The Lord Will Provide
Scripture: John 19:17–22
The Lord Will ProvideJohn 19:17-22
Sunday, March 28, 2004
Pastor Randy Smith
Imagine being a Jew back in the first century. You and your son follow the crowd outside the city to a hill called Golgotha. There you find yourself at the foot of the cross. Looking up you see a man in excruciating agony. Blood mixed with dirty sweat is dripping from His body. The sight is both grotesque and humiliating. You shield your child's eyes from the horror. Eventually it becomes too much for you to bear yourself.
You begin to ponder the Man's life. You heard Him teach on occasions. He appeared kind, gentle and loving. Your friends witnessed His miracles. Why is He not helping Himself? You wonder what He did to deserve such an awful death. You stumble through the crowd in a daze. You become shocked to hear the perspectives voiced by the onlookers.
Retreating from the cross, you first pass a band of Roman soldiers. "When will these religious Jews realize that they are no threat to the invincible power of the Empire. May this execution be a reminder that any rebellion will be met with utmost resistance. Look at that weak and defeated man on the cross. And they called Him their King? Is that the best they can come up with?" Then you pass by some Jewish leaders. "The mighty Son of God? Look at Him accursed up there upon the tree. If God were His Father, why does He not deliver Him? The great miracle worker! He saved others, but He cannot save Himself!" Then scattered along the outskirts are some visitors for the Passover. "My son, this is one reason why so many of us Jews dislike the Romans. But it is also another reason to do exactly as they say. 'Daddy, Why are they being so mean to Him?' Son, I've heard this man led many people astray, son. Come, we must hurry, lest we dishonor God and miss the festivities of the Passover."
Your mind is racing, trying to make sense of this occasion, but suddenly your own son is tugging on your robe. As he is probing you for answers, your mind recalls another story about a father and a son, a story also involving a costly sacrifice. You think to yourself, is there a connection?
You sit down on the nearest rock and place your son on your lap. He is always interested in a story about the forefathers of your faith, so from memory (of Genesis 22) you begin saying: "Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, 'Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' He said, 'Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.' So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Abraham said to his young men, 'Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.' Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, 'My father!' And he said, 'Here I am, my son.' And he said, 'Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?' Abraham said, 'God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.' So the two of them walked on together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' He said, 'Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.' Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, 'In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.' Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, 'By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.' So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba" (Gen. 22:1-19).
This morning I'd like to explain the purpose of the crucifixion, by demonstrating it to be the fulfillment of Abraham's account with Isaac found in Genesis 22. As we examine the fulfillment of the preparation, the substitution and the proclamation, we'll see how the humiliating crucifixion of Jesus Christ displays His glory and "provides" for us our complete redemption.
1. THE PREPARATION FULFILLED (vs. 17)
In Genesis 22 we read, "Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son…so the two of them walked on together" (Gen. 22:6). According to God's initial design, Abraham was to take Isaac, his only son whom he loved, the child of promise, and sacrifice him as a burnt offering (Gen. 22:2). Isaac, in perfect obedience to his father allowed the wood to be strapped to his back and began his faithful journey up that hill called Moriah.
In a similar way, verse 17 of John 19 says, "They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.
Often those being crucified were forced to carry the wooden horizontal bar of the cross (the patibulum), which weighted roughly 100 pounds. The ancient writer Plutarch affirms "each criminal as part of his punishment carries his cross on his back" (The Divine Vengeance, 554 A/B). The beam was placed on the victim's back like a yoke across the neck of oxen. The person's arms were then pulled back and then fastened to beam.
Like Isaac, Jesus was in perfect obedience to His Father. Like Isaac, wood was strapped to the back of Jesus. Like Isaac, Jesus was to be the sacrifice. Like Isaac, Jesus was to be sacrificed outside the city (Heb. 13:11-13). Like Isaac, Jesus, with wood on His back, faithfully marched up that hill called Golgotha (Lat.-"Calvary").
2. THE SUBSTITUTION FULFILLED (vs. 18)
Not only did Jesus fulfill the preparation by carrying the instrument needed for His sacrifice, He also fulfilled the substitution by dying for the place of another.
Our parallel now shifts from Isaac to the "ram caught in the thicket." Isaac was fastened to the altar. The knife was drawn. Isaac was destined to die, but at the last moment "the angel of the LORD" prevented Abraham from plunging the knife into his chest. God still demanded the sacrifice, but in His mercy, provided a substitute. Abraham was permitted to sacrifice a ram instead of or in the place of his son.
This principle of substitutionary atonement is found early in the Old Testament. While God struck down the firstborn in Egypt, He made a provision for the Israelites. They were to slaughter a year old unblemished male lamb (from the sheep or goats) (Ex. 12:5). The blood was to be applied to the doorposts (Ex. 12:7). God said, "For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments-- I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt" (Ex. 12:12-13). The blood of the animal was shed instead of the life of Israel's firstborn.
This practice of substitute, the shedding of innocent blood for the forgiveness of sin is seen elsewhere in the Old Testament. If you read through the opening chapters of Leviticus, one can't miss the exorbitant details pertaining to these sacrifices: Burnt offerings, guilt offerings, sin offerings. Specifically during this Passover season, which the Jews were celebrating at the time of Christ's death, it is estimated that near a quarter of a million lambs were slaughtered.
Why such a blood system? Answer: because God detests sin. His wrath burns against sin. And "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23a). So the only hope sinful humans have is God's mercy and in His mercy He provided a substitutionary system for Israel to make atonement for their sins. The animal would be killed and its blood would be shed in order that His people may be forgiven and live. In Leviticus, God said, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement" (Lev. 17:11). The New Testament writer to the Hebrews affirms. "All things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb. 9:22b).
However, as wonderful as these Old Covenant sacrifices were for this point of redemptive history, they were insufficient in and of themselves. They allowed God to pass over sins, but they never fully took away sins. The same writer to the Hebrews explains: "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb. 10:4). These animal sacrifices only pointed to the final sacrifice that would fully remove sin once and for all. John the Baptist said it so well when he first saw Jesus approaching. "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29b)! Paul said, "For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed" (1 Cor. 5:7). In Mark 10:45 we read, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
God provided the ram so Isaac could live another day. God provided continual animal sacrifices so the Jews could be forgiven. But God provided Jesus, the Lamb of God, once for all time, the perfect and final sacrifice so all His people (born before and after the cross) can live eternally and have all their sins forever removed in His precious blood. God is Jehovah-Jireh. He is the Lord who provides. And His provision, invaluable to us, was costly to Him.
Abraham was called to sacrifice his "only son whom he loved (Gen. 22:2, 12, 16), but God in testing his faith, stopped him. Yet that which He prevented Abraham from doing, God did Himself by giving His own beloved Son (Mt. 3:17) to a God-hating world as their sacrificial offering for sin. Think about that one parents! "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (Jn. 3:16). Romans 8:32 says, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?"
During His family devotions, Martin Luther once read the account of Abraham offering Isaac on the altar in Genesis 22. His wife, Katie, said, "I do not believe it. God would not have treated his son like that!" "But, Katie," Luther replied, "He did" (Wiersbe, Warren. The Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 191).
God the Father walked with His Son from Bethlehem to Nazareth to Jerusalem to Gethsemane to Golgotha where He gave Him up to be crucified. Our text in verse 18 says, "There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between." God had chosen the means of Christ's sacrifice. Christ would die as our substitute for our sin by way of crucifixion.
This common means of death in antiquity is foreign to our minds. D.A. Carson said, "In the ancient world, this most terrible of punishments is always associated with shame and horror. It was so brutal than no Roman citizen could be crucified without the sanction of the Emperor. Striped naked and beaten to pulpy weakness, the victim could hang in the hot sun for hours, even days. To breathe, it was necessary to push with the legs and pull with the arms to keep the chest cavity open and functioning. Terrible muscle spasm wracked the entire body; but since collapse meant asphyxiation, the strain went on and on" (Carson, John, p. 610). According to John MacArthur, "There was no more horrible death possible than death by crucifixion. Even the Romans regarded it as a horrible death. It is said that they even shuddered to talk about it. Cicero declared that it was 'the most cruel and horrifying death.' Tacitus said that it was a 'despicable death'" (MacArthur, Sermon, Jn. 19:16-18, 13-14). The Jewish historian, Josephus, who probably witnessed many crucifixions himself, called it "the most wretched of deaths" (Josephus, Wars, 7.6.4). I think you get the point.
However, as awful as this physical agony was, we cannot imagine the spiritual agony Jesus faced when He accepted on Himself the sin of the world and then the utmost of the Father's wrath. Isaiah 53 declares, "The Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him" (Isa. 53:6). It was at this time that darkness fell over the land. It was at this time that Jesus cried, "'Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?' that Is 'My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me'" (Mt. 27:46)? Only the damned in hell can have the slightest glimpse of this agony that Jesus experienced. And even their torment doesn't come close because: They are suffering for their own sin, not the collective sin of the world. They have never tasted the sweetness of heaven by contrast. They were never without sin in perfect holiness. And they never experienced unbroken fellowship with the Father. No one can even fathom what Christ went through to bear our sins and face the fury of the Father's wrath.
The crucifixion happened for the purpose of glorifying God, whereby His children may be eternally forgiven through the perfect sacrifice of His one and only, beloved Son. Just as the ram caught in the thicket became a substitute to spare Isaac, Jesus became the sin-bearer, the unblemished Lamb of God, the substitute necessary to spare us from eternal damnation.
Martin Luther once wrote to a friend, "Learn to know Christ and Him crucified. Learn to sing to him, and say, 'Lord Jesus, You are my righteousness, I am Your sin. You have taken upon Yourself what is mine and given me what is Yours. You became what You were not, so that I might become what I was not'" (quoted in: Packer, J.I. Your Father Loves You, October 20).
3. THE PROCLAMATION FULFILLED (vs. 19-22)
So as we consider Genesis 22, Jesus fulfilled the preparation as He carried His wooden cross, the substitution as He took our place as the penalty for sin and finally the proclamation as all nations will find their blessing in Jesus Christ.
After Abraham demonstrated His obedience to God as a greater priority than love for his son, God said (in Genesis 22:18), "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." In other words, through Isaac, God would bring great blessings to all the nations. How would this happen? The Apostle Paul quotes Genesis 22:18 in Galatians 3 when he says, "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles (the nations) by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'all the nations will be blessed in you.' So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer" (Gal. 3:8-9). In this letter Paul also goes on to say that the seed of Abraham is actually Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:16). Peter concurs when he quoted Genesis 22:18 in a sermon in Acts 3. "It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' For you first, God raised up His Servant (Jesus Christ) and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways" (Ac. 3:25-26).
In other words, this blessing spoken originally to Abraham given through his seed Isaac is taken up by the New Testament writers as one that finds greater fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Paul, in Galatians 3:29 said, "And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise." Through Jesus Christ, God will mediate His blessings to those with faith beyond Israel to the nations (Eph. 1:3). So as redemptive history progresses through the Bible, we learn that all things point to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, for He has opened the door to all the nations to gain the entrance into His blessed kingdom. Salvation is available to all through Christ! This awesome reality is the impetus for Christ's final words on earth - The Great Commission. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Mt. 28:19-20).
Now, how does the nationwide invitation to be blessed through Christ tie into the final four verses of our text? Beginning in verse 19, "Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, 'Jesus The Nazarene, The King of The Jews.' Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek."
It was common to hang a placard around the victim's neck listing his crime for all to see as he proceeded to the crucifixion. This placard was later affixed to the top of the cross. However, in the case of Jesus, no crime could be listed. Remember, Pilate not once but three times is recorded as saying, "I find no guilt in Him" (Jn. 18:38; 19:4, 6). So Pilate, still frustrated from being blackmailed by the Jews took one last opportunity to get revenge. Above the cross of Jesus He wrote, "JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS" (Jn. 19:19; Mt. 27:37; Mk. 15:26; Lk. 23:38). Unwittingly, the sarcastic and bitter Pilate accomplished the plan of God. He rightly identified King Jesus and refused to change it even at the request of the Jews (Jn. 19:21-22).
The hill of Calvary was just above a highway. It could even be seen from the edge of Jerusalem. Verse 20 says, "Therefore this inscription many of the Jews read, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city." There King Jesus was high and "lifted up" (Jn. 3:14; 12:32, 34), clearly identified, for the entire world to see. F.F. Bruce once said, "The Crucified One is the true King, the kingliest king of all; because it is He who is stretched on the cross, He turns an obscene instrument of torture into a throne of glory and reigns from the tree" (Bruce, John, 369).
There could have been no confusion for the Roman soldiers or anybody who came to Jerusalem for the Passover. The Scriptures say the sign was written in Hebrew (Aramaic), the language common used among the Jews in Judea (the language of religion), Latin, the language spoken among the Romans (the language of power) and Greek, the common language throughout the empire (the language of culture). What a symbol of the worldwide proclamation of Christ's kingship! What a symbol of the universality of Christ's kingship! Because of Christ's death, salvation is no longer a Jewish thing; it's a global thing! The privilege to enjoy God's blessings promised to Abraham is now available to all people, everywhere, who call upon Jesus as their Lord and Savior. In Revelation we read the heavenly choir praising King Jesus saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."
By lifting Him up and writing His identity on the cross, God made Christ's kingship available for the entire world to see and the blessing of salvation for the entire world to receive. And once we receive that salvation, we too have a responsibility, another blessing if you will. God also uses us to proclaim that good news to the nations whereby all people groups may be blessed in Christ and partake of His kingdom.
So as you finish this explanation with your son, you realize the crucifixion in a new light. He jumps off your lap and together you slowly depart from Golgotha. In your own heart you ponder just what his innocent mind comprehended.
Maybe he came to see the need for personal evangelism. Maybe he came to desire a greater interest in world missions. Maybe he came to better appreciate the unity of Scripture. Maybe he came to better understand the loving sacrifice of Christ. Or maybe he came to trust a faithful God for keeping His covenant and providing a salvation for him in the death of His beloved Son that He could not provide for himself.