Life Culminates With A Cross
September 22, 2019 | Randy Smith
Life Culminates With A Cross
Sunday, September 22, 2019
Pastor Randy Smith
How often does your day go exactly as you would expect? How do you deal with unexpected events? As you consider your life, what is the most unexpected event you have ever experienced? What is the most unexpected event the world has ever experienced?
I remember a fellow teacher telling me about an unexpected event that once occurred in her life. Almost three decades have passed, but it’s one of those stories I’ll never forget.
She and her female friend were staying at a rather expensive hotel. One day, they walked to the elevator and were preparing to head back to the lobby. The elevator stopped on their floor and instinctively they entered the car without giving it much thought. Instantly as the doors closed behind them, they found themselves in a very uncomfortable situation. There were three men with them, two of them very large and intimidating. The seconds seemed like hours as one man looked at the girls and stared to talk. He said, “Hit the floor.” Immediately the two terrified young girls dropped to the ground. The men stated laughing. I said, “I meant hit the floor regarding the numbered button as to where you want to go.” Battling the tension between smiling and crying, the girls departed from the elevator.
They went about their business that day and returned to their hotel room to find a dozen roses with a note attached. “Thanks for the best laugh of my life, Lionel Ritchie.” The famous pop singer from the 80’s was there with his two bodyguards.
Great story, unfortunately is an “Urban Legend!”
Today I would like to talk about a much more significant and truer unexpected event. Yet it’s an event that impacts all of us whether we want it to or not – for good or for bad. The event I am talking about is the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Four sub-points today as seen in your sermon notes.
Let’s get started.
The Cross Anticipated (verses 49–50)
We begin with “The Cross Anticipated,” verses 49-50.
So, when we talk about the cross we are talking about the central and primary work of Jesus Christ. We are talking about His death, burial and resurrection. We are talking about sinless God the Son in the flesh taking our sins upon Himself and offering His life as a sacrifice to God the Father. That is why Jesus is referred to as our Savior, our Redeemer, our Atonement. No wonder the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians, “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23).
The cross is the greatest act of God’s love. The cross is the only hope for our salvation. And yet to almost everyone back then, the cross was not expected and when explained it was rejected. Paul continues in 1 Corinthians “To Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:23). And five verses earlier, “The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18).
You could say very few to no one expected the Messiah to die on a cross back then. Yet one person did and that was Jesus Himself.
In verses 49-50, we have a dramatic look into the Lord’s heart. “I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!”
Could you imagine if someone told you the day you were going to die? I think that would be among the worst news we could receive. And add to that the fact that you were going to die an awful, horrific death. It would be hard to go through life as that fateful date with every passing second inched closer.
Yet this is what our Lord dealt with His entire early ministry. So much hatred and rejection, but the reality was that some thirty years after His birth He would suffer extreme physical pain, and even worse, the spiritual pain of being rejected by His Father. It must have been awful as this reality forever burned in the forefront of His mind. Yet He knew this was the reason for His appearing.
Verse 50, “But I have a baptism to undergo [the cross baptism – His water baptism happened earlier with John], and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!”
There is no turning back. We know at this point His face was already set toward Jerusalem (Lk. 9:51). He is going to baptized in the flames of the Father’s wrath to make atonement for our sin. He’s “distressed” – literally, “gripped with fear” “incessant squeezing.” He wishes it were already accomplished because He knows what it’s going to take to accomplish it. And when the work was finally done, He exclaimed, “It is accomplished.”
And when the work of the cross is accomplished, what will it accomplish? Back up one verse (verse 49). It will “cast fire upon the earth.” Fire here is synonymous with judgment. After the work on the cross there will be no middle ground. We saw that last week with the faithful and unfaithful servants. We will see that today with the verses that remain.
In John 9:39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”
The cross will judge and will create only two sides. Believers and unbelievers. Forgiveness and judgment. Heaven and hell. This will be the unexpected, but unavoidable reality every person in the world will face. What will you do with Jesus and His work on the cross?
The Cross Divided (verses 51–53)
Let’s go to the second point, “The Cross Divided.” Look at verse 51. “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth?”
This is a very interesting verse. Ask people on the streets. Did Jesus come to bring peace or division? Peace, right?
As the Christmas song goes…
I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
Jesus came to bring peace, right? Doesn’t the Bible testify the prophesied Messiah will “extend peace to her like a river” (Isa. 66:12). Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you” (Jn. 14:27). The Apostle in Ephesians 2:17, “He came and preached peace.” Isn’t He called the “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6)?
Yet here in verse 51, Jesus in apparent contradiction says, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division.”
Talk about an unexpected twist? What is going on here?
Did you ever notice how Jesus is a “lightening rod?” More than ever, there are some crazy beliefs out there. And more than ever, people are not ashamed to go public with their thoughts. Did you ever notice how there is a general acceptance of these views? Did you ever notice that there is even a general affirmation for these views?
Yet the moment you mention the name Jesus, and moreover the cross, you can see the veins bulging out of their necks. Why in this day of “tolerance” is everything tolerated except Christ? Why does the entertainment industry respect other religions, but mock Christians? Why are LGBT community applauded for the courage when they “come out,” but when new Christians speak of their conversion they are ridiculed. Why, when our Lord’s ministry was all but finished did the vast majority of people despise Jesus and make every effort to have Him killed? Why does Jesus offend more and any person that has ever walked on this planet? When it comes to Jesus, why do people have to “take sides?”
Verses 52-53, “For from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Here is the answer, because Jesus claimed to be God which means He is your Creator and thus you are fully accountable to Him. And His expectation is holiness and the bottom line is people love being their own lord and refuse to part with their sin.
So, on one side there are those who trust Him, acknowledge that through Him and His work on the cross is the only way to heaven. They submit to His ways and even find their greatest joy and peace in cultivating a close relationship to Him where He is Lord.
Then on the other side there are those that oppose Him with every fiber of their being. Though they might not use these words, but they hate Him. And thus they hate those who follow Him. Why? Conviction. The cross condemns the unbeliever.
With Jesus, if you even lightly understand the cross and His claims is it either submission or rejection. And as we just read what Jesus predicted (verses 52-53), that division will seen even in one’s family, even between a husband against a wife. It should not be division because we are an annoying and obnoxious Christians. It is division because Jesus is the Light of the World and when they see us they simply see too much of Him.
If we had more time I could share personal stories and painful stories from Christians being punished and disowned by family members. I trust you could each share a couple yourself. With Jesus, a new loyalty is demanded.
The Cross Understood (verses 54–56)
Another unexpected event, as we move to the third point, is how most people back then and now do not understand the cross. Or maybe it would be better to say they do not want to understand the cross.
In verse 54-55 we read, “And He was also saying to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it turns out. ‘And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, ‘It will be a hot day,’ and it turns out that way.”
It’s very simple to see what Jesus is getting at. Thousands of years before the advanced instrumentation we have today to determine the weather (which is still often incorrect), people back then could make simple observations that were probably more accurate. Based on the appearance of clouds or the direction from where the wind blew, they could relatively accurately predict the weather. The point is simple observations with minimal evidence would lead to reliable conclusions.
So what is our Lord getting at? At this point in His ministry He has taught with authority, fulfilled Messianic prophecy, lived a sinless life and performed many miracles. Yet those who witnessed Him and His actions, denied His claims and said He was empowered by the devil.
In other words, says Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah has come to His own people. And while they were good meteorologists, they were horrible theologians. Nobody in the history of the Word had more proof to accept the person and claims of Jesus, but despite the irrefutable proof, they rejected Him.
No wonder Jesus says in verse 56, “You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?”
You know, I often hear people say that they would believe in Jesus if He would appear and perform a miracle. My friends, Jesus did much more than that and He was rejected for the most part by an entire nation. Why?
It’s not because of a lack of evidence. It is because of a hard heart that is filled with excuses that is unwilling to meet Him on His demands.
The Cross Applied (verses 57–59)
Let’s go to the last point, the point that now confronts us all, “The Cross Applied.”
This is possibly the most unexpected result in the world. How can people consider the facts that they are undeniably sinners against a holy God and refuse to accept His forgiveness by making peace with Him through Jesus Christ? Rather they choose to stand condemned as they are heading for eternal danger.
So, to make this final point, Jesus shares a story with the “crowd” listening to Him that they can all understand.
Beginning in verse 57, “And why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right? For while you are going with your opponent to appear before the magistrate, on your way there make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent.”
Start with the end of the story. Does anybody want to be thrown in jail? Moreover, how would you like to be thrown in jail for a debt you owe (paying “they very last cent”) and then in jail being unable to make money because you are not working. In other words, you’ll be in jail the rest of your life!
So, what is the wise solution? It’s the “officer” that throws you in jail. So, no officer, no jail. But it’s the “judge” that hands you over to the officer. So, no judge no jail. But it’s the opponent that is bringing you before the judge. So, if you meet your opponent along the way, settle the matter with him. He’ll drop the case and the judge and officer and jail are eliminated. Makes perfect sense, right?
So, what is our Lord’s spiritual point? There is a coming judgment. You have a debt that you cannot pay. An eternity of jail time is waiting for you. But your opponent is willing to make peace with you. Why would you not, if you have any degree of reasonable thinking, make peace with God in this life though Jesus Christ? Why not settle accounts when you still have time? Why not settle out of court? Because if you die and you are standing before the Great White Throne judgment it is going to be too late. Our Lord’s advice – embrace Jesus and His work on the cross as your only means to forgiveness. For those without Christ, He is your opponent and judge. Yet for those with Christ, He is your friend and savior.
“Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near (Isa. 55:6). “Behold, now is ‘THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,’ behold, now is ‘THE DAY OF SALVATION’” (2 Cor. 6:2).
The death of Jesus on the cross was the world’s most unexpected event. Yet when you stop and consider it, it is the only event that makes perfect sense. And according to Jesus, there is only one expected result to this event. Have you trust Him for your eternal salvation?