Saturday, April 7, 2012

THE GLORY OF CHRIST ON THE CROSS


TEXT :   Luke 22 :35- 23:56
TITLE :  The Glory of Christ before the cross and  on the cross    
DATE :  Good Friday   -  6th April 2012

In our church we are very familiar with the  story  of the  suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ , partially  because we speak  about this so very often, and partially  because  we remember it in a practical way   in our communion services. And we also make a point  of remembering  what  Easter is really about , every year.
The danger  of   re-telling this story again and again  is  that we   become familiar with the sacred , and  we  may be tempted  to loose  the  glory , the weight and the gravity of  it all.
Glory , weight , gravity -  I use those  words very  deliberately and synonymously . The  word  glory ‘ in   the Hebrew language  is the word kabod’.  This word has to do with weight  or gravity.  Seen against this background   we note that  God’s glory is heavy!   It pulls you down to the ground. You can’t stand before His glory. If you should be confronted with  the glory of God   in your present state ( having  a non- glorified body)   you would   not stand – you would  die instantly at the sight of the full revelation of God’s glory !    So,  when  you look at  the  biblical  encounters  of men with  God , or of  a divine manifestation ( e.g. an angel) from His presence ,  you will  note  that the glory of God is always  very  ‘heavy’ upon people . It literally pulls them down.  Moses at the burning bush ( Exodus 3) , Isaiah in the temple ( Isaiah 6), Paul on the Damascus road  ( Acts 9), Peter , James and John  at the  Transfiguration of Christ  (Matt 17:5,6), John of the Revelation ( Rev 1:17) , they  all  fell down before  the glory of God or at the manifested glory of the ascended  Lord Jesus  Christ.  John says  of the  revelation of the ascended Lord Jesus  : “I fell at His feet as though dead  (Rev 1:17)

There  are  very few   displays of God’s glory now  as seemed   almost common in  the  OT era. I am referring here  to  the   angelic visits  and  theophanies prior to our Lord’s  birth. Why is that?  The plainest answer  I can give  is  this : God has sent us  His glorious Son, the final revelation of God  from  His  heaven.   Of this John testifies : “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us , and we have seen His glory , glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14). The writer to the Hebrews says :  “…in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of  his nature, and He upholds the universe by the  word of His power.”  (Hebr 1:2,3)

People in all  ages  have been seekers  after demonstrations of  glory. They want power displays and miracles in order to believe.  Martin Luther  once pointed out that  we have  two kinds of people in this world:  theologians of glory  or theologians of the cross . A theologian of glory  says “ show me a miracle, and I will believe!   A theologian of the cross sees  the glory of God in the  beaten , bruised and crucified Jesus – and says :  The Lamb of God  who takes away the sin of the world ”, and that  is his sufficient evidence.   
In response to a question by Philip  : “Lord, show us the Father , and that will be enough“ , we have a theologian of glory .  Jesus  responds (paraphrase) :  Look at me Philip . Whoever has seen me  has seen the Father! “   (Jn 14:8ff)
The glory  of God  is seen in the final revelation  of God to us : Jesus Christ!  Of Him God says  : “This is my Son , with whom I am well pleased ; listen to Him!  (Matt 17:5) . If you want an experience of glory you must seek Christ.  It is proven from Scripture  however  that  an ordinary look at Christ  will not  present you with a picture of glory . You must look with the eyes of faith  to see Christ  for who He really is .
And to see Him as He really  is we can only do one thing : We must look into  the Scriptures – the only  reliable revelation and testimony  available to us today. And we  must do so humbly and prayerfully  and always in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. He is not only the Inspirer of Scripture , He is also the One who  opens our eyes to see  the Jesus  of glory .

And now I want to do a very simple exercise with you, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit who is the Revealer of Christ and His Truth . We will read   from Luke  22:35 until  the end of  Luke 23  and we shall deliberately look out  for   evidences  of the  glory  of Christ  in  the  harshest  , most violent  section  of the Bible  - in  the emotional  agony of Christ in the garden  and in  the physical sufferings of Christ , the  unfair trial  and the crucifixion . May God be pleased to add faith to our understanding so that we would walk out of here  this morning with a sense of having seen the glory of Christ .

You will need  to  have the Bible open  to   follow  the argument:

1.       Jesus  fulfils the Scripture  : Lk 22: 35-38

And He was numbered with the transgressors   a fulfilment  of  Isaiah  53:12. The glory  and weight of Christ is seen that  He identifies Himself with the long expected Messiah – Isaiah’s suffering servant . Jesus says “I am He!”You  were wondering who  Isaiah was talking about?  Look no further! Look at me!  Immediately  you see a glimpse of glory. No one ever spoke like this!

2.       Jesus  prays : Lk 22 : 39- 46

Though Jesus dreaded  what was before Him, He prayed: ”Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless not my will , but yours be done.” The glory of Christ is seen in His principled  obedience  to the Father.  We also learn  here about  the glorious, weighty truth  that prayer  (which is the language  of dependence upon God)  has  the Father’s ear. In this case  the prayer was not to be delivered from the cross, but  to be faithful even unto death. It is with the help of  His prayerful dependence   upon the Father  that  Jesus  is  helped to overcome the  very real  temptation to quit. [Note : the disciples failed because they did not watch and pray in this hour of temptation].  Now  let me ask you:  Aren’t you glad  that Jesus remained  obedient to the will of the Father?  What would have happened if Christ had  given up?  No atonement of your sins!  Can you see the  glory in  Christ’s active  obedience for you?

3.       Jesus arrested   : Lk 22:47-53

The glory of Christ is seen  here in the fact that He did not run  away like a fugitive. He faced  His   enemies manfully, because He  was  submitted to the plan  and will of the Father.
Moreover, note the healing of the ear of the servant of the High priest  in the midst of this chaos  when one of  Jesus’  disciples   thought that it was his duty to defend Christ , and in the attempt of doing so  he cut of the ear of the poor man. The glory of Christ  is seen that  even in desperate  times , Jesus finds time to  minister to the needs of others. Would you?  We tend to be so self- absorbed in our little hours of crisis that we rarely find energy  to minister  to others in their need  because we are so focussed on our own need.

4.       Jesus  and  Peter : Lk  22:54-62

The  glory of Christ is seen here  in the fact  that Peter has foreknown Peter’s denial  (cf 22:31ff) . The glory of Christ also lies in the fact that  He has already interceded  ,  prayed for Peter on this account , that  His faith may not fail  (22:32). In fact , Jesus  has already designed it that Peter  should strengthen his brothers  later, and that He would become “the Rock “ (Cephas / Petros)  and “the first among equals” . What a glorious Saviour ! He knows how to keep His own .

5.       Jesus is mocked : Lk 22:63- 65

The glory of Christ is seen here  in that  the eternal Son of God  who could have called legions of angels to  rescue  Him from these evil  men, passively submitted Himself into their hands  to do whatever needed to be done. Little did they know that they were manhandling the Lord of glory. Paul comments  on the terrible  ignorance of the worldly powers  who thought that they  had control of Christ , in 1 Corinthians  2:8 : “None of the rulers of this age understood this  , for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory “.

6.       Jesus before the council: Lk 22:66-71

The glory of Christ  is seen here  in  a very plain statement  made in response to the taunting questions  of His inquisitioners : “If you are  the Christ , tell us !”. Note Jesus’s answer  (would a mere man say this?)  If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer . But from now on, the Son of Man shall be seated  at the right hand of the power of God.”  This is  no subtle hint . This is a plain affirmation of who He is ! The Lord of glory !

7.       Jesus before Pilate : Lk 23:1-5 & 18-25

The first and subsequent  appearances of Christ  before Pilate   reveal something of the human  conscience that testifies to the glory of Christ. Pilate knew instinctively  that Christ  was not guilty of these charges. Three times he affirms: “I find no guilt in Him“ (vv 4,14,22). Even  Pilate's wife  testified to this for she had been shown in a dream that Christ was  a righteous man!  (Matt 27:19)

8.       Jesus before Herod : Lk 23:6-16

We read : “Herod, when he saw Jesus was very glad, for he had long desired to see Him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by  Him” . Herod had heard of Christ’s  marvellous and glorious ministry . But  as you see, he was a theologian of glory. He wanted to see miracles and not Christ for who He really was. He wanted entertainment and not the truth!  The glory of Christ is also seen in the fact that at this time He said nothing. This was to fulfil the Scriptures of Isa 53:7 : “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent , so he opened not his mouth.” 

9.       Jesus crucified  : Lk  23:26- 43

The glory of Christ is supremely seen in  His crucifixion and  death  :
(i)                  To  the lamenting women   He  said “do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and for your children“ , and He was referring to AD 70  when Jerusalem  and her inhabitants would be destroyed.  We see the glory of Christ here in His foreknowledge  of all things , but we also see  that even on His way to the cross He is strong and prophetic , leaving  warnings  of judgement  to those who will hear !
(ii)                We see the glory of Christ in the  forgiveness extended to those who   would crucify Him v.34 “ Father forgive them . They do not know what they do .”
(iii)               We see the glory of Christ as even on the cross   He speaks pardon and peace to one of the condemned criminals  who trusted in Him  even as He hung there in utter pain and disfigurement : “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise “. But the greater glory lies in the fact that He can make such a statement . This is God the  Son , speaking!

10.   Jesus’ death : Lk 23:44-49

The glory of Christ  is seen , finally,  in His death
(i)                  The  sun’s light failed – a glorious supernatural sign!
(ii)                The temple curtain was torn - another glorious  supernatural sign!
(iii)               Jesus , though at this time rejected of the Father for the sin that He bore,  nevertheless clings to His Father as He says : “ Father into your hands I commit my spirit .”  A glorious tenacity – even though you must let me go , I will not let you go!
(iv)              A Roman centurion saw all this and puts it all into a grand perspective  for us . He praised God and said “ Certainly , this man was innocent “ . Matthew and Mark’s gospel record:  Truly this man was the Son of God “  (Matt  27:54;  Mk 15:39) . He was merely repeating what Jesus had been saying about Himself all the time .  All this  was an affirmation of the glory  of Christ

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