The Cross as an Instrument of Sacrifice

Dr. Steve Viars April 7, 2019 Mark 15:22-30
Outline

Romans 11:36 - For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

James 1:22 - …doers of the Word.

I. The Example of Sacrifice

“The whip used for scourging had a short wooden handle, to the end of which were attached several leather thongs. Each thong was tipped with very sharp pieces of metal or bone. The man to be scourged was tied to a post by the wrists high over his head, with his feet dangling and his body taut. Often there were two scourgers, one on either side of the victim, who took turns lashing him across the back. Muscles were lacerated, veins and arteries were torn open, and it was not uncommon for the kidneys, spleen, or other organs to be exposed and slashed. As would be expected, many men died of scourging, before they could be taken out for execution. We do not know the full extent of Jesus’ wounds, but He was so weakened by them that He was not able to carry His own cross.” John MacArthur, Mark 15:21

v. 20 - …they led him out to crucify Him.

“A death by crucifixion included all that pain and death can have of the horrible and ghastly–dizziness, cramps, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, shame, public spectacle, torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of intended wounds–all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness. The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the arteries–especially at the head and stomach–became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood, and while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst, and all these physical complications caused an internal anxiety, which made the prospect of death, the unknown enemy, at whose approach man usually shudders most–bear the aspect of a delicious and exquisite release. One thing is clear. The first century executions were not like the modern ones, for they did not seek a quick, painless death nor the preservation of any measure of dignity for the criminal. On the contrary, they sought an agonizing torture which completely humiliated him. And it is important that we understand this, for it helps us realize the agony of Christ’s death.” Frederick Farrar

II. The Joy of Sacrifice

Acts 5:28 - …saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”

Acts 5:29-32 - But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

Acts 5:40 - …after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them.

Acts 5:41-42 - So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Matthew 27:46 - …“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

II Corinthians 5:21 - God has made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

III. Our Heritage of Sacrifice

- This Easter season we’re studying the topic of Embracing the Cross…looking at several passages from the Word of God that speak about the cross-work of Jesus Christ.

- our Lord’s death on Calvary is the foundation of everything else we’re working on with our annual theme of Growing what God has Given…whether we’re talking about personal growth, church growth, the advancement and development of any of the ministries the Lord has entrusted to us now or in the days ahead…

- with the apostle Paul we would say, Romans 11:36 - For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

- and the goal of all of this is that each one of us would become a person that is more cross-centered...or more Christ centered.

- and hopefully as that becomes more true individually, it will also impact our families and our church, and our relationships at work, and in the neighborhood.

- I’d like to pause and ask those who have been studying with us....are you seeing that happen?

- are there specific illustrations / is there concrete evidence that you are more and more conscious of embracing the cross?

- could you give examples of how you have tried to apply these truths from God’s Word to everyday life?

- you know, one of the greatest habits a Christian can get into is consciously seeking to be a doer of the Word....to practically and purposefully apply truth from God’s Word to the everyday events of life....that’s called being a doer of the Word.

- on the other hand, one of the worst habits a Christian can get into is repetitively hearing the Word of God, and walking away unchanged /// and hearing the Word of God, and walking away unchanged.

- I’m asking you this morning, are you working at embracing the cross?

- now, as we’ve studied, our list of key biblical principles has grown:

- so far we’ve seen The cross as an instrument of peace, and The cross as an instrument of power, and The cross as an instrument of shame…

- when it comes to the matter of embracing the cross, the truth is, the Word of God gives us a lot to embrace.

- now, I don't know if you think ahead to where a study like this might be going...or what other ideas the Word of God reveals about a particular topic....but if you have, there’s a sense in which we have been ignoring the obvious.

- if we’re going to talk about what the cross of Christ means....both to Jesus Christ, and to people like us, those who want to follow Him.....then one of the most obvious answers is, The Cross as an instrument of Sacrifice.

- that’s the emphasis I’d like us to study today…and I’m glad we have all of our campuses together so to speak as we consider this important, fundamental truth…

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to the Gospel of Mark chapter 15…page ____ of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you..

- in a number of our messages, we’ve looked at different passages in the NT that speak about the cross, but we haven’t spent as much time in the gospels looking at the specific events of the cross.

- we intend to do that today.

- now I need to warn you that the ideas we are going to study, especially in the next few moments, are pretty graphic.

- Part of the problem with this topic is that it has been tamed…the cross is a fashion accessory, not an instrument of death.

- but when we open the pages of Scripture, what truly happened on the cross ought to move us, and move us deeply.

- but its movement to an end, movement with a purpose---we’ll speak more about that as we go along.

- let’s read, beginning at Mark 15:22.   [Read 15:22-39]

- we’re talking this morning about The Cross as an Instrument of Sacrifice.

- we’d like to divide our time this way, first let’s look at the example of sacrifice, and then the joy of sacrifice, and lastly our heritage of sacrifice.

I. The Example of Sacrifice.

- the verses that we just read are actually in the middle of an entire sequence of events in which Jesus Christ sacrificed for us.

- I would encourage you this week, if you’re looking for something to add to your Bible study time, to go through the accounts at the end of each of the four gospels and study all that happened during the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

- One tool, by the way, that can help with such a study, is called a Harmony of the Gospels.

- this takes all four gospels, and lists the events in chronological order....its a great way to study the life of Christ....I’ll be happy to leave a copy here for you to look at.

- as you study these events, you see the word “sacrifice” written all over them.

- by time we get to Mark 15, there have been a series of Mock trials that have been an absolute travesty of justice.

- the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus killed, because His holiness and power had revealed their hypocrisy and impotence....

- and they didn’t care if they had to violate their own laws, and twist the truth and manipulate the system....they simply wanted him put to death.

- the civil rulers wanted to be left alone....so even though they repeatedly pronounced that there was no basis for the charges....they still carried out the charade to pacify the angry mob.

- the Bible tells us that already the soldiers of the court had begun their beatings and their mockings.

- one man who functioned similar to our court bailiffs had struck Jesus in the face....

- as the trials went on, the beatings increased, people were spitting on our Savior, they were hurling insults and mocking at Him.

- He was in the process of sacrificing for us.

- if you look at verse 15, you see that the Roman governor named Pilate had ordered that Jesus be scourged.

- John MacArthur writes of these events, “The whip used for scourging had a short wooden handle, to the end of which were attached several leather thongs.  Each thong was tipped with very sharp pieces of metal or bone.  The man to be scourged was tied to a post by the wrists high over his head, with his feet dangling and his body taut.  Often there were two scourgers, one on either side of the victim, who took turns lashing him across the back.  Muscles were lacerated, veins and arteries were torn open, and it was not uncommon for the kidneys, spleen, or other organs to be exposed and slashed.  As would be expected, many men died of scourging, before they could be taken out for execution.  We do not know the full extent of Jesus’ wounds, but He was so weakened by them that He was not able to carry His own cross (Mark 15:21).

- I’m asking you to think right now about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

- if you notice in verses 16-21, the abuse and violence continued.

- The soldiers in verse 16 took him away into the palace and called the entire Roman cohort of soldiers, comprised of 600 men.

- they stripped him and mockingly placed a purple robe on Him....and then took a crown of thorns and placed it on his head.

- if you can imagine the pain that Jesus was already under, and then to have that kind of a crown placed on His head would have been even greater pain and greater indignity.

- they put a reed in his hand like a scepter, but then they took it from him and beat him on the head.

- the passage says that they continued to spit on Him, and mock Him....the hatred and cruelty is hard to imagine.

- and then there was the cross…verse 20 says rather matter of factly...”they led him out to crucify Him.”

- now it’s very important for us not to confuse the way capital punishment is carried out in our culture, with the way it was carried out here.

- and I’m not wanting to get into a discussion of capital punishment this morning, but in our culture the desire is to be as humane as possible in the way the sentence is carried out.

- when you think about that there is a rather strange irony there, but that is the way our culture views capital punishment.

- we have to do a complete paradigm shift to understand what is going on here.

- their goal was not to find the most humane means possible, but instead, exactly the opposite.

- they sought the most cruel, torturous means possible...and they found that in the cross.

- Often the criminal was tied to the cross....but we know that Jesus was actually nailed to the cross…because later He showed His disciples His wounds…

- that was accomplished by placing the cross on the ground, and then forcing the person to lay down on the cross while he was attached…[cf v. 23 – this is probably why he was offered sour wine and myrrh]…

- then the cross was lifted up and placed in a socket in the ground, and the individual hung there in agony until he died.

- Frederick Farrar described the process like this:

A death by crucifixion included all that pain and death can have of the horrible and ghastly--dizziness, cramps, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, shame, public spectacle, torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of intended wounds--all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness.

The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the arteries--especially at the head and stomach--became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood, and while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst, and all these physical complications caused an internal anxiety, which made the prospect of death, the unknown enemy, at whose approach man usually shudders most--bear the aspect of a delicious and exquisite release.

One thing is clear.  The first century executions were not like the modern ones, for they did not seek a quick, painless death nor the preservation of any measure of dignity for the criminal.  On the contrary, they sought an agonizing torture which completely humiliated him.  And it is important that we understand this, for it helps us realize the agony of Christ’s death.

- friends, is there any question that the cross is an instrument of sacrifice?

- and I don't think I am a particularly emotional person, but this is overwhelming.

- now someone might say, if Jesus had known what this would be like, He never would have been willing to sacrifice in this way.

- would you please turn back to Psalm chapter 22…[page ____ of the front section of your Bible..]…

- that’s another amazing facet of this story....not only did Jesus know this was going to happen, it had been precisely prophesied 1000 years before it occurred.

- this is one of the great messianic Psalms....

- please look at verse 1 - READ

- this gives us a clear clue to what is going to be discussed....

- for sake of time, please jump ahead to verse 12 --- READ 22:12-18.

- friends, not only did Jesus know about this Instrument of sacrifice in advance, He knew about it thousands of years in advance.

- He truly is Our Example of Sacrifice.

- now, let’s move from the Example of Sacrifice, to....

II. The Joy of Sacrifice

- see, a key question was going to be....How were the people in the early church going to deal with this topic of sacrifice?

- what’s the answer?...they embraced the idea of sacrificing for Jesus Christ as a thing of joy…

- you may recall in the early chapters of the book of Acts – not long after the church was born…Peter and several of the apostles were hauled in before a religious council and the chief priest said…Acts 5:28 - saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”

- wouldn’t you love it if that was said about us? [you have filled Lafayette with your teaching about the gospel?]

- so what did Peter and the apostles say next?...OK, we’ll stop?...

- Acts 5:29–32 - But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

- praise God for their courage, huh?...and what did that earn them?...a beating…

- Acts 5:40 - …after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them.

- and how did the apostles respond to that?...with whining and complaining and threats to take ball and go somewhere else?...

- Acts 5:41–42 - So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

- see, there is such a thing as the joy of sacrifice…

 - and as you read through the NT, you find God’s people willing to sacrifice so that others could come to know Christ.....

- you find God’s people willing to sacrifice so that local churches could be established...

- and those local churches were not social gatherings, or country clubs, or a convenient place to park oneself on Sunday Morning until the restaurants open....

- its a place where God’s people joyfully sacrifice so that the purposes of God can be fulfilled in their lives and the lives of others.

- that’s why people in the early church referred to themselves as “servants of one another”.

- the best way “up” was ‘down” --- they were willing to sacrifice .

- when it came time to choose a group of leaders in the church that could free up the pastors to study and pray....the term that was used was “diakonos”---servant.

- they were to be individuals who joyfully sacrificed for Christ.

- as you continue to read through the book of Acts, you find local churches being established all over the known world by men and women who were so impacted by the cross of Christ that they wanted to follow in His footsteps of sacrifice.

- so you see people sacrificing to witness....

- and sacrificing to teach and disciple...

- and sacrificing to meet the needs of people both inside and outside the church....

- they sacrificed financially so that missionaries could be supported and churches be built and needs be met.

- and you might ask --- well, could they [or did they] sacrifice outside the confines of the local church --- yes --- we’re talking about an overall approach to daily living, but the NT especially emphasizes the way believers sacrificed for the promotion of the local church because that is the way God was [and is] mediating His plan and program in His world today.

- when you think about it, this is yet another proof of the divine origin of the Christian faith because what human being would have come up with this plan?

- if we had looked at this on the drawing board of religious ideas, we would have concluded that this one was going nowhere fast!

- the point of all of this is, Jesus was our example of sacrifice....that’s what the cross is.....

- but far from the early church shying away from this concept, or trying to hide this concept.....they embraced the cross as an instrument of sacrifice....they were willing to sacrifice for Christ and they encouraged others to do the same.

- now a great question to ask at this point would be....how could this happen?

- this all seems so backward to the way we would have designed it?

- it shocks us that this worked?....and that it still works?....you’re left with this huge question....how does it work?.....how can it work?

- two quick answers to that question are:

1) By the transforming power of Jesus Christ.

- living this kind of life is only possible if you have received a new heart....

- if you have been regenerated, if you have been born again....

- that’s a very important piece of what we’re studying this morning.

- because what we’ve studied thus far is horrible.....the physical aspect of the cross is hard to imagine....but the bottom line is....that’s not the worst part of the story....

- the central message of the cross is not that Jesus Christ endured physical pain and torment.....but that he paid the price for our sin in the process.

- that’s why Psalm 22 began with the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

- Our Savior was bearing the weight and the penalty for our sins....

- II Cor. 5:21 - God has made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

- so as you read through the account of the early church and the way it was built, and find yourself saying....

- these people are living in a way that is unnatural -- you’ve got that right....

- these men and women are sacrificing in ways that are unheard of --- that’s true....

- they don't even seem to be the same people they were before.....it’s.....it’s.... ....supernatural.

- that’s exactly right.

- which, by the way, helps us to understand that if what I’m talking to you about this morning is not particularly appealing to you, it may be that you have never genuinely trusted Christ as savior and Lord.

- see, there are certain ideas from the Scripture that have a way of dividing the sheep from the goats.....of dividing those who are saved and those who are not.

- this is one of those kinds of messages.....

- the second answer to how this could happen is that God’s way always works best.

- much of the Christian life is a paradox.

- what appears to be contradictory isn’t.

- Jesus had said, if you want to find your life, you have to lose it.

- if you want to be great, be a servant.

- and some men and women in the early church took Jesus up on His claims, and you know what they found?

- He was right....

- they found great joy in sacrificing for Him.....

- they found great joy in serving in the church....

- they found great satisfaction in seeing others come to know Christ and then learn to follow Him....

- they even saw that as they practiced these principles in their relationships with others, that life really worked best God’s way.

- the bottom line is---that satisfied joyful life became very attractive to many.

- now, let’s push this one step further.

- we’ve talked about the example of sacrifice, and the joy of sacrifice....let’s think now about:

III. Our Heritage of Sacrifice.

- Friends, I’d like to point out to you this morning that we enjoy what we enjoy here, humanly speaking, because of the heritage of people who have faithfully served and sacrificed in this place.

- Faith Church is not the story of big names and great people....its the story of humble people who loved to serve their Savior…and that continues to be true today…

- let me enumerate several ways that’s true and what that means for our ministries over the next several weeks…

1. I’d like to thank those who serve in the regular ministries of our church week-in and week out…

        - I have the privilege now of speaking live at each campus once a month…

- and that allows me to go around and see all the folks serving in the tech ministries, and our children’s ministries, and youth programs…

- thank you for embracing the cross in such a sacrificial way…

- thank you to those who are serving this spring with the maintenance of our buildings and facilities with projects like mulch madness…

- we also want to thank the hundreds of people who responded to our Serve 19 emphasis and volunteered to serve in one of our children’s ministries this upcoming year…

- that’s what it takes to have a church that genuinely disciples people in this day and age…

2. think also of the heritage of men and women who went before us and made these buildings and facilities possible…

- now, many of those people here have moved to other places with their jobs or families…

- if I said their names today, many of you wouldn’t know them because you’ve come since they’ve been transferred ....but that doesn’t diminish the importance of what they did when they were here.

- Some of those folks have been promoted to glory....but when they were here they joyfully and sacrificially served.

- I imagine that my saying what I just said causes the memory wheels to go for many of you....and that’s good.....this church has a heritage of men and women who have been impacted by what Jesus did on the cross....

- and they haven’t minded spelling sacrifice with a capital “S”.

3) I’d like to challenge each and every one of us to be thinking about ways we can be serving during the Easter season…

- cf the Passion Play

- let’s bathe that ministry in prayer…

- Sacrificing by taking the risk to invite a friend or a co-worker…

- volunteering for any of the remaining service positions…

- Easter Sunday services…let’s be like the early church in that we’re filling Lafayette with the teaching about the good of our resurrected Savior…and if the proclamation of that message has risk or sacrifice, then bring that on…

4) I would encourage you to look for opportunities to thank those who sacrifice to make our church ministries possible…

- why not sit down and write a few thank you notes this week?...

- start with your deacon…[develop wording, including asking for his accountability…]

5) We also want to thank you for your faithful giving…

- we’re in the middle of our SMC capital campaign and by God’s grace, we’re right on track…

- so our duplex is being constructed out at Bethany Farms for our Men’s Restoration Ministry…

- the education addition is going up at FE

- our Latin America strategy is taking significant leaps forward…

- and we can legitimately pray and hope and plan for the NCC to be debt-free by the end of next year…

- and as a bonus, we’ve started the construction of a couple of new ballfields on some the 90 acres of ground that was given to us a few years ago…

6) You’ll also notice a special giving opportunity in your bulletin…[Develop the Curtis vehicle]…

7) I also want to encourage you to be back with us at CFN this evening

- it’s for all of our campuses – held at FE…

- [good opportunity to meet people from other campuses…]

- we have several important matters to discuss…the change we’re contemplating to our constitution regarding how we elect deacons…

- we also have a natural opportunity to review the conflict of interest policy each person in leadership signs who sits on any board of committee of our church and its related ministries…

- but I’m especially excited to discuss an opportunity we have to be a real blessing to two of our missionaries in South Africa – Deon and Michelle Rensburg

- Michelle is the daughter of our long-time missionaries Marc and Judie Blackwell

- the Rensburgs contacted us about possibly helping them acquire a building for a home and the base of their next church plant [Aaron/Heather – please insert picture of “typical;” house they are looking at]…

- develop how the gift from Jack Viol makes something like this possible – someone who sacrificed greatly in a way that continues to pay dividends to this church…


Dr. Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video