Wednesday, March 28, 2012

“Jesus on the Way to Golgotha” 6th in sermon series Places of the Passion

S-1307 6MIL/3B 3/28/12 Hymns: (O) #143 vv. 1-4; (S) #1153 (C) #155 TLH

Text: Psalm 40; Genesis 22:6-14; 1 Corinthians 2:1-9; John 19:14-17

Theme: “Jesus on the Way to Golgotha” 6th in sermon series Places of the Passion

Question: “Have you carried a heavy load for a long time?” Armour, SD.

{As the sermon begins, there will be a processional of young people carrying crosses imitating the Via Dolorosa) which Christ endured on the way to Golgotha}

Faithful followers of the Savior, the text for the 6th Midweek in Lent is from the Gospel Lesson: “So he [Pilate] delivered Him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha” (John 19:16-17).

Saints in Christ, over the past years I have been privileged to lead tours to my home country—the Holy Land. On one of the days, we follow the way of Via Dolorosa—the way of suffering, which Christ carried His cross all the way to be crucified. Some pilgrims carry crosses (just like our young people did tonight) to imitate what took place so long ago on Friday morning as Jesus was compelled to do by the command of Pilate.

Tonight, with your blessing I like to take you on a tour, following in the footsteps of Jesus as you and I continue on the Journey to the Places of the Passion as we reach the summit of Skull Hill. Even though we are traveling together on this journey, yet this is a personal journey. No one can take it for you. You will walk in the shadows, from a distance, but can’t take your eyes of the disfigured person in front you.

Remember it is now about 8:00 a.m. on Friday morning and that Jesus has not slept all night. He has been interrogated by the High Priest and Pilate and abused brutally. Pilate tried many times to release Jesus because he KNEW, Jesus was innocent. But couldn’t; so He submits to the will of the bloodthirsty cry of the crowds—“Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

So the order is given. They begin with the scourging, and when they are done scourging Him, Jesus collapses to the ground, and He is released from the column. As He slowly gathers His strength and rises to His feet, the mockery and humiliation continues more fervently. Roman soldiers often mocked condemned criminals, and here before them stood the beaten and bloodied Man, who was supposedly the King of the Jews.

If He was a king, then certainly He needed to be dressed like one. They took a purple cloak and threw it roughly over His bloody shoulders. If He is a king, then He must have a crown as well. So they twisted a crown from thorn branches and roughly jammed it down on His head, piercing His sensitive scalp so that blood begins to drip down His cheeks. If He is a king, He also needs a scepter—the symbol of a king’s strength and power—so they put a reed in His hands.

Then they ripped it from His grasp and struck it over His thorn-crowned head, showing just how powerless this King of the Jews was. Jesus suffered greatly from the Roman soldiers both physical and emotional brutality. But He was also suffering for them, taking on Himself God’s punishment for the horrendous and horrific way they were abusing His One and ONLY Son.

Finished with their mockery the soldiers rip the blood-soaked cloak from Jesus’ shoulders, and another wave of excruciating pain crashes through His body. Roughly dressing Him in His own clothes, they line Him up with two other condemned criminals.

Next they take a cross and put it on Him as the condemned criminal begins the very slow and agonizing trek up the mountain to the execution site. The gates of the palace are opened, and the 600 soldiers of Pilate’s Jerusalem cohort push their way through the Passover crowds, making a road for the grisly procession. Jesus’ legs tremble and ache beneath Him with each step, as He struggles to carry His cross down the narrow road leading outside the city.

After all that He has endured thus far—His beating at the hands of His Jewish enemies and His brutal flogging, He repeatedly struggles stumbles and falls. Jesus is almost dead. His energy is almost gone, and He is too weak to take another step and falls flat on His face with the cross’ weight upon Him.

After He gets a little rest, He slowly and methodically rises up and continues to take yet another step and He keeps going and going and going. You are so close to this gruesome processional, you can hear His labored breathing, you can see the blood residue on the dust below His feet, you see the grooves being plowed in the road as He drags the heavy weight of the cross; but they are not as deep as the furrows in His back. He knows what lies ahead. He is half dead. He is bleeding. He is bruised and badly beaten and He falls yet again, from the weight of it all; yet He keeps moving towards the Place of the Skull—Golgotha—the cross.

As your tour host I am encouraging you not to take your eyes of the disfigured body before you. Look at Him intently. See Him stricken, smitten and afflicted for the sins of humanity. See Him as He puts one leg in front of the other and keeps going forth to the place appointed from before the foundation of the world and offered as the ultimate sacrifice to appease God and pay the ransom price for your souls my beloved. PAUSE.

O you who are cherished and loved by the Father of all Grace and Mercy, what is that causes Jesus to keep going? Why does He trek up the Hill of DEATH? Because, He SEES YOUR FACE beyond the cross and the grave! He sees your sinful condition and He knows the only way to save you, redeem you and reconcile to a Holy God; is offering His life for yours. He loves you so much, He would rather go to hell for you, rather than heaven without you.

Tonight, we too, reach the summit of Golgotha and behold Christ’s final destination and the end of His earthly pilgrimage. How sacred should the memory of this place be to us? How holy is this night for us sinners. Here in this place, our greatest hopes are born. Here in this place salvation is earned. Here in this place, a lamb is offered to be slaughtered, a Lamb that is not caught in a thicket, but nailed to the cruel cross. And here in this place we learn that “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from ALL SINS” (1 John 1:7).

Do not forget, dear children of the heavenly Father, that Jesus did it all for the love of sinners, and you are one of those sinners. Today, we see Him as a condemned criminal under sentence of death advancing to the place of execution. Wearied and worn with agony and affliction, He takes your place so that you don’t suffer the punishment of hell and separation from God; but receive complete healing. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed” (53:4-6).

All that Jesus did was for you and your benefit. Through His pain, you gain salvation and redemption. Through His agony you receive untold blessings. Through His efforts, “you will renew your strength; you shall mount up with wings like eagles; you shall run and not be weary; you shall walk and not faint (Is. 40:31 paraphrased).

As your tour host, I implore you to come often to the height of this summit, and watch Him carry His cross to GOLOGOTHA and give His all for you, in order that you may be His forever. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace of God…


No comments: