Let’s pray together. Father, we thank you for your amazing grace that we can sing on. Lord, that Easter is not just a once-a-year celebration. Easter is a reality. It’s a spiritual reality that invades all of life. And as much as Christ reigns and rules now over a new creation, it will be so clear and so perfect when He returns, Lord. So, Lord, we celebrate His resurrection and ascension until He comes to make all things new. So, Father, we praise you for the finished work of your Son, Jesus, and that it continues to bear fruit, and it will bear all fruit until the end. Let us set our hearts and minds now on your Son, that we may adore Him, that we may obey Him, that we may become more like Him. Lord, so we want to offer up our very selves to Him. We pray, Lord, that you would always bless our giving, that we would happily, gladly, give the very best of what we have to you. And thank you for your goodness in our lives. And we pray it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, happy Easter to you.

We have extra sugared-up children with us this sermon, so we’re bouncing around a little more. That’s okay.

Well, I’d like to go with you to Luke chapter 23. Luke chapter 23, verses 26 to 31 this evening.

Luke chapter 23, verses 26 to 31.

Luke writes, And as they led him away, they seized one, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them, Jesus said, Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore, the breasts that never nursed. Then they will begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, cover us, for if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?

Easter always lines up with spring. We celebrate Easter, I think, the perfect time of year because everything’s come into life, everything’s in bloom. The kind of cold is fading away. Unlike Christmas, because most likely Jesus was born in like September, October, but Easter is properly placed in the springtime. All things are being made new, and there’s bright colors everywhere. And what’s dark and dreary and depressing gives way to inescapable light and life. Easter. Should be the happiest occasion for the Christian. But I want to look at this passage with you because I believe Jesus gives us a cause to properly weep before we properly celebrate.

And I believe it’s in fact the case. You must do the right kind of weeping for Easter celebration. Celebration to truly happen. In droves, people will gather, have gathered on this day out of obligation, out of mama’s guilt, out of interest, perhaps. Someone searching on Easter. But really, Easter would give us all cause, to inwardly reflect and to mourn before we look upon the cross and the resurrection with joy.

In 26 here, what’s just happened is the Jews have chosen a sure-proven murderer, Barabbas, Barabbas, Barabbas, Barabbas, in the place of a surely innocent man, Jesus. And if there was ever a man to weep for, wouldn’t it be this one? Jesus came from heaven, so he purported, where he was in glory with the Father, worshipped, adored by the heavenly host, willingly became an infant in a manger, not for kicks, but to save sinners. The scriptures tell us he grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God, and he had a ministry of saving, healing people, blind people, deaf people, lame people, dead people, bringing them to life, feeding people. He had a message of salvation. He had a message that drew in people that were otherwise cast out. Yet, Jesus was maligned by the political and religious leaders. He was betrayed by one of his closest followers. He was given an unfair, speedy, reckless trial. He was unfairly battered and assaulted. The guards blindfolded him and beat him and blasphemed him. Who struck you? Who struck you? They would mock. Herod’s soldiers, the scriptures tell us, had contempt for him and mocked him. When Pilate didn’t know what to do with him, Pilate sent him to Herod, and Herod dressed him in splendid royal clothing and returned him to Pilate in mockery.

Jesus was flogged, which would have involved being whipped with a cat of nine tails, and cat of nine tails had nine straps of leather with ball bearings and glass. It wouldn’t only hit the back, but it would wrap around to the front, and it would pull off about a quarter’s worth of skin each time, so it would leave your flesh kind of ribboned out. And eventually it says that the crowd prevailed. They prevailed. And Pilate gave in. He couldn’t resist them anymore. And so this Jesus carries his cross, but by apparent weakness, the guards force this man Simon of Cyrene to carry it behind him. And then Jesus is crucified between two common thieves. He’s up there crucified between two common thieves.

I don’t want to call Jesus a liar, but wouldn’t this be a cause for mourning, Jesus, for you? How can you say don’t mourn? How can you say that you’re not something worth mourning about? That can’t be true, Jesus. You are something worth mourning about. What’s happened to you? Jesus says, no thanks. No thanks. And these ladies are surely genuine in their weeping and mourning. They’re followers. His mother is probably here amongst these ladies. Here’s the thing, though, about Jesus’ brutal suffering and crucifixion and death. Jesus chose to suffer and die. Jesus chose to suffer and die. The cross didn’t happen to Jesus as much as Jesus chose the cross.

And there’s something called, and I believe they’ve mentioned it, but it will be mentioned more in the video series we’re watching on Wednesdays, but there’s something called cosmic child abuse. Cosmic child abuse. It’s this phrase coined by a British theologian a while back. And the man says that we can’t possibly believe the father would send his son to die on a cross. That would be divine or cosmic child abuse. So he atones this doctrine of atonement.

Yet we do read, don’t we, in Isaiah, that it was the will of the father to crush him, the prophet says.

It pleased the father to crush him. Did the father send Jesus to be crushed? Absolutely, the father sent Jesus to be crushed. But the scriptures at the same time tell us that Jesus set his face to Jerusalem. The scriptures tell us Jesus had joy set before him in doing it. The scriptures tell us that Jesus had authority to lay his life down and Jesus had authority to take it back up again. Yes, Jesus was crucified, but Jesus chose it. Jesus allowed it. Jesus was so willing to do it. Jesus didn’t go kicking and screaming to the cross. He bore it like a man. The man. It was the father’s will, but it was Jesus’ mission. Both of those can exist at the same time. And they’re compatible. It was the will of the father, but it was the mission of Jesus. It was the father’s will, and it was the son’s mission to destroy the power of sin and death, to save the elect of God through the cross. Paul says in Colossians that he disarmed the rulers and authorities. He nailed our debts to a tree. Jesus did that. We have to believe that. And it was necessary for Jesus to do that. And we only see it like that if we see sin as God sees sin. Sin is not an inconvenience. Sin is not just a problem. Sin is an enemy in direct rebellion to God. God’s very essence is truth and righteousness. So sin existing in people, an enemy in the spiritual realm, these things are against the very essence of our Trinitarian God. So we have to really buck here what Bishop Michael Curry said at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan. He said that it was the supreme example of love. Supreme example of love, the cross. And I appreciate a couple of online theologians and bloggers who said it’s true, but you came a little short there. Jesus didn’t just die to set a good example for you and I if we could follow it. That’s not what Jesus did. Jesus paid a price on that cross. Only he could pay. Jesus satisfied the law’s requirement for sin. Jesus paid for your sin. We are bad. We are sinful. Christ atoned for sin. So that death has no claim. So that the serpent has no teeth. And sin has no power. That’s what Jesus did. It wasn’t a good example of love only. What Jesus did was he weaponized the cross against Satan. And with that weapon, he took away death’s claim on your soul. He broke the teeth of the serpent. And he took away the power of sin. Jesus bore the sins of the world and the wrath of God. And Easter is not good news if you don’t believe that. And by his resurrection and ascension, Jesus reigns at the right hand of the Father forevermore for what he did. That’s a unique work. That’s a unique work. It’s not just some example we can follow. In the same way I really don’t like it when people say, and it’s a popular phrase, people talk about incarnational ministry. You know, if there’s this dark place in the world, we need to do incarnational ministry. And I get what they’re trying to say. We need to go and bring the gospel and the light of Christ and be Christians and missionaries. The problem is I think it devalues the word incarnation. Because there’s only one person who could incarnate as the God-man. And there’s only one person who can truly show love. And in doing so, deal with our sin problem. You and I cannot do what this God-man did. So this is how God planned before the ages began to overcome evil and to bring utmost glory to the Father, to himself, and the power of the Spirit to save the church. That’s what Jesus did. Jesus said in his high priestly prayer, now am I to be glorified. Philippians tells us that every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. It’s in Revelations chapter 5, the great afterword of the whole story. Why is the lamb being worshipped? Why? Because he was slain. It’s his glory to have suffered and died.

So don’t weep for Jesus. He don’t need it. Worship Jesus. The eternal decree of the cross came to pass as God intended for his own glory.

And I think if you want to cry and get emotional, cry and get emotional because you marvel at the purposes of God in the suffering and resurrection of Christ. Jesus died that he would be raised to glory. Easter is spoiled if we make it about anything else. Easter is spoiled certainly if we make it about us, which we’re so prone to do about everything else in life.

I should not start with myself when I think about Easter. Jesus and the Father were in heaven and they just could not just imagine heaven without us, as one popular worship song says. They just couldn’t imagine heaven without us. And what are we going to do to get them up here? They’re just… Friends, that’s not Easter. Easter is the amazing story of how unworthy you are and God doesn’t need us. It’s the grace of God that wows us about Easter. God, you brought yourself glory and you saved me. I’m not talking just be free from sin and shame. You saved me. So I can see how great and glorious you are. What’s great about being saved? Beholding how glorious and great the Father and the Son and the Spirit are and what they’ve done on the cross of Jesus. And that’s not going to get boring, by the way. That’s like the interesting thing on this side of life. We get the window into Revelation. What are they doing? Worshiping the Lamb that was slain. So if the gospel is boring now, if Easter gets old now, guess what? You’re going to be real bored for like a million bajillion years. This is God’s great story forever.

Easter is about glorying in the cross as much as God does. You’ve been saved not just from, you’ve been saved to God. So friends, I want to encourage us this Easter in a me-centric world. Oh, just look to Jesus. And see how wonderful and how beautiful and how powerful and how all-encompassing His will is and the will of the Father to destroy sin and Satan and to save an unworthy people for the possession of the Father. Easter is a celebration of knowing God. That’s Easter. So Jesus says, don’t weep for me. His death was a death by choice. But He does say to these ladies, you should weep for something else, yourselves. And He’s telling them to weep because the nation of Israel has chosen destruction for themselves. Let me look back at verse 28.

He says, don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, blessed are the barren and the womb that never bore and the breast that never nursed. And they will begin to say, the mountains fall on us and to the hills cover us. For if they do these things, when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry? And that’s probably familiar language if you can remember back when we went through Matthew. And it’s certainly familiar language in the passages we’ve covered in Revelation. And by the way, the moment’s astonishing if you’ve not noticed this. We are being evangelized here by sleep-deprived, beaten, bruised, hungry, thirsty Jesus walking on a road to Calvary. How does he have the mental capacity to pay attention to what other people are doing at all? How is he not just inside of himself just thinking like, get this over with, get this over with. Yet his love runs so deep, he would evangelize us even on the very road to Calvary.

But he says weep. He says weep for yourselves and for your children. Remember, Jesus was Israel’s long foretold Messiah. He was promised to come centuries and centuries before. And often, often, the prophets, the Old Testament writers were ignored. Ignored. All throughout the Old Testament, every book of the Bible has its theme on the Messiah in some way. The Messiah as the seed. The Messiah as the leader. The Messiah as king. The Messiah as conqueror. The Messiah as a suffering for his people in Isaiah. Every book has its Jesus theme. It’s there all the way through. All the way through. So Jesus, earlier in this book, in chapter 13, he’s brokenhearted. He breaks out over the people. He says how he would have gathered them in like a mother hen and loved them, but they wouldn’t let him.

Jesus describes in detail in this passage then, as he’s walking bloodied and maimed to Calvary, Israel’s not-so-far-off destruction for rejecting and crucifying God’s Messiah. And so if Jesus was crucified and ascended around A.D. 33, it’s in A.D. 70 that Rome destroys Israel just as Jesus was prophesying. The historian Josephus claimed that those who visited Judea after this had happened could scarcely believe it was ever inhabited. If you weren’t slaughtered by the Roman soldiers, you were made to be a slave. Those who held out to the end were basically locked in their own city. They were starved. Their water supply was cut off. That caused rampant disease within Jerusalem. And there was even infighting among factions as they’re being destroyed by Rome. And they are raised to the ground. And Jesus says it’s so bad, you women better hope that you don’t have babies. And now, that’s not heard by 21st century ears. It’s not heard by 21st century ears. A lot of ladies would go, yeah, great, I don’t, whatever, okay, well, fine, I’m a businesswoman, whatever. That’s an Old Testament reproach. Hannah had a reproach on her because she couldn’t have children. The idea of never having a baby, that was seen as maybe as a judgment even from God. So Jesus is saying, you better, he’s flipping it, you better hope that’s you because it’s going to be so bad, the idea of having to breastfeed a child to keep up with a baby, oh, it’s going to be a nightmare for you as you are sacked. Sacked. Raised to the ground by Rome. Jesus is describing something that is absolutely, absolutely horrid in every way. And we get this kind of cryptic riddle at the end. If they do these things when the wood is green, in other words, if Rome will do this to me, the fruitful vine, though I’m righteous and have life in me, what will Rome do to you, you dry dead thing, when it’s God’s judgment being used? So Jesus is saying, as bad as this is for me, multiply it for you. And to this day even, there’s a great hardness upon the Jewish nation for rejecting their own Messiah. So friends, we read of their hardness of heart here, their hostility towards the God Messiah,

and we see how he says to weep. But that’s something we should listen to Jesus say for our own souls this Easter.

Perhaps we need to weep this Easter. We need to weep if we know of God’s Messiah, yet we’re not much different than the interested crowd, the onlookers, who just want to watch a man get crucified. We need to weep for ourselves if Easter’s just a holiday and hey, I got a day off work Friday, that’s great. And it’s not a triumphal celebration of the cross over your sin. We need to weep if Christianity is really when the rubber hits the road, it’s just an affiliation, it’s not a, it’s not really an all-consuming way of life. If I’m not really branded on my head and in my heart, one of Jesus’ people. We need to weep if truly you’re more interested still in building your own kingdom than being a part of how Jesus is building his kingdom through his church. We need to weep for ourselves if we’re not willing to lose our own lives that we would find it. And ultimately we need to weep if we’re not willing to carry our cross and follow Jesus to death on Calvary. And you get a word picture of that in that first verse with Simon of Cyrene. There’s hint that maybe his son is Rufus further on down in the epistles, maybe there’s some connections there, you can’t prove it. It’s hard to know if that, if he would be the same one. There’s thought that this, this Simon of Cyrene knew Jesus already. I don’t know. I don’t know. It’d be interesting to know what he thought about the whole thing after. But we’re still left with this very effective word picture. Are you one of the people around this happening, following Jesus, watching him suffer and die? Or do you have a cross on your own back and you’re following him to death? That’s what this passage really asks us. Are we watching or are we following Jesus?

And then Jesus says, weep for your children. Because guess what? Children receive the legacy of their parents. And it’s generations of Israelites who received the same tepid, surface-deep religion that didn’t make a difference.

So it’s so fitting when the Hebrew author says, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?

But I want to end with this. Jesus talks about a different kind of weeping. Not a weeping for judgment. But Jesus talks about a weeping and a mourning and a sorrow that leads to salvation and new life. A rescue from the penalty of sin. And it only comes because of Easter. Jesus says in Matthew chapter 5, blessed are those who mourn because they will be comforted. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Friends, that’s the good news of Easter. When each of us in genuine contrition repent of sin and turn from self to Jesus, we are made clean. We’re given eternal resurrection life. The same resurrection life Jesus had when he walked out from the grave. Exact same thing. Exact same thing.

So the Spirit gives us every cause this Easter for rejoicing and worshiping. For Christ has turned our sorrow to joy and our weeping to laughter. If we’ve turned to Christ, if we’ve repented and if we carry our cross daily and seek to follow him and follow him alone, that’s the good news about Easter. That’s when the roses bloom. That’s when all the greenery comes out. That’s when hope of eternal life can well up in your soul and get bigger and bigger until the day it finally arrives and it never ends. The grace of God has saved us here. Oh friends, that each of us in our own souls, in our own minds would fixate on the Christ, the Christ hanging on the cross. That we would die to self. That we would in his resurrection live. That’s Easter. Jesus says weep and mourn for your sin because he makes the promise, the Easter promise. He will comfort you. He will comfort you.

I think it’s so telling and such a grace that right after this you get the account of the thieves on the cross. You get these two men. And in verse 39 it says one criminal railed at him. Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us. But then there’s the other one. And it feels like, doesn’t it, if you’ve gone your whole life and the climax of your life is you’ve been crucified. You’re so bad. Society’s decided let’s just nail the guy to a tree. Your best hopes are behind you. Salvation and rescue are long forgotten things. You’ve missed out on whatever it was. Guess what? You’ve missed out. Yet in the last moments of this man’s life who’s lived most likely a terrible, terrible life of crime, murder, few moments left he cries out to Jesus. He mourns in his last moments. He rebuked the other thief. Do you not fear God since you’re under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed, justly for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds. But this man has done nothing wrong. And the man in his own way probably does not have good theology. The man in his own way in that moment just says, will you remember me?

He just says remember me.

That’s how gracious he is. How kind Jesus is to each of us. That if we would just throw ourselves at him, he would grab us and save us and call us his own. Friends, this is a God of unutterable grace and mercy and love for us whoever we are, wherever we are. It does not matter. Jesus says come. Come.

So I pray that for you and for myself that on this Easter we would mourn for the promise of being comforted. Let’s pray.

Father, forgive us for not daily reveling in the cross of Christ. For letting all the little things that steal our attention, steal our joy, steal our satisfaction, steal our best worship, all the things that we give so much weight to. Yet the finished work of your son Jesus it lives in the back of our minds. So rarely do we draw power from it. So rarely do we live in the forgiveness of it. So rarely do we live in the power and wonder of it all. Oh Lord, let our hearts and our minds be enraptured with the cross of Christ and the empty grave, that bids us come and die, that we would live and liffER and LIFER and LIFER and LIGHTER and LIFER and LIFFER and LIFFER

Preacher: Chad Cronin

Passage: Luke 23:26-31