Let us pray: Dear Savior, just as the heathen world of Your day attacked You, so today it attacks us for believing in You. Just as Your claim of divinity was scoffed at, so today our faith in You is mocked. Lord, when such shameful attacks upon You occurred, You rose above them and thereby revealed Your glory. Tonight remind us to do likewise. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, IN WHOSE CROSS GLORY IS REVEALED!
TEXT: John 18:33-19:1
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
How heavy was the cross of Golgotha? Who knows? But the true weight of it wasn’t just the heavy green wood. No, its true weight was humanity’s collective evil—including the rejection of Him that still goes on today. Although we do not and cannot know the weight of Calvary’s cross, in a slight way we do experience a small slice of it when the world rejects us and our faith. And tonight’s text outlines such rejection as found in John 18:
“Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘Is that your own idea,’ Jesus asked, ‘or did others talk to you about me?’ ‘Am I a Jew?’ Pilate replied. ‘It was your own people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?’ Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.’ ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’ ‘What is truth?’ Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘No, not him! Give us Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion. Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.” Tonight we’ll examine this lesson under this theme:
THE GLORY OF THE CROSS IS HIDDEN IN THE SAVIOR’S REJECTION BY THE WORLD
This lesson clearly shows exactly what Christ was up against and what we, as His followers, are up against, too. On the one side is Jesus. He says He’s a King, but not an earthly one. He says that He testifies to the truth, but no one wants to hear it. This trial was pathetic. On one side is the calm, peace-loving Jesus, and on the other is a howling mob who gets their way through intimidation. No one comes to defend Christ. No one openly takes His side. And Pilate buckles. O, on a human level he tries to weasel out of his predicament. He offers them the murderer and terrorist Barabbas instead of Christ, thinking: “They’ll take Christ’s freedom over Barabbas’. But, no. The world would rather have human evil let loosed in their midst than Godly peace and forgiveness.
Why the hostility? Why the anger? Why such violence against someone who appeared so frail and fragile and even foolish in their eyes? It all hinges on one word that Jesus spoke: “truth.” Jesus states that He came to bear witness to the truth. And what is Pilate’s sarcastic response? “What is truth?”!
By definition, if you accept that there really is a “God” you must also accept that He knows exactly what truth is. And by any sense of rationality, you must additionally accept that humans have a hard time figuring out truth and defining it.—For all politics and social problems are really an outgrowth of humans trying to discover truth, aren’t they? All moral conundrums stem from human failure to grasp hold of truth.
The world’s search for truth is nothing short of inner and outer warfare. People wrestle with themselves and their own failings and they also war with each other over their perceived notions of truth—all of which never seems to bring peace and fulfillment. And then, many, perhaps most, blame their concept of “God” for their struggles and their unhappiness over those struggles. And finally, after all that, the cycle gets repeated again, again, and again.
But here Christ offers the world something new and different. He says that He came to testify to the truth. Yes, He claimed divinity and taught throughout His ministry that humans are to blame for pain and suffering, that humans brought unhappiness and death upon themselves, that humans are sinners, that fallen humans are the cause of evil in this world. He preached personal repentance, or personal responsibility. And there’s the rub!
Sinners hate being called to account. Our biggest stumbling block in life that causes us the most trouble is our pride. And pride never, ever, wants to admit that it is wrong. And so the world hated Christ and it also hates anyone who follows Him. For to do otherwise, to accept Him, hurts human pride. In fact, it kills human pride. And the one thing about pride is this: it never, ever, wants to die!
In Christ human pride was put in its place. In Him it finally did die. For our pride put Him on a cross and so our pride died with Him on the cross. Then and there, God declared the world righteous, holy, and forgiven.—That total love of God is also truth. It’s the most important truth in the universe. It is what remakes broken lives and binds up broken hearts. It is what puts broken marriages back together. It is what re-forges broken relationships. For when pride is put to death, acceptance and love take its place. And our truthful Savior had the guts, literally, to walk this walk and talk this talk.
You and I have come here tonight to confess our allegiance to the Lord of Truth and to carry His cross of truth and love along with Him. So, we shouldn’t be surprised when the heathen world openly mocks us or scoffs at us and our Christian lifestyles. We’re an affront to them because our very existence is a reminder to them that their pride doesn’t bring true happiness. That they don’t know it all, and never will unless and until they embrace God’s loving cross which kills pride and turns us into new creations.
To be sure, we still retain the residue of pride and we struggle with it. Shame and humiliation are tough to take. After all, we’re God’s representatives on this earth and His glory in us should be open for all to see! Ah, but it is, my friends. For His glory is hidden in the cross and just like Christ, it is clearly seen only in how we handle human rejection. Jesus put God’s truth, God’s mission of saving souls through the destruction of pride and through replacing it with forgiving love, above all else. So, learn from Him, follow Him, and you’ll discover that Divine truth trumps human pride every time. Yes, our glory is that by losing our lives in Him we will find them and be saved! Amen