April 19th 2019: Good Friday: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards-Jan18John 19:16b-30

To approach Calvary is to approach the central truth of Christianity; the Lord Jesus Christ died for an ordained purpose. If there was no Cross, no Christ, if no death, no deliverance. If there was no sacrifice, there would be no salvation.

John, in his account of the Crucifixion, strips away many of the details found in the other gospels and adds some they left out. His overriding purpose is Jesus died as God the Father intended, in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies. He is the victor of God’s sovereign grace and purpose.

In Leviticus 6:11 and Leviticus 16:27 we are told that the remains of a sin offering sacrifice in the temple was to be taken outside of camp, so it is Jesus, as a sin offering, is taken outside the city (Hebrews 13:11-12).

So these verses focus on three things in fulfilment of prophecy, showing Jesus died in obedience to the Father’s will, God’s perfect means of bringing glory to His name in the salvation of His saints.

  1. The Saviour numbered with transgressors.

‘There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them’ (John 19:18). Jesus was crucified in the company of two others, one either side. John doesn’t mention their crime. We know, from the other gospel accounts, they were being crucified for being criminals. Here were men who had robbed and murdered and Jesus is numbered among them. This is clearly a fulfilment of Isaiah 53:12. The emphasis is on the unimaginable shame that crucifixion brought. Jesus is identified with the scum of the earth (Deuteronomy 21:23).

Jesus died not only the most painful death imaginable, but also the most shameful death in the most shameful company. He bore the curse for sin. All of this was designed by God the Father and willingly ordained by Jesus. Here is the great condescension of the Lord; He bore the shame and the curse of our sins, in our place. The Lord Jesus Christ suffered the penalty of death as He was my substitute. He was numbered among the transgressors. What a relief it is to the Lord Jesus Christ has paid in full on our behalf. We plead with others ‘repent and be saved.’ As believers we praise the Lord that we will never have to face the shame and punishment of our sin.

  1. The second prophetic voice that is being fulfilled in these verses is ‘Behold your King.’ (Zechariah 9:9).

‘There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”  Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” (John 19:18-22).

We see in Zechariah, the coming king is proclaimed, riding on a donkey,

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9

This prophecy was fulfilled the week before Jesus’ death, in His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Since then, the Hosanna crowds had rejected Him and turned into a mob. What has changed in the course of a week? They had welcomed Him as a great king and expected Him to overthrow Roman rule, yet He overturned the tables in the temple. He was a disappointment. They thought deliverance was their Roman oppressors being thrown out, yet He had done nothing. And with stirring up by the chief priests, they are brought to shout ‘Crucify!’ At least Barabbas challenged the Romans. They are rejecting Jesus as king. But what John is reminding us is that despite their rejection, He is still the king. Pilot didn’t realise it, but he proclaimed the truth. Unwittingly, he declared, ‘This indeed is the king.’ In pilot’s refusal to change the inscription on the cross (verses 21-22), just as the Jews were powerless to change what was written, so they were powerless to change Jesus was king.

The sign on the cross was multilingual: the Aramaic inscription was the local language, Latin was the language of the Roman army and the Greek inscription was the language of the common world. It stated for all the world to read that ‘here is the King.’ Jesus was not just the king of the Jews, but King of the Gentiles too (Psalm 22:27-28).

One of the main themes of John’s gospel is the kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death does not deny His claim that Jesus is King. It is the vindication that He is King. What is it that declares Jesus Christ to be the genuine King of Kings, evidence that authenticates Him in this God-appointed role as the King of Kings, Lord of Lords? The holes in His feet and the holes in His hands. We should never doubt that it is the appointed will of God the Father, even His death, to exult Him to be the name above all names. It is a great privilege for those who know Jesus Christ as their Lord to reign with Him one day (Revelation 22:5).

Christ, by His death upon the cross, secures the salvation of many that they may reign with Him. That’s why it’s Good Friday. Behold the King!

  1. The divided garments
    ‘When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom,so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things (John 19:23-23). The soldiers’ actions fulfil prophecy of Psalm 22:18, ‘they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.’ The victor of the crucifixion is stripped naked. One of the few perks Roman soldiers enjoyed was taking the clothes of the crucified. Here, it symbolises man’s nakedness in sin. Adam and Eve became conscious of their nakedness (Genesis 3:7). It was not just a physical nakedness but also a moral nakedness. Jesus being stripped symbolises our moral nakedness so we could be clothed in His righteousness.

The Son of God plumbs the greatest depths of humiliation as He takes on the responsibility of our sin. Through the Resurrection He will take with Him all who believe in Him as Lord and Saviour. But this is only achieved through His utter humiliation. Our Lord and Saviour was stripped and made naked, utterly humiliated, because He bears your sin and mine. He willingly does so in His love for us. His purpose – that we should never be humiliated as He was, but be presented to the Father spotless, righteous, in His sight. We can never grasp the depth of the Lord’s humiliation.

Oh that we could grasp the greatness of His love for us, that He was willing to experience the humiliation that we might be saved. There is only one response – humbly submit to Him in repentance. If we refuse to bow before Him we declare His death of no significance. Let us remember to be humble. There is no place for pride in your heart. If the King of glory hung Himself so that we might be exalted with Him, we know it’s nothing of us but all of Him. There is nothing for us to boast in, save in the Lord Himself, our Lord and Saviour, who, in fulfilment of prophecy, hung upon the cross. Bearing shame in my place, condemned He stood. Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

Good Friday 2017: Rev. Dr. Gareth Edwards

Isaiah 53. Mark 15:15-20

Easter - crosses

In the past few weeks we have seen again the suffering of the people of Syria. We’re moved to sadness seeing the plight of men, women and children as evil men inflict untold misery. It moves Donald Trump into action, it moves the world to condemn. Yet when it comes to watching the suffering of our Saviour, the world, even perhaps you and I, remain unmoved. Why? Because we are responsible for this suffering. To be moved would be to acknowledge our guilt. It is right that the world is moved to tears by the people of Syria, but, oh how we should be moved by the tears of Christ.

The verses in Mark 15:15-20 fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah 53. We must consider the awful reality of the Saviour’s sufferings and repent.

Isaiah 53-5

Isaiah tells us, ‘by His stripes we are healed.’ (Isaiah 53:5). The Saviour had already suffered; His face had been beaten beyond recognition ‘And some began to spit on Him and to cover His face and to strike Him, saying to Him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received Him with blows.’ (Mark 14:65). Now He is scourged. This was common practice so the person being crucified was weakened before the crucifixion. Many died at this stage. Jesus would have been stripped and forced to bend over and flogged with a whip of thongs, to which were attached metal and bone. In Jewish law a man could only receive 40 lashes, but in Roman law there was no limitation. Jesus would have been whipped until the flesh was removed from His back. Unimaginable pain and suffering.

What was the purpose? The Romans weren’t concerned with God’s purpose. Jesus was so brutally beaten and whipped as punishment for your sin and mine. ‘Then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes.’ (Psalm 89:32). By His suffering our sin is forgiven. As horrendous as this description of the Lord’s suffering is, it doesn’t tell us of the depth and anguish of His soul as He bears the wrath of God against your sin and mine. Each stroke was blow from God for a punishment for my sin. The healing was only made possible because of the great sufferings of Christ, ‘by His stripes we are healed.’

This picture of Christ’s mutilated body should cause us great sorrow. We take sin so lightly, we excuse it. We see its true significance here. Sin is an affront to God’s nature, the most sickening sight. It must be punished. Every fibre cries out justice for your sin and mine. It demands the sufferings of hell. The Lord Jesus Christ suffered hell for your sin and mine. We must despise sin and repent of it. Trust in Christ and receive the forgiveness His sufferings alone can bring.

Isaiah also says Christ was, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter.’ (Isaiah 53:7). The Lord had been bound and led around all night, dragged from one place to another. Here again, in Mark 15, we see Him being dragged around by the soldiers, first led to the barracks, ‘And the soldiers led Him away inside the palace (that is the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion.’ (Mark 15:16). They spitefully abused, mocked and spat at as they degraded Him. Then they dragged Him out to be crucified, ‘And when they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the purple cloak and put His own clothes on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him.’ (Mark 15:20). This glorious Lord subjected Himself to be led about like a common criminal. He willingly submits. Why? Because He willingly agreed to do His Father’s will, to submit to God’s punishment for your sin and mine, ‘like a lamb that is led to the slaughter.’

Isaiah 53-7

Jesus did not resist or reject because, in love, He was going to die for me and you. What great love Christ has for us that He could endure such treatment. It’s impossible for us to see our Saviour’s willingness to die for us not to render ourselves completely to Him. He loved me so shouldn’t I love Him with all my heart, all my being, all my life? Should I not worship Him, praise Him, serve Him and love Him?

The Saviour’s experience reflects the reality of sin in hell. There is no freedom in hell, no possible escape. The opportunity for freedom lies this side of the grave. It is Good Friday because it’s the day in which the hope of Salvation came to those in bondage and set them free to serve Him. The Lord was bound so that we might go free.

‘He was despised and rejected by men.’ (Isaiah 53:3). We have already seen in Mark 14:65 that Jesus had already been mocked by the soldiers of Herod, He was now treated with contempt by the Roman soldiers. This was prophesied in Mark 10: 33-34, ‘See, we are going to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him. And after three days He will rise.’ The Romans despised the Jews, so when the Roman soldiers had the opportunity they took great delight in ridiculing them. Now, even though Jesus was innocent, they call out the whole cohort, about 600 men, to mock Jesus. They dress Him as an emperor and mock Him as if He is a king. Mixed in with this sport was further cruelty as they force a crown of thorns on His head. They spit their revulsion in His face, then they put His own clothes back on Him and take Him to be crucified. ‘He was despised and rejected by men.’

The young Campbell Morgan, after passing his doctrinal exams to become a minister, then had to preach a trial sermon. After being told he was not successful, he wrote to his father one word, ‘Rejected.’ His father’s immediate response: ‘Rejected on earth. Accepted in heaven.’ Campbell Morgan went on to become a great evangelist. We are only accepted in heaven because Christ was rejected on earth. Those who mocked Jesus as the King of the Jews will have to face Him as the King of Glory. One day they will bow the knee and be filled with awe and fear at His appearance. And so it will be for all those who mock Christ today. What degradation that Jesus endured – not only physically assaulted but psychologically abused as well. He emptied Himself of all majestic glory in paying the price for our sin. Again we see that the penalty of sin is extreme – because sin is extreme. It’s the extreme rejection of the goodness of God. It justly deserves the wrath of God. The terrifying thing is those who despise and reject Christ today will be despised and rejected by God for all eternity. What a terrible fate! If men would just humble themselves before the Lord they will know the love and acceptance of God for eternity.

Romans 10-9 KJV

In Christ’s suffering we see how real our sins are, for His punishment is the punishment of our sin. We see in Christ’s suffering the greatness of His love for us. He willingly bore the torture of punishment that we might be forgiven.

Gaze upon Him and marvel that for us, He died. ‘Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life.’ (John 5:24).

John 6-47