I hope you know how glad I am that you chose to be here for this special service at First Church. As you know, we have been looking at the life and ministry of Jesus Christ for more than two months now. While we have only scratched the surface of what Christ did on earth, we have at least gotten a glimpse of how this great man ministered to the people He came to save. But really, everything we have seen in the life of Christ has simply been a prelude for the main event that we will look at today and next Sunday morning.
And as you know, this is not a normal service at our church. Normally at this point we would begin a sermon where we would look at a passage in the Bible, and then examine what the text means and how we can apply it to our lives today. But this morning is going to be radically different. Instead of spending the bulk of our time looking at the text, we are going to perform an amazing visual aid that has been passed down straight from Christ Himself. That’s right, this morning we are going to celebrate Communion. But before we take Communion, I want us to look at what Communion is celebrating.
When I was a student at Free Will Baptist Bible College, I had to attend chapel services four times a week. Almost every chapel service, there would be a guest preacher who would share with us from God’s word. And after going there for four years, I heard hundreds of sermons. And yet, out of the hundreds of sermons that I heard, there is one that sticks out in my mind as having been truly excellent. It was the last day before Spring break, and the break was set to begin immediately after the preacher concluded his sermon. So as you can imagine, when he stepped up to the pulpit, there was only one thing on most people’s minds. Leaving town. So immediately I felt badly for the guy, because really, he didn’t stand a chance at capturing these students’ attention. And yet, he proceeded to preach possibly the best sermon I have ever heard. And so what did this pastor preach about? He stood up, and he asked everyone to turn to Matthew chapter five, and he proceeded to read Matthew chapters five through seven. Those three chapters comprise what we now know as the Sermon on the Mount. All he did was read the Scripture. And after he finished reading, he prayed and dismissed the audience. And it donned on me that day that sometimes, I like to talk so much about the Bible, but I don’t let the Bible speak enough for itself.
And so this morning, we are going to read together the story from the book of Matthew that chronicles our Savior’s brutal trial and death. Please do not think that this is your pastor’s way of taking a day off. I prayed for quite some time about how to approach this morning’s message. And continually, my mind was drawn back to that preacher from the Bible College, and I just felt as if the Holy Spirit were saying, “Joshua, just let the Bible speak for itself.” So I ask you to turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter twenty-six, and we are going to be starting in verse forty-seven. And because the reading of Scripture is the main part of the sermon this morning, I strongly encourage everyone to have a Bible in close proximity, so that you can see first-hand what happened to our Lord. So again, Matthew twenty-six, starting in verse forty-seven.
But before we begin reading, let’s pray together.
“And while He yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed Him gave them a sign, saying, ‘Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He: hold Him fast.’ And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, ‘Hail, Master; and kissed Him.’ And Jesus said unto him, ‘Friend, wherefore art thou come?’ Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took Him. And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, ‘Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?’ In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, ‘Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take Me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on Me. But all this was done, that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples forsook Him, and fled. And they that had laid hold on Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put Him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, and said, ‘This Fellow said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.”’ And the high priest arose, and said unto Him, ‘Answerest thou nothing? What is it which these witness against Thee?’ But Jesus held His peace. And the high priest answered and said unto Him, ‘I adjure thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus saith unto him, ‘Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of Heaven.’ Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, ‘He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard His blasphemy. What think ye?’ They answered and said, ‘He is guilty of death.’ Then did they spit in His face, and buffeted Him; and others smote Him with the palms of their hands, saying, ‘Prophesy unto us, thou Christ; who is he that smote Thee?’ Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, ‘Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.’ But he denied before them all, saying, ‘I know not what thou sayest.’ And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, ‘This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.’ And again he denied with an oath, ‘I do not know the Man.’ And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, ‘Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee.’ Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, ‘I know not the man.’ And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, ‘Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice.’ And he went out, and wept bitterly. When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death: And when they had bound Him, they led Him away, and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor. Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that He was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.’ And they said, ‘What is that to us?’ See thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, ‘It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.’ And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, ‘The field of blood,’ unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of Him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.’ And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked Him, saying, ‘Art thou the King of the Jews?’ And Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou sayest.’ And when He was accused of the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto Him, ‘Hearest Thou not how many things they witness against Thee? And He answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marveled greatly. Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, ‘Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?’ For he knew that for envy they had delivered Him. When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, ‘Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him.’ But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, ‘Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?’ They said, ‘Barabbas.’ Pilate saith unto them, ‘What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, ‘Let Him be crucified.’ And the governor said, ‘Why, what evil hath He done?’ But they cried out the more, saying, ‘Let Him be crucified.’ When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just Person: see ye to it.’ Then answered all the people, and said, ‘His blood be on us, and on our children.’ Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto Him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped Him, and put on Him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head, and a reed in His right hand: and they bowed the knee before Him, and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they spit upon Him, and took the reed, and smote Him on the head. And after that they had mocked Him, they took the robe off from Him, and put His own raiment on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear His cross. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, ‘a place of a skull,’ They gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when He had tasted thereof, He would not drink. And they crucified Him, and parted His garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, ‘They parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture did they cast lots.’ And sitting down they watched Him there; and set up over His head His accusation written, ‘THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.’ Then were there two thieves crucified with Him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. And they that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads, and saying, ‘Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save Thyself.’ If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking Him, with the scribes and elders, said, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver him now, if He will have Him: for He said, “I am the Son of God.”’ The thieves also, which were crucified with Him, cast the same in His teeth. Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is to say, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, ‘This man calleth for Elias.’ And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave Him to drink. The rest said, ‘Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save Him.’ Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with Him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’ And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto Him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children. When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre. Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, ‘Sir, we remember that that Deceiver said, while He was yet alive, “After three days I will rise again.” Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night, and steal Him away, and say unto the people, “He is risen from the dead:” so the last error shall be worse than the first.’ Pilate said unto them, ‘Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.’ So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.”
And that is where we are going to stop this week. Those verses are extremely difficult for me to read. When I read over those verses, I am struck by the sheer injustice of what happened that day. But church, I want you to know, that there were two huge injustices that happened that day at Calvary. The first injustice is that Jesus Christ died a criminal’s death. He was entirely innocent. In fact, He was the only person there in that crowd that didn’t deserve to die. The Bible says that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, and yet He knew no sin. But it does not simply suffice it to say that Jesus died. It doesn’t even suffice it to say that Jesus was killed. Jesus suffered that day in a way that we will never be able to imagine. He was beaten, slapped, spit on, crowned with thorns, scourged, nailed to a cross, and then allowed to slowly suffocate over a grueling hours-long process.
But church, that was only one of the two injustices that happened that day. The second, equally great injustice is that Jesus paved the way for lowly sinners to find forgiveness with God. You see, it was you and I that deserved to be hung up on that cross. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death. I have sinned against God. By the righteous standards of the law, it is I who should have been hung up on a tree. But Jesus, in all of His mercy, volunteered to take our place. He was like an innocent lamb led to the slaughter, and He did it all so that we could go free. That, church, is a truly great injustice. And while we should all mourn that first tragic injustice that happened that day, we should be eternally joyous that the second injustice happened! I mourn that our Savior had to die, but I praise God that He paid the price so that I could go free! I will never know that pain of spiritual death, and it is not by any good works that I have done. I am only saved because Jesus Christ suffered and died. There is a popular Christian song that says, “I’m forgiven, because You were forsaken. I’m accepted, You were condemned. I’m alive and well, Your Spirit lives within me. Because You died and rose again. Amazing love, how can it be? That You, my King, should die for me. Amazing love, I know it’s true, and it’s my joy to honor You. In all I do, I honor You.” May our response to the cross be one of sheer thankfulness. And may our response to the cross be like that of the song writer and say “Amazing love, I know it’s true, and it’s my joy to honor You.”
In a moment we are going to honor our Savior by obeying His command to take Communion, but before we do that, let’s pray together.
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