Five-year-old Mary was obliged to undergo an operation, and lost so much blood that it was necessary to resort to blood transfusion. The blood of thirteen-year-old brother Jimmy was found by test to match exactly the little patient’s. “Will you give your sister some of your blood, Jim?” asked the doctor. Jimmy set his teeth. “Yes, sir, if she needs it.” He was prepared for the transfusion. In the midst of the drawing of the blood, the doctor observed Jimmy growing paler and paler. “Are you ill, Jim?” he asked. “No, sir, but I’m wondering just when I’ll die.” “Die?” gasped the doctor. “Do you think people give their lives when they give a little blood?” “Yes, sir,” replied Jimmy. “And you are giving your life for Mary’s?” “Yes, sir,” replied Jimmy. A touching story of self-sacrifice.
There’s a more far-reaching story, a true story, of self-sacrifice than Jimmy’s. by giving his blood, Jimmy at most would procure life for one other person, his sister Mary. Greatest act of self-sacrifice occurred nearly 2000 years ago at “a place called Golgotha”. Unlike Jimmy, Jesus did give all his blood, Jesus did die, giving his life to save the lives of a countless multitude “from every tribe, language, people, and nation.”
But in order to accomplish that, this sacrifice must be at the same time perfect man and powerful God – the one who would stand between sinful men, women, boys, girls and a holy God with hand on each. At the same time able to “lay down his life for his friends” and take it up again when his purpose had been accomplished. What mattered most at Calvary was not what chief priests and scribes and elders orchestrated, not what Roman soldiers did, not what physical suffering achieved. What mattered most was what could not be seen – what God did, when “God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:21
Who was it there on that middle cross? Not everyone had same opinion at the time, still true today. 3x in our text title “Son of God” is used – by the general rabble passing by on the road, by church leaders and criminals being executed beside Jesus, by the Roman centurion and soldiers with him.
A. “If you are the Son of God, come down” v.40
certain expectations of what he could do if… if he truly were the Son of God
demonstrate his power over the natural order – if you really can rebuild the temple in 3 days, ought to be able (have the power) to pull the nails and climb down from the cross
demonstrate his authority over earthly government – if you really are King of Israel like placard at top of cross said, defy Roman guards / Pilate’s decree and climb down, put the centurion in his place
show his true colors – if miracles performed delivering many from sickness and disease and infirmity and death were for real, should be able to deliver yourself
certain presuppositions of what he needed to do…
needed to do all this in the way his mockers believed best – anything less would simply confirm suspicions Jesus was a fraud
think of profound darkness for three hours – btw, not a solar eclipse; impossible for that to occur at time of full moon
far more profound darkness at work in minds of those who mocked – surrounded by more than enough evidence, had seen Jesus @ work – healing blind and lame, raising the dead, demonstrating power and authority over natural world, spiritual forces of evil
one more sign and we’ll believe – v.42 “If he comes down now from the cross, we will believe in him!”
condemned Jesus for not saving himself – didn’t see they belonged in that very boat: condemned and unable to save themselves
truth is, the power they wanted Jesus to demonstrate is what they most needed to cut through darkness of their sin and rebellion
once again evidence of Satan, master deceiver at work; two-fold goal here, plan A and B
had tried to tempt Jesus to sin at beginning of his ministry: Matt. 4:3“If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
failed in that attempt, trying once again; if Jesus can be tempted into coming down from cross, Satan wins the big battle
if Jesus remains on the cross, Satan has won different battle – for minds and hearts of Jesus’ mockers at least for a time
Jesus really was Son of God, King of Israel, healer and deliverer; those who mocked fulfilling prophecy made to Isaiah: “hearing they did not hear, seeing they did not see”
Jesus’ mission – to draw people into a saving relationship with him; what was required? he said himself:
John 12:32“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
B. he said “I am the Son of God” v.43
certain expectations of what God would do if…Jesus’ claims were true
he claims a particular relationship with God, does God agree? if so, God should show it this way
similar line of thinking as Job’s friends – these circumstances are impossible for someone who is true friend of God, truly righteous, genuinely trusting in God
religous types, perhaps purposefully, like Satan did in the Garden, subtly altering God’s word
quoted from Psalm 22:8“He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”
but made last statement conditional – if he wants to; easy to imagine Satan’s hiss once again
Matt. 4:6 “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,'”
perhaps the Father has disowned the Son, will refuse to answer when Son cries out to him
Isa. 53:4 “esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted” – in truth Jesus was just that
Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, / See him dying on the tree! / ‘Tis the Christ by man rejected; / Yes, my soul, ’tis he, ’tis he.
‘Tis the long-expected Prophet, / David’s Son, yet David’s Lord; / By his Son God now has spoken: / ‘Tis the true and faithful Word.
Tell me, ye who hear him groaning, / Was there ever grief like his? / Friends through fear his cause disowning, / Foes insulting his distress;
Many hands were raised to wound him, / None would interpose to save; / But the deepest stroke that pierced him / Was the stroke that Justice gave.
Ye who think of sin but lightly / Nor suppose the evil great / Here may view its nature rightly, / Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed, / See who bears the awful load; / ‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed, / Son of Man and Son of God.
Here we have a firm foundation, / Here the refuge of the lost; / Christ’s the Rock of our salvation, / His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded, / Sacrifice to cancel guilt! / None shall ever be confounded / Who on him their hope have built.
C. “Truly this was the Son of God” v.54
pagan Gentiles had better vision – feared the God they did not know; Jews had no fear of God they did know
had probably numerous opportunities to guard condemned criminals while they died of crucifixion
enough different about this one to get their attention – what Jesus said, what he didn’t say; bottom line: they took Jesus’ word over his accusers
Roman soldiers may not have fully grasped what they were saying, but said the right thing
The King, the Son of God shows his power and authority most when he conquers his fiercest enemies. Was only by staying there on the cross, the sacrificial lamb, that he could begin his victory march – defeating sin, Satan, and death. Even the mocking Jews knew lamb had to stick around for sacrifice to be satisfactory. Had the Lamb run away we would all be in our sins still, hopeless and without a future.
Instead God’s eternal plan had our future in view
Eph. 1:4-8 For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will – to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight. NET
Sure, Heb. 12:2 tells us Jesus endured the cross “for the joy that was set before him”, but what fueled that joy? Love for helpless sinners and being the means of their redemption. Yes, we see the awfulness of sin, the incredible penalty Justice requires, played out in living color on the Cross. Caiaphas was right when he said:
John 11:49-50 “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is more to your advantage to have one man die for the people than for the whole nation to perish.”
In the death of that one man, the Son of God, the sacrificial lamb, the love of God is displayed at its brightest and most glorious. God loved sinners so much he gave himself as their sacrifice, their substitute. The Gospel is first and foremost about what God has done for sinners
“God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.”
Do you understand what that means? Have you experienced the love and grace of God in the Gospel?
“Mount Sinai, as awesome as it was, is but a dim shadow of a later mountain where God’s glory would be revealed—Mount Calvary. More than 1,400 years after God appeared on Mount Sinai, Jesus would climb up another mountain to put God’s glory on display. Just like Sinai, Calvary was covered by a thick cloud of darkness as God turned His face away. On the cross Jesus would endure the thunder of God’s judgment and absorb the lightning of His wrath. …The burning mountain of Exodus 19 was a picture of Mount Calvary, where Jesus gave us the clearest and most complete picture of the glory of God. In the cross we see the magnanimity of God’s grace. God did more than carry us on eagles’ wings from danger; He rescued us out of the jaws of death by substituting Himself in our place.” J D Greear
Comprehending God’s grace and love and lavish generosity to us in the Gospel changes us; the power of the Gospel is transforming, producing in us Christ-like grace and love and generosity toward others. May this not be just another Good Friday, not just another Easter. By God’s grace and in his strength may we be transformed people, living in a way that shows the Gospel has changed us.