************ Sermon on Matthew 27:42 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 25, 2005
"The Last Temptation of Christ"
"The Last Temptation of Christ" – that's what we have in front of us this evening. Jesus is on the cross. He is suffering and dying. And, Satan attacks Him one last time.
Christ has faced so many temptations already during His time on earth – unbelievable temptations, temptations beyond what you or I can withstand:
Right after His baptism, for instance, He was led into the wilderness where He fasted for 40 days and then was tempted by the Devil. "Bow before me," said Satan, "and all the nations of the world and their splendor will be yours without having to go the way of the cross and the grave." "Command these stones to be turned into bread," said Satan. "Let the angels carry you. You are the Son of God and you shouldn't have to suffer."
After Jesus predicted His suffering and death He was tempted by Peter, as a tool of Satan, to avoid the way of the cross and the grave; Peter took Him aside and rebuked Him saying, "Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!"
During the Last Supper Jesus was troubled by His coming betrayal by Judas.
When Jesus first entered the Garden, He had to struggle with drinking from God's cup of wrath.
And, at the moment of His arrest, Jesus had to fight against the temptation to use swords and angels to beat off the crowd armed with swords and clubs.
And now, hanging upon the cross, He faces another temptation, a final temptation. What is this new temptation, this last temptation?
Back in 1988 a film-director by the name of Martin Scorsese revealed to us "The Last Temptation of Christ" in a movie that went by the same name. His Jesus, while hanging upon the cross, imagined being married to Mary Magdalene and having sexual relations with her. Martin Scorsese portrayed a Jesus tortured by lust and filled with regret.
We know better than to believe the artistic fancy of Martin Scorsese. Matthew points us in an entirely different direction as we look at the last temptation of Christ – the temptation that came to Him while suffering and dying.
I The Temptation from the Devil
A Humanity's hatred surrounded the cross. The soldiers sat gambling near the place of execution; people who passed by hurled insults; the Jewish leaders shouted cruel remarks; so did the criminals who were crucified with Him. Not one of these showed pity while Christ's body was racked with pain.
All those people shouting at Jesus, mocking Jesus, making fun of Jesus. They were mocking His claims about Himself: His claim to be the Son of God (vs 40,43), His claim to be the King of Israel (vs 42), His claim to destroy the temple and build it in three days [though in saying this, Jesus was talking about Himself and His resurrection rather than the temple and its rebuilding] (vs 40).
B All those people shouting at Jesus, mocking Jesus, making fun of Jesus. Their screeching refrain was written by the devil himself: "Come down from the cross! Come down from the cross! We will believe your claims if you come down from the cross!" Jesus is told to save Himself, to come down from the cross, to be delivered by God, and they will believe in Him. "Come down from the cross! Come down from the cross! We will believe you are the Son of God if you come down from the cross. We will believe you are the King of Israel if you come down from the cross. We will believe you can destroy the temple and build it in three days if you come down from the cross!"
Little boys know how to taunt each other: "You can't get me ..." "You can't beat me ..." "I am stronger than you ..." And those they taunt say right back, "Oh yeah, prove it." Like little boys, the devil and his demons taunt Jesus, mock Jesus, and make fun of Jesus. "Prove it!" they say. "Come down from the cross! Come down from the cross! We will believe you if you come down from the cross!"
C From eternity the plan of God for our salvation is the death of Jesus upon the cross. But Satan doesn't like that plan. Satan is opposed to Jesus suffering and dying upon the cross. Why? Why is Satan so opposed to Jesus suffering and dying upon the cross? There are at least four reasons:
The suffering and death of Jesus means salvation for God's people; but Satan does not want people to be saved; he wants people to remain in their sin and misery.
The suffering and death of Jesus means defeat for Satan; he sees his kingdom tottering and falling as Jesus hangs there on the cross; the war may continue but the decisive battle is now being fought and Satan know he has lost if he can't get Christ off the cross.
The suffering and death of Jesus means the final victory is God's in the age-long struggle that God announced already in the Garden of Eden: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" (Gen 3:15).
The suffering and death of Jesus means that someday there will be a new creation – a creation with no place in it for Satan and sin and evil. Like all of God's creatures, Satan wants to survive so he wants Jesus off the cross.
Christ was being tempted to prove Himself. Christ was being tempted to show His enemies that He is Who He says He is. "Come down from the cross! Come down from the cross! We will believe your claims if you come down from the cross!"
II The Obedience of Jesus
A It would have been easy – real easy – for Jesus to come down from the cross. After all, He is exactly Who He says He is. He is the Son of God. He is the King of Israel. And, He is able to do exactly what He says He can do. He is able to destroy the temple and build it in three days.
Consider, for a moment, the things Jesus did during His time of ministry on this earth: He healed the sick; raised the dead; gave sight to the blind; cured the leper; enabled the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, and the mute to talk; He stopped the storm; multiplied the loaves and fish; and cast out demons and evil spirits. If Jesus can do all of this, then it would be nothing – nothing at all – for Jesus to come down from the cross.
B We all know what Jesus did with this last temptation. He ignored the taunts, the jeers, the mocking, the cries. As Isaiah puts it, "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth" (Is 53:7). He ignored the devil's refrain and He remained on the cross.
Do you realize what would have happened if Jesus came down from the cross? Look at it this way. The mockers said to Jesus, "Save yourself and we will believe you." But Jesus said to His disciples, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Mt 10:39). The mockers said to Jesus, "Come down from the cross and we will believe you." But Jesus said, "anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me" (Mt 10:38).
Now do you realize what would have happened if Jesus came down from the cross? If Jesus stepped down from the cross He would have denied Himself, His mission, and His teaching. If Jesus stepped down from the cross He would have ceased being the Savior and Redeemer and Mediator. If Jesus stepped down from the cross no one – not even the devil and his demons – would have believed in Him.
"Come down from the cross! Come down from the cross! We will believe your claims if you come down from the cross!" The devil's attack is fierce. It hurts more than the nails piercing His hands. But Jesus remains on the cross. He remains true to Himself, true to His mission, true to His Father. In His heart Jesus says, "If I am to save others, I cannot save Myself! If I am to save others, I cannot save Myself! If I am to save others, I cannot save Myself!" Jesus is our Savior only because He remained on the cross.
C This tells me something about the nails of the cross. Those nails, they did not keep Him on the cross. Those nails, they did not bind Him to the wood. Those nails, they did not leave Him hanging there. It couldn't have been the nails that kept Him there, for nails are nothing next to the almighty Son of God.
Do you know what kept Jesus on the cross? His love. His great, wondrous, beautiful love. It was love, and only love, that kept Him there.
Nothing shows that love better than His arms – His wide and outstretched arms. Always, always, I see arms. The outstretched arms of Jesus. Arms that, 2000 years later, still yearn to engulf and welcome and embrace. Jesus' arms stretched out wide.
I see the arms of Jesus. And I hear him saying, in Matthew, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings" (Mt 23:37).
Topic: LoveThis is what Jesus did for me. His arms stretched out to save me, to protect me, to save me.
Subtopic: Of God
One cold night years ago in North Carolina a woman went outside to check on some animals then housed in her father's small barn. There was a full moon shining down in bright, brittle light above the pines. It was so cold that the water in the horses' trough had frozen over, unusual for the coastal counties. As she went to get an axe to chop through the ice, she noticed a yard chicken, a hen, perched near the trough, with several chicks tucked under her wings. This chicken had turned her face and frail body of fluff into the icy wind, her wings outstretched for the sake of her children.
There is Jesus, dying a slow and terrible death, with His arms pulled wide. He could have been stoned, like Stephen. But then, to protect himself, His arms would have been pulled in to His chest. Or He might have been beheaded, like His cousin John the Baptist. But then His arms would have been bound behind His back. Instead, Jesus' arms were stretched taut, leaving bare His loving heart. His arms were stretched out by nails.
D I see the outstretched arms of Jesus. And I think of my own need. For when all is said and done, I am like those barnyard chicks. I need the protection, the love, and the care of Jesus or else I die an eternal death.
Topic: SinI am what is wrong with this world. And you are what is wrong with this world. We are sinners desperately in need of the Savior. We are sinners who need the outstretched arms of Jesus.
Subtopic: Universality of
Years ago the London Times ran an article asking the question, "What is wrong with the world?" It encouraged readers to respond. I am sure the editor must have read the following reply more than once before its profound truth sank in.
In response to your question, "What is wrong with the world?"
G. K. Chesterton.
We hear about sin a lot, but do we know what sin is? My Greek Bible uses at least 6 different words for sin:
Apeitheia -- rebellion; a willful rejection of God's Word and his standards.
Asebeo -- a failure to show proper reverence to God through godly behavior.
Hamartano -- voluntarily "missing the mark" because we are not loving or obedient.
Parabasis -- transgression, crossing over or going beyond a limit that God has set.
Agnosia -- sin that results from ignorance. This ignorance can be due to an unwillingness to be open to God's truth (Eph. 4:18), or can be an innocent ignorance (Acts 17:30).
Parakon -- disobedience that results from inattention.
We are sinners. We rebel against God. We fail to show Him reverence. We miss the mark. We cross the boundary. We ignore His will for our lives. We don't pay attention to what He wants. We are sinners and we need those outstretched arms of Jesus.
"Come down from the cross! Come down from the cross! We will believe your claims if you come down from the cross!" This was the last temptation of Christ.
But Jesus holds out His loving arms and says, "If I am to save others, I cannot save Myself! If I am to save others, I cannot save Myself! If I am to save others, I cannot save Myself!"
Thank God, I say, thank God for the outstretched arms of Jesus that refused the last temptation so you can I can be saved.
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