—the initial group that read them—it wasn't for them. They weren't saying, Oh, where's Cyrene? They knew where it was. When it said that it came from Mark, they knew who he was. And when it identified Simon as being the father of Alexander and Rufus, they knew who those boys were too. And presumably, the reason that they were included is because they also were part of the believing company, and that somewhere along the line, Simon, who had been press-ganged into bearing the cross, had come to believe in who Jesus was and what he'd done, and he had himself become a crossbearer. He had taken seriously, then, the words that he discovered that Jesus had spoken.

Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. And it may well be that in sharing the story of that with his boys Alexander and Rufus, they too had become followers of Jesus. If that is the case, it's a wonderful little touch on the part of the Gospel writers. It's kind of an insider piece of information for the early church, allowing them to read it and recognize that when Jesus was at his weakest, when Satan was at his strongest, when hell was unleashed in all of its fury, the grace of Christ was working in a silent way in the life of this little family.

Now, whether there is substantial basis for that or not, what we have to recognize is that Simon carrying this cross behind Jesus is a reminder to us in these final moments of what it means actually to be a believer—that Jesus has already explained that discipleship is about carrying a cross. That the disciples of Jesus were not individuals who dressed in a particular way. There's nothing to suggest they did. That the disciples of Jesus were not marked by particular songs that they liked to sing.

They would have sung the same songs as many of their contemporaries. It wasn't that they listened to Christian music. The disciples of Jesus were not known because they carried around books with them, and in the flyleaf of the book they had written their name and declared the fact that they were believers in Jesus.

They never had any books to carry around with them. They had nothing in which to write their names or declare their testimony. No, the disciples of Jesus were identified as being the people of the cross. The disciples of Jesus were cross-carriers, at least metaphorically. They understood that the story of Jesus was a story that's centered in this pivotal event—that Jesus was moving inexorably towards the cross, and there in his death was the answer to their sins. But they recognized, too, that the story of the cross was not, if you like, the messy bit which afforded them personal forgiveness, and then you could forget about it. You know, the story of the cross was to get you to realize the wonder of Jesus' atoning death, and then when you've done that, then you sort of put that behind you, and then you carry on with your life. No, they understood that the message of the cross was actually imprinted on their lives. They were forever to be identified with Jesus, who had borne their sins on the cross.

And to the extent that that was true in the first century, it's supposed to be true in the twentieth century, and in the twenty-first century. Therefore, in seeking to live out the message of the gospel in our culture, our methods, as well as our message, need to be cross-shaped. If we are going to make an impact in our culture, along the lines that Jesus says to do in the Gospels, then this picture of Simon moving behind Jesus under the burden of the cross is a good picture to have in our minds as we anticipate another Monday morning. Because it is to our shame that we present to our culture a crossless Christ, that we are tempted to present to our culture a crossless Christianity. What would a crossless Christianity look like?

It would look like this. It would be expressed in terms suggesting that real Christianity means being successful, having it all together, knowing all the answers to the questions, never making mistakes, and striding through the world as if we owned it. Now, are you listening carefully to me? A crossless Christianity impacting twenty-first century suburban and greater Cleveland looks like this. It emerges from lives that walk into the culture saying to men and women, by lip and by life, let me tell you what real Christians look like. Let me tell you what real Christianity is. Real Christianity is being successful, having it all together, knowing all the answers, never making mistakes, and striding through the world as if I own it. In other words, my dear friends, crossless Christianity is a lot like contemporary evangelical Christianity, whereby our presentation to our culture is largely made in terms of the categories I have just given you. And it is inept, futile, useless, dangerous, and catastrophic, because it conveys to our culture a standard by which none of us live.

Right? Do you know all the answers? You don't even know all the questions. Is your life completely together? No, I speak to a congregation of those who live their lives in quiet desperation.

And yet, our presentation to the culture so often is made in terms of these categories. So we convey a standard that we do not live by, and we make zero contact with those whose lives are broken and buffeted and fallen and downhearted, who feel themselves not to know the questions or the answers, who feel that the world is crushing them, who feel that they have no hope and no possibilities, and the last thing in the world they need to meet is some self-satisfied, smug, know-it-all clown who emerges from the walls of Parkside Church to present a crossless Christianity. As I drove to the airport Friday night, about eleven o'clock, I told the people yesterday when I was leaders, we met for prayer. I think it was 102.1. And there's a lady who plays music, and she plays songs to encourage you and lift your spirits. I was there by chance, not by design, and not that I needed my spirits lifted. And as I listened, I only heard one call and one song.

The call came from a young lady. She identified herself as Amber, the nice voice with music playing underneath, and said, And where are you tonight, Amber? I'm at home. So how's it going tonight, Amber? Long silence.

Not very well. I sometimes feel completely overwhelmed, she says. She's crying out from nowhere in her home to a radio station. This morning on my cell phone, a message left to me by someone hundreds of miles away from here, successful in the world's eyes, rich by any standards wealthy, the message says in a faltering voice, Will you pray for me? Will you ask people to pray for me? I ran away from the center in which I'm trying to deal with my addiction.

I'm in my home trying to do it cold turkey. I need your prayers. Now, what use do they have in a crossless Christianity? What does it have to say to them?

Nothing at all. Yes, a strange thing happened. On my way to the city, I took up my cross, and I began to follow Jesus. Secondly, I wrote in my notes, Don't weep for me, Jerusalem.

If it sounds like, Don't cry for me, Argentina, then your mind also is warped and works like mine. Yes, that's it. The shouts that had been coming from the crowd of Crucify have now abated.

Their mission has been successful. Pilate has sent him to his execution. And now you only have the ambient sound of the interaction of the people, the shuffling through the streets, the pressure into the narrow thoroughfares there around the Via della Rosa as they begin to move into the street that will lead them finally to Skull Hill. And in the middle of the throng that follows him, there is, says Luke, a number of women among the people, and these women were mourning and wailing for Jesus. Indeed, their tender compassion towards the sufferings of Christ could actually prevent them from seeing what awaits Jerusalem if the inhabitants, including themselves, persist in their unbelief. You're listening to Alistair beg on Truth for Life with the message he has titled, Do not weep for me.

We'll hear more tomorrow. Many of you know that our mission at Truth for Life is to share the gospel of Jesus with as many people as possible. In fact, you'll often hear me talking about Alistair's teaching, reaching listeners from all around the world through our app, via podcast, on our website, on our YouTube channel.

Those are just a few of the ways we reach people. Now the program is reaching an Arabic-speaking audience because of a partnership with the satellite network called The Kingdom Sat. The Kingdom Sat is a video network that extends to an enormous audience, more than 260 million households across North Africa, the Middle East, Australia, and New Zealand. A selection from Alistair's teaching can be viewed on The Kingdom Sat with Arabic subtitles.

That way, those watching can follow along in their own language. So if you speak Arabic or you'd like to share Alistair's teaching with someone who does, search for The Kingdom Sat on your web browser. Finding it is free.

You can find selected messages on demand. Again, search for The Kingdom Sat. And keep in mind, when you give to Truth for Life, you're helping fund the distribution of Alistair's sermons through this Arabic Bible teaching network and through other channels all around the world. Your gift may be helping someone who speaks Arabic hear the gospel in a place like Northern Africa or in the Middle East.

So on their behalf, we want to say thank you. And when you join us in the mission of Truth for Life by donating today, we want to say thank you by sending you a book called 12 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Easter. This is a short book that presents the gospel in a simple, approachable way. It's perfect to give to someone as you invite them to join you for church services this Easter. To give a donation and request the book, simply tap the book image on the mobile app or visit us online at truthforlife.org slash donate.

I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening today. You find yourself choking back tears when you think about the cross. We want to make sure your sympathy is properly directed. So be sure to join us tomorrow for the conclusion of today's message. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-20 07:17:04 / 2024-03-20 07:25:08 / 8

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