台北希望教会 柯牧师 4/1/2012
We are now one week away from Easter Sunday, and in our passage this morning our Savior has died and will be buried.
Preparing for this message was particularly challenging for me, as this is the first time I will preach a passage in which our Savior is dead the entire time.
It is Friday afternoon, and the Son of God has accomplished all and fulfilled all.
He declared that it was finished, and he committed his spirit to the Father.
Now he hangs on dead on the cross, and the two thieves beside him are dying.
But at this moment, even when it seems all has been lost, victory has been won.
Even in the midst of such sorrow and agony, the effects of Christ's death had striking victorious effects.
Matthew tells us (27:51-52) that when Jesus died the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook, and rocks were split, and tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
There was something about Jesus even in his suffering on the cross that converted one of the two thieves.
He said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom!”
And Jesus answered, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
And there was something about the way that Jesus breathed his last that caused one of the Roman Centurions to praise God and confess, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”
A criminal was changed.
A Roman soldier was changed.
And now in our passage two powerful but previously cowardly Jewish men will be changed by the way that Jesus died.
But what I want to address now, is what impact should a dead Savior hanging on a cross and then being buried have on you today?
The main thing I want to accomplish this morning of course is to explain and apply this passage with the purpose in mind that John intended – namely, to increase our faith.
He says this expressly in vs. 35: “these things are written so that you also might believe.”
But how could this dire situation strengthen our faith?
That's the main thing I want us to consider.
And secondly, I want us to consider, what relevance does Christ's burial have for us as his disciples?
And hopefully, this will instruct us not only how to die well, but how to live rightly.
When Jesus was still alive it seemed there was nothing he could not do – he cured the lepers, healed the blind, raised the dead, commanded the wind and the waves, cast out demons, forgave sins and fulfilled prophecy.
But now his body hangs lifeless and powerless on the cross.
Now we know that Easter Sunday is coming, but the disciples do not understand that the resurrection is just around the corner.
Death has taken their master from them, and their hope as well. Has all been lost?
But even before Easter, in fact, as soon as the spirit of Jesus is given into the Father's hands, God demonstrates that he remains sovereign.
He is still in control.
Satan and those who follow him have not won.
By God's providence, everything that happens will happen just according to prophecy.
See, it is Friday, the day before the Sabbath.
And it is not just any Sabbath, but a special Sabbath.
Tomorrow is the Sabbath for the Passover feast, when they remember that the firstborn sons ofEgypt died, but the firstborn sons of Israel were saved because a special unblemished lamb was slain at twilight in their place.
God said, “when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you” (Ex. 12:13).
But it was never possible for the blood of animals to take away sin.
Those lambs that died so many years earlier were just a picture and a promise of the true Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.
And that is the Lamb Jesus Christ, who has now died outside the city, in the same area that Isaac was spared and at the same time that the preparation for the Passover is occurring.
Because it is such a special day tomorrow, the Jews request that the legs of the crucified may be broken so that they would quickly die and be taken down.
This was not common practice for the Romans – often times in took days for crucified people to die, and even after that the Romans would often leave the dead bodies up there for more days to rot in the sun and be consumed by birds.
But God will even use those who delivered up his Son to death to bring about prophecy.
Because tomorrow is a special day, the two thieves will die this day, fulfilling what Jesus said to the believing thief in Luke (23:43), “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
So the legs of the robbers are broken, and consequently they soon die.
But Jesus is already dead, so there is no reason to break his legs.
Instead, perhaps to make sure that Jesus was truly dead, the soldier pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.
All of these things, even when Jesus hangs lifeless, occur in fulfillment of Scripture.
That's what John explicitly says in verse 36 - “These things came to pass, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”
What Scripture is that?
Psalm 34 is a psalm of David about God's deliverance of the righteous man.
In verse 19-20 of that psalm he rejoices, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all of his bones; not one of them is broken.”
No doubt John remembers this psalm, but there is another passage too – all the way back in Exodus 12:46: “It is to be eaten in a single house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones.”
About what is God saying that the Israelites may not break its bones in that passage?
It was written about the Passover lamb that was to be slain for their salvation.
And no doubt, on this special day, John remembers this too.
What does this tell us?
That Jesus was a righteous man, he was without blemish as a sacrifice, and even after he passed away God saw to it that it would remain clear that Jesus is the Passover Lamb, and that “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7).
就是耶稣是个义人，祂是毫无瑕疵的祭牲, 并在祂死后，神也确保人们会清楚地明白耶稣就是那逾越节的羔羊： “我们逾越节的羔羊基督已经被杀献祭了。”（哥林多前书5:7）
And what does that mean?
It means that those for whom he was slain are now saved.
And we must come to Christ to be sprinkled with his blood.
It wasn't just a lamb, it was blood of the Lamb of God, the first born Son of God that took away the sin of the world.
See Jesus didn't just die – he was sacrificed for sinners as the Passover Lamb.
And what happens even after his death testifies to that.
So when we see this, when we remember this, we must remember that Christ died to cover us, and we must seek our salvation in his blood.
Does this not increase your faith?
And this happened in such a way that Jesus was not broken, but pierced, which is in fulfillment of another Scripture – Zechariah 12:10.
But let me go back a couple chapters so we see the context.
In Zech. 9:9 it says, “Behold, your king is coming to you; he is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey.”
That happened a week ago, when Jesus entered Jerusalem.
Zech. 11:13 says, “Then the Lord said to me, 'throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.' So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the Lord.”
That happened last night and this morning, when Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, which he threw back to the priests in the temple, who then used it to buy the Potter's field.
And now in Zech. 12:10 God says, “...they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son.”
That happens at this moment.
Only five verses later, Zechariah (13:1) writes, “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.”
And that may happen at this moment too.
It's hard to say exactly the significance of the water and the blood that flows from Jesus' side - obviously it shows that Jesus was truly human and truly dead - but I think John must remember as he writes this (Heb. 9:19-20) that Moses so long ago sprinkled the people with blood and water and said, “This is the blood of the covenant.”
And Jesus just last night had held up the cup and said, “this cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk. 22:20).
And all the other times he speaks in this book that Jesus gives us his blood and living water so that we may be forgiven and have eternal life.
This is a fountain that was opened up that day, for sin and impurity.
That's what we sing about when we sing “Rock of Ages, cleft for me” and “There is a fountain filled with blood.”
And all these things would strengthen John's faith when he writes this, it strengthened doubting Thomas' faith when he put his hand in that hole in Christ's side a week and a half later, and cried out, “My Lord and My God!”
Do not all these things strengthen your faith too?
And after these things two men were emboldened to serve Jesus as well – Joseph or Arimathea and Nicodemus.
Our passage here shows us that Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus because he feared the Jews, and we know Nicodemus was fearful too – that's why John always mentions that he came to Jesus by night.
But now something changes in them.
Joseph, a member of the Sanhedrin and a rich man with much to lose, boldly goes to Pilate to requests Jesus' body.
Nicodemus, an esteemed teacher of Israel, will purchase a great amount of spices to give Jesus an honorable burial.
They will risk their reputation, they will spend considerable wealth, and they will touch a dead body before Passover to honor him.
Joseph will give up his own tomb to bury the Lord, a nearby, new garden tomb in which no one had been laid.
And that, in God's providence, would give them greater assurance that it was Jesus who was raised.
And so Isaiah 53:9 was fulfilled as well, “His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in his death, because he had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in his mouth.”
Thus it is all fulfilled.
And while Christ's spirit is in his Father's hands in paradise, God still demonstrates his care for His dear Son's lifeless body, and provides for him and keeps it from undergoing decay.
If God will care for Christ's lifeless body so richly, I hope you will remember, brothers and sisters, that God will care for the living, mystical body of Christ too?
By that I mean you, the church – you are his body here on earth even while our Savior is in heaven.
You belong to Jesus Christ.
And God loves him so much.
He loves you too, and he will care for you while you live, he will watch over your bodies after you die, and he will raise you again one day.
Not even death will be able to separate you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And brothers and sisters, I hope that comforts you and builds your faith up too.
And so, you who are so dearly loved by God, I want to also remind you and admonish you this morning to consider what it means that we were crucified with Christ, and that we were buried with him.
For Paul, it meant that where Jesus is, there our hearts must be also.
对保罗来说, 耶稣在哪里, 我们的心就该在那里。
Christ has died to this world, he has been buried.
This present world, the empty promises it offers you, the sin that so easily entangles us – it is to be, as it were, dead and buried in the ground for us.
How could our hope for life and happiness be in this present age when our Leader is in the coming age?
How could we cling to earth as our lasting home when our Father home is in heaven?
How could we continue to live in sin if we have died to it?
I don't have all the time this morning to explain that much more, but I urge you to reflect on it today – what does it mean for your goals and hopes and really, where your treasure and heart is, if our Lord's break with this present evil age has already occurred?
Are we not also then to keep seeking the things above, where Christ is?
Are we not also to consider that our citizenship is in heaven, and that here we have no lasting city?
Are we not to live holy lives, knowing that we belong to a holy, heavenly family?
Are we not to run this race with endurance, and fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith?
Christ is our life; to live is Christ, to die is gain.
If then we have been buried with him, we must consider that our fundamental break with this world has already occurred.
The empty hope it holds out for others is not for you.
It is all lost and buried so that you may gain Christ, and to know that surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.
Christ Jesus was buried.
And how then can we consider the grave so bad anymore?
Where is its sting?
Where is its victory?
It has been defeated.
Jesus was there, wrapped up in pleasant spices in a garden.
And by his presence he has transformed every Christian grave into a perfumed garden bed.
From now on rarely will the Bible say that believers die, but that they fall asleep in the Lord, because it is just for a short while.
The spirit of every brother and sister we've lost is in God's hands in Paradise, and their bodies are under his watchful, merciful, sovereign care.
Though their perishable bodies are buried like seeds, they will again spring up to imperishable life, when the voice of the Son of God calls us and wakes us up again from our slumber – as one great preacher has said, when we meet our Savior in the early dawn of that eternal Sabbath that awaits all the people of God.