AGCC Sun. a.m. 3/24/2002
#5      (The "Countdown To Calvary" Series)

(Thursday p.m. to Friday p.m.)

TEXTS:  John 19:16-30; I Pet. 4:19


The subject of suffering is not one of the more desirable topics to focus on. We will do almost anything to avoid suffering, at just about any cost. Our use of pain killers, mood altering drugs, sleeping pills, cushioned shoe supports, air conditioning, etc. give evidence at how serious we are in dealing with suffering. We see suffering as an enemy and indeed it often is. However, some experiences of suffering also produce some of the best things in life! ILLUS:Pearls are the product of pain . . . a precious, tiny jewel conceived through irritation, born of adversity, nursed by adjustments. Some oysters are never wounded . . . and those who seek for gems toss them aside, fit only for stew. -- Charles R. Swindoll (1934- ) -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 10883. The moment of birth is brought about through pain, great pain but we don't stop having children because of this, the pain is put in perspective against the wonderment and joy of a new life. This explains the cross and crucifixion of Jesus Christ also. Could Jesus have avoided the painful death yes, but then we would all be lost! Jesus did not think of Himself, He embraced suffering so we could embrace salvation. Most of the best things in life have a cost to them, sometimes a high cost. Suffering is part of life, but it is never without purpose when we belong to Christ. We are invited to share in Christ's suffering and His victory, they go together! PROP. SENT:      The Bible teaches us that suffering is a part of our life in Christ, but that God always has a purpose in allowing any kind of suffering, a purpose that will yield great fruit.

I. REJECTION!     19:16-24

A. Personal     19:16-18 1. Jesus paid a personal price for our redemption He was handed over to sinful men to be crucified though He was innocent of any wrongdoing. a. This was not an easy step for God's son! b. Jesus was willing to pay this price a time when God Himself suffered in order to give, God experienced pain personally! 2. Think of the price Jesus paid for you it had never cost God a loss or pain before to create or do anything! ILLUS:It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost him crucifixion. -- C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entries 2134-2135. a. Jesus who had all authority submits Himself to the will of others who plan His death, a very painful death. b. Jesus does not lash out or avoid this painful cross because He knows it is necessary for our salvation. c. He didn't die for Himself, He didn't need to for Himself, but we needed His death to atone for our sins! 3. Just as the price for freedom in this country was won by the blood of many sacrifices in past battles so is the freedom from our sins won in the blood of Jesus' sacrifice on Calvary! 4. When someone argues that God is unjust because He doesn't suffer like we do they are simply WRONG! God suffered at levels most of us never will! a. God is not indifferent to pain and suffering. b. He allowed His own son to suffer because something good was going to come from it, many times He allows suffering today for similar reasons. c. God did not have to suffer, He chose to. B. Public     19:19-22 1. Jesus' suffering was public and not just private. a. He was mocked and killed in a public way. b. It is interesting to note how cosmopolitan Jesus' death really was, notice in 19:20 the inscription written above His head was done in three languages, the known languages of the world at the time! c. Jesus' death was meant for all the whole world would know about His suffering for mankind and who He was, written prophetically to all! 2. Jesus' death was meant for you today too! 3. Religion in not just a "private matter" Jesus died in a public way, for the public, and His message and salvation is meant for the whole world! a. The only question is, "how are we getting the message out?" b. Is it enough that you know that you are saved and that is good enough? c. The Word of God should be made available in every language, we should go to all the world and preach the gospel. ILLUS:I argue that the cross be raised again at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. . . . that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town garbage heap; at a crossroads so cosmopolitan that they had to write his title in Hebrew and Latin and in Greek; at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where he died. And that is what he died about . . . that is where churchmen should be and what churchmen should be about. -- George MacLeod -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 2131. 4. Christ's death was not meant for just a few people, it was meant for all. C. Painful     19:23-24 1. Jesus not only faced false arrest, an unfair trial, ridicule, scourging by whips, and crucifixion He also witnessed everything He owned stripped from Him and given away by casting of lots, even His own clothes! a. His own friends had run away. b. There was little left, evidenced in one cry from the cross, "And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" -- which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mark 15:34 2. Jesus felt every kind of pain known to mankind: a. Physical b. Spiritual c. Mental 3. When we are experiencing pain of any kind we can be sure that God understands and cares, He is never indifferent to suffering! a. Suffering was allowed, it would serve a greater purpose which was not known to the disciples then, but would be discovered later. b. Often painful events in our life follow a similar track. ILLUS:I remember some years ago when I had heart surgery. Following that, it's very important to keep the lungs clear. There are three ways in which they do that: first, they have you breathe moist salt air; second, they have nurses who beat a kind of rhythm on your back, which loosens the fluids within you; and third, they have you cough. Now breathing that moist salt air is like standing on the boardwalk at Ocean City; it's very pleasant. And having a lovely nurse pound on your back very gently, rhythmically--that's very pleasant. But the coughing is another question. When your sternum has been split from the top to the bottom, when your rib cage has been pulled open, and when pain with fireshod feet is walking along every nerve of your thorax, you don't want to move your chest. But they want you to cough. So the nurse comes in and says, Now it's time for us to do our coughing. You know it's not our coughing; it's your coughing. It hurts, and you feel very cut off because no one can take away the pain. Now I am not saying my pain was like the pain Jesus knew in the Crucifixion. But I am saying if you have ever experienced real pain, it has a way of capturing you, isolating you, and separating you. There is a profound loneliness in physical pain. -- Bruce W. Thielemann, "The Cry of Mystery," Preaching Today, Tape No. 66. 4. It's just hard to accept the pain when we are in the moment of it, but we must trust God, He really does work out all things for our good to those who love Him! Rom. 8:28 a. Jesus stayed on course, as difficult as it was He looked forward and not just on the moment of pain. b. This is what faith does, it looks to the evidence of things not seen to the future when God's purposes will be fully evident. c. And it is this that keeps us steady in the midst of the pressure cooker! II. REVEALING     19:25-30; I Pet. 4:19 A. Perspective     19:25-28; I Pet. 4:19 1. The only thing left for Jesus was His own sense of mission and purpose, and His own mother's needs and one disciple a bit further away. a. Jesus realizes that it is not His own suffering that matters most, but others that matter most! b. Though in the greatest moments of suffering He turns to address the needs of others, whether the thief on the cross next to Him that believes and is promised paradise, or as here, His own mother's needs. 2. What an image here Jesus is dying, in extreme pain, and He seeks to minister to His own mother's need! a. Joseph was dead, Mary needed someone to look after her, a job that Jesus had assumed. b. With Jesus now dying He asks John to take Mary into his home to care for her which he does. c. Jesus uses the moments of evil to focus on doing good! There is a powerful lesson here about how we are to handle evil moments! ILLUS:Suffering is . . . an opportunity to experience evil and change it into good. -- Saul Bellow (1915- ) -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 10891. 3. Peter too recognized later this same principle, realizing that God allows suffering and that it should not stop our doing good. a. 1 Pet 4:19 "So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good." b. Jesus keeps His perspective even on the cross ministry is about others, not self. c. Even in these moments Jesus cannot turn away from a repentant thief on the cross, or the needs of His mother, or His need to willingly die to save mankind. 4. Jesus did not have to suffer He chose to do so for us! a. It wasn't that He wanted suffering He had prayed in Mark 14:36 "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." b. It wasn't that He wanted to suffer, but that He was willing to suffer so that good could come from evil. c. It was more important for Jesus to save us than to save Himself! ILLUS:In the December 31, 1989 Chicago Tribune, the editors printed their photos of the decade. One of them, by Michael Fryer, captured a grim fireman and paramedic carrying a fire victim away from the scene. The blaze, which happened in Chicago in December 1984, at first seemed routine. But then firefighters discovered the bodies of a mother and five children huddled in the kitchen of an apartment. Fryer said the firefighters surmised, "She could have escaped with two or three of the children but couldn't decide who to pick. She chose to wait with all of them for the firefighters to arrive. All of them died of smoke inhalation." There are times when you just don't leave those you love. -- William R. Exell, Naperville, Illinois. Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 4. 5. Don't lose perspective when suffering comes your way God will have a way to use it for His glory if we continue to minister to others rather than seek to disappear and feel sorry for ourselves. B. Power     19:29-30 1. It is interesting to note how many times in the passage it says, "so the Scripture will be fulfilled " a. The power to stay the course came from Jesus' knowledge of the Word of God, that it will stand always! b. This is available to us still! c. Jesus used a source of power to keep focus that we also have, God's Word, so we can also stay the course in the midst of suffering. 2. Jesus knew that His own death would save others, for that reason He endured everything! a. How different from the world's perspective of suffering they will preserve self at all costs! b. How different is Jesus' example from many other religions in this world, there are many religions that promote self sacrifice as the means to destroy others rather than to save others! ILLUS:Today we see suicide bombers who in the moment of taking their own life and in the name of their god will die in such a way as to kill as many infidels as possible. They will go on buses or in the marketplaces, they will use whatever means they can like airplanes driven into skyscapers in order to kill as many infidels as possible in their moment of self sacrifice. How unlike this was Jesus whose self sacrifice was done to save as many infidels as possible! -- Dennis Marquardt 3. Jesus found power in suffering, the power of love for others. a. Note that Jesus states in 19:30 "It is finished." This phrase comes from the single Greek word "tetelestai" - (TETELESTAI) (3rd person singular perfect indicative passive) which literally translates, "It has been finished." b. This word has been found by archaeologists on tax receipts of Jesus' day which when stamped with "tetelestai"- (TETELESTAI) meant "PAID IN FULL." c. Jesus was affirming that now everything was "PAID IN FULL" by His death salvation was now available through His death. d. In this sense it was not a cry of defeat, but the shout of victory, note carefully that the other Gospel accounts indicate that Jesus spoke His final words with a loud voice. e. Jesus' suffering ends in power, the power to save the lost, hence the reason for His enduring the pain and rejection! 4. Jesus then bows His head and "GAVE UP HIS SPIRIT." He was in control, He gives up His Spirit when He is ready. 5. How about you, are you going through some kind of suffering? Are you trusting God for purpose in this experience? a. Do not become bitter, God will bring good out of evil. b. If you are suffering according to God's will then continue to do good as Peter says in I Pet. 4:19. c. Remember that God understands the pain of suffering, in every way: (1. Emotional - He is rejected by enemies and friends (2. Physical - He bleeds and is torn. (3. Spiritual - He cries, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" d. God is ready to touch those who suffer and to give them power. 6. He who overcame suffering will Himself strengthen you as you trust in Him. CONCLUSION:    The cross was no accident! The beauty and power of our freedom from sin is the result of suffering - Jesus' death on the cross! Things of value usually follow sacrifice. Suffering is part of life, and it can be a positive part when viewed as a process for gain. We bear suffering to benefit others, to gain something later, etc. The real question is NOT "will I suffer?" but "what will I do when I suffer?" It will make you bitter or better, which choice will you make?