3/28/99, L6A

“Let God Deliver Him Now!”
Matthew 27: 38-54

hat is your passion? What do you burn after? I have a pen collectors book entitled, A Passion For Pens. It contains 195 pages, translated from German, and has hundreds of pictures of beautiful antique fountain pens. I
read a book on penknife collecting in which the author said, “Every day I think about penknives, my daytime visions are for more and more little quill trimming knives.” Some of us already have tickets for the Atlanta Braves home opener on May 5th. As we sang our hymns, maybe a few were daydreaming about Duke winning the NCAA title. One of you here won the coveted blue ribbon at the recent Atlanta Quilt Show. We all have our passions, and it is the fervent emotion that brings joy, and success, to life’s endeavors.

However, in our sometimes difficult English language, the same word also refers to Jesus’ martyrdom. Today, the Sunday before Easter, is called Palm/Passion Sunday. Some preachers will be focusing on the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem. But others, as I am, will deal with the Passion of our Lord: Which is the very heart and core of God’s plan for our present Abundant Life, and our future Eternal Life.

A strange calm spread over Jesus as he faced the last hours of his life. He was ready to face the fate that was his; after all, he was born to die. “My time is near...” He told his disciples; and thus, he began to unfold the chain of events that would lead to his Passion.

He never said a word in self defense during the several trials he endured that fateful last Thursday night of his life. He did mention that, if he wanted to, he could have called, “...more than twelve legions of angels... but then how would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen this way?” (26: 53). He submitted when the high priest taunted him, and others in the court room, “spat in his face and ridiculed him, while some slapped him, saying, ‘Prophesy to us you Messiah!” (v. 67). They beat him with sticks and whipped him with the infamous “cat of nine tails.” While Jesus was near death already, they twisted thorns into a crown and buried it into his scalp. They knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (see 27:28). And after crucifying him between two bandits, the public taunted Him on the cross. The chief priests, scribes, and elders followed him to the cross and mocked him saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself, “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now.” (v. 43). You can almost hear a “Ha! Ha!” after that taunting barb. What a loser, they must have thought. Pretending to be the Son of God, and here he hangs helplessly dying a slow and painful agony.

The New Testament never mitigates the horrors of the Cross. God never intervenes. In fact, God seems to disappear, as did most of the disciples. Why did God not step in?

One reason is that Jesus never asked him to. The Son accepted his fate. In the Garden of Gethsemane he did plead; Father if there is some other way to do this apart from crucifixion, lets find it. However, he went directly on to say; Yet, not what I want, but Thy will be done. Jesus submitted to the Father’s eternal plan for the salvation of humanity, based on his death.

Yet, to stand by and watch His Son be tortured must have even been hard for God. I don’t think I could have done it. There is a story that kind of helps me understand the mind of God. It is about a Railroad Switcher, back in the days when a man had to manually switch the tracks for oncoming trains to be able to go in the correct direction. Today it is done for the entire United States from one huge computer room in Kansas. As the story goes, one day the Switcher went out to turn an oncoming passenger train north. This was critical since the southbound bridge was out. But as he was ready to manually pull the big control, he saw his small son playing on the northbound track. Instantly he had to decide, whether the sacrifice his son, or to allow the massive train loaded with many passenger cars be totally destroyed by running off into the river. He did what he had to do, and stood there watching.

God did not step it save His Son, but He saved us!

But still, from the Cross we hear the most haunting, yet humanly revealing, words of Christ, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” (v. 46). I feel that this reflects our human predicament as we too face death. Most folks say that as they deal with their own immanent mortality they waffle between calm, and terror. Death acceptance never seems to follow the nice forward path that Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, MD. painted for us in her widely heralded best seller from a few years ago, On Death and Dying. Jesus modulated from the peaceful acceptance of, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” to the terror of asking, “Why have you forsaken me?”

But finally, after Jesus, “yielded up the ghost,” (v.50, KJV). God did step in; not to stop His Son’s death, but to begin to prepare the people for the ultimate intervention of resurrection. Bystanders and taunters standing in front of the Cross, and the soldiers standing behind the Cross, all felt the earth shake as huge stones surrounding Calvary were split. Tombs were opened and dead prophets came out into the city and all Jerusalem was gripped in the realization of what they had done. The head of the Roman soldiers said, “Truly, this man was God’s Son!” (v.54). This same Centurion may have guarded Jesus before. Probably he had heard Jesus preach, and may have seen some of the miracles. He had possibly wondered in his heart whether these claims he was making were true. And I feel in his words something of a profession of faith.

At the Cross, we too are confronted by the claims of Christ upon our lives. Christ died for all, but we each must decide to believe it, and to commit our life to it. Will we believe in him, or will we walk away in disbelief?

Let God deliver us now!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

3/28/99, L6A