The Cross: a Study in Contrast

Gospel of John #50: an exposition of John 19:17-30. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, February 5, 2012.

Have you ever been shocked or surprised by the unexpected?  One of those times when something came out of nowhere and slapped you in the face?  You stagger back and think, “where did that come from?”  Or maybe someone said something you never thought you would hear them say.  You know, like you heard a politician tell the truth!  Or even more unexpected, you saw a preacher perform manual labor!  From time to time we have all been surprised.  Sometimes it is a pleasant surprise.  At other times it is a devastating surprise.

When I read the Gospels, I’m often surprised by what I see and hear.  Sometimes I see the response of Jesus and it shocks me – usually because it is so unlike they way I would have responded.  At other times I hear the words of Jesus and I think, “that can’t be right.  I must not have heard that right.  The Lord couldn’t possibly expect me to do that.”  Without a doubt the most shocking portion of scripture to me is the account of the arrest and the crucifixion of our Lord.  To see Him abandoned.  To see the injustice.  To hear the lies.  To hear the bloodthirsty mob and to see the cowardice of Pilate – I want to cry out, “No!  This can’t be.  This can’t happen.”  Yet the majestic bearing of our Lord is evidence enough that He is in complete control.  The sovereign hand of the invisible God is guiding all things to a predetermined end.  Each participant is acting according to his own choice yet playing the role determined by the Divine Author.

I want to encourage you to keep all of this in mind as we explore John’s account of the crucifixion.  Our text this morning is found in John chapter 19.

Text: John 19:17-30

We have been treading on holy ground for the last few weeks as we have moved closer and closer to the cross.

This morning we step behind the veil in to the holy of holies or the most holy place.

This is the pivotal moment in all of history.

This is why the Lord Jesus left the glory of heaven to become a man.  This is the reason for the incarnation.  This is the “hour” that Jesus kept referring to throughout His ministry.  This is the revelation of those Old Testament prophecies.  This is the reality behind the symbols of bloody sacrifice and the various offerings.  Jesus, the great high priest is about to enter in behind the veil in that tabernacle not made with hands, into the very presence of God to offer that once and for all sacrifice for the sins of man.  Redemption’s payment is being made.  Salvation is being secured.  The cross of Jesus is not a tragedy, it is a triumph!

As I read John’s account, there is something that stands out in my mind.

It is something that John has done throughout his Gospel.

John has used contrast as a literary tool.  Light and darkness, spirit and flesh have been reoccurring themes.  And there are several contrasts in his account of the cross.  That is what I would like to focus on this morning.

I want to encourage you to look closely at the cast of characters surrounding this story.  Again, you’ve heard it so often that it is difficult to see it with new eyes or hear it we fresh ears – but try to this morning.  Experience the cross this morning as we explore our text.

There are three contrasts that I want to note.

  1. Note the contrast between the blindness of the religious establishment and the orthodox confession of Pilate.  (John 19:17-22)
  2. Note as well, the contrast between the indifference of the Roman soldiers and the loving concern of the crucified.  (John 19:23-27)
  3. Finally, note the contrast between death’s arrival and our Lord’s shout of victory.  (John 19:28-30)

We’ve been talking about contrasts.  Seeing and hearing the unexpected.  That’s what is unique about the Gospel.  It is not what you might expect.  The Gospel is the “good news” of how an absolutely pure and holy God reaches out to rescue dirty, sinful, stubborn folks like you and like me.

It’s not about what you do – it’s about what He did.
It’s not about your getting your act together – it’s about your declaring spiritual bankruptcy.
It’s about justification by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, for the glory of God alone!

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