************ Sermon on Luke 23:44-45a ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 21, 2000
"I Have Bought You Back"
Good Friday 2000
Today is Good Friday. Do you know what God did on that first Good Friday some 2000 years ago? Do you know the price God paid on the place called the Skull (Lk 23:33) when He had His Son, His one and only Son, crucified? This past week I read a story which drove home to me the cost of Calvary.
Topic: BelongingOn Good Friday, God says to man, "I made you, but I lost you. Now at great sacrifice I have bought you back. That makes you twice mine, and twice mine is mine forever."
Subtopic: To Christ
Title: Mine Two Ways
A father and son worked for months to build a toy sailboat. Every night when he came home from work, the man and his boy would disappear into the garage for hours. It was a labor of love--love for each other and for the thing they were creating. The wooden hull was painted bright red and it was trimmed with gleaming white sails. When it was finished, they traveled to a nearby lake for the boat's trial run. Before launching it the father tied a string to its stern to keep it from sailing too far. The boat performed beautifully, but before long a motorboat crossing the lake cut the string, and the sailboat drifted out of sight on the large lake. Attempts to find it were fruitless, and both father and son wept over its loss. A few weeks later as the boy was walking home from school he passed his favorite toy store and was amazed to see a toy sailboat in the window--his sailboat! He ran inside to claim the boat, telling the storekeeper about his experience on the lake. The store owner explained that he had found the boat while on a fishing trip. "You may be its maker," he said, "but as a finder I am its legal owner. You may have it back--for fifty dollars." The boy was stunned at how much it would cost him to regain his boat, but since it was so precious to him he quickly set about earning the money to buy it back. Months of hard work later he joyfully walked into the toy store and handed the owner fifty dollars in exchange for his sailboat. It was the happiest day of his life. As he left the store he held the boat up to the sunlight. Its colors gleamed as though newly painted. "I made you, but I lost you," he said. "Now at great sacrifice I have bought you back. That makes you twice mine, and twice mine is mine forever."
God has made us and on the cross He has bought us back. Yet, do you know what happened in the Philippines yesterday and today? Barefoot, over the hot stone streets in scorching sun, thousands of Filipinos dragged heavy wooden crosses. They flogged their bare backs bloody with glass-studded whips. And, at least a dozen people were nailed to crosses. Why? Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to such inhumane torture? Somehow the Gospel message of salvation by grace through faith has escaped these people. They are under the mistaken illusion that they have to save themselves through pain and suffering. They have not absorbed the message of God on Good Friday: "I made you, but I lost you. Now at great sacrifice I have bought you back. That makes you twice mine, and twice mine is mine forever."
Let's take a closer look at what Luke tells us about the events of that first Good Friday.
I A Supernatural Darkness
A Luke tells us that things are not as they should be. Jesus was hanging there upon the cross. Scripture says,
(Lk 23:44-45) It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, (45) for the sun stopped shining.How could this be? It was the middle of the day – around noon. It couldn't have been an eclipse for it was the time of the Passover which was always held during a full moon, when no eclipse is possible. What is going on here? What is happening?
We turn to the book of Genesis and we read there that in the beginning "darkness was over the surface of the deep" (Gen 1:2). You know what happens next:
(Gen 1:3-5) And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. (4) God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. (5) God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day. By God's decree, ever since that first day of creation, light and darkness each had their separate place. But not on Good Friday. On Good Friday the darkness left its appointed place. It invaded the light. The darkness which God had separated from the light and joined to the dawn and dusk, was dislocated and moved into the midday. The very fabric of reality was being stretched to the breaking point. Things appeared to be coming apart.
B It should not escape our notice that darkness implies the judgment of God. Recall, for instance, the ninth plague God sent to the Egyptians.
(Ex 10:21-23) Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt--darkness that can be felt." (22) So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. (23) No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.Recall too the words of Jesus about the outer darkness that is reserved for those on whom the judgment of God will rest. It is a horrible place, a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30).
We also cannot help but notice that even Jesus is in the midst of darkness. In other words, even Jesus has the judgment of God resting upon Him. Now, the Centurion (Lk 23:47), Pilate (Lk 23:4,13,22), Herod (Lk 23:15), the people beating their breasts (Lk 23:48), and all of Scripture testify that Jesus is righteous. That raises a question: what was Jesus, the righteous One, doing in God's awful darkness? How does a Righteous One get under the judgment of God?
C Darkness points not only to judgment but also to separation, isolation, aloneness. When that supernatural darkness descended, Jesus was separated, isolated, and alone.
A little boy took a tour of the Carlsbad Caverns with his family. These are huge underground caves, some of them the size of 2 or 3 football fields. The tour guide wanted to demonstrate how complete the darkness was down there. Just as he reached to flick off the light switch, the little boy broke his father's hold and dashed away. Let me tell you, when the lights went out, there was one terrified little boy; suddenly he found himself all alone in total darkness.
One is also reminded of the torture of prisoners of war. If all else fails, and a prisoner's spirit cannot be broken, then he or she is put into solitary confinement. And, in a modern refinement of the method, prisoners of war are subjected to sensory deprivation. They are cut off from all communication and contact with their environment.
In a final assault on Jesus, our text shows Him cut off in the darkness. He Who came to join all men to Himself was utterly alone. Even as the nails drove apart the joints in Jesus' body and the cross tore at His shoulders, so the darkness cut Him off from all Whom He loves: His disciples, His family, His friends, even His Father in heaven.
The Devil was hard at work that day. His plan was to drive a wedge between Christ and the people He had come to bless. His plan was to tear apart the relationship between the Messiah and His people, between Christ and the covenant people of Israel, between Jesus and His followers.
Divide and conquer. It is the most ancient and modern of strategies for conquest. It was used by the Greeks in a war with the numerically superior Persians. It was used by General Norman Schwarzkopf in the war with Iraq. Even in the animal world we see this strategy: the wolves separate a lamb from the flock, and once it is alone, they slaughter it. And the Devil, like a wolf on the prowl or like a roaring lion searching for prey, was isolating the Lamb of God. His plan seemed to be working when the religious leaders plotted Christ's death, when Judas betrayed Him, when the disciples deserted Him, when the crowds turned against Him. What God had joined together, the devil was conspiring to separate.
Listen again to what happened on Golgotha Hill that first Good Friday:
(Lk 23:44-45) It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, (45) for the sun stopped shining.Again I ask, how could this be? How is it possible that the darkness invaded the light? How could the righteous Son of God be put under such judgment? How could the loving Son experience such separation and isolation?
D Yes, things were out of place that Good Friday. Events happened that should never have happened. The day was out of joint. The darkness during the crucifixion was a tremendous attack on the way things ought to be. If ever Satan, the prince of darkness, ruled the world, surely this was the day. If the most loving person ever is so abandoned, then nothing seems to hold any more.
So what is going on? What is happening. To tell you the truth, we do not entirely know. There is much mystery here, things we cannot claim to understand.
This much we do know: Jesus was "shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power" (2 Thess 1:9). To use a line from the Apostles' Creed, we confess that Jesus here "descended into hell," that He somehow and in someway was cut off from God's presence and experienced God's eternal wrath against the sin of the whole human race.
But in what way was Jesus separated from the presence of God? After all, He is God! How could He be separated from Himself? That's why this is an article of faith. We can't understand it, nor can we make sense of it, yet we must believe it. It is as if God drew down for 3 hours the curtain of darkness to shade this from prying eyes. It is shrouded in mystery.
It is like going to a play. In the first part of the play we have seen the dark plot unfolding. The plot comes to a climax of evil too brutal to be portrayed on the stage. At that point the curtain comes down. When the curtain comes up again, the stage is rearranged. And the main characters are still the main characters, but something has happened between the scenes, something that changes the story-line and the relationship between the characters. And you do not entirely know what it is. You can begin to guess from the clues given. But it remains a mystery.
As Paul puts it, we see through a glass darkly. Certain things remain hidden. But we do see that things are different when the curtain of darkness is lifted. Why else would the centurion now be praising God and witnessing to the goodness of Jesus?
II The Mastery of God
A We don't know exactly what happened during those 3 awful hours of darkness. But we do know that from beginning to end God, and Christ, were in control. They were masters of the situation.
As you listen to the Good Friday story, do you hear what did not happen? It becomes clear from Scripture that Jesus did not go down in defeat. Yes, He died. But Scripture does not portray His death as the last failing breath of a beaten man. If ever there was a death with dignity, here we see it. Luke, the physician, describes Jesus as laying down His life. It was not taken from Him. He want through the pangs and torments of hell, and was still alive.
We also see that Jesus did not abandon His trust in the heavenly Father. Having been left in the darkness of God's judgment, He still could look up to heaven and say, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Lk 23:46).
Does that surprise you? When we go through our dark hours, are we not inclined to doubt the love and care of our heavenly Father? How could Jesus still want to place Himself in the Father's hands? Look what the Father had just put Him through!
It is also clear from Scripture that the darkness did not win. It held sway for 3 hours, and then it went back to its place. Once again God said,
(Gen 1:3-4) "Let there be light," and there was light ... (4) and he separated the light from the darkness.
B We know, then, that things were not out of control. Strained to the limits, yes. But the limits held: Jesus was not defeated, He did not abandon His hope and faith in God, the darkness did not hold sway.
Yes, there was a plot against Christ. We saw that, as it were, in the first act of the play. But when the curtain of darkness lifts for the second act, we see that there is a new order. Behind the scenes, the stage of human history has been rearranged, and now there is a new covenant, a new relationship between God and His people. And God is saying, "I made you, but I lost you. Now at great sacrifice I have bought you back. That makes you twice mine, and twice mine is mine forever."
One more thing needs to be said: Jesus is our Savior. And as Savior, Jesus bore what you and I cannot bear. He bore the pain, the agony, and the torments of hell. We cannot. If you and I were to go down into the darkness that Jesus entered, we would never emerge. We would go down in defeat.
But that does not happen. Yes, we are sinners. Yes, we deserve to suffer the darkness of God's wrath. But somehow, in someway, if we believe, we are joined to Christ in His suffering. So His suffering becomes our suffering and His victory becomes our victory. This is our comfort, our only comfort in life and in death: that we are joined to Christ; that in Him and through Him and with Him we have gone through the darkness of the cross.
Do you believe this? Is Christ your Savior? Have you gone with Him through the darkness of the cross? If the answer is yes, then God says to you, "I made you, but I lost you. Now at great sacrifice I have bought you back. That makes you twice mine, and twice mine is mine forever."
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