Jesus - mocked and put on the cross Matthew 27:27-44
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Originally preached at Poulner Chapel 25 March 2012
Here is a complete outline of this event from all 4 gospels! We will look at briefly the events as recorded by Matthew!
- Pilate's soldiers crown and mock Jesus - Matthew 27:27-30, Mark 15:16-20, John 19:1-3
- Pilate tries to release Jesus - John 19:4-7
- Pilate questions Jesus again - John 19:8-11
- Pilate attempts to free Jesus again - John 19:12
- Pilate sentences Jesus - John 19:13-15
- Pilate delivers Jesus to be crucified - John 19:16
- Jesus carries the cross - John 19:17
- Simon of Cyrene bears the cross - Matthew 27:31-32, Mark 15:20-21, Luke 23:26,
- Jesus speaks to weeping women - Luke 23:27-32,
- Jesus is brought to Golgotha - Matthew 27:33, Mark 15:22, Luke 23:32-33, John 19:17
- Soldiers offer Jesus sour wine mix - Matthew 27:34, Mark 15:23
- Jesus is crucified at the 3rd hour - Mark 15:25
- Soldiers divide the Lord's clothes - Matthew 27:35-36, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:23-24
- Accusation written by Pilate - Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38, John 19:19-22
- 2 Robbers are crucified with Jesus - Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27-28, Luke 23:33, John 19:18
- "Forgive them..." - Luke 23:34
- "Behold your mother." - John 19:25-27
- Multitude mocks Jesus - Matthew 27:39-43, Mark 15:29-32, Luke 23:35-37
- Robbers mock Jesus - Matthew 27:44, Mark 15:32, 29:39
- One robber rebukes the other - Luke 23:40-41
- "...you will be with me in Paradise" - Luke 23:43
As you know from the reading we are looking at this event in the life of Jesus Christ, as recorded by his friend and disciple, Matthew. Tonight we look at Jesus mocked, Jesus crucified, and the implications and challenges we are presented with. Matthew, throughout his Gospel, presents Jesus as King - and it is probably his main theme as he writes his gospel. In Chapter 27 alone, Matthew ascribes Jesus as king 7 times. He uses Old Testament imagery from passages such as Psalm 22, Psalm 69 and parts of Isaiah to build his story.
Even if you are new to this story, nobody here should really be shocked by this macabre tale. I don't think anybody could really be that naïve about human history and some of the horrors it contains. Human history is full of incidents of people treating others in less than a human and dignified way. The horrors of the killing fields of what was Cambodia, the systematic brutality of Nazi Germany and the macabre excesses of Uganda in the last century, have often been repeated throughout history. Sadly, even at times, by Churches and those purporting to be Christians...
1. Looking back to look forward
As a further introduction, Jesus has pointed forward to this point throughout his ministry. Jesus knew what we call the Old Testament. Jesus knew that originally there was no sin or evil in the world. Jesus knew that humanity had once enjoyed a perfect relationship with God and His creation. Jesus knew humanity chose to disobey God and caused sin and evil to enter the world. Jesus knew that God had promised that one day the relationship between God and his creation would be restored.
Jesus knew the story of the Patriarchs, the calling of a nation of people separated out for God and that nation's subsequent travels, jubilations, trials and tribulations! Jesus knew these people were waiting for this messiah or saviour to come.
Some of Jesus' first recorded words were "Repent! The Kingdom is near!" Jesus continually affirmed who he was - the long awaited for messiah! Throughout his ministry Jesus has pointed to that day, this specific moment, of his being on the cross. For example, in Matthew's gospel, let alone the other 3 gospel writers, Matthew 16:21; 17:22-33 and 20:17-19, there are three occasions where Jesus has been explaining what all this means.
Now after that introduction, we return to our passage. Jesus has been found guilty and we looked at his trial several weeks ago from Matthew. Let's now go to look firstly at the mocking of Jesus, before going on to look at his crucifixion.
Jesus is mocked, ridiculed and scorned by several groups of people - Jew and Gentile alike - before his crucifixion and while he was on the cross.
Matthew 27v27-30 mocked by the Romans
Firstly the Roman soldiers, who mock Jesus in some sort of game. These men could have come from across the Roman Empire, to a place they didn't want to be, with a people they couldn't care less about. Their mocking is borne from ignorance rather than malevolent knowledge of Jesus. Jesus was convicted of being a king, so the soldiers mocked him as a king!
Jesus to them was simply part of the Jewish rabble they had conquered in extending the Roman empire. The Romans, beating Jesus with the staff and spitting upon him, as part of some perverted game of degradation, with the cape, the staff and crown continuing the mocking of this would be king. It was quite possibly a form of stress relief for them. There was precedence for this sort of mockery as seen in other documents of the time, so it was probably a normal part of the Roman crucifixion process.
Matthew 27v 38-42 mocked by others & Jewish leaders
Now we move to the mocking by others, including some Jewish leaders, as Jesus hangs on the cross. These people challenged Jesus to come down from the cross if He was really the Son of God and to save himself. They had possibly heard what Jesus had said earlier in his ministry, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." Or they may well have heard the rumours about Jesus, or been there when Jesus entered the city, as recorded in Matthew 21.
What these people didn't realise is that it was precisely because He was the Messiah they were expecting, that he couldn't come down from the cross. Jesus could have come down from the cross with legions of angels to help him. But he chose not to.
As if to complete the mockery, the criminals he is crucified with join in. Though as Luke records, one of them later becomes penitent.
Jesus, mocked by ignorant Romans, irreligious Gentiles, religious Jews, religious Jewish leaders and finally, common criminals - from the breadth of society, Jesus is rejected, mocked, insulted and scorned.
3. Crucified Matthew 27v31-37
Lets' now move to Jesus being crucified
As was normal practise, prisoners due for crucifixion were whipped and scourged. Pieces of stone and metal attached to the whips in order to inflict as much damage as possible during the flogging. Then if they were still alive, prisoners were forced to carry their own cross to their execution. Crucifixion had been used by civilisations in various forms and the Romans had adopted it for their own purposes.
Following his beating and scourging, as Jesus couldn't bear his own cross, the Roman soldiers forced this man Simon of Cyrene to carry it. Simon was probably a peasant, held neither in public esteem or rank.
Then, the Romans offered a form of drug for Jesus to drink, but Jesus refused it. Some speculate that He didn't drink it because he wanted to be fully conscious during his suffering, but as I said, that is only speculation.
Then lastly, before sitting down to keep watch, they divided Jesus' clothes. There is Jesus on the cross. Beaten. Flagellated. Ridiculed. Naked. A sign, with the accusation against him "this is Jesus, the king of the Jews", was placed on the cross, and as Matthew alone points out, above his head - almost like another crown on a king. In the eyes of the Romans, Jesus was guilty of trying to make himself a king. So the sign was to be a deterrent to others who would make such claims, because they would suffer the same punishment.
Matthew sees Jesus as a king and writes his gospel with that in mind. Jesus the king - mocked and crucified. But what does that mean for us?
What does Jesus being on the cross mean for us?
In the Old Testament, we read of how the nation of Israel was looking forward to the day when the Messiah would come and a permanent sacrifice was to be made. Well here it is. This is what Jesus' mission was - to be the perfect and permanent sacrifice.
That permanent sacrifice is what occurred on the cross of Jesus Christ! That is why Jesus suffered as he did, humiliated, beaten, mocked and scorned. It is only through Jesus Christ being on that cross that the stain of sin can be taken away, because Jesus is the permanent and ultimate sacrificial substitute!
The cross of Jesus Christ is the climax of human history. All of time before it, was looking forward and waiting for this event. All of time after this event of Jesus on the cross looks back upon it. For the Gospel writers, Jesus on the cross was the climax of their story, because they knew what it meant!
Jesus on the cross bore the consequences of all sin, of all the earth over all periods of time - past, present and future. Jesus on the cross became sin for humanity and it was His blood that finally fulfilled God's requirements permanently.
Jesus on the cross was propitiation or an offering to turn aside God's anger towards sin. All of God's anger and judgment of sin fell on Jesus, and He alone as an innocent sufferer, instead of falling upon sinful and guilty humanity. How is that for a Jesus WOW factor?
Jesus, on the cross, is a peace offering to God. Another Jesus WOW factor!
Even further, it was an act of redemption! WOW!! Jesus on the cross meant that God had paid redemption, so that humans could be freed from sin.
Those 4 things are not an exhaustive list but examples of what it means for Jesus to be on the cross! WOW! You will probably be very pleased to know that I don't have time to go further!
Because of the cross, and the cross alone, humanity can choose to be back in relationship with God. It is not forced upon anybody, but there is a compulsion! We have the option to take up Jesus' cross and sacrifice or not to take it. It's our choice! What have you decided?
We can have a relationship with God, because of Jesus being on the cross. Because of the cross, we can choose to be declared cleansed from sin and free from the slavery to sin! The cross also means that Jesus intercedes for us, we are given the Holy Spirit to dwell inside us and we are granted direct access to God the Father, through Jesus the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. But it's a choice! Have you chosen to take up Jesus' offer?
The Cross is God's glory
The cross is God's glory! The events on the cross are not meant to portray Jesus as some form of sado-masochistic 'tragi-hero' as some people try to make it out to be, particularly in some popular musical theatre.
The cross of Jesus Christ, rather epitomises God's glory, and if there were any other way that God could restore people into relationship with Himself, then surely He would have done it that way. But there was no other way - Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, hung on a Roman cross. This Jesus took on the sins of the world, paying the greatest price, so that you and I can be restored into a peaceful relationship with God the Father. That is for all people, of all nations, ages, generations, statuses and gender. The cross is amazing love in action! The cross is the wisdom of God displayed. The cross is a WOW Factor of God! WOW!
So if that's part of the meaning of Jesus and his cross, what challenges are there for us from Matthew 27:27-44? How are we to react to this passage from Matthew? What challenges face us from this scene of execution as we go through this evening series for Easter?
4a. We also mock Jesus!
Even as Christians living today we have the capacity to mock Jesus. How do we do that?
We Christians mock Jesus today, by engaging in sin - either actively or passively. Particularly those times where at the back of our mind we say "oh it will be ok. I shall ask forgiveness after it." That is mocking Jesus because we are cheapening grace and are effectively crucifying him all over again.
As a result of Jesus going to the cross, we have been declared holy because we now wear Jesus Christ's robe of righteousness! It was given to us as a gift of grace! When we sin, it's as if we are casting lots for that robe and tearing it up.
As Christians, we are to live a life of obedience to God. When we sin against God, either through active or passive disobedience, it is almost like we are throwing Jesus' death back in His face and saying "You up there! If you are the Son of God, come down here and show us!"
Sin is that serious. Sinful acts, thoughts, words and attitudes grieve the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Its why when we come to God to ask forgiveness for the sins we commit against Him, against humanity and against our own self, we should ask to be filled anew with the Spirit.
But even more, how do we react to being mocked because we are followers of Jesus? How do we react when we see our Jesus and our God mocked? Because it does happen and increasingly so in Britain today. Either in the media, on our television screens, on the internet and in our workplace, social activities and schools. Perhaps I am not alone in having been around when Monty Python's Life of Brian was released - and despite their claims that it wasn't meant to be mockery, it was indeed blasphemous mockery.
Is our reaction to mockery of ourselves or of our Jesus, with an attitude of 'ignorance is bliss' or a shrug of the shoulders? Is it with reactionary anger and indignation? I don't know! I am not that clever.
I do know one way to react, is the Jesus way. After all, Jesus did say love your enemies and bless those who curse you. So we are to love!
4b. Exhibit a love, which is sacrificial 1 John 3:16,
We all know John 3:16, probably off by heart most of! Our active response to that love of God can be found in 1 John 3:16, which states: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters."
I asked some people to say some things they have done for others. One had all their bills paid by family when her husband was found to have cancer. Another saved the life of a stranger by giving CPR. Another spent time listening to somebody. Another person was helped by her daughter, to dress and have her hair washed. A couple I know, have over the last 20 years opened their house, love, time and family to 38 foster children.
All those were some measure of sacrifice, including time, money or talents. But those exhibitions of love were not acts towards enemies or mockers, but rather friends, family or unknown strangers. We are called, by Jesus to love our enemies - just as Jesus did on the cross.
We are called, not just to love each other, but to love all others including those who mock and scorn. This is a love which speaks of sacrifice, mirroring that of Jesus who we claim to love. If Jesus' love is truly in our hearts, we should be eager to reciprocate that love to others. Jesus' love as exhibited in his life and on the cross was a love which was without any thought of return, without any thought of it being deserved by others and a love without self-interest. This town of Ringwood would be changed, if we loved each other and those outside the churches, like that. Let's show some God given creativity to show sacrificial love to others!
How can we love like that? That kind of love is always available to us through Jesus, who is the source of such love. We can't do it in our own strength, but the more we are open to receive it from Jesus our master, and ask him for it, then His love will overflow from us to others. Each of us here, has been given by a generous God, in differing quantities, amongst other things: talent, time and money. The way to show gratitude to Jesus is to love others sacrificially - not just with words but with actions.
4c. We have a God who is not immune to suffering.
Lastly, we can know that God is personal because Jesus being fully God and fully human, God Himself has suffered. The awesome and Almighty God, who was outside of time and space, entered time and space, to intimately know what suffering was, because of the suffering Jesus endured on the Cross. Matthew's Innocent Suffering King, is the reason why we who are Christians, have a hope. Because the God we serve, personally knows suffering and has endured suffering just as we do.
God isn't an inanimate and passive carving placed on a shelf or a wall which is immune to the suffering of the world. No! Our God is a personal, dynamic and active God who knows the suffering we ourselves endure - because He Himself has suffered. Not some pathetically lifeless, unemotional and unresponsive statue but an intimate, dynamic, responsive and living personal being who has shared in our sufferings through Jesus on that cross.
I don't know how you or those you love are suffering today. I don't need to know. But I do know that God knows, and that He knows about personal suffering, because this great and awesome God, suffered on a Roman cross, 2000 years ago.
Let's go from here, determined to live a life worth of Jesus Christ, determined not to mock him still by our sinful desires and actions.
Let's go out from here, determined to love others sacrificially as a response to Jesus on the cross and as a response to those who mock Him and us for following him.
Let's go from here willing to be generous in all aspects of life, and so reflect a generous God who has given everything that people may know Him.
Let's go from here determined to blow our cover and be known as a people who love.
It maybe that you are not a Christian here tonight, then please do make yourself known to us afterwards and we would love to talk to you more about this Jesus and the God who suffered. Take the opportunity while you can.
But Jesus being mocked on the cross is not the end of the story, and we look forward to the rest of this series over the next couple of weeks! Hopefully I haven't pre-empted anything that is due to be said!