Jesus and Abundant Life

 

 

 

A Bible Study of the Gospel of John

 

 

 

Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection – John 18-20

 

The Cost of the Cross of Christ – John 19

 

 

 

We have seen Jesus introduced as the word made flesh in the Prologue of this Gospels (John 1). We saw the 7 Signs Identifying Jesus as God in John 2-11. Next John was inspired to show us Jesus’ personally as He washed the disciples feet, shared His new commandment of loving like He loved, and then teaching them about the Helper, the Holy Spirit, Who would empower them to implement all that He had taught them. And we have seen Jesus’ stated cause for coming which was to testify to the truth (John 18). In John 19 we will look at The Cost of the Cross of Christ.

 

In each of the four gospels the Spirit inspired the writers to record the fulfilled prophetic word of Jesus that Peter denied the Lord three times and then the rooster crowed. We often look at that and focus on the denial of Peter marked by the rooster’s crow. But roosters crow at the break of a new day. While the crow of the rooster marked a terrible time in the life of Peter, we know, even though he did not, that there was a new day dawning for him too. It is the cross of Christ that made such a renewal possible. The cost of that possible fresh start is based on the atonement of Jesus on the cross.

 

In John 19 we will look at the details of the hours leading up to and including the cross of Christ. As we look at what Jesus suffered let us always do so with an appreciation of what our redemption cost Jesus. As Jesus walked through the eastern gate, down the eastern slope and over the Brook Kidron  He undoubtedly would have seen that the brook ran red with the blood of the sacrifice lambs being offered for the Passover (John 18:1). Josephus estimated that at the time of Christ 256,000 sheep were offered in Jerusalem. That’s a lot of sheep. That’s a lot of blood. The sacrifice of those sheep was intended by God to point to Jesus and the blood He would shed on the cross.

 

As Jesus crossed the Brook and then ascended to Gethsemane the significance of the meaning of the name “Gethsemane” would not have been lost on Him. “Gethsemane” means “oil press.” Jesus was going to a garden named for crushing. Jesus would soon offer Himself for crushing on the cross. As Jesus entered the Garden maybe he was contemplating what He was about to accomplish. One commentator states:

 

In another Garden, called Eden, the first Adam rebelled against the Father’s will. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus—the Last Adam (1 Corinthians 15)—submitted to the Father’s will. In the Garden of Eden, Adam hid from God. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is transparent before God. In the Garden of Eden, man was driven out because of his sin. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prepares to die for sin. In the Garden of Eden, a sword was unsheathed (Genesis 3:24). In the Garden of Gethsemane, a sword is put away (John 18:11). That which was lost in the Garden of Eden will be reclaimed in the Garden of Paradise—all because of the Garden of Gethsemane.[1]

 

Judas knew Jesus would be going to His place of prayer to prepare for the trial of what God had called Him to do (John 18:2). Where do you go, who do you seek in times of trial? Do you go to prayer and seek the Lord? Or do you seek some worldly distraction or resource? Follow Jesus to prayer in times of trial (Phil. 4:6-7).

 

The violence for Jesus started in the high priest’s house (John 18:12-14, and 22). Jesus knew what he was in for; He knew God’s word. He quoted the prophet Isaiah enough to know that of the Messiah it stated, “So His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men” (Isaiah 52:14).

 

Now we come to John 19 and will see the cost of our redemption in Christ. It’s not a pretty sight that we see in this chapter. It is gruesome in many ways. But just keep in mind that nails didn’t hold Jesus to the cross, love did. He did all of this in love for our salvation from sin. Our sins put Jesus through this and onto the cross. Because of this when we enter this chapter we should do so with a solemn heartfelt gratitude; a deep appreciation for the cost of our redemption.

 

John 19 (NKJV)

 

 So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.

 

Why the scourging? Scourging involved stretching the victim out over a stone or in a way that totally exposed their back. Then a whip with metal, glass or other sharp objects on the end was used to whip the person. It would dig in and tear the flesh. Many died as a result of this punishment. 39 lashes were the usual limit so as to show some vestige of mercy.

 

But we need to consider a question here. If it is Jesus’ sacrificial substitutionary atoning death on the cross that pays the debt and penalty for our sins, why is Jesus scourged? In Matthew’s gospel he is inspired to mention Isaiah 53:4, “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:17). Later Peter is inspired to quote in his New Testament epistle Isaiah 53:5, “by whose stripes we are healed” (1 Peter 2:24). In light of these quotations it may be possible to view the cross as the atoning sacrifice for our sins and that these stripes received by Jesus are the particular part of His completed work that are the basis for the healing God chooses to do in us and others.

 

 And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head,

 

Why the crown of thorns? What is the significance of the crown of thorns? Consider the following.

 

Thorns are a symbol of the pain of sin. Life can be painful. We can have physical pain, emotional pain, even spiritual pain. Pain makes us uncomfortable. Pain irritates us. Pain is an indication that something is wrong. All pain is part of the consequence of sin in the world and is typified by “thorns.” In Genesis 3 it states: “Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are,  And to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19).

 

We need to distinguish between pain caused by the planetary effects of sin and pain caused by the effects of personal sin. Planetary sin happens separate from human decision. Planetary effects of sin involve the physical ground of creation cursed as a result of sin. Our physical bodies can be a part of that planetary effect. Good Christians get sick and die not because of their sinful choices but because we live in a fallen world. We often feel that curse; especially as we get older in age. Disease, natural disaster and general upheaval in the planet are the effects of planetary sin.

 

But sometimes our pain is self-inflicted because of our own personal sinful choices. When we choose to sin it leads to pain in different forms, e.g. disease (e.g. sexually transmitted disease; disease due to not taking care of our bodies); broken relationships; lost blessings; etc. When we choose to indulge our flesh in various pleasures and don’t take care of our temple (i.e. our body) it can lead to our physical demise. The TV commercials depicting the gross ill effects of smoking are an example of this. The breakdown in marriage and the sinful redefinition of marriage and its consequences are also examples of the ill effects of personal sinful choices.

 

Whether planetary or personal sin thorns typify the pain of the piercing of sin. They help us understand the nature of sin and its effects as well as point the way to dealing with the painful discomfort associated with sin’s effects.

 

Thorns typify what happens when people don’t fully follow the Lord. When God’s people were approaching the Promised Land through Moses God warned them about not following Him fully by saying: “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell” (Numbers 33:55).  

 

When we don’t do away with sin thoroughly, when we do an incomplete job of removing those things that compete with God for our allegiance, they prove to be thorns in our life. When we let up in our walk with God or backslide it will lead to thorny problems. That was God’s warning to His people.

 

Once God’s people were in the Land through Joshua God again warned about backsliding saying: “Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the Lord your God. 12 Or else, if indeed you do go back, and cling to the remnant of these nations—these that remain among you—and make marriages with them, and go in to them and they to you, 13 know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. But they shall be snares and traps to you, and scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land which the Lord your God has given you” (Joshua 23:11-13).  

 

In the New Testament thorns are used to describe backsliders as well stating: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. 7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; 8 but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:4-8).  

 

If our heart is likened by Jesus to soil where sowing of the seed of the word takes place, then thorns represent the clutter and things that compete with God for our attention.

 

Thorns typify how the things of this world keep people from God. In the parable of the Sower Jesus used thorns to represent how the things of this world and worry over them can keep people from the fruitful impact of His Word: “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. . . . Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:7 and 22). In  Luke’s account it states, “Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14).  

 

Thorns can be used by God to discipline. Discipline is learning. Thorns teach the lazy to get moving by prodding them (Proverbs 15:19; 24:30-31). Thorns discipline the perverse (Proverbs 22:5). The Lord used the typology of thorns when referring to how He would discipline His people (Judah – Isaiah 7:23-24; 32:12-15; Jeremiah 12:7-13; Hosea 2:6; cf. also Judges 8:7 and 16). And thorns are used to typify God’s judgment on His enemies (Isaiah 34:13; Hosea 10:8). Thorns are used to typify the enemies of God (Isaiah 9:18:10:17).

 

Thorns get our attention and humble us. Sometimes God leaves or allows thorny things in our life to keep him humble and dependent on Him (e.g. Paul – 2 Corinthians 12:7). Thorns help us to keep the right perspective. They can be a tool of God in our lives. Thorns in this case help us to learn and rely on the sufficiency of God’s grace.

 

 Thorns must be dealt with. You have to deal with your thorns; you have to come to terms with them. If you are going to grow and be fruitful spiritually in the Lord you have to deal with your thorns. If God has allowed a thorn in your life then seek Him for instruction on what He is trying to teach you with the thorn. 

 

How do we deal with thorns? There are a number of things the Bible states can be done to deal and be discipled by our thorns.

 

Repent before God. In Jeremiah it states: “For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground,   And do not sow among thorns. 4 Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, And take away the foreskins of your hearts, You men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Lest My fury come forth like fire, And burn so that no one can quench it, Because of the evil of your doings.” (Jeremiah 4:3-4). If our thorns have been meant to get our attention by piercing our heard hearted flesh then we need to come broken to God. We need to lay ourselves bare before the Lord; open and honest. We need to understand that the thorns will be judged by God. The thorns of our own making will be burned up. All the “cares, riches, and pleasures of life” and that which makes us spiritually fruitless will be burned up in the judgment (Psalm 58:9-11; 118:10-14).

 

It is possible that your thorns are not the result of personal sin. Yet God has determined to allow them. In such cases we still need to come to the Lord. No matter what we need to come to the Lord. Isaiah was inspired by God to express this when he wrote: “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; and you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. 3 Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you— the sure mercies of David. 4 Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, a leader and commander for the people. 5 Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, And nations who do not know you shall run to you, Because of the Lord your God, And the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you.” 6 Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. 8“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, 11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. 12 “For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55:1-13).

 

Receive the Spirit’s help. In Isaiah it states: “On the land of my people will come up thorns and briers, Yes, on all the happy homes in the joyous city; 14 because the palaces will be forsaken, the bustling city will be deserted. The forts and towers will become lairs forever, A joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks— 15 Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, And the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, And the fruitful field is counted as a forest.” (Isaiah 32:13-15). We need the Holy Spirit to deal with our thorns. And the Holy Spirit will always lead you to Jesus (John 15:26; 16:13-14):

 

Rely on God’s grace. Paul prayed for his thorn to be removed but God allowed it to stay. Why? Paul was inspired to explain: “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).  God’s grace leads us to Jesus too.

 

Run to Jesus. Jesus knows exactly what we are going through. He had a crown of thorns put on His head (John 19:2). The soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on the head of Jesus. Then they put a purple robe on Him to mock His royalty. But Jesus at the cross gained victory over the thorns of life. He is the King who overcomes our thorns. Thorns came from one man’s sin and thorns were dealt with by one Man’s sacrifice. By His stripes we are healed (1 Peter 2:21-25). Jesus knows what we are going through and we need to run to Him (Hebrews 4:15-16).

 

and they put on Him a purple robe.

 

What about the purpose robe? What significance is there to that? The purpose robe was put on Jesus to mock Him. Purpose is a color of royalty. A robe itself was a garb of royalty. In taking a robe on Himself Jesus was taking all the pride and self-reliant sin of human royalty on Himself to atone for it. Imagine all the pompous, prideful, impure and powerful lusting leaders of history. Jesus died for them too. The delinquent leaders of history can also have their sins atoned for through faith in Christ. He died for them too.

 

When we rule our roost in pride and harshness we need to see Jesus robed in purple and repent. We need to humble ourselves before Jesus and take on His spirit of servant leadership. Are you a harsh head of your household, a bullying boss at work, an uncaring boastful friend, an overall belligerent to those around you? You need to look at Jesus with His purpose robe draped around Him and repent and follow Him in humility and love.

 

Then they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck Him with their hands.

 

If we look at this account of Jesus’ suffering from the perspective of Isaiah 53 we see all of the suffering and shame Jesus experienced was for the various aspects of our sinfulness. In Isaiah it states:

 

Isaiah 53 (NKJV)

 

            Who has believed our report?

 

And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

 

2           For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,

 

And as a root out of dry ground.

 

He has no form or comeliness;

 

And when we see Him,

 

There is no beauty that we should desire Him.

 

3           He is despised and rejected by men,

 

A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

 

And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;

 

He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

 

4           Surely He has borne our griefs

 

And carried our sorrows;

 

Yet we esteemed Him stricken,

 

Smitten by God, and afflicted.

 

5           But He was wounded for our transgressions,

 

He was bruised for our iniquities;

 

The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,

 

And by His stripes we are healed.

 

6           All we like sheep have gone astray;

 

We have turned, every one, to his own way;

 

And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

 

7           He was oppressed and He was afflicted,

 

Yet He opened not His mouth;

 

He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,

 

And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,

 

So He opened not His mouth.

 

8           He was taken from prison and from judgment,

 

And who will declare His generation?

 

For He was cut off from the land of the living;

 

For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.

 

9           And they made His grave with the wicked—

 

But with the rich at His death,

 

Because He had done no violence,

 

Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

 

10         Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;

 

He has put Him to grief.

 

When You make His soul an offering for sin,

 

He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,

 

And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.

 

11         He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.

 

By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,

 

For He shall bear their iniquities.

 

12         Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,

 

And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,

 

Because He poured out His soul unto death,

 

And He was numbered with the transgressors,

 

And He bore the sin of many,

 

And made intercession for the transgressors.

 

When we read that prophetic account of the sacrifice of the Suffering Servant Messiah we see a portrait of Jesus given eight centuries before the cross of Christ.

 

Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.”

 

 

 

Pilate found “no fault in Him” Jesus. This Roman official went on record that he could find no fault or broken law in Jesus. This is further proof of Jesus sinless life. Even the Koran testifies to the sinlessness of Jesus! Jesus, sinless Jesus alone was qualified to be the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

 

 

 

Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”

 

 

 

Jesus was the representative Man. Just as through one man Adam sin entered the world, through one Man Jesus sin would be atoned for (cf. Romans 5).

 

 

 

Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!

 

Pilate said to them, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.”

 

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”

 

 

 

Those who do not accept the authority of the Bible and those who twist scriptures in heretical ways such as cultists, claim Jesus never presented Himself as God. In these words of His accusers it is clear that the chief priests and officers new exactly what was being claimed by Jesus. “The Son of God” is something far superior to simply saying you were a son of God. Jesus claimed equality with the Father; that He was and is God. For that the religious leaders were pushing for His execution.

 

 

 

Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” 11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

 

 

 

Where does authority come from and who has it? Pilate was afraid because he was beginning to sense that the Man he had in custody was more than just a man. And he was probably worried about the unrest of the people. His prime objective as a Roman officer was to keep the peace. Pilate thought he had authority over Jesus and this situation. But the only authority anyone has is delegated from God almighty. Jesus was in control at every step of this redemptive plan (compare Romans 13).

 

 

 

12 From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” 13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.

 

 

 

Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, but it was really he who was being judged. His decision in regards to Jesus would determine his own eternal destiny. Whenever a person sits in judgment of Jesus and fails to follow Him as Savior and Lord, that person casts judgment on themselves (2 Cor. 5:10; Hebrews 9:27).

 

 

 

Whatever a person decides about Jesus is not going to diminish the fact that Jesus is the King. The only thing that will be determined is whether or not you will bow and obey Him for eternal life or for eternal judgment. Receive Jesus as your Savior by faith now and you will spend eternity in His Kingdom of love. Put off and pass from this life to the next failing to submit to Jesus as Savior and Lord and you will live in an eternal punishment enforced by the mightiest King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

 

 

 

14 Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”

 

15 But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!”

 

Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?”

 

The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!”

 

16 Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away.

 

 

 

God’s people rejecting Him as their king in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 8). They rejected Jesus in the Gospels (John 19). And they would resist the Holy Spirit in the New Testament (Acts 7). This full rejection of God led to the collapse of the nation of Israel. But God is not finished with Israel. The testimony of scripture is that God has a future hopeful plan for Israel (Romans 9-11).

 

17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha,

 

In bearing His cross Jesus was paying the debt of sin in the form of the heavy burdens sin entails. Prior to sin work was a joy. Prior to sin work was not laborious. Jesus’ atonement involved bearing the weight of sin as He carried the cross to Golgotha.

 

18 where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.

 

The crucifixion of Jesus is found in all four Gospels (Matthew 27:32-38, 48, 50; mark 15:21-26, 36, 37; Luke 23:26-33, 38, and 46). Jesus is crucified in the center of two criminals in each account. Jesus was and is at the center of history and the redemptive plan of God.

 

19 Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was:

 

JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS

 

20 Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

 

“Hebrew was the theological language; Greek, the intellectual language; and Latin, the political language. Let those who view things theologically; let those who view things intellectually; let those who view things politically know this: Jesus is King.” [2]

 

21 Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.” ’ ”

 

22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

 

 

 

Whether Pilate was simply fed up with what had happened or he really was making a statement about Jesus, for whatever reason he stood firm in what was written on the cross about Jesus. What we do know is that a short time after these events Pilate committed suicide.

 

 

 

23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. 24 They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says:

 

“They divided My garments among them,

 

And for My clothing they cast lots.”

 

Therefore the soldiers did these things.

 

As Jesus was giving Himself for the sins of the world, for these very soldiers, they were gambling for His garments. Right there on Golgotha, a Man was being crucified, and they were playing games. Are we more interested in playing games than the redemptive mission of Jesus? Are you more focused on the cross of Christ or the scores of the games of this world?

 

25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.

 

 

 

Why is the cross of Christ important to families? This is a beautiful and powerful picture of how families are formed at the foot of the cross. It was in the shadow of the cross that John’s family and the family of Jesus in His mother were formed. Jesus had four brothers and more sisters (Matthew 13:55-56) yet He chose to entrust His mother to the care of John the apostle. Jesus was more concerned about eternal relationships than temporal ones (Matthew 3:33-35; Luke 8:21; cf. also fulfilled prophecy of Psalm 69:8). When we come to the cross of Christ we are adopted into God’s family and are eternally united (Romans 8:14; 1 Peter 4:17). Are you a part of the family of God? Do you treat your fellow Christians as family?

 

 

 

In our day the family is more broken and fragmented than ever. The world is redefining family. The world has left God’s scripture revealed definitions of marriage between one man and one woman in order to permit and even encourage that which God had previously called sinful. Marriage is not seen as a life commitment made by two people to each other in the presence of God consummated by intercourse. Marriage is seen as mere formality to affirm worship of the god of sex. Sex before marriage, what God calls the sin of fornication, is a regular practice, even among Christians! People “fall in love” and “fall out of love” with abandon. These leads to the proliferation of adultery – sex between the married with someone other than the one they married. The world is at a loss. They’ve tried open marriages; which is really no marriage at all. They try “living together.” The current trend is to try same-sex unions and there is a mighty push for the legalization of same-sex marriage. The moral gates are bulging and near breaking under the rising flood waters of polygamy, pedophilia, pederasty or the removal of age of consent and statutory rape laws, human-animal unions, transient marriage where transvestites can switch male/female roles on a whim, and anything else lost humanities’ “uncleanness. . . vile passions. . . debased mind” can come up with and promote (Romans 1:24-32). 

 

 

 

It’s quite a confusing time we live in. People don’t know who they are. People are rejecting who God has created them to be. People are rebelling against the Creator. It is sad and pitiable to see lost humanity groping so futilely for identity and meaning. The serpentine enemy is having a field day with those flailing away in their own strength. People are in the dark. Satan rules the darkness. He rules with deception and confusion and he is inflicting a great deal of pain. This does not remove the sinner’s culpability. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without exudes, because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:20-21).

 

 

 

God is our Creator. He is there if we care to seek Him. Every human being is created with an inherent sense of their need to know their Creator. God has put an eternal crave in the heart of every person. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God created humanity simply but profoundly male and female (Genesis 1 and 2). It is the male and female that beautifully fit together physically, mentally and spiritually in the Lord. God’s design for fulfillment, abundant life, and happiness is through a man/ woman, male/female marriage union that “man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).  

 

 

 

But the sin of our first parents threw a monkey wrench into the marriage mechanism. The consequence of sin is the introduction of pain in child birth and competition between men and women (Genesis 3:16). People will be preoccupied with industry that is now laden with sweaty labor (Genesis 3:17-19). And more pertinently in these prophetic last days we see humanities distancing from God evidenced in relational and even gender identity confusion. Groping in the darkness people look in the mirror and can’t even see who they are. God’s blessing of human intellect is used separate from Him and the result is a proliferation of Frankensteinian alterations of gender. The real problem is in the human heart. And you can’t fix a heart attack with a change in clothes or a change in genitalia.  People without God don’t know who they are and seeking solutions in science only complicates the problem.

 

 

 

“But I’m a man in a woman’s body!” “But I’m a woman in a man’s body!” (But sometimes I feel like a man and sometimes I feel like a woman!” “I believe in God and he made me this way!” What about same-sex attractions and gender identity issues?  There are a vast assortment of temptations to pursue alternatives to God’s will and way that humanity experiences. Sin has thrown humanity off kilter. Along with the inherent sense of a need to know God we are created with there is in every human a sinful nature that bucks like a bronco against what our God-given conscience tells us is right and what God calls us to. Our sinful nature causes us to covet and lust after material things as well as sinful relational alternatives to God’s created order. Satan and our sinful nature work to draw us away from God and His word. This leads to temptations to steal instead of work, to lie instead of tell the truth, to lust instead of truly love, and to question who the Creator has birthed us to be. These temptations are real and they are powerful. There are “passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). If there weren’t temptation would have no allure. Same-sex and other sexual attractions are real and they may persist. Same-sex and other sexual tempting attractions are often rooted deeply in the psyche and life story of those who battle them. But the solution is not to embrace such temptations. “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27). Sin has consequences. Sin puts us at odds with God. Sin works death in the sinner (Romans 6:23). “The soul that sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). Rather than embrace as acceptable that which God calls sinful we need to take hope in God and trust His wisdom and word. This is our choice. What will you choose? Your decision will lead to either destruction or fruitfulness (cf. Galatians 6:7-9).

 

 

 

God has not given us parameters to restrict us as much as He has lovingly sought to protect us from the sinful things that will destroy us. God is the supreme Father. He is the first and ultimate, the Supreme Sovereign Almighty Holy Loving Father and He loves all of us (John 3:16). And because of His love He has made a way for prodigal sinful humanity to return home (Luke 15:11ff.).

 

 

 

What’s the solution? God offers us a promise. He says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). You are not the only one with same-sex or sexual temptations. You are not the only one who has messed up a relationship or relationships. Your temptations are common to others and God is aware of them. He promises to be faithful to not allow you to be tempted beyond your capacity to resist. With the temptations He promises to provide you a way to escape and bear them. God will not allow you to be crushed. God promises to bring you through. He is reaching down and offering you a helping hand. Will you take hold of it?

 

 

 

There is a way to turn from darkness to light, from Satan to God, to be forgiven sin and find rest for your souls. There is truth to cut through the fog of falsehoods. There is a way to journey through the jumble of this world. There is life in exchange for the death of sin. The solution is found in Jesus Christ and in particular at the foot of the cross of Christ (e.g. John 14:6; Acts 26:18). The apostle Paul said, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The cross of Christ is the heart of a powerful gospel that is able to deliver us from the power of sin (Romans 1:16). So powerful is the cross of Christ that Paul made it his central focus. “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, but whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). The cross is an instrument of demarcation between us and the world. The cross is our protection. The cross is what God puts between us and the world when we trust in Jesus as Savior. The cross is impregnable. The cross is the greatest most powerful weapon against the temptations we face.

 

 

 

How can we experience the deliverance of the cross of Christ? By faith in Christ we receive forgiveness for our sinfulness. By faith we accept that Jesus on the cross paid all that was necessary to fulfill God’s just requirements to atone for sin. And by faith we receive his righteousness put to our account (2 Corinthians 5:21; cf. also Romans 5). By faith we identify with Jesus. By faith we cast the “old man” of sin behind us and put on the “new man” of Christ-likeness (e.g. Ephesians 4:17-24). By faith we live by leaning on Jesus trusting in Him to help us and hold us and love us. By faith we hear and echo Paul’s inspired proclamation, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I love by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Jesus and His cross is the solution to our temptations, sins and confusion.

 

 

 

It is at the foot of the cross that families are reconciled to God and each other. Biological family members can find reconciliation and forgiveness at the cross and be reunited. But there is an even deeper more permanent family that is formed at the cross. Think of a family where husbands love their wives like Jesus loved His bride the church. Think of wives who lovingly sacrifice and submit to their husbands. Think of Dads and Moms who love their children with Christlike love. Think of children growing in and being discipled in the love of Jesus. Oh what a family that can be! (cf. Ephesians 5 and 6). Have you brought your family; your spouse; your children; your parents to the foot of the cross?

 

 

 

There is another family we should be aware of. When we are born again through faith in Christ we receive the regenerating indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11; Titus 3:4-7). And wonderfully the Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of adoption; (Romans 8:15). That means that every person regenerated by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is adopted into God’s family. We become “sons of God” or daughters of God (Romans 8:14). And we are able to call on God as our Father. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba [i.e. “Daddy”] Father” (Romans 8:15). How do we know we are a part of God’s family? “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). What are the benefits and blessings of being a part of God’s family? “And if children, then heirs – heirs of God and join heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). And though as a family member of God’s family we may be persecuted we will suffer “with Him.” And if we suffer with Him we will “also be glorified together” in the presence of God (Romans 8:17b). That should put everything in perspective. As Paul was inspired to write, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Adoption into the family of God puts all things in proper perspective.

 

 

 

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

 

 

 

What is finished? Just think the price of our redemption, justification, sanctification, and glorification were all paid for on the cross. We can add nothing to the completed work of Jesus. “It is finished!” It is the redemptive work of Jesus that is finished. The word “finished” (Greek tetelestai ) means completed, performed, finished. This is a powerful, powerful proclamation by Jesus. The significance of what we have here is captured well by the following comment:

 

 

 

“It is finished.” This Greek phrase denotes such power that if Jesus’ hands hadn’t been nailed down, it would have been uttered with a clenched fist raised in the air. It was the phrase an artist would use when he put the last stroke on his paper; a writer when he put the last period in his book. It was the statement a businessman would make when a transaction was final; the pronouncement given concerning a lamb that passed inspection.

 

 

 

Every other religion and cult bases its teaching on what one must do. Only true New Testament Christianity bases a belief system not on what remains to be done, but on what He’s already done. We can’t do anything to get right with God or closer to God except to realize that it’s all been done. And as we continue in our walk, we continue to say, “I’m coming to You, Father, expecting Your blessing and confident of Your grace not because of who I am, but because of what Your Son accomplished when He cried, “It is finished.”[3]

 

 

 

We do not need to repeat in any way the atoning cross-work of Jesus. Indeed we cannot add anything to the cross of Christ. At the cross, on the cross, Jesus completely satisfied all of God’s just requirements for the penalty of all sins. A person is not justified or made right with God by doing works of the Law but only by trusting in Jesus. This involves repentance but what credit could anyone take for turning from that which kills you? (cf. Galatians 2:16, 20; 3:10-13). We do not have to and indeed we cannot add to the redemptive work of Jesus. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, sin had made a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow[4] (cf. Isaiah 1:18). And because of that we can be completely and fully forever forgiven all our sins as a gift of God’s grace when we accept Jesus as our Savior by faith (cf. Romans 5). To that we exclaim, Hallelujah! And Amen!

 

 

 

31 Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.

 

 

 

Why no broken bones? Do you know where blood is manufactured in the body? It is produced in the marrow of the bones. Psalm 34:20 contains a prophecy that none of Messiah’s bones would be broken (John 19:36). Maybe the reason God ordained that none of the bones of Jesus would be broken was so that there would be a never ending supply of sin cleansing blood for the sinner in eternity. Paul would later write, “When sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20). The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all our sins (1 John 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19). And there is an eternal supply of His blood for us.

 

 

 

34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.

 

 

 

What killed Jesus? That blood and water poured out of Jesus when His side was pierced not only proves He was dead, but that He died of a broken heart. Jesus was not held on the cross by nails; He was held their by the love in His heart for you and for me and for all throughout eternity. Think about that.

 

 

 

35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. 36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”

 

 

 

John breaks into exhortation about his inspired recollection being true and worthy of us putting our faith in Jesus as Savior. That Jesus bones were not broken communicates we have a never ending supply of His blood to cleanse our sin. All of us should look to Jesus for the magnificent redemptive work He has completed. All of this was in fulfillment of prophetic scripture.

 

38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. 39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.

 

What will help closet Christians to come out? Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were both closet believers in Jesus; they followed Jesus secretly; not in the open. They hid their faith in Jesus “for fear of the Jews.” We might be tempted to say following Jesus secretly was a good strategy that allowed them to serve the Lord more effectively in the midst of the enemies of Jesus. But this secrecy was not strategically calculated, it was fearfully instituted. The faith of Joseph and Nicodemus were closed up, unseen, made ineffective by and undermined by fear. That done with a motivation of fear is never productive and fruitful. Fear is the foe of faith. Fear strangles faith. Faith is how you overcome fear.

 

The word “fear” (Greek phobos) here refers to alarm or fright, exceeding fear, dread,  terror, or terror. This is not healthy fear as in reverence or the fear of the Lord. Joseph and Nicodemus were paralyzed in their faith due to a fear of what might happen to them if the Jews discovering they believed in Jesus. Are you fearful of others knowing you are a follower of Jesus? Do others know you are Christian; a born again, Spirit indwelled Christian? Are you afraid to let others know you are a follower of Jesus? If so, your fear is strangling your faith. If you are a closet Christian you are not following Jesus the way you should be. And that is a problem.

 

Jesus said, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). Isn’t shame (“ashamed” - Greek epaischynomai ) a kind of fear? Fear of embarrassment, fear of losing respect, fear of losing credibility or fear of loss of something because of an association? Fear and shame go hand in hand. And that isn’t right. Jesus wasn’t ashamed of us and was willing to die on the cross for us. How then can we be ashamed of Jesus? What is the solution for fear and shame?  

 

What motivated Joseph and Nicodemus to finally come out of the closet and step up to publically be counted with Jesus? It was the passion of Christ on the cross. How are we and others inspired to step up and be counted for Jesus? Not be cajoling or harassing or guilting or coercing. No, people will step up and be counted for Jesus when they see Jesus on the cross for them.

 

Here is a great truth of relating to Jesus and living a life powerfully affected by Him. The motivation for our obedience and service is not guilt or obligation but loving appreciation for what Jesus has done for us. People who only see Jesus from a guilt producing obligatory perspective will experience a limited usefulness and very up and down often absentee walk with the Lord. It is the Law that produces guilt. Jesus by the Spirit motivates through love.

 

The apostle Paul stated this clearly when he was inspired to write the following:

 

2 Corinthians 5:14–21 (NKJV) - 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

 

Love is to be our compelling motivation. Seeing and understanding what Jesus did for us on the cross should impassion us to plead passionately with others to consider too what Jesus did for them. The love of God in the cross of Christ is a compelling life changing reality. Are you passionate for Jesus? Are you filled with His love for Him and for others? Have you opened yourself to and taken in the life changing truth and reality of the cross work of Jesus?

 

When “secret” saints, (those who are trying to live anonymously as Christians, because of fear) see Jesus and the cross and His love poured out for them, they will come out of their self imposed closet. Our day is a day when those hiding their sin and confused immorality are coming out of their “closet” of secrecy to proclaim what God calls sinful as acceptable socially. What they fail to understand is that no outward change, no matter how drastic or physically complete, no such change can change the root issue of a heart that is darkened and deceived by sin. There is only victory over sin through faith in Jesus as Savior. This is a message that needs to be proclaimed. For God’s sake and the sake of the lost Christians need to step into their ordained calling to plead with the lost to be reconciled to God. And if the lost sinful rebellious people of the world can defy and disregard God and His sovereign ordained plan for humanity and do so openly why I ask you are Christians running into their closets and shutting the door to wait until Jesus’ returns? We are not called or commended to hide until Jesus returns but to stand as beacons of the light of His truth until He returns. Jesus is coming back. But as Jesus Himself commented, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8b).  The time for Christians to come out and be counted is now!

 

What will bring Christians out of the closet? What will shake them from their lethargy? What will roust them from their anonymity? What will get them off the couch and empower them to take a stand and get into the fray? What motivation does God provide to energize His army? The answer to that is the cross of Christ. Paul said, “For I determine not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul knew it was the cross of Christ and its depiction of God’s powerful love in Christ that would move Christians to count the cost of standing for Him and see standing for Jesus is a bargain given the hope of eternity with Him. That is what he reiterated in his second epistle to the Corinthians. It is a message and truth that needs to be emphasized and reiterated consistently and constantly. It is the timeless eternal truth suited for such a time as this. Look at Jesus, look to the cross, and then stand in Him!

 

When people count the cost of the cross of Christ they will be moved to stand up for Jesus just like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus did. When we see what Jesus did for us we will be moved in heart to proclaim and share and live for Jesus Who died for us. Have you counted the cost of the cross of Christ? Have you stood up and been counted for Jesus?

 

41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.

 

Just as once a year on the Day of Atonement the High Priest went in behind the veil to sprinkle the blood of atonement on the mercy seat lid of the Ark of the Covenant, Jesus; our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4) entered the tomb. Like the High Priest of old, if he came out from the veil the people would know atonement has been successfully made. It was only when the High Priest emerged that the people celebrated a successful atonement for sins. So too, in three days from this point, Jesus would arise and come out of the tomb. And people have been rejoicing for the atonement for their sins in Christ every since.

 

Now notice too that in the place of crucifixion there was a garden. That is a beautiful picture given us by John’s inspired words. The cross produces a garden. When you come to the cross it will produce a garden of spiritual fruit in your life. If you want the fruit of the Spirit to bud, break forth, grow and flourish you have to come to the cross (Galatians 5:16-26; 6:14 and 2:20). The cross is the tree in the Garden of the Lord. Fruitfulness begins at the cross.

 

Jesus said if anyone was to follow Him they needed to deny self, pick up their cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34-38). Your cross is the mission God calls you too. But the cross is also the instrument of crucifixion; of death to your self – your sinful self-centered nature. It is when we come to the cross and let it do its work in us that the garden of the Holy Spirit’s spiritual fruit is produced in us. Have you come to the cross of Christ? How is your spiritual garden? Fruitful or fearful? Flourishing or perishing? The cross of Christ is central to answering those questions.

 



[1] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 582). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[2] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 588). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 589). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.