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The Crucifixion

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
March 22, 2024 4:00 am

The Crucifixion

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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March 22, 2024 4:00 am

Dramatizations of the crucifixion often focus on the brutality Jesus endured. A thorough search of the Gospels, however, reveals few details about Christ’s physical suffering. Join us on Truth For Life as Alistair Begg examines the Gospel writers’ focus.



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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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When you watch a dramatization of the crucifixion of Jesus, often the focus is on the gory details and the brutality Jesus endured.

But a quick search of the Gospels reveals relatively few specifics about Jesus' physical suffering on the cross. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg looks at what was the focus of the Gospel writers. And I invite you to turn to Luke chapter 23, verse 33, four words, There they crucified him. Three words in Greek, ekai esta rosan auton.

There, esta rosan, they crucified auton him. Three words after all this time? After all of the expectation? After the fact that the Gospel of Luke has literally been pulsating with the expectation of the cross? That the shadow across the horizon of Jesus, in all of its awful prospect, has now become a dreadful reality?

Luke, along with Matthew and Mark and John, does not dwell on the manner in which Jesus was crucified. Indeed, if you search the Gospels—and I commend the exercise to you—you will realize that there are virtually no details of Christ's physical suffering. Now, presumably, the Gospel writers understood what others have faced—namely, that if they focused primarily on the physical sufferings of Jesus, then the reader could very readily stop at that. The reader could very quickly look at the scene as it was described and mistakenly think that once I have been gripped by, stirred, moved, succumbed to this dreadful scene, that I have grasped the nettle of it, when in point of fact, to focus on the outward aspects, the physicality of it, if you like, may be in fact to overlook the very deepest dimensions of what the writer is conveying. Now, of course, this runs contrary to Christian art—contemporary religious art, at least.

When I say contemporary, I mean in the last couple of hundred years, three hundred years or so. It is almost all inevitably focused on the physical sufferings of Jesus. But clearly, sympathy for Jesus as the perfect sufferer, stopped short of faith in Jesus as the perfect Savior. And it is for that reason, presumably, that the witnesses, the Gospel writers, these evangelists, have not sought to answer the question, What was his suffering like? but have essentially been addressing the question, What did his suffering achieve? In other words, what was the purpose of these events, as opposed to a preoccupation with the passion itself? Now, I find it equally illuminating that when we go into the Acts of the Apostles and when we go into the Epistles, primarily, we discover that the writers there are doing the same thing. You will search in vain in any of the letters for some detailed description of the sufferings of Jesus.

Nobody does it. Religious art does it. But the Bible doesn't do it.

All it gives to us are these great summary statements. He himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree. Or, if you like, in 2 Corinthians, he who was rich for our sakes became poor. It doesn't say, He who was rich became poor. That may simply induce sympathy. What a sorry tale, that somebody who had so much and lived in heaven should come down here and end up with nothing.

Oh, I feel dreadful about that. We may feel all kinds of sympathy in relationship to that story, but the very fact that the middle words are there is the significance of it all. He who was rich for our sakes became poor. And for our sakes, you see, is the issue. It is the achievement of the cross. It is the purpose of the cross. Throughout the pages of Scripture, indeed from the very beginning of it all in the book of Genesis, when man sins and turns his back on God, the issue is atonement. Atonement means to bring reconciliation to those who are alienated from one another. Man is alienated from God by nature on account of his disobedience and his sin. Man recognizes that sin needs to be atoned for. Conscience tells him so. But man also recognizes that he actually doesn't have the power to atone for his sins. And there's no acceptance with God apart from atonement. And since there's sin even in the best things that we do, any hope of making amends will actually only increase our guilt and deepen our predicament. Therefore, it is foolish for a man or a woman to try and establish their own righteousness before God. To take, if you like, the religious road.

To say, By my doing and by my trying and by my outbesting my neighbors, perhaps I can deal with this alienation that I experienced deep within me. Perhaps I can be reconciled to God. Perhaps I can effect my own atonement. Paul says in his great diatribe in Romans, he says, You shouldn't even try it. The whole world is accountable before God.

The door is shut up along that journey. And then, again, in summary of the nature of what the cross has achieved, he says, But now—and listen carefully to this—but now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify. In other words, he says, If you want to know about this, read your Bibles. And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Christ Jesus to all who believe.

There's no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. And God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. So you go back to the Gospel records, and you say, What is it that Luke is conveying here in this story? Why is it that he details things as he does? After all, he was not himself an eyewitness. He used eyewitnesses. He conferred with eyewitnesses.

He brought his medical training to bear, investigatively, diagnostically, if you like, upon the facts as they were presented to him. And then, as an evangelist, he wrote them down in order that men and women might believe that Jesus is the Christ, not so that men and women might feel sorry for Jesus and then feel good because they felt bad. I say to you again, there is all the difference in the world between a sympathy for Jesus as the perfect sufferer and faith in Christ as our personal Savior. One final summary statement from John, he says, This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. My own study of this passage caused me to stand back from it. I read it and read it and read it again and read it in different versions and read it in paraphrases and read it in my Greek New Testament and so on, and eventually stand back from it. And in the same way as with a picture, because these words are painting a picture, certain things stand out.

And I wonder if you would agree that as you stand back from this, there are two things that seem to flash out at us. First of all, at the end of verse 34, this statement, And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. They divided up his clothes by casting lots. Now, here is Jesus reduced to nothing. And Jesus here is robbed of everything, robbed of honor, robbed of his followers, robbed of his life.

Yes. And as he hangs upon the cross, he hears them saying, No, I want the sandals. No, you got the sandals from the last chap. It's your turn for the turban. I don't want the turban. And what are we gonna do with this undergarment? It's just one huge piece.

Well, why don't we throw dice for it? Staggering, isn't it? And John gives us the details of it as they gamble so that it isn't torn. That's the first thing that stood out to me. The second thing that stood out was the sign business. The sign in verse 38. We're so familiar with signs, aren't we?

Everywhere you go, there's signs about this and signs about that. Well, this has been going on for a long time. And so there was a written notice here, there was a sign above the head of Christ declaring this is the King of the Jews. Now, again, there is historical precedent for this. It was customary for the executed individual either to have a sign hanging around his neck as he proceeded to the place of execution or to have another individual bearing a placard in front of the condemned man. And on that placard or around his neck on that sign was the declaration of his guilt, so that people could see that he was on the way to execution, and then they could read why it was that he was about to be executed. But with Jesus, there was an immediate problem. After all, Pilate knew that he was an innocent man. It was the very innocence of Jesus that had created such a dilemma for Pilate, and he was sure that many of those who were his protagonists, Christ's protagonists, were equally convinced of his innocence. But they hated him.

So what, actually, are you gonna put on the sign that eventually is placed above the individual for the people to view? Jesus had told Pilate, My kingdom is not of this world. If it were of this world, my followers would fight. So I said to myself, Why does Pilate put this sign up?

Does your mind work like this at all? Or are you just so familiar with this that you think you know why it's in here? You see, the only way you'll ever get to the Bible is if you come to the Bible saying, I don't know why this is in here. This is the king of the Jews.

Why? Why put that up, Pilate? Well, I think there's a way to get to this. Again, it's in John and in his detail. John says that the Jews came to Pilate and said, We'd like to change that sign. We'd like you to put, He claimed to be the king of the Jews. We don't want it to read, This is the king of the Jews. And remember Pilate's response, What I have written, I have written.

In a dramatic irony, because in actual fact, what Pilate had written was true. Here is the heralded Messiah. Here is the chosen one of Israel. Here is the answer to the great dilemmas of men and women with their tawdry little kingdoms, in a universal kingdom, in an eternal kingdom over which Christ will reign, and he shall reign forever and ever. Pilate is actually declaring the reality, albeit with an agenda, I think, that was to tell the Jews, Listen, you folks have annoyed me intensely.

You have forced my hand. And I'm going to put a sign up there so that when you walk past, people will be able to see the Jews are a subjected people. But they don't have a king, because this is their king. So what kind of people are they with a king on a cross? And lest any of you should determine to produce an earthly king with views on an earthly kingdom, let this scene be a reminder to you of what the Roman authorities will do if ever you seek to rise up in insurrection.

Let's just leave it there. This is the king of the Jews. So the clothes are gambled for. The sign is in place. And in these verbs, Luke builds up a picture of the flavor in the crowd, the spirit that is amongst this vast arena of individuals.

Let me just point the verbs out to you. Verse 35. The people stood watching.

There's always a crowd just standing around. And the rulers were sneering. And incidentally, look at these rulers, these tough guys.

They're talking to one another. You know, he saved other people. Why does he go ahead and save himself if he's the Messiah of God? And the soldiers join in, but they mock him to his face. What are they to fear?

What do they care? Similar song. If you're the king of the Jews, save yourself. And finally, most staggeringly of all, verse 39, one of the criminals who is hanging there beside him begins to hurl insults at him.

The Greek is graphic. He was firing the stuff at him, venom, as it were, spitting out from him, Oh, you think you're the Messiah? If you're the Messiah, save yourself! And while you're at it, save us!

Now, do you understand what's going on here? In every instance, in each instance, the notion is that self-deliverance is the criterion for genuineness. In other words, we'll know that this man really is the Messiah if he saves himself. But if he doesn't save himself, how can he possibly save anybody else? In other words, he's completely upside down. It is because he doesn't save himself that he is able to save those who come unto God through him.

And I think we have it clearest in the criminal's words, because he really is expressing the crowd's view, isn't he? What kind of Messiah are you? If you're the Messiah, why don't you save yourself? And why don't you save us while you're about it?

He's guilty of the most biting sarcasm. And now he's just joining in. The rulers, in their conversation with each other, they couldn't deny that he saved others.

That's how they started. He saved others. Oh, yes, he did. Against what appeared to be the run of play and against their interests, some of their friends presumably had been converted by Jesus, had become followers of Jesus, had broken ranks with religious orthodoxy, had stepped away from the religious epicenter, and had hooked up with this Galilean carpenter and his ragtag bunch of friends. He saved others. Well, then, let him save himself. Now, lest this all seem so far away, think. This fellow is saying, I'm not sure what the Messiah is supposed to be like, but I'm pretty certain that he shouldn't be hanging on a cross.

You know? I mean, I'm not gonna say that I'm a religious person and understand things. I mean, I'm a spiritual individual, and, you know, I don't know a great deal about messiahs, but the little I know about messiahs, I'm pretty sure that no messiah worth a name should be hanging up here dying.

Is it only once a week that I hear this? That people think to reject Christ on the basis of the same warped logic? That in their arrogance they say, Well, you know, I'm a spiritual person.

I wouldn't say I'm a particularly religious person. But I do know this. I do know that whatever this Jesus is, you can't possibly be suggesting that the pivotal event of human history, that the answer to the dilemma of my alienation, that my brokenness and the wretchedness of our world, and the deprivation of humanity, and the wars of the nations, and the disintegration of so much, is directly answered here in this scene. I mean, it's just silly. Well, yes, it is.

That's why Paul, when he makes one of his summary statements again, he says, The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. I would imagine that there are at least some of you this morning trapped somewhere in the middle of a row. You started off as a little uncomfortable. It's moved to more uncomfortable. It's now graduated to annoyance, and it's beginning to really drive you nuts. And it's this.

This is supposed to be a happy Sunday. And what is this character on about? Listen to me. This is the story.

And you, the reason that you feel awkward, annoyed, even a sense of animosity, is because of your condition. If this story is foolishness to you, it is because you are perishing. And if this story is music to your ears, it is because you're being saved.

You see, what this criminal was doing was essentially this. He's saying to Jesus, Jesus, prove yourself. Get yourself out of this mess, get me out of this mess, and then I'll believe in you.

Is it every week I hear this? Well, as far as I'm concerned, if God looked down and saw the situation with my friend or my neighbor or my son or my daughter—real concerns, real dangers, real difficulties, without minimizing that in any way—if God was prepared to do this, then if he obeyed my command, if he responded to my demands, then I was ready to believe in him. But since he didn't, then I'll have nothing to do with him.

That's what this fellow's saying. You notice that he ignores the character of Christ. He clearly sets aside the claims of Christ. And he is apparently unmoved by the compassion of Christ. As we'll see next time, his friend on the other side, hearing the same things, observing the same scene, comes to a different conclusion. He hears Jesus say, Father, forgive them. And he says, Forgive them?

That's what I need. The other chap says, What is that about? I'll die before I'll believe in this Messiah. And die he did without believing in him. Don't die in unbelief. Don't die in unbelief. Do not die in your unbelief.

That is an urgent appeal from Alistair Begg. You're listening to Truth for Life. If today you found your heart being stirred by Alistair's impassioned plea, but you have more questions about Jesus and how you can be saved, let me encourage you to visit the Learn More page on our website at truthforlife.org slash learn more. You will find additional teaching there as well as a couple of short videos about the gospel, about God's plan for salvation.

All of the messages and videos are free for you to watch and share with others. And if today's message brought to mind friends or loved ones who are living in unbelief, why not take advantage of the gospel opportunities that Easter presents, invite them to join you at your church's Good Friday or Resurrection Sunday services, and then follow up by giving them a copy of the book we're offering today, a book called 12 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Easter. Ask for your copy of the book 12 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Easter when you give a donation to support the Bible Teaching Ministry of Truth for Life or visit truthforlife.org slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine, hope you're able to worship with your local church this weekend. After all the suffering and humiliation Jesus endured in spite of his innocence, it would have been natural for him to curse his tormentors from the cross. But as we will see on Monday, Jesus offered an astonishingly supernatural response. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-22 07:47:56 / 2024-03-22 07:55:58 / 8

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