John 19:16-24, 28-30 Pastor Nathan P. Kassulke
“The Journey to the Cross”
Summer Series: Joy for Our Journeys 6 Sunday, August 11, 2019
Imagine if you will that church is dark. There is no sunshine streaming in through the windows, and in fact there are some black curtains hung over the windows so that you can’t even make out the stained glass pictures. In fact, there are lots of black curtains and shrouds, over some of the lights, over a large cross in the front of church. And where we often find colors like green or red or white, there is either black or nothing at all. And imagine that in the darkness there is one candle sitting up front, providing a focal point for meditation in church. For some of you, maybe for many of you, that is not a terribly difficult scene to imagine. You have seen it before. You recognize what I am talking about is the Tenebrae service on Good Friday. You know how that service begins with not a single candle lit in front of church, but with seven candles lit. And you know that during that service, those candles are extinguished one by one until only one is left lit. That represents for us the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. As the candles go out, so do the lights, little by little, until the church is almost completely dark. And then the single candle, all that is left of the candlelight that started in front of church, is taken away. And everyone knows what that means. On the anniversary of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, we have come to the point of recalling how he bowed his head and died and how his lifeless body was laid in a tomb not far away. And the imagery, the pageantry even, of that service, put together with the words of Scripture and the music of hymns and solos, can be very powerful. It has helped many of us over the years feel a little bit of what it might have been like to stand near the cross and to witness the darkness, not of the evening the way that we do it, but darkness that was just like that except it came in the middle of the day. And it helps us to focus on what death does and how sudden and final it seems. This morning, we are speaking about Good Friday without the darkness and without the candles. We are observing once again what the death of Jesus Christ on the cross means for us. Just like last week was a celebration of Christmas without the trees and presents and lights, so today we are gathered to observe Good Friday in a way that is very different from our normal observation. Today we consider our Savior’s journey to the cross. I suppose we could also have called this journey the journey to Golgotha. That is the name of the hill just outside of Jerusalem where Jesus was fastened to the cross and executed. As our lesson notes, that journey involved Jesus carrying his own cross to the place where he would die. We could be reminded of the cruelty and torture that Jesus faced both before and after that journey. We could speak at length about how the Roman execution squads were experts at inflicting maximum pain and abuse and humiliation. But this morning we note that this journey was much more than a walk from Jerusalem to Golgotha. This was the journey of a king to rescue his subjects. As the sign that was affixed to his cross explained, the man on that cross was Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Last week we spoke about his birth, how true God, the second person of the Trinity, became a true human being. That means that in one week’s time, we have skipped past thirty plus years of his growing, maturing, teaching, performing miracles, and living in perfect obedience to his heavenly Father. We’re not skipping these things because they are in any way unimportant. In fact, I am bringing them up now because they are incredibly important. I am mentioning them now because the entire life of Jesus was really leading toward the place we visit today, toward Golgotha, toward the cross. Even the reason that he was born in Bethlehem as a tiny baby was so that one day he could die on the cross. His life on earth was one long journey to the cross. When he made it there, the Jews that day were not happy at all with the sign Pilate left on Jesus’ cross. They wanted it to say that Jesus claimed to be their king. They wanted to make clear that they did not consider him their king. They weren’t interested in a king who would die on a cross. But the sign stayed. And it
proclaimed a truth and a reality that many people overlooked that day. Jesus was a king. Jesus is a king. In fact, he is the King of the entire universe. He is God himself on earth as a human being. He has all power and might and glory. And that tells us something very important about his journey to the cross and, yes, about his journey to his death. It tells us that he didn’t have to do it. He could have stopped it at any time. He could have called to his side angel soldiers to protect and defend him. He could have walked away from the whippings and beatings and even from the cross. He could have stopped it all at any time. But he didn’t. The King of the Jews was there to do what had been promised to and through the Jews for centuries. He was the fulfilment of the promises that we have heard scattered through the journeys of our summer worship series, the promises to Adam and Eve and Abraham and to many others. He was the one who would crush the head of the enemy of mankind, the ancient satanic serpent. As a king, a true king, Jesus was fighting for his people. He set out to do battle against a powerful foe. And the way that he would overcome sin and death and the devil was through the cross and through his death on our behalf. And that is an amazing thing because his people have long treated the King as if he were the enemy. While God has shown us nothing but love and has been doing that since the beginning, people like us have been rebellious and disobedient. We have doubted his love and acted as though what he gives us is not enough. Or we have acted as though we somehow know more than the King. Let that sink in…we creatures act as though we know more than the King of the universe, who created us. See how the Jewish leaders at the time of the cross wanted to distance themselves from Jesus. See how they didn’t want to hear about him being a king, their king. And see in your own life how often you treat him the same way. Jesus Christ, king of my heart? Sometimes, perhaps, but not when my pet sins come calling. Not when his Word seems so restrictive. Not when society puts the pressure on me to act and even to think in a different way. On so many occasions like these, our words and our actions say that we don’t think Jesus has a right to claim to be our king. But he loves you anyway, and he loves me anyway. And that love led him on his journey to the cross. That love led him on his journey to live alongside of us in a sin-filled world, and to suffer, and to die. That love led him to go through everything that was predicted, everything that was prophesied concerning the Savior of the world. That love led our king to die on behalf of his people. And in doing so, he did everything necessary for us. He paid the price for every sin, leaving none with a debt outstanding. He kept every promise, fulfilled every prophecy. He left nothing that you had to do to earn your salvation, nothing that I need to do to earn mine. He had suffered the very pain of hell. He had dealt with what we deserved. He said, “It is finished.” And it was. And now he simply gives us the gift to live and rule with him in his kingdom. He invites us to love him as he loved us. He invites us to trust in his sacrifice and to have him as the perfect king over our hearts and our lives. He is and remains our king because just as he willingly gave up his life, he had the power to take it up again. He died but he lives forever. We will speak more about that next stage of his journey next week. But the whole story is so important and so necessary for us. A dead king does us no good if he stays dead. A king that lives again gives us a guarantee that we can count on. It’s what makes Good Friday truly good. Imagine again with me the closing portions of our Tenebrae service. That one single candle is walked out of view, just as Jesus was laid away, hidden in a tomb. His life was extinguished. We let the reality wash over us. We let the power of that sacrifice fill our hearts. We let it sink in that the Lord and King of the universe suffered and died for us. And then the candle returns again. We leave the church with sorrow in our hearts over sin, but we will also leave with hope. We leave knowing that the tomb will not be the last place where we see our Savior. And we leave thankful, just as we can today, that Jesus Christ made the journey to the cross for us.
The Text: John 19:16-24, 28-30 EHV Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus away. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to what is called the Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him with two others, one on each side, and Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate
also had a notice written and fastened on the cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the
Jews.” 20 Many
of the Jews read this notice, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. 21 So
the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that ‘this man said, “I am the King of the Jews.”’” 22 Pilate
answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier. They also took his tunic, which was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it. Instead, let’s cast lots to see who gets it.” This was so that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” So the soldiers did these things. 28
After this, knowing that everything had now been finished, and to fulfill the Scripture, Jesus said, “I thirst.” 29
A jar full of sour wine was sitting there. So they put a sponge soaked in sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished!” Then, bowing his head, he gave up his spirit.