Sermon Notes March 10th

The Last Words of Christ  Pt. 1      

The First Word from the Cross: The Paralytic                BDBC 3/10/19

Last Words of Christ Easter Series #1

 

Matthew 9:1-8, Luke 23:32-38, John 1:1, 14, Luke 23:24, Matthew 25:31-46,

2 Corinthians 5:19, 1 John 1:9, Genesis 3:4-5, Genesis 2:17

 

[2 – Matthew 9:1-8]

 

The scene is recorded in Mark 2:1-12 and Matthew 9:1-8 as Jesus has been followed by crowds of people. The crowds were growing because of His authoritative teaching and word of His powerful miracles He was performing that was spreading among the masses. Jesus found himself down by the water's edge of the Sea of Galilee as we read the opening from Matthew 9.

 

1 Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city.  ‎2 And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.”  ‎3 And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.”  ‎4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?  ‎5 “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’?  ‎6 “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.”  ‎7 And he got up and went home.  ‎8 But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

 

[4 – Matthew 9:1-8]

 

Imagine what it must have been like to be part of the crowd that was present on the day Jesus spoke the words and healed that paralyzed man on the mat. The friends of the paralyzed man loved him enough to do whatever it took to get him before Jesus. The words Jesus spoke and what happened as a result made a life-changing impact on all the people present that day. It was especially a significant moment for the man who was brought to Jesus while he was still on his bed. Jesus told him to get up and walk home; he also told him that his sins were forgiven. Those words surely would linger in his heart and mind.

The man on the mat never forgot what happened to him that day. He got up and went on his way because Jesus spoke healing words over his paralyzed condition. Jesus had authority and power in His words which changed that man's life.

And how could he ever forget the other words Jesus spoke to him?  

 

"Your sins are forgiven."

 

Fast forward from this miraculous moment of healing to a final scene in Jesus' life before He died on the cross. It was a Friday morning outside the city gates of Jerusalem during the approaching festival of Passover. Passover was a significant Jewish holiday that every Jewish person was expected to attend in their life. Even the man who was paralyzed on the mat that Jesus healed could now travel to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Imagine what he might have been thinking if he happened to be passing by Jesus and the other two men being crucified as the scene from Luke 23:32-38 was unfolding.

 

[5 – Luke 23:32-38]

 

32 Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him.  ‎33 When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.  ‎34 But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.  ‎35 And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”  ‎36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine,  ‎37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”  ‎38 Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

 

Imagine what it might have been like if the man Jesus healed was one of the people who stood by watching this unfold? What must he have been thinking about if he heard Jesus say those words recorded in verse 34?

 

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."   Luke 23:34

 

Jesus had said words dealing with forgiveness when the man who once dealt with paralysis was healed in days gone by with life-altering impact. The words of Jesus on the cross must have echoed in this man's heart and mind if he happened to be present to hear them again but in a different situation.

 

These words concerning forgiveness would be the first of seven last words Jesus spoke from the cross that the gospel writers recorded. What was the full extent of this first word dealing with forgiveness?

Let's take a closer look at this first of Jesus' last seven words from the cross. The gospel writers record seven final words and phrases that Jesus said as He was dying on the cross. The last words someone speaks are a thing of significance. The last words may be the literal, final words from a person's life, or they might just be the last thing someone says to you before you depart from one another.  

 

Maybe the last words you hear from some people are:

“I love you.” Or, “Be sure and say, ‘Yes, ma'am and No ma'am…please and thank you.’” Or, “Call me.” Or, “Be safe and use good judgment.”

The first of the magnificent seven last words Jesus cries out from the cross is a powerful one. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."  

 Luke 23:34

As we begin to listen to and think about what Jesus is saying in this first word He speaks, it's worth noticing with Whom Jesus is speaking. Jesus is speaking to God and not to the people at the cross on that day. God the Son is speaking to God the Father.

 

[6]

Part of the nature and character of God is that He is relational.   John 1:1, 14 says:  

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

These verses state that Jesus is the Word made flesh. When it says the Word "…was with God…," that phrase in the original language is “pros ton theon The word picture being described in this phrase is of two personal beings facing one another and engaging in relational, intelligent discourse.  Think of two people not just talking on the phone but using FACETIME to talk to one another in a Face to Face kind of way with facial recognition and facial expressions rather than only words being heard by one another

Why is all that important to consider?
It is important because the first word from the cross is a prayer from God the Son to God the Father as they have some FACETIME with one another. Jesus leans into His relationship with the Father during His darkest hour
.

 

Through those seasons when it feels like our life is being whipped, battered, bruised and hung up by three nails, it serves us well to remember the first two syllables that came forth from Jesus' lips when He was in the same situation. "FATHER." ABBA. DADDY.

 

As we try to imagine ourselves standing at the foot of the cross and listening to the first word of the seven words Jesus spoke, we get to eavesdrop on a deep, heart conversation between God the Father and God the Son; and what we see is that their conversation does relate to us in some respects!

 

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."   Luke 23:24

 

Forgive them? Why should they be forgiven? They should be forgiven because they don't even know what they are doing. Let's look closer at this truth.

 

Have you ever stopped to consider that much of our lives are spent trying to figure out what we are going to do?

What am I going to wear today? Where am I going to eat after church today? What am I going to major in at college? How much insurance should I buy? What do we need to invest in so we don't have to work until we are 100? What are we supposed to be doing in our marriage? What are we doing as parents? What are we doing in algebra or with our kid's algebra homework? We didn't know then; we sure don't know now!

So much of life is trying to figure out what we are doing. So much of our lives can be summed up in three words: I DON'T KNOW.  

I don't know what I'm doing. If you are like me, there are lots of times in life when you don't know what you are doing as a husband…or as a father…or as a son…or as a student…or as a leader…or as neighbor…or as a pastor.

 

And you do things or say things or react to situations in ways that seem to scream out:

I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING HERE BEYOND MAKING A MESS! Nobody gives you an instruction manual on how to handle every situation and relationship in life.  However, what we do get is found in that first magnificent word from the cross. "Father, forgive them…"

 

We get forgiveness. Why do we get this incredible gift of forgiveness from Jesus? Because Jesus knows us, and He knows we don't know what we are doing half the time. On the cross, Jesus' words remind us that we don't know what we are doing much of the time.

 

Do you realize that Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 25 about how we really have no idea about what we are doing at times in our life? Consider this parable Jesus spoke in Matthew 25:31-46. It is known as the parable of the sheep and the goats.

 

[7]

 

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  ‎32 “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;  ‎33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.  ‎34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  ‎35 ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;  ‎36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’

 

[8]

 

‎37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?  ‎38 ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  ‎39 ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  ‎40 “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

 

[9]

 

‎41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;  ‎42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;  ‎43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’  ‎44 “Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’  ‎45 “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’  ‎46 “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

 

What does that parable have to do with us not knowing what we are doing as Jesus said on the cross?

 

First, notice the response the sheep had and the response the goats had. They were the same response. Look again at verses 37-39 and verse 44. "Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?" Matthew 25:37-39

Compare that with the goat's response in verse 44. "Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?" Matthew 25:44  

 

Both the sheep and the goats essentially are confessing: "God, we didn't know what we were doing." This kind of ignorance and cluelessness is what leads to God taking the initiative regarding forgiveness. God knows we cannot be good enough because we do not know what we are doing when we are being good and doing right or being bad and doing wrong. Much of the time we do not know what we are doing.

 

And because God knows exactly what He is doing, He sends His one and only, one of a kind, sinless Son to the cross to die a horrendous death with a magnificent result.

 

[10]

 

2 Corinthians 5:19 tells us what God was doing: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself not counting their sins against them."

 

Part of the nature and character of God is that He is a God who is full of forgiveness; especially for people who do not know what they are doing, but who need to be reconciled to God today.

 

Let’s just call this "the pre-emptive strike of God." A pre-emptive strike is when somebody else makes the first move before you even have a chance to do anything. On the cross, before we ever had an opportunity to confess our sins, acknowledge our sins and take responsibility for our sins, God made a pre-emptive strike loaded with forgiveness.

 

What is present in the nature and character of God is One who is overflowing with forgiveness even when we did not know what we were doing. On the cross, Jesus unites God's forgiveness with our ignorance.

 

"Father, forgive them because they don't know what they are doing."

 

That is good news! And it's interesting because many have been conditioned to think primarily about forgiveness coming in response to our confession and our ownership of knowing we did wrong. Let me explain.

 

[11]

 

The first place many people run to in the Bible when they think about forgiveness has been 1 John 1:9 where it says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

 

That's true. It's something many people memorize and often recite after they sin. And this verse is indeed truth from the heart of God. However, what Jesus says in Luke 23:34 took place well before anything we ever said or took ownership of in response to 1 John 1:9.

 

Do you realize that very few people who encountered Jesus in the Gospels initiated and asked for forgiveness from Jesus?

 

Like the paralyzed man, Jesus is the initiator by telling people something they were not even asking about when He says, "Your sins are forgiven." Nobody stood at the cross and asked Jesus to forgive them of their sins. The text says they stood around. Some cast lots for his clothes. Some mocked. Some scoffed, but nobody "prayed a sinner's prayer and asked Jesus to be their Lord." Instead, Jesus makes a pre-emptive strike and prays for them a prayer that echoes over our lives. "Father, forgive them."

 

Jesus knew that without forgiveness being the first word from the cross, there would be no FACETIME between God and humanity. In a sense, those initial last words we hear from the cross are first: "Hey, you're forgiven." Then, "Can we talk?"

If you’ve ever heard the story of theProdigal Son in Luke 15 where the son blows the family inheritance on loose living, wild parties and then decides to come back home to Dad, before the son even can say a word, the Dad says, "Hey, you're forgiven." Now… "Can we talk?"  

 

[12]

It is important to realize that the word "confess" in the phrase from 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins…", is the Greek word homologous. This word means:"to say the same thing as." 

 

Therefore, when we confess our sins from a literal and biblical understanding of the word, we are saying the same thing about our condition that Jesus already has been saying on the cross. If we could role play this concept out in an imaginary conversation between ourselves and Jesus, a point of confession might sound something like this:

 

Jesus: "I'm on the cross because you don't know what you are doing."

Me: "Jesus, you are right. I don't even know what I am doing. I say the same thing as you are saying about my life. It's a mess. I'm a mess. I really do not know what I'm doing so much of the time."

Jesus: "I know you don't know; but you know what? You're forgiven."

 

Confession is saying the same thing about our messed-up lives and then walking into the pre-emptive forgiveness that Jesus already set in place for us to experience. The cross is a stain remover for all the sin-marked places in our lives. Calvary's cross absorbs our depravity because of the last words of Christ: "Father, forgive them."

 

We not knowing what we are doing is a FACT! It is not an excuse. However, it does have consequences that remain. We not knowing stems from trusting and acting on bad advice back in Genesis 3 when the serpent was tempting and lying to Eve in the Garden of Eden about the effects of eating the forbidden fruit. Do you remember the lie he tells Eve in Genesis 3:4-5?

 

[13]

 

"But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'" Genesis 3:4-5

 

Translation: "If you eat from that tree, Eve, you will know what you are doing."

 

However, remember what God already said just a few verses earlier in Genesis 2:17. "…for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

 

Eve bit the lie. Adam bit the lie. It goes on to say in Genesis 3 that their eyes were opened, and they saw that they were naked. And we bite into the lie and eventually, we come face to face with the cross as we have the same realization. We think we know what we are doing, but in the end, Jesus was and is right: THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING! Therefore, Father, forgive them. Father, forgive us. Father, forgive me.

 

The best thing "knowing" brings us is how utterly dependent we are on God for covering because we are so exposed and vulnerable in our sin-scribbled lives before a holy and magnificent God.

 

[14]

A great definition of forgiveness is: "Forgiveness is giving up all hope of ever having a better past."  

 

What Jesus wants us to understand from that first magnificent word from the cross is that we never-ever are going to have a better past. It is hopeless to waste time wanting such a thing.

 

However, what we can have is forgiveness and hope for a new present and better future. We can walk into the pre-emptive forgiveness that Jesus offers today. We can walk right into forgiveness knowing that we are accepted by God because of what Jesus did and said on that cross to pay the price of your sins and mine.

 

The words Jesus spoke can change our lives inside and out, just like the man Jesus healed that was before Him on the mat that day that his story of healing and forgiveness was recorded in Matthew 9.

 

His life was never the same after that encounter with Jesus and His powerful words. May our lives be changed as we encounter these words of forgiveness that He continues