33. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
34. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
35. And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.
36. And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,
37. And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.
38. And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
39. And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
40. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
41. And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
42. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
43. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
44. And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
45. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.
46. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
47. Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.
48. And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.
49. And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.
I want to talk to you about some of the voices at Calvary. It is amazing to us when we understand that the pressures of heal and the world, of Satan and the pressures of the world, stayed on Jesus even to the cross itself. The pressures kept mounting higher and higher as He came into Jerusalem this last time. We have looked at some of those occasions and we have looked at the resistance. In the first part of this chapter is the story of His trial before Pilate and before King Herod, and the clamoring of the people to see that He is condemned. Is is a clamor of noise, of voices that want Jesus to be condemned. They keep pushing and pushing and pushing and crying out to Pilate and Herod so that these two arch enemies, Governor Pilate and King Herod, became good friends, we are told, from that time on because they gave honor to each other in this business of the trial of Jesus.
It appeared that Pilate could find no fault in Jesus, but he heard the voices. He heard the voices and the clamor of the people who are saying crucify Him. And when they accused him and said you are not Caesar’s friend if you let this man go, then for the sake of his position and for the sake of pleasing the crowds, then he suffered Jesus to be arrested, beaten and crucified. As the mob, usually led by the Chief Priests, you can see in verse 23, the voices of them and of the Chief Priests prevailed. These voices prevailed to cause Jesus to be crucified. They came and compelled one Simon, a Cyrenian, to carry His cross up to Golgotha’s mountain. There Jesus was to be crucified. On His way, He heard the voices of the women weeping because of what was taking place, the evil that was abounding, the political power that seemed to override anything. Sometimes we can see people and sometimes we ourselves are totally frustrated as we see what happens in the political realm and the failure of justice to come to certain people in particular. People who have the most money and can pay the biggest bribes sometimes come clear and can be proven before a judge not to be guilty or they can go free. But Jesus said to the women Don’t weep for Me, but you weep for yourselves because of the sorrow and the judgment that is coming upon this place.
So bringing Him to the cross were voices filled with hate and filled with determination to see Him die and get Him out of the way. The Jewish leaders had said if we don’t get Him out of the way, the Romans are going to come and destroy our city and our place and we will lose everything. The fact remains that everything they hoped to gain by crucifying Jesus, the lost because they did crucify Him.
I want us to look at some other voices and zero in on them tonight and hear some special voices that speak out at the cross at Calvary.
First of all, let’s look at the voice of Jesus. We will hear His voice twice. But first of all, when Jesus’ voice speaks out, it is one of interceding because He is praying and He says, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’ Let me just say to you, whether it is the Lord Jesus Christ or a child of God anywhere in this world now, who lifts his voice to intercede in behalf of the enemies of God, in behalf of the lost, in behalf of sinners, that interceding voice that prays and looks to the throne of God brings great mercy and great love because our God is a God of mercy. He is a God of holiness, but He is a God of mercy and forgiveness. Here is Jesus, by the very people who have condemned Him, He is interceding that they might be delivered and changed and forgiven and brought to the knowledge of the love of God. If they could not see it through Him, that some way the Father would have mercy and would forgive.
It’s strange to me and I think it is unusual, and I find this extremely difficult to understand and I think I would find it extremely difficult to try to practice it, and that is to do serious intercessory prayer for an enemy, for somebody that is against you and you keep praying ‘Oh God, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t understand fully.’ I would sort of have a kindred spirit to the psalmist David because about a third of the great psalms among all the hymns and the songs of trust and all the thanksgiving psalms and royal psalms and all the different ones that have praise and worship God, about a third of all the psalms, probably about 50-something, are laments. He is lamenting the fact that some enemy is trying to beat up on him and he is wanting God to handle them and take care of them and bring judgment upon them and vindicate himself and vindicate his cause. I guess that is the kind of praying that some of us may do at some times in our lives. I know I have prayed like that a little bit. I don’t think I got quite to the extreme as David did on one occasion when he prayed about one of his enemies and he wanted God to just strike him and break his jawbone. You know, that’s pretty good if God brings judgment and calamity on your enemy and you can nod your head and say ‘Yes, see there, God is taking up for me and He is vindicating my cause.’ It seems like that would be an interesting prayer to get answered. I don’t know if I have ever prayed one that severe! I might have wished it, but I don’t think I’ve ever prayed it!
When enemies are pressing against Him, from the heart of Jesus comes this great compassion and He understands the evil and wickedness in the hearts of the people who are enemies against God. He still prays for their forgiveness. Again, we hear the voices of the people deriding Him. It is one thing that voices are interceding to God, but it is another thing when voices are deriding. They say ‘He saved others, but Himself He cannot save. Let Him save Himself. Let Him prove and show His power if He is the Christ, if He is the chosen one of God.’
In Matthew we have these same voices crying out ‘He saved others, Himself He could not save.’ They are deriding and mocking and trying to discomfort Him as much as possible. The fact is, if Jesus is to do the will of the Father, He really cannot save Himself. We know that He said ‘I could call ten thousands of angels.’ He could have beckoned and could have overthrown all the powers that stood against Him, but it wasn’t the time. It was the time for the redemption of the whole world. Jesus would not surrender to the desires that He had that that cup of suffering and sorrow on the cross pass from Him. He had settled that long ago in the garden, some hours before. He couldn’t save Himself. He couldn’t save Himself from sin because there on Calvary the sins of the whole world were heaped upon Him and He bore our sins in His body on the cross. When the Father looked at Him with the sins of the whole world, He turned away His head and Jesus would say ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ It gives us some idea of what it must be like to die with sin in your life: forsaken of the Father, darkness coming, and the Father turning away His face. Jesus died to taste what it is like to die a sinner; to feel the sting of death, and to feel the judgment of God poured out upon Him because He had the sins of the world. Jesus couldn’t save Himself from suffering. He saved a lot of other people from suffering. He healed a lot of others. He brought gracious love and healing for the whole world, but He couldn’t deny Himself the suffering. He yielded to the cross and to the nails, the spear, the beatings, and the crown of thorns. He couldn’t even save Himself from sorrow. Isaiah would sing a great song of hymn and say ‘He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. We saw Him. We did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God.’ He couldn’t save Himself from suffering and sorrow.
Also, He couldn’t save Himself from death. It was necessary for Him to die and taste death for every man and take away its sting. I have stood by the bedside of people who went on to glory in their times of death. I have held some of their hands and felt the quivering as the breath left and the body began to quiver and the grip was tightened. I held it as they went on in peace and in joy and some of them looking beyond and seeing the beauties and the faces of loved ones already coming to see them and some even seeing Jesus. I want you to know because He tasted death you and I need not have any fear whatsoever. I used to preach that and so glibly roll it off my tongue, but after you pass 65 you start thinking a whole more about death and what it means. And so you preach this kind of sermon with a lot more sincerity, the idea of being unafraid when you come to cross over. Aren’t you glad He went before us and took away the very fear.
They said ‘Save yourself.’ That is the popular notion of people of this world: Look out for yourself! And if you’ve got the power, use it for yourself. Don’t waste your power and influence on somebody else and their desires and their needs. But be sure you look out for yourself first of all.
Not so with Jesus. There was the voice of Jesus interceding. There was the voice of the people and the High Priest deriding Him. Here are the voices of the soldiers mocking Him. They said ‘If you are a king, save yourself.’ They’ve heard a lot of talk about this man being the king of the Jews. Somebody is going to come and put a sign up in three different languages saying that Jesus Christ is King of the Jews. Here they are representing the King in Rome and they think ‘Ah, this man who people call Him a king. Where is His kingdom? Where are His followers? Where are all these people who will come and cause a political revolt and overthrow Rome and overthrow us? If you are a king, why don’t You save Yourself? Do some great miracle?’ It is that kind of attitude that we hear in the soldiers’ voices.
One of the things that they did when Jesus said ‘I thirst,’ they came to Him with vinegar and pressed it to His mouth as to try to quench His thirst with a bitter, stinging acid. I remember preaching a message years ago about the acids of life that Jesus had to undergo, the bitterness of betrayal, and the bitterness of denial, and even in His death He was offered something that was sour and bitter, a stinging acid to try to quench His thirst. Where His mouth was bruised and bleeding and lips were split and bleeding, they pressed a sponge of vinegar, stinging acid, to His mouth so that Jesus, in much of His lifetime seldom received the pleasant and the sweet. But all the time He received the acids of this life. That’s what the soldiers do in their voices as they mock Him about being a king.
Then there were two malefactors hanging one on each side and we listen to their voices just for a moment. One of them is a railing voice. He railed on Him and said ‘If Thou be the Christ, save Thyself and us.’ This criminal, this thief on the cross is ready to get himself involved in the delivering power of Christ. He wants to be remembered so he said ‘If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.’ Here he railed on Him in that bitterness and that agony of doubt and unbelief as He is suffering and He is dying. But we focus our attention on the other malefactor, the other thief. He is a praying voice. I don’t know where he heard much gospel. He may not even have heard hardly any gospel at all before He came to that trial and came to the cross. But he heard these people talking about a king and he heard these people talk about the Son of God and he heard these people mocking Him and scoffing Him about all these things. Somehow, evidently he began to believe that surely this must be the Son of God. This must be the Messiah. This must be a King. And he said ‘Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom.’ I don’t know where he picked up enough faith. I don’t know where he heard enough gospel, but he had enough because that is about all you need if you are away from God is to acknowledge Him first of all as Lord and Savior. When a man says ‘Lord’ to Jesus he is about saved already. When he, like Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, said ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’ He said ‘I am Jesus whom thou persecuteth.’ Then he said ‘Lord, what would you have me to do?’ He is on his way! When a person can reach out and believe on Christ and embrace Him as Lord and Savior, he has faith rising up in his life that will touch the very heart of God. So, he said ‘Lord, remember me.’
There are so many of us who can’t remember much of anything unless we put it down and then we forget to look in the book where we put it down, and sometimes we forget where the book is, or where the paper is. How wonderful that Jesus never forgets. He remembers. The man said ‘Just remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.’
And then I hear the voice of Jesus for this time. It is a voice of forgiveness, assuring a thief, a forgiving voice when He says ‘This day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.’ That is the voice I want to hear. His voice speaking with forgiving love and with grand assurance the voice that comes and speaks peace to you in the midnight hour when you roll and toss and cannot sleep too well and you just simply finally turn it over to Christ and He speaks peace to your heart.
Then we hear His voice the last time in our passage. It is a trusting voice that looks once again to the Father and says ‘Father into Thy hands I commend my spirit.’ Trusting all in the hands of the Father. I think that somehow if we could have that spirit and the spirit of Stephen, that’s what he did, he prayed like Jesus ‘Father, forgive them.’ And then he prayed ‘I see Jesus.’ He said ‘…into Thy hands I commend my spirit.’ To be able to face the end with such faith and trust as to commend everything including the real self, the spirit, into the hands of our Father.
Voices at Calvary that teach us this great lesson, that in the midst of clamor, in the midst of agitation, in the midst of doubt and unbelief, in the midst of deriding and scoffing voices, in the midst of all this, Jesus Christ does His greatest work for the whole world. He dies and sheds His blood. It lets me know that in the midst of turmoil, in the midst of a thousand voices that clamor for your attention, you can do your greatest work for God and His Church. Hallelujah! You don’t have to be distracted or turned aside, but you can do His will and do it with joy and power.
Find more sermons by