4 Views from the Cross – A Soldier Views the Son of God
Matthew 27:45-54 (p. 697) March 20, 2016
Doug Fraley, my youth minister at Southland when I was around 7 years old taught me something about my conscience that I’ve never forgotten…He said our conscience is like a circle inside our heart and that circle is filled with a tightly fitting triangle…when we do something we know is wrong…the triangle spins and it’s edges rub against the circle…and we feel it…it causes us to feel uncomfortable with what we’ve done –
And then he said, “But if you keep doing the same thing over and over again you wear the edges off the triangle and you don’t feel uncomfortable with what you doing anymore.
If you’ve ever had a callous develop on your hand you know exactly what he’s talking about…when you first start digging with the shovel…or swinging the hammer your hands are soft, you rub them raw…you get a blister, but if you keep on digging and swinging eventually those soft hands build up calluses that keep you from feeling the pain.
I’m not sure how many battles he’d been in or how many men he’d killed or helped kill…I’m not sure how much blood he’d had on his hands…or how many horrible things he’d seen…but you do not become a centurion in the Roman army without experiencing your share of pain and death…you do not rise to this position of overseeing 100 soldiers with weakness or gentleness….staff sergeants in the Roman army were hard men, combat tested and proven…there was blood and death in their past and almost certainly in their future.
Rome would only have chosen those whose triangle had been rubbed smooth…with calloused hearts to oversee an execution squad.
The scourging had become common place to this soldier. The screams of agony and protest fell on deaf ears…He was accustomed to the cursing and obscenities…He’d heard them all as men died on a Roman cross…maybe the best way to describe his heart was “desensitized.” He’d seen what he could not un-see…over and over again.
The pain and abuse of this world has a way of doing that to the human heart…sin hardens us…pain is something we try to numb…addicts deal with it with a drug or bottle.
Soccer mom’s with a Macy’s card…businessmen with an affair…but numbness never provides hope…just a temporary “time out.”
Jesus always has a way of rebuilding the triangle, or turning a heart of stone into one of flesh…His love and grace are sharper than any Roman sword and able to penetrate the most calloused heart.
The eyes of the soldier had seen a lot of people die…His ears had heard a lot of pain…but His eyes had never seen a man die like Jesus…His ears had never heard silence when he expected cursing…He’d never witnessed the Son of God die before – and that changed his view from the foot of the cross.
I. LOVE RESCUING INSTEAD OF HATE HURTING
Mark 15:15 tells us that “Pilate handed Jesus over to be flogged and crucified.”
And the charge that would be posted over His head: KING OF THE JEWS. Why is this important? Because whenever Rome conquered another territory or kingdom…the first thing they did was replace it’s King with a Roman ruler…that’s exactly why Pilate and Herod are in power.
The foreign King would be humiliated and paraded as an example of defeat…this humiliation and mutilation of a conquered King said, “who’s really in power now?” Rome is!!
So with Jesus being crucified as “King of the Jews” these soldiers would treat Him the way they would treat any deposed King.
MARK 15:16-20 (p. 712)
Amazingly Isaiah the prophet wrote 800 years before this event “The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him…and by His wounds we are healed.” (Is. 53:5)
The word for “wounds” is literally “stripes.” “By His stripes we are healed.” The beating and punishment Jesus endured…was ours…He took my “stripes.”
But what made this beating different was the silence: “Jesus is lead like a lamb to the slaughter…as a sheep before her shearers is silent, He did not open His mouth.”
This soldier doesn’t hear hatred. No angry screams about how evil he is or the injustice of what’s being done…He’s used to seeing violence meeting violence and hate meeting hate…He’s never experienced anything like this before…maybe the triangle starts to turn a little and this amazing love starts to cut through the callous.
Love rescuing has that affect.
[This photo changed the world.
SHOW 1ST PHOTO
It was taken by Michael Yon as Major Mark Beiger tried to rescue this little girl. In Mosul…a suicide bomber attacked his patrol while 20 children were gathered around. Major Beiger found this little girl and tried to rush her to the American hospital instead of the Iraqi’s hospital so she would get the best care…Yon took this picture because he would stop and hug her and talk to her on the way…she didn’t survive.
Or like this photo
SHOW 2ND PHOTO
Of Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt…the insurgents had shot and killed both her parents, all her siblings and then they shot her in the head…she underwent hours of surgery…the nurses said John was the only one who could calm her down after the surgery…so he spent the next 4 nights holding her in his arms.]
When the hardened and tough encounter true innocence something happens to the callous…love cuts to the heart of the matter!
Jesus endured the beatings and the crucifixion as “the Lamb of God” taking away the sins of the world…He did it with a heart of love and a prayer “asking His Father not to hold the sins of those doing it…against them.”
His love and grace poured out along with His blood, and that kind of encounter can penetrate the hardest of hearts.
It’s a hard lesson for Jesus’ disciples to follow in this world…meeting hate with hate comes naturally…meeting violence with violence gives release to our anger…turning the other cheek when we’ve been slapped…and praying for the one whose done it is completely against our nature…but maybe that’s the key to love rescuing…hard hearts will never be penetrated by the love and grace of God when people who claim to be Jesus followers respond just like everyone else…worldly unbelieving leaders and kings conquer with force…our King uses different methods…Jesus said this right after talking about meeting violence with violence…the OT laws of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth…here’s what He said:
MATTHEW 5:43-48 (p. 678)
Only the crucifixion of my rights…my anger, my nature, will allow me to live real Christianity out in a hard world…and only His Spirit living in me and you makes doing that possible…that’s exactly what King Jesus meant when He said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)
When you witness the Lamb of God being sacrificial and praying for your forgiveness while you still hold the hammer that drove the nails…your heart will be softened no matter how hard it has become…it will make you cry out “Surely this man was the Son of God.”
Let me end with this warning as we see how a soldier views the cross.
II. DON’T WAIT UNTIL IT TAKES AN EARTHQUAKE!
As Jesus dies He cries out “It is finished.” (Paid in full) It’s the Lion of Judah’s final roar from the cross…and Matthew records what happens at this moment…as He gives up His spirit.
MATTHEW 27:51-54 (p. 697)
Matt, Mark and Luke tell us “when the 6th hour occurred, darkness came over the entire land until the 9th hour.”
Please get a feeling for the terrifying physical reaction of creation…as the word of creation dies. It quakes in reaction…As the light of the world dies…it goes “DARK.” As the resurrection and the life dies…so even death reacts and graves open and release their grasp on Holy people. The temple curtain rips…this dividing line between God and man has been destroyed…as a new and living way into God’s presence has been opened by Jesus’ torn flesh.
It is an awesome, terrifying display of God’s power.
It terrifies hardened soldiers; and their leader realizes who is on that cross: “The Son of God.” It took an earthquake to convince him.
Does God still use earthquakes?
The answer is…He can…Surely there will never be a day like that Friday Jesus died on the cross…but God still seeks us…He still uses circumstances and situations to reveal His amazing love.
Some of us have become so hardened by sin and life that it takes an earthquake in our lives to reveal Jesus as God’s Son. Sometimes it takes the darkness for us to cry out to God to pierce it with His light. Sometimes we’ve built such a callous around our heart that it takes the Word of God’s double edged sword to cut it.
[During the time God was using the Holy Spirit to break through my hard heart, Brewster McCleod took some of us to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Banquet…God had softened me up with some tremors, but this would be an earthquake event for me…this guy came out in a motorized wheelchair and began to share his story…He’d been an Olympic quality gymnast when he broke his neck in a fall from the rings…He said he was angry at everyone…especially God…His anger and hatred poured out of his soul…He tried to hurt everyone…like he hurt…especially those who loved him most…there was one of his teammates that continually visited him, even when he was cursed and told to never come back…He always did…and eventually this teammate was able to share the love of Christ…and it broke through the hardness, anger and pain…James surrendered his life to Christ…He told of the opportunities he had to witness to God’s plan…God’s grace…even when you’re paralyzed…God can use your scars for His glory.
As he started off the stage he stopped and turned back…and He said, “I pray to God you’re never paralyzed…unless that’s what God will use to open your heart to His love…then it’s worth it.]
I hope it doesn’t take an earthquake to rebuild the triangle in your heart…I hope you don’t have to experience the darkness unless that’s what God uses to reveal the truth of Jesus in your life…then it’s worth it.