December 8, 2019
Conversations with Jesus – Luke 23
Did everybody have a great Thanksgiving? It was so late this year-that the Christmas season is off and rolling. But we had a wonderful Thanksgiving with our families-we saw Monica’s family and my family-and had a good feast-dinner plate pic. The only bummer was the long road trip! And I mentioned that a couple of weeks ago-we stopped at the Chick-fil-A/Starbucks travel plaza in NJ on our way out-that was great! On the way back we couldn’t stop there because it was Sunday-no Chick-fil-A’s are open (why am I always craving Chick-fil-A on Sundays?) But we made it back home despite the traffic and snow-we were safe and sound. And as we were leaving my mother said to me the same thing she always says to me-maybe you find yourself saying this too-but she said Drive Safely. Do you say that to people? It’s a common phrase-but I find it rather ironic because do we need to be told this? Is this something we frequently forget? I answered my mother in my typical way-Thank you Mom for that reminder! I needed that! I was going to drive so recklessly and wild-but you’ve reminded me to drive safely so I totally will! As if in the moment when I’m tempted to speed I remember-I was told to drive safely so I will maintain the proper speed limit with my hands at the 10:00 and 2:00 positions! So maybe you’ll really mean that phrase the next time you say it to someone! But we made it back safely-and as I said the Christmas season is in full swing. And one of my favorite parts of the Christmas story is the road trip a group of guys made from the east. No doubt you’ll remember these guys. Take a look at Matt 2:1-2. Now we have no idea if their mothers told drive to drive safely-don’t ride your camels too recklessly-you keep that camel at a safe speed! But these guys made it to Jerusalem traveling from Persia in the East-and whether there were just 3 wise men -we don’t know-there were only 3 gifts that were given-gold, frankincense and myrrh. That’s the only number we’re certain of. So here’s this group of Wise Men or Magi-could be 3 could be 30-but they’re showing up to do what? Back to v.2. They have journeyed all this way to worship the King. Don’t miss that fact. They arrived upon the Christmas scene and are forever identified with Christmas-yes to give gifts like we do. They were the first to ever give Christmas gifts-but more importantly they showed up to worship the King. That’s what they’ve come to do. And 2,000 years later it shouldn’t be any different for us. As we enter this Christmas season that should be our focus. That despite all the busyness of the season and all the festivities and parties and decorations-that should be at the forefront of our minds-worshipping the King.
So this morning we’re going to finish up with one last week in our current sermon series-and then use that as a transition into the season of Advent and why Jesus has come. So go ahead and open your Bibles to Luke 23. And as you’re turning there-you’re going to see a clear connection between the question of the Wise Men-and the question of someone else. His question will serve as the last Conversation with Jesus we’re going to encounter. Look at Luke 23:1-2. So there’s the statement-but before we examine it-notice those other charges they were trying to bring against Jesus-misleading our nation? One commentator I read this week said that was a curiously imprecise charge. It certainly was! What does that even mean? How or when was Jesus misleading the nation. And then when they said he was forbidding people to pay taxes to Caesar-it was quite the opposite. What did Jesus say back in chapter 20-give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God. Jesus was clearly telling people to pay their taxes. Don’t cheat the government, give them what they’re due. So these are made-up, fraudulent charges. Especially as it relates to the last one-because they’re claiming that Jesus is delusional in thinking He’s a King. In fact, they’re trying to suggest to Pilate that Jesus is some sort of revolutionary who’s a threat to Rome. That this is some guy who needs to be put away because He’s forming a political cause that directly challenges Caesar. Again-that’s not the case at all. Jesus isn’t trying to overthrow Caesar, He’s isn’t trying to gain a broad political base or set up some sort of earthly throne or palace from which He can be king. So from their perspective it’s another fraudulent charge-and yet we know that on a deeper, spiritual level it’s true-completely true. Jesus is a king-He’s the King who has been born. At the beginning of the NT the Wise Men came looking for the King to worship Him. And then at the end of the NT-we see that truth clearly revealed-Rev 19:11-16. So when Jesus returns to earth we’re going to see that He has one sweet tattoo that says King of Kings! That’s who He is. There’s no question about His identity. From heaven’s perspective Jesus is King-but here on earth Pilate is questioning it. Look at how the conversation goes-v. 2-3. Now as it regards Luke’s account this is all Jesus says in this conversation. In a quick, efficient manner he tells him-Yup, you’re right. It reminds me from years ago there was a guy at our church named John. And he was a Southerner-and during sermons when a good point was made most people give the Amen or Hallelujah or even the affirming grunt-but John would shout out-You right! It was great-to this day whenever Monica or I hear someone make a good point we say it-You right! But that’s what Jesus is saying to Pilate-You right! He’s not denying it or tying to save His skin-He’s not getting into a long theological debate or explaining what that really means. He’s simply affirming Pilate’s statement-Yes, what you’ve just said is correct. Begging the further question-what does that mean for you?
Take a look at how this conversation is further described in John 18. There’s more interaction that John records-and it’s fascinating to read-John 18:33-35. Pilate is Roman-and as we already said-to him the only issue is if Jesus’s kingship is a threat to Rome. That’s what he’s there to protect against. Is Jesus some sort of politics revolutionary? What have you been up to-is Pilate’s question. So look at Jesus’ response-v. 36. Jesus is saying that His kingdom doesn’t have it’s origins in this world, it’s not connected to this world which is in rebellion to God. He’s not here to physically fight for His kingdom and pull out swords and do battle-as kingdoms of this world do. Instead He’s here to spiritually conquer sin and death in order to save His people and create an eternal kingdom that will rule over the new heavens and new earth. So Jesus has something totally different, totally greater in mind than what Pilate can conceive of. He’s thinking earthly king and Jesus is thinking King of Kings. So he asks-v. 37a. The truth that I am the King. And this is precisely what the Wise Men identified about Jesus’ birth. He was born to be King. He was born to worshipped as King by those who know Him. Look at how this conversation concludes-v. 37b-38. There’s the question! Jesus has spoken the truth about who He is-will Pilate listen? Will you or I listen? What is truth? That question hasn’t changed 2,000 years later as we approach Christmas. So Pt1:Jesus is: Our King who demands our allegiance. That’s what it means to be King. A King isn’t much of a king if he doesn’t have the allegiance of His people. Do you recognize Jesus’ rightful reign in your life? He was born to be your King. Which means you exist to surrender to Him and serve Him. That’s what Christmas celebrates. Your King is here. Are you approaching Christmas this year ready to bow to Him in worship?
Even though Jesus is arrested and standing before Pilate on trial in this conversation, we still have to picture Him as He truly is-our King. And when someone enters the presence of a King what are they supposed to do? Honer Him, bow to Him, follow Him. If a soldier or a knight comes before the King he’s there to get his orders-what is thy bidding, your majesty? It wouldn’t go too well if that solider said-thanks for the orders, King, but I’m going to do my own thing. I’ve got some plans, some of my own stuff to do. That’s not what a soldier or loyal subject of the King says. And yet isn’t that what we say all the time to the King of Kings? Hey, Lord I’m doing my own thing-I know what I want so don’t stop me or get in my way. In fact, even more than that-we don’t just go our own way-but end up serving the wrong kingdom when we sin. Every time we choose to disobey the Lord and disregard His orders we’re serving the kingdom of this world. Look at Eph 2:1-2. When we sin we’re turning to our desires and temptations that run counter to Jesus and we’re making them our master instead of Him. We’re living in bondage and slavery to sin instead of being loyal subjects to our King. We’re not just doing our own thing-but being revolutionaries to His reign over us. Back to Pt1. And yet as sinners that’s the thing we’ve failed to do! But that is precisely why He’s here! It’s precisely why Jesus was born-to save some ragtag revolutionaries like us!
Look at how this plays out-v. 3-5. And again-that’s another curiously imprecise charge! It’s actually a true statement-Jesus has been stirring people up by His teaching-but not in the way they’re suggesting-as if Jesus is stirring the people up to rebel against Caesar-rather He’s stirring the people up to understand the gospel and be transformed by His grace. But the religious leaders don’t see that-they want Jesus put to death. But what does Pilate see? His innocence-I find no guilt in this man. There’s not an ounce of wrongdoing here! What you’re telling doesn’t add up or fit. And so the trial should have ended right there. Pilate should have said-we’re done, this is over. Jesus is innocent of the charges you’re claiming against Him. But Pilate doesn’t do that. He doesn’t put a stop to the trial-and do the right thing. Instead he passes the buck to someone else-in this case to Herod by sending Jesus to him. And let me just pause here and say that Pilate captures the heart of what it says in James 4:17. Pilate knew the right thing to do. Jesus was completely innocent, these were all false, made up charges against Him. Pilate should have stood up to these religious leaders and said no. He should have used his authority to do the right thing and set Jesus free. But he didn’t. He waffled (what a great word!) He wavered, he struggled-and we ask the question why. Why wouldn’t he set Jesus free? Why wouldn’t he do the right thing? And I like what Warren Wiersbe-a former pastor says-Pilate wanted to be popular and not right; he was more concerned about his reputation than he was about his character. And how often are we the same way? How often are we far more interested in being popular than right? Our reputation over our character? How often will we listen to the crowd and be swayed by what they say instead of doing what we know we should do. Back to James 4:17. That’s exactly the place Pilate is at-and what a challenge for us. It could be something big like this-something you need to stand up for at work or a right decision you need to make when everyone around is saying otherwise. Or it could be something small that you need to deal with at home or in your life. But when you know the right thing to do, you need to do it. To tell yourself my character is more important than my reputation, my desire to do what’s right and follow God is more important than my popularity. But that was Pilate’s struggle-just like it’s often ours.
Look what happens when Herod sends Jesus back-v. 13-14. This is now the second time he’s declared Jesus’ innocence. And listen to his confirmation-v. 15-16. And that’s not good! Why even punish Jesus if He hasn’t done anything wrong! But again this should have been the end of it. Pilate should have stuck to his word and done what he knew was right. He’s declaring it so clearly to the people-just follow through. But look at how easily he’s swayed-v. 18-19-and we’ll come back to Barabbas momentarily-but it makes no sense to release him instead of Jesus-v. 20-22. Three times Pilate has clearly declared Jesus’ innocence. Three times he’s said that Jesus isn’t guilty and needs to be released. In fact, look at the really convicting statement he hears-this is such an important detail from Matt 27:19. Does it get any clearer than that? Every husband sitting here needs to be challenged by that verse! When your wife has a godly dream-you should go with it! Heed her words-don’t brush it off (I go with all of Monica’s dreams!). Not only is Pilate’s wife saying that Jesus is innocent-but in her dream she’s declared Him to be a righteous man-and that’s the point this is all driving towards. Pt2:Jesus is: Our Righteousness who lived the perfect life we never did. Not only has Jesus not done anything deserving of death or crucifixion-but His innocence, His righteousness flows down to every part of His life. These verses are pointing out to us the crucial theological truth of the blamelessness, the sinlessness, the purity and perfection of Jesus. He was the only person who ever lived a sinless life and never did anything wrong. No lying, no stealing, no disobeying his parents or getting in trouble in school. He never let his anger get out of control, He never gave in to lust or looked at a girl in the wrong way or tried to get revenge on someone. If Jesus would have had a car-this means no speeding ever! He would have driven the speed limit! No wrongdoing at all! Because we are sinners-it’s hard for us to truly grasp what a sinless life would be like. It’s hard to get our heads around it. It’s so foreign to us it almost seems impossible because we’re anything but innocent-we’re the guilty ones who should have been punished. And that’s why this trial is so essential because this is what our King has come to do. Look at Heb 7:26-27. That’s what Jesus is doing. He’s offering up Himself. Look at 1 Pet 3:18. That’s what’s taking place here in Luke. The Righteous One is being condemned for the unrighteous ones-you and me. Pilate is allowing this innocent, righteous man to be condemned to death. And so one of my favorite verses describing this is 2 Cor 5:21. There’s the great exchange that takes place in the gospel. Being righteous is the entry price into heaven if you want to think of it that way. However, it’s the one thing we don’t have. We don’t have our ticket stamped with righteousness. None of us are righteous-far from it. So God takes Jesus’ perfect righteousness and applies it to our account, to our lives when we trust in Him. By putting your faith in Jesus you are credited with His righteousness. It gets stamped on your ticket. You’re justified and made right in God’s sight. That’s what righteousness is-because of Jesus, God now says to you-You right! He looks at you and treats you on the basis of Jesus’ righteousness, not on the lack of yours. And that’s because at the same time you receive Jesus’ righteousness, He then bears your sins upon Himself at the cross so they can be forgiven and forever put away. Jesus takes your sin and you receive His righteousness-it’s the great exchange-2 Cor 5:21. And nowhere is that exchange more vividly pictured than here.
Look at how this scene finishes-v. 23-24. Pilate knew the right thing to do-and didn’t do it. He let their urgency, their voices prevail. Their desire for injustice-for having this innocent man crucified-won the day. He gave them what they wanted even though it was wrong. Might that not be true of us. That when we know the right thing to do-other voices don’t prevail and stop us from doing it; that we don’t let the demands of others dictate us and keep us from following God. Pilate had his opportunity and wasted it-and yet this is where God can take the injustice and wrongdoing of man and still accomplish good. I think of what Joseph said at the end of the book of Genesis-after he was reunited with his brothers who threw him in the pit and sold him to slavetraders-Gen 50:20. And that is perfectly fulfilled here. What people meant for evil-the crowds shouted to crucify Jesus, Pilate caved in and let it happen. A great injustice was done as our innocent, sinless King was sentenced to death-and yet God used that horrible injustice for good-for the saving of many lives-for our salvation! Because look at the next verse-v. 25. The murderous rebel goes free because Jesus was was sent to the cross. That is such a profound picture-these 2 men couldn’t be more opposite. One totally guilty beyond a shadow of doubt-and one completely innocent beyond a shadow of doubt.
Earlier I said that it makes no sense for Jesus to be crucified and this guy released-no sense at all! Who in Jerusalem would feel comfortable about this idea? Give us that murdering Barabbas-I think our streets will be safer with him walking around-but get rid of that Jesus who loved people and healed people! Makes no sense-but it does make sense in light of the gospel-because this is what the gospel is-the guilty are released and forgiven of their crimes because the innocent one bore the punishment of their behalf. This verse is a beautiful snapshot, a glorious glimpse of the gospel-because in God’s sight we are no different from Barrabas. He was a rebellious insurrectionist to the government-wanting to overthrow the government, we were rebellious insurrectionists to God-wanting to overthrow His rule in our lives! We were just as guilty as Barabbas was-and because of Jesus we are now pardoned like he was. Just as Barabbas walked home that day with a whole new lease on life, no longer imprisoned but set free-we too are no longer imprisoned by our sin but forgiven and free. Can you imagine what went through his mind that day as he’s strolling through town-So because of this Jesus who took my place to be punished, I’m free to go? I’m no longer facing a death sentence for my terrible crimes because this Jesus-who I don’t think did anything-is facing this death sentence for me, the death I deserved. How does that work? I’m alive and free because He was arrested and put to death. And some point those thoughts had to go through Barabbas’ mind. He is one of the first guys to ever see the depth of the gospel, the depth of its grace face to face. Now whether he turned to Jesus and was saved-we have no idea-but his life was profoundly affected by Jesus. And it’s no different with us. That’s Pt3:Jesus is: Our Substitute who gave up His life for rebels like us. It’s an amazing and remarkable truth! What man intended for evil-the guilty guy is set free because the innocent is punished, God used for good. For ultimate good!
And I want you to notice something very important-how did the verse end-v. 25. This was the will of the people! Crucify Him! Put Him to death! The people got what they wanted. They thought they stopped Jesus, they thought they’d won. That was the end of Jesus. Their will prevailed. Or was it their will? Flip back a page or so in your Bibles to Luke 22. Just before Jesus is arrested, He goes into the Garden with His disciples to pray-and look at what He says-v. 41-42. Jesus was praying for God’s will to be accomplished-for the Father’s plans to take place. This wasn’t the people getting their way and God having to scramble to come up with a plan B. This was always the plan. This was always God’s will-for Jesus to be obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Circumstances didn’t spiral out of control at Jesus’ trial-God’s sovereign will was being accomplished so that you and I, and all who believe in Jesus-could be saved. Look at one last verse-Isa 53:10 NIV. It was God’s will for Jesus to suffer and die on a cross. And Jesus prayed that if there was any other way-let it be-but in the end He submitted to the Father’s will-because He knew the Father’s will was best. Jesus would see His offspring-meaning you and me-because we would be saved, our lives are made new, we can prosper for all of eternity because of the Father’s will to crush His Son instead of us. Back to Pt3.
I like what Paul Tripp says in his Christmas devotional-Tripp, 17. That’s what our King has come to do. That’s what His arrival at Christmas celebrates. I like what he says afterwards-pg. 17.
And that’s because it’s not something to just read about and know-it’s something to experience! How will you experience the wonder of your King’s birth this Christmas? It’s early in the holiday season-you still have time. And I’m sure you’ve already begun to make time or make plans for all the Christmasy stuff-the shopping, decorating, when are you going to get your tree up, when are you going to your holiday work party, who’s coming over for Christmas, what are you making for dinner. But what about time for worshipping your King? When will that occur? What about bowing before the One who by His grace has taken your punishment, has given you His righteousness, has become your substitute so you could be set free and live with Him forever? Has your heart worshipped Jesus? Will you worship Him this year-or by Jan 2 when the holidays are over you realize it was a whirlwind of activities and you hardly gave any thought to what it was all about. Don’t let that happen! We started the message this morning with the words of the Wise Men-We’ve traveled a long way and followed the star-where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have come to worship Him! That request shouldn’t be any different for you and I this December 2019. The Christmas season is here-so let that be request be the longing of our hearts-we have come to worship Him, our King! I love the words from the hymn we sang this morning-O Worship the King, all glorious above, And gratefully sing His power and His love, Our shield and defender, the Ancient of Day, Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise. O tell of His might, O sing of His grace… You alone are the matchless King, To you alone be all majesty. Not only do we have a King who’s come for us-we have a matchless King! Let those 2 words sink deep in your soul-our matchless King!