The Cross: An Instrument of Sacrifice

Steve Viars August 21, 1999 Mark 15:22-30

- This summer we’re going through a series entitled embracing the cross.
- we’ve been studying various passages from the Word of God that talk about the cross-work of Jesus Christ.

- 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, and the cross as an instrument of denial, the cross as an instrument of glory, and the cross as an instrument of forgiveness.
- 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, It is an instrument of Sacrifice.
- that’s the emphasis I’d like us to study today.

- would you please open your Bible to the Gospel of Mark chapter 15.
- 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.
- I’ve said to you before that 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:  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, then the heritage of sacrifice, and lastly the challenge 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.

- 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...”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.
- that was accomplished by placed the cross on the ground, and then forcing the person to lay down on the cross while he was attached.
- 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?
- frankly, when I was studying this week, I became ill.
- 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.
- 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.
- see, Christianity is not a faith someone adopts because he wants to be king....
- its not something you become you want others to serve you....
- its not a way to get your needs met...or your desires satisfied....
- frankly, it is a life of sacrifice, it is a life of service.
- when we talk about embracing the cross, think about the nature of that cross based on the truths we’ve been studying.

- but do you know what you find.....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...
- the local church is not a social gathering, it is not a country club, its not 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.
- we seek to know Christ, and to make Him known....and the early church was not the least bit afraid of sacrifice.
- so you find people in the early church referring 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 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.

- see, Christianity is not led by a powerful military Conqueror who will make you powerful if you follow Him.
- Christianity is led by a sacrificial servant who will transform you into one as well if you will let Him.
- in fact, what I just said, in my mind, 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!

- let me ask you to turn over to I Peter 2 for a moment.
- here’s an example of a Bible writer taking this idea of the cross as an instrument of sacrifice, and applying it to many areas of practical daily living...we may spend some more extended time on another Sunday, but let’s just peek at it now....

- READ I Peter 2:21-25

- now, Peter takes that same theme of the cross as an instrument of sacrifice, and applies it to everyday life.....
- in verses 18-20, he had already applied it to the way Christians respond to harsh treatment at work......the answer in an nutshell?....embrace the cross.
- in chapter 3, verses 1-6, he applies it to the role of the wife, even when her husband does not know God...... the answer in an nutshell?....embrace the cross.
- in verse and following, he does the same with the husband...... the answer in an nutshell?....embrace the cross.
- in chapter 4 verse 12, he applies it to handling trial.....
- READ 4:12-13.

- 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.
- [develop -- your experience at the country club as a caddie].

- 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. The 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 Baptist Church is not the story of big names and great people....its the story of humble people who loved to serve their Savior.

- We were able to walk into a nice building this morning because many people in the past weren’t afraid of sacrificing for Christ.
- Many of us were able to deliver our children to a well-run nursery this morning because others in the past have sacrificially served and developed that ministry.
- We were able to leave our older children in the competent hands of SS teachers, and Children’s Church workers....because of the heritage of sacrificial service.
- Our missionaries have been able to tell others about Christ all over the globe because of the same reason, humanly speaking.
- God has chosen to build His church through the efforts of sacrificial people, and we have a great heritage of that, here.

- what you and must avoid, in part, is taking that for granted.
- in failing to understand what had to be done to enjoy all that we enjoy today.

- now, many of those folks who served so faithfully here have been transferred to other places.
- if I said their names today, many of you wouldn’t know them because you’ve come since they’ve been transferred to another place in the country....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”.

- and they didn’t let excuses get in the way of their sacrificing....
- and they didn’t let material things stop them from sacrificing....
- they didn’t let busyness....they didn’t let activities.....

- I believe God is greatly pleased when men and women, out of their love for Christ, choose to sacrificially serve Him.

- now, we’ve talked about the example of sacrifice, and the joy of sacrifice, and the heritage of sacrifice.....
- but that’s not the end of the story, is it?
- let’s conclude with....


IV. The Challenge of Sacrifice


- frankly, I’ve said everything I’ve said so far to prepare to hearts consider what I’m about to say in our remaining moments this morning.
- I’d like all of us to be challenged by this topic in three primary ways:

1) Recognize and be thankful for all of those who are sacrificially serving today.
- If we stop and think it, it is amazing how many sacrificial servants are involved in a church accomplishing its mission in a given week.
- you might want to think that through this week, all that’s required for the things done on Sunday, then all that happens throughout the week with various ministries, then all that’s required to keep our ministries around the world going....
- I would be sinful if I failed to be thankful for, and to those individuals....
- and you would be sinful if you failed to be thankful for, or to those individuals....

- why not take time this to write a note.....[develop]

- by the way, if you’re one of those sacrificial servants.....where what you do here week in and week out is an example of embracing the cross as an instrument of sacrifice, thank you for your love for the Lord and love for your church.

2) Evaluate your service for Christ here.

[develop --- our church’s mission and 5 fold philosophy of ministry emphasis]

- I think all of us to think carefully about what we’ve studied this morning, and then honestly evaluate whether we are embracing the cross in this way.
- I know we’ve embraced our share of busyness....
- I know we’ve embraced our share of activity....
- I know we’ve embraced our share of recreation....
- I know we’ve embraced our share of material things.....
- but honestly, before God, have you embraced the cross as an instrument of sacrifice?

- let me talk to you about some specific ministry opportunities.
[if interested, these ministry leaders are available in the gym after the service].

Nursery
1) 2 teacher assistants for the Early 2’s on Sunday mornings [rotation of 1 month on, 2 month off]
2) 4 nursery workers during the middle ministry session [1 service per month]
3) 2-3 workers for choir nursery [Sunday afternoon before church - 1 Sunday night every 8 weeks].
4) 2 people for Sunday evening nursery 1 Sunday night per month]
5) 1-2 people for nursery cleaning [2 hours every 4 weeks]
6) 1 person for nursery laundry [4 weeks of 8 loads per year]

Children’s Sunday School
1) 1 couple or 2 ladies for Kindergarten during the 10:45 session
2) 1 couple for 6th grade boys at that same time
3) We’re going to need someone down the line for 3rd grade at 10:45 and 1st grade at 8:00.
- we also have a need for a couple of assistants to serve with some of our special needs children.
- we’re delighted that God has given us a diverse congregation, including some with special needs, and we want to serve them all we can.

Children’s Church
1) 1 couple to work with 4 year old [rotation of 1 month on and 2 months off]
2) 2 couples to work with 5th-6th graders, same rotation

Wednesday Clubs
- total of 5 helpers, 2 for 2 year olds, 1 for 3 year olds, 1 for 1st and 2nd grade boys, and 1 for 3rd and 4th grade boys.


[develop the importance of ministering to our children and the joy it can be to serve in this way].

- key question I’m asking you is, as you look at the way you serve in your church, could you say that you are embracing the cross?

- let me apply that specifically to several groups....
a) Those who are older.
- some of you have been saved a long period of time.
- you may have served sacrificially in the past but had to step out because of a special need.
- would God want you to be using this topic this morning to help you see that you need to get back into serving again?

- I hope no one here would say....I’ve put in my time, let someone else do that.
- Biblically, those who are older are responsible to minister to those who are younger.
- that’s why God saved us and gave us the knowledge and experience He has.
- when we fail to do that, we’re being poor stewards.

b) Those who have been serving in limited ways.
- we appreciate those who serve in areas like VBS, the Living Nativity, etc.
- that’s a great way to begin....
- but is it time to ratchet it up?
- again, we’re talking about embracing the cross as an instrument of sacrifice.
- After considering what Christ has done for us, is it time to increase our service?

c) For those who are new.
- Is it time to get busy and join?
- I wouldn’t join right away, either.
- however, all of these opportunities I’ve mentioned require membership, and you wouldn’t want us to be placing people before your children is we didn’t even know if they knew Christ.
- I want to encourage you to be thorough as you consider membership, but “quickly thorough”....the joy of sacrificially serving Christ awaits you.

3) Look for ways to sacrificially serve in other areas of life.

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 two 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