Sermon for Good Friday: The Glory of the Cross

This is the full text of Pastor Jones’ sermon for yesterday’s Good Friday service.

The Glory of the Cross
Matthew 27:27-44

The crucifixion account in Matthew’s Gospel is filled with irony, double entendres, and curious turns of phrase loaded with multiple meanings. Matthew has sought to give us an accurate account of the events while also hiding in plain sight the theological significance of these events.

This appears to be the overthrow and the end of all of God’s plans, the ultimate humiliation of the Christ, the Anointed One brought to shame and rejection in powerlessness and defeat.

But because Jesus, the Son of God endures unto the end and accomplishes all that the Father has given him to do it is really a moment of glory, the moment of Christ’s greatest triumph, a triumph that will only be revealed when Jesus, the Christ, is declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4).

1. God turns the humiliation into glory (27-31).

In this scene, after Pilate has handed Jesus over for crucifixion, the vicious mockery in words and actions are more true than the mockers realize. This speaks to the sovereign power of God, who can use their mocking to speak words of truth that highlight the glory of the Savior.

The God who could make an ass talk and speak the words that a prophet-for-hire refused to speak, the God who could make the stones cry out in praise if God’s people refused, this God could certainly put words of truth in mocking mouths to render praise to the Lord of glory even in his most inglorious moment and make them speak words that were more true than they themselves believed and more true than they could possibly imagine.

One day, these same people, along with everyone who has walked this earth, will render this same praise to God. Because, you see, this One who is mocked as King of the Jews really is King of the Jews, and he is even more than that. This one is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and when Paul says that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father, he means “every knee” and “every tongue.” He will be praised even by his enemies as they acknowledge that this Lord of glory is not only strong and mighty and faithful and true but also worthy of praise.

God turns humiliation into glory and fulfills in Jesus what the prophet Isaiah wrote of the Suffering Servant, that “he shall be exalted, and lifted up, and be very high.” And indeed, as Paul noted (repeatedly in Ephesians), “we are seated in heavenly places with him.”

2. God turns powerlessness and defeat into power and triumph (32-37).

But on this Good Friday, Jesus is carrying his cross, and he has to be assisted in carrying his cross the final distance. His physical powerlessness is the result of a greater powerlessness evident since he was bound in the Garden after Judas’ betrayal.
Jesus is a man thrown back and forth by the powers that be. Condemned through lies by the religious leaders, his scourging and death permitted by the political leader, who seemed to believe in his innocence and who answered only to the most powerful man in the world and yet who looked the other way out of expedience and self-interest. Now he is in the hands of brutes who violently assault him and mercilessly crucify him. His final possession, the very clothes on his back, are taken from him by the ones killing him, leaving him to hang naked and in shame with no recourse but to submit.

Indeed, the very act of crucifixion was designed for subjugation and oppression. It was designed to render powerless those people under the dominion of Rome. It is fitting that the mightiest army in the known world, perhaps one of the mightiest armies the world has ever seen, was tasked with crucifying the Lord of glory because it gives a chance to demonstrate what Paul spoke of in 1 Cor. 1:25b when he wrote, “The weakness of God is stronger than men.” God turns powerlessness and defeat into power and triumph.

David, King over Israel, spoke prophetically of our Lord when he wrote, “Yahweh said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool under your feet.” And in that day, when all of God’s enemies, the enemies of God’s people, have been brought to nothing, every knee will bow and every tongue acknowledge the glory and majesty of this One who bore such mockery, humiliation, and shame and who bore it with grace and humility, who was defeated that God’s people might triumph, and who bore such shame in this age that his people might live in glory in the age to come.

3. God turns shame into honor (38-44).

And indeed the cross is shameful. Crucifixion was designed not only to deliver the maximum amount of psychical pain and suffering but also the maximum amount of psychological torture in the form of shame and humiliation. Most victims were crucified naked (although sometimes they would allow a loincloth to be used to accommodate the sensibilities of the Jews).

With the feast now over and the Passover yet to come, people are now out-and-about and they come by and see his shame and dishonor which are on display before the entire world.

But to add to it is the shame of the insults and the mockery, and the derision by those who knew of his claims to be the Son of God and mock him. They knew of his miracles and the deliverance he brought to many yet they mock him because God has not delivered him from the curse of this tree.

And being on display added to the curse of crucifixion. The Law of Moses stated that, “Anyone who is hanged on a tree is under God’s curse” (Deut. 21:23). So Jesus is cursed by God and that cursing is evident in his hanging on that tree. These words, too, are more true than they know.

The curse brought upon the human race and indeed upon all of creation by the sin of our first mother and father, the curse which brought God’s judgment, is now borne by the Son of God, standing in our place, bearing our curse, bearing the shame, not only of our first father and mother, who stood shamed and naked in the Garden before God but the shame of all of us who recognize our sin and our helplessness to do anything about it but stand naked and helpless in the presence of Almighty God.

Now Adam and Eve’s greater son, the Son of God, hangs shamed and naked in the presence of the whole world and in the presence of God, that the whole world may be reconciled to God and enjoy a greater communion and unity with God even than our father and mother knew in the Garden.

This what Paul referred to in Galatians 3:13 when he said, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’”

In this passage, the nations have conspired together against the Lord and against his Anointed. Jew and Gentile are complicit in the death of the Holy One of God.
But one day the nations will not blaspheme him, shaking their heads. Instead, the nations and the kings of the earth will bring their glory and honor into the New Jerusalem. (Rev. 21:24, 26).

They will not shout blasphemies; they will shout praise.

They will not say, “He saved others, himself he cannot save.” Instead, they will say, “He did not save himself so that we could be saved.”

They will not say, “If he is King of Israel,” they will say, “He is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, and all the kingdoms of the earth have become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he will reign forever and ever!”

Conclusion: Look at this cross and weep over your sins and the horrible price paid to redeem you from them.

Then look at the cross again and see the power and wisdom of God, who has chosen the foolish things of this world to put to shame the wise, who has chosen the weak things of this world, to put to shame the things which are mighty, who has chosen the low things of the world, the things which are despised, to bring to nothing the things that are something so that no one may glory in his presence (1 Cor. 1:27-29).

Then look at the cross, yet once more, and boast in the Lord, shamed and humiliated that you might know glory, broken that you might be made whole, and defeated, that you might triumph.

What Does God Want You to Do?

This post is written by one of Zion’s elders, Mr. Mike Beckner.

 

Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

This fall here at Zion Baptist Church our youth group will be exploring this very question. You might be a couple decades past attending youth group but perhaps you have a child of your own who is in their pre-teen or teen years. If not, there is a good chance that you know someone who is that you would like to see taught the truth about God and how to live a life pleasing unto him. As a guide to help us in exploring this question this fall we will be using the book “Just Do Something” by Kevin DeYoung. It’s a solid, simple book that is easy to digest and provides good direction to young and old people alike.  I encourage you to find a copy for yourself.

We all want to know what God’s will for our lives is. We have to be careful though that we do not spend our whole life seeking this answer rather than living the life that God has laid out before us. Much about what God wants us to do is written plainly in his Word for us to abide by. If you don’t know much about God’s word and what it says about how you should live I have two simple recommendations. First, read the bible. If you want to know what God’s word has to say to you pick it up and read it. Second, you should find a church where God’s word is preached and taught and go there. It’s that simple. Sit under the preaching of God’s word where a faithful man has been appointed by God to proclaim His truth and attend that church regularly. The more you read and the more biblical preaching you hear the more you will learn I guarantee it.

I want to live my life according to God’s will and as a parent I want that for my children as well. If you are able to attend church with us here at Zion I invite you to bring a young person that you know to join us during our Wednesday evening study through the book I mentioned above. While they are learning I can assure you you will as well. I don’t know the answer to the question “What Does God Want You to Do?” I freely admit that to you and I am okay with that. I know there are certain things God wants us to do and he shares that with us in His word but with regard to the big decisions in your life and all the variables that exist he isn’t always that direct. I do believe however, the more you know about God and about God’s character the easier it will be for you to make decisions in your life and feel confident that you are doing so in accordance with God’s will. Wouldn’t you love for the young people in your life to be able to have that same confidence? You can both start by doing two things I know God wants you to do, read His word and go to church. If you start by following God’s will for your life in these two areas you will find yourself following God’s will in other areas of your life. If you’re in the Downriver area we have services at the times listed below. If you’re not in our area find a church near you and go!

 

Sundays –             Sunday School and Adult Bible Classes 9:45am – 10:45am

Morning Worship 11:00am

Evening Service 6:00pm

Wednesdays – Youth Group and Midweek Prayer Time 7:00pm – 8:05pm

 

 

 

 

God Deserves Your Worship

This is a guest post by Michael Beckner, one of our leaders here at Zion.

Psalm 29:2 Give unto the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

Like most Christians I love Christmas and Easter. The reasons are numerous but one of the things that stand out about these two holidays is how full God’s house will be on those days. Because of the calendar this is more prevalent on Easter than Christmas. It’s always on Sunday so it just works. Easter will be here March 31st and I love seeing the fresh faces. I love how the added voices make the congregational hymns a little louder than usual. I love the opportunity the holiday provides to invite people I know and love to come to church. I can, and do, invite people to church all throughout the year but Easter is a day that sees results. The more people singing praises to God and hearing the word preached, the better. I always feel like the worship is that much better with all these people there. I love that about Easter. But it won’t be true of April 7th.

April 7th is the Lord’s Day just as March 31st is. Hymns will be sung and the word will be preached but it will be different.  Christ will most certainly be lifted up because God’s people will be faithful to worship but where will you be? Will you be among them as you were on Easter? There isn’t a bad day to go to church so if you’re planning to attend a church service on Easter that’s great. Again, that’s why I love Easter because it’s an opportunity to see so many people worshipping God.

If you’re reading this I assume you identify yourself as a Christian. I assume you believe that the one true God is the God of the Bible and you believe that Jesus is the one and only Son of God who died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. That’s why you’ll go to church on Easter, the day we traditionally observe as the day Christ was resurrected from that horrible and undeserved death. If I stop right here though and add nothing else, this should be enough to cause you to want to worship God more than once or twice a year. But why stop here?

I made some assumptions above about what you believe about who God is what God has done for you. I’m also going to assume that most Christians would at least loosely agree with my saying that all the blessings they have in life come from God. Family. Friends. Home. Job. Health. I could go on but I think I’ve hit the high points. So now we’ve established that all good things in your life come from God, including doing the work you could not do to save you from your sins and unite you with God for eternity.

But you’re busy. You work all week and you have to run your kids here and there and run errands. You just need some time for yourself.  You have to do stuff for your family. You have to make time for friends. You have to take care of your home. You need to recharge before the work week starts again on Monday. I guess if God hadn’t blessed you with all these things you might have more time to worship him.

The thing is those blessings are there week after week after week, not to mention your eternal salvation. The opportunity to worship the God who has done so much for all of us is there week after week after week as well. Whether you join us here at Zion, or at a place of worship in your own community, I would say for most of us it takes about a 2 hour commitment on Sunday morning. Seems so small when you consider there are 168 hours in every week. I sincerely can’t wait to see you March 31st. But I’d really love to see you April 7th… and 14th… and 21st

 

Prayer before City Council Meeting (Tuesday, Feb 5, 2013)

Here is the transcript of Pastor Jones’ prayer before the City Council Meeting.

Great wise and sovereign God, we are grateful for the freedom we enjoy and by which we govern ourselves. We thank you also for those who govern us and recognize that it is by your providence and favor that they govern.

 

These are distressing times, O Lord, and too often we have allowed the turmoil and chaos of our world to afflict our souls so that rather than banding together, we have, in our self-sufficiency, lashed out at others and sought our own way rather than the way of peace and unity. We made enemies of those whom we should have made friends and pushed away those who could partner with us in the building of a better community.

 

In so doing we have squandered opportunities to bring peace and prosperity to our city and to be a shining light for cities around us of how to band together to make a better world.

 

Forgive us for this selfishness and the personal ambition that blinded us to these opportunities to partner together for peace and growth for our community. Strengthen us to humble ourselves and to seek the wisdom that is greater than ourselves.

 

May we exemplify what is spoken of in Scripture: “Righteousness exalts a nation.”

 

Help these in authority to remember that they have not been appointed to rule, but have been chosen to serve.

May they recognize that what needs to be done here is greater than any one of them could accomplish and in recognizing this may they turn their hearts and minds together toward the greater wisdom that comes from on high.

 

May you empower them to serve in wisdom, humility, honor, and compassion. May they seek the good of their constituents and their community more than their own good. May they refuse to take offense and give offense and instead serve in unity, valuing the good of their community above their own pride and self-interest. May they embrace their constituents and see the problems of their community as their own.

 

May we as citizens honor their commitment and seek to work with them rather than against them. May we see them not as our adversaries but as those who have been raised up, in God’s providence, to bring peace and prosperity to our part of this great nation.

 

As this nation has always been a haven for the outcast, the disenfranchised, the poor, those without any other opportunity, may we all now remember to care for those outcast, poor, and disenfranchised in our own midst.

 

Through wise governance and cooperation may we realize a community characterized by peace, both on the streets and in our homes; characterized by unity, not only between citizens but also between citizens and government; characterized by prosperity, both financial and spiritual; and characterized by hope, with a joy and optimism about our future and the future of those generations that follow us.

 

Protect our troops, and all those who represent our nation and fight to preserve our way of life. Protect our police and firefighters who stand ready to protect us when called.

 

And when all is said and done may we remember your gracious and providential hand of blessing that has brought us to this point.

In Your Name,
Amen