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Loved By Jesus

The Crucified

Rev. Philip Miller | July 11, 2021

Selected highlights from this sermon

The crucifixion of Jesus. We may want to look the other way, to not face the harsh reality of an innocent man nailed to a cross, to not bear the weight of the torture and agony and injustice of this moment, because maybe it’s just too personal. If anyone deserves to be condemned and punished, it’s not Jesus.

But Jesus died for us. Has that reality come home in you? Do you rest in His finished work? Do you really believe “it is finished?” That nothing you do adds or subtracts from the final, full, and finished work of Christ?

In this sermon, Pastor Miller looks at three portraits of Jesus: The Crucified King, the Fleeced Protector, and the Parched Savior.

The Crucified

A while back, someone gave me a copy of “The Passion.” Remember that movie back from 2004? It depicts the crucifixion of Jesus. And it is still in the shrink wrap in my house. I had seen the movie in the theater and it wrecked me, and I have never been able to stomach watching it again.

Today, in the course of our study of the Gospel of John, we come to the crucifixion of Jesus. And everything in me wants to look the other way. I don’t want to face the harsh realities of an innocent man condemned to die. I don’t want to bear the weight of the torture and agony and injustice of this moment. I don’t want to feel the knotting, sinking, nauseating grief that sickens my gut. No, I want to look the other way because frankly, it’s just too personal.

Jesus died for me. I’m the one who was made to love and serve God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I’m the one that was made to serve Him with every moment of my waking day. I’m the one who hijacked my life and stiff-armed God. And I’m the one who chose to live for myself. And if anyone deserves to be punished, it’s not Jesus. If any deserves to be condemned, it’s not Him. If anyone deserves to die, it’s me. It’s me.

This is not just a historic injustice, or an ancient tragedy. Jesus’ crucifixion is autobiographical for me. This is my story. You see, I’ve come to believe that on the cross, Jesus died in my place and for my sake. He bore all of my sin and shame on the cross in order that He might in exchange give me His perfect righteousness that I might stand before God, accepted as His child forever. And so the cross is for me. Jesus died for me. This is my story.

And it’s your story, too, if you’ll believe it. It’s my prayer, that today you will see that this is your story too.

Please grab your Bibles. We’re going to be in John, chapter 19, verses 16 down to 30. If you want to use the blue Bible that’s in the rack by your knees there, you can find today’s reading on page 905, wrapping over to page 906 (905 to 906).

We’re going to see three portraits of Jesus in our text this morning. We’re going to see: The Crucified King, The Fleeced Protector, and The Parched Savior

The Crucified King, The Fleeced Protector, and The Parched Savior.

Would you bow your heads? Let’s pray.

Father, we turn now to your Word, for one of the hardest scenes in all the Bible to look at. Help us not turn away. Help us feel this, see this, experience this. Help us realize it’s for us. Help it become deeply, inescapably, permanently personal to us today. We pray this in your Son’s matchless name. Amen.

First, the Crucified King.

John 19:16, the second half: “So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.”

Just pause for a moment. I don’t need to tell you how horrific the cross is. What I cannot bear to watch in “The Passion” is a sanitized depiction, cleaned up so they didn’t kick over the “R” rating. The cross was a perfected instrument of torture, designed to turn the body’s survival instincts in upon itself in a kind of self-brutal torture. It was designed to be the slowest, most excruciating death possible. As a matter of fact, the word “excruciating” comes from the Latin ex cruciare, “from the cross.”

But John’s focus in our text is not on the gruesome brutality of Jesus’ death, but on what Jesus’ death signifies. And here we have Jesus who was condemned alongside the guilty. You see that. Three times, you’ll recall, Pilate has pronounced Jesus as innocent. The mob forced his hand, and now Pilate, with no options, condemns Jesus to be crucified, an innocent man in the center with guilt on both sides. You see this.

We just read this in Isaiah 53:12: “He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

Jesus here takes His place with guilty sinners. He becomes one them, one of us. Verse 19: “Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Hews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.”

It was customary for charges to be written on what was called a titulus in Latin. It was hung around the neck during the procession as the criminal was led to execution, and it was then nailed to the cross; formal charges, a cautionary tale for all to read. And the charge here is “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” It is written (chuckles), John tells us, in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. Aramaic was the regional spoken dialect of the region. Latin was the legal official language of Rome, and Greek was the lingua franca of the cultural language of the empire.

The exact wording of this charge is a bit passive-aggressive on the part of Pilate. Remember, he’s the one who capitulated to the mob against his own better judgment, and they forced his hand, so Pilate writes this charge in a way that will be most humiliating for the Jewish people. He writes as if Jesus really is their King, and here He is hanging, shamefully humiliated by the Roman Empire. And they feel the sting of it.

Look at verse 21: “So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews,” but rather, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.”’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’” No dice.

Now the irony of this inscription is that in his spite Pilate actually authors truth, doesn’t he? He really is, Jesus really is the Messiah. Jesus really is the Son of David. Jesus is the King of Israel. In fact, both of the men responsible for condemning Jesus unwittingly affirmed the truth of who He was.

Do you remember this? Caiaphas, the high priest, said it would be better that one man die on behalf of the people instead of the nation perishing. That’s in John 11:50, and that turned out to be prophetic. And now Pilate, despite the Jewish leaders, unwittingly declares to the world in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek, triple-translated so that all people everywhere might know “Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the King of the Jews.”

Remember what Jesus said in John 12:32: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Remember this? All people, not just Jews, but Greeks and Gentiles and people from every nation, tribe and language and tongue.

On the cross, friends, Jesus is lifted up for all to see. On the cross He is lifted up for all to see. And John wants us to see the hidden hand of God. In the midst of all this chaos and injustice and evil God is fulfilling His purposes for His Son through all of these things as Jesus takes His place among guilty sinners. He is numbered with the transgressors in fulfillment of Scripture, and Jesus is lifted up as King for all the world to see, that all peoples may be drawn to Him. He’s the Crucified King.

Secondly, He’s the Fleeced Protector. He’s the fleeced protector.

Verse 23: “When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.’ This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.’”

Part of the soldiers’ routine compensation was the spoils of the victims. And so these four soldiers here are dividing up Jesus’ clothing as part of their compensation. They’re stripping Him down. They are fleecing Him of everything He owns. You see this. But when it comes to the tunic, which was particularly well-made and valuable because it was one seamless piece, not two like the usual undergarment was, they cast lots to see whose lucky day it will be.

John points out this is actually a fulfillment of Scripture (Isn’t it?) of Psalm 22. And this isn’t the only reference to Psalm 22. This passage in verse 28 where Jesus says, “I thirst,” that too is a reference to Psalm 22. And although John doesn’t record it for us here, Matthew and Mark report that on the cross Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” which is a direct quotation from Psalm 22.

So the soldiers’ actions and two of Jesus’ statements lead us back to Psalm 22. What’s going on with that? Why Psalm 22? Why all these allusions? Psalm 22 was written by King David about a thousand years before Jesus was ever on the scene. Let me just read a few of the excerpts here from that Psalm.

Verse 1, Psalm 22, verse 1: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Verses 7 and 8: “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; ‘He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’”

Verses 14 and 15: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.”

Verse 16 to 18: “They have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

Now, in this Psalm, what the scholars will tell us is that David is depicting himself as if he’s going through a public execution of some kind. He’s writing from the perspective of someone being executed. You see that. But here’s what’s perplexing: David never faced public execution. This never literally happened to him. Remember this is poetry. What’s going on here is David is experiencing an intense personal attack and rejection. His enemies are relentlessly brutal. And so acute is David’s pain and agony that he resorts to hyperbole, extreme hyperbole, to convey his sense of torment. And what’s amazing to me is that as David reached, groping at the very edges of his language and imagination to poetically depict how horrific things could feel, he actually ended up describing the very realities that Jesus would one day literally experience on the cross. David’s greatest imagined horrors are Jesus’ real, lived experience.

Verse 24b: “So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

So in addition to the four soldiers we also have these four women who are gathered at the foot of the cross. One of the striking things about Jesus is the way that He prized and honored women in His life and ministry. You know, it was unheard of for a rabbi to speak with and teach women on a regular basis, and Jesus just broke all of those social protocols. It was Him, He was the one, you’ll remember, who initiated conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well. Remember this?

It was He who insisted that Mary be allowed to stay at His feet and listen and learn as one of His students. Remember this? In fact, if you read through the Gospels and keep an eye out for it, you will find Jesus regularly accompanied by women that Jesus has elevated and honored and prized well above their normal social status in the first century.

And so is it any wonder that these women, who had been so valued and honored by Jesus, like no one else had ever done in their culture, would be the ones who remain by His side to the very end, that they would be the ones to see Him at first light on resurrection morning? Of course.

But Jesus’ eyes tear up for one lady in particular, His mom, for Mary. Verse 26: “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.”

Aren’t you touched by the tenderness of this moment? There she is standing, watching her baby boy die. She was there when He opened His eyes for the first time and took His first breath. And she’s there waiting, watching, dreading the moment when He’ll close His eyes and breathe His last. Not only has Jesus been her son, He’s been her protector, He’s been her provider ever since Joseph died a few years back. He’s been the man of the house, and now He’s going to leave, and she’s going to be all alone in the wide world.

Jesus does have four half-brothers. They ought to be here right now to comfort her, but they are nowhere to be found, are they? Oh, they’re in Jerusalem. It’s Passover. All good Jewish people are in Jerusalem for the Passover. They would have come together, but like the rest of the disciples, they have abandoned Jesus in fear and self-protection.

But there is one disciple who stayed. It’s John, our author, who simply calls himself here “the disciple whom he loved.” Don’t you love that, that John has discovered that his truest, deepest, and richest identity is found in simply being loved by Jesus. Even his name no longer matters. It’s the love of Jesus that abides forever. And it is to this beloved disciple that Jesus now entrusts His mother. “Behold your son; behold your mother.” This is basically an adoption formula, and Jesus is asking John to take care of His mom for the rest of his life. And in His loss, Jesus protects the one He loves.

Isn’t this amazing? In His loss, He’s been stripped of everything, fleeced down to nothing, and yet He protects the one He loves. I’m amazed (Aren’t you?) at Jesus’ empathy, His compassion. In the midst of the very height of His most excruciating painful moment, He’s caring for His mom.

Pain turns us inward, doesn’t it? I mean when I get a headache, I am less pleasant to be around. Am I the only one? Do you have this problem too? Pain turns us inward, but look at Jesus. He’s being mocked and tortured and rejected and violated and tormented, and full of empathy and compassion for those He loves.

And friends, listen to me, Jesus always looks past His own pain in the protection of the ones He loves. That’s what the cross is all about. Jesus always looks past His own pain in the protection of those He loves.

He’s The Crucified King. He’s The Fleeced Protector, and now The Parched Savior, the Parched Savior. 

John records here two key statements from Jesus in his final moments on the cross. I want to look at them both in turn here. The first one is “I thirst.” Look at verse 28: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.”

Now at one level, that Jesus is thirsty is no surprise. He’s dying in the hot desert sun, right? Of course He’s parched. But I think this statement goes even deeper, because if you think with me, think with me about the ways that John has used thirst and water in his Gospel on the lips of Jesus. Remember in John, chapter 4, the woman at the well? He said to her, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Remember this woman who had been running after men all of her life, trying to find satisfaction. Jesus says, “I alone can give you what you really need, what will really satisfy your soul. I have living water. I will satisfy your spiritual thirst if you will just come to me. I will give you water that is welling up unto eternal life, and you will never thirst again.”

In John 7, remember at the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus got up and said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

And again, Jesus offers Himself in this moment as an artesian well, a never-ending spiritual, nourishing supply of life. And to be thirsty, we see, is to be disconnected from the life of God, and to have living water is to be imbibing and connected deeply to the life of God available in Jesus Christ. Right?

And now, what does it mean then that the One who has offered this living water says, “I thirst?” What does that mean? You see, He’s thirsty, He’s not just thirsty. Spiritually, on the cross, He is thirsty spiritually. It’s not physical thirst. It’s spiritual thirst. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” “I thirst.” It’s the same thing.

On the cross, Jesus was cut off from the eternally flowing life of His Father. His soul, for the first and only time in eternity became parched and dry. He stood before the consuming fire, you see. The burning wrath of God against the totality of sin of humanity was focused as if through a magnifying glass, all of the radiance tightened in and pinpointed on Jesus on the cross.

Isaiah 33:14 says, “Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with the everlasting burnings?” Friends, the hot desert sun may have parched His mouth, but it was the everlasting burning that parched His soul because on the cross Jesus became sin for us. On the cross Jesus became sin for us.

Second Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin (that’s Jesus), so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become righteous. The sinless Jesus became sin so that we might be righteous forever, the great exchange, you see, that Jesus bears in Himself all the sin and shame so that we might be covered forever with His perfect life, His righteous life before God. Or to say it in more picturesque language like John, “By His thirst, Jesus quenches ours.”

By His thirst, Jesus quenches ours. Friends, Jesus became thirsty on the cross to give us living water so that we might never thirst again. Amen?

Jesus’ second statement is here in verse 30: “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

This statement, “It is finished,” is a single word in Greek. It is tetelestai.

Can you say that with me? Tetelestai. It means finished, completed, accomplished. We have found it on invoices at the bottom when they are paid in full and settled out. Tetelestai.

Jesus’ final words from the cross are: finished, completed, accomplished, done.

“I did it. It is finished. It’s done.”

What is He saying? He’s saying everything He came to do; He’d done it all. Every bit of it. He’s completed His mission from the Father. He had manifested the Father’s name, He had spoken the Father’s word into the world, He had kept all that the Father had given to Him, He had faced the consuming fire, He had absorbed the everlasting burnings, He had become sin in order that we might be righteous, He had drunk the cup the Father had given Him to drink.

He did it. He won. It is finished. Tetelestai.


Friends, through Jesus’ sacrifice, “It is finished.” Finally, fully, forever finished.

Friends, Jesus died for you. Jesus died for you. He was guilty that you might be forgiven. He hung naked that you might be forever clothed in His seamless righteousness. He became vulnerable on the cross that you might be protected forever. He lost everything so you could come home. He was thirsty so you might be quenched. And He was finished so that it might be finished forever.

Has that reality come home to you? This is not just a historical fact. It’s about you. It’s all in the pronouns, you see.

  • Has Jesus become your Crucified King?
  • Has He become your Fleeced Protector?
  • Has He become your Parched Savior?

Maybe you’re sitting here and you’ve never done that. You’ve never said, “Jesus, I want you, your promise, your sacrifice, and your life. I need that.” If you want to accept Jesus into your life and welcome Him in as your Savior and Lord today, He is ready and He is willing. It’s as simple as A, B, C. If you will admit (A – Admit) that you are a sinner far from God, if you will B, believe that Jesus has done everything in His death and resurrection to make you right with God forever, and C, commit. Commit your life to Him and say, “I’m yours. Be my Savior. Be my Lord. Be my everything,” you can right now today know that you are a child of God. And this can become yours. Oh, I pray you will.

For those of us who believe that this is ours, that what Jesus did is for us, the question is, “Has this reality come home in you?” Not to you but in you. Do you rest and live and dwell and come home into this reality on a daily basis? Do you live in the finished, final, full work of Jesus? Do you really believe it’s finished, that nothing you do can add to or subtract from His final, full, and finished work on the cross for you? That on your best day, when you do everything right and you study your Bible and you pray like you should, and you love your people, and you think, “I’m doing okay,” that on that day you have not added one bit to the finished work of Jesus because you are covered by Jesus’ righteousness alone? (applause) And on your worst day, when you blow it and you can’t believe you did it again, and there’s something in you that says, “I can’t come back; I’ve blown it. He’s going to be tired of having me come back and confessing the same old sins over and over again. Surely He’s finished with me.” Friends, do you realize you cannot subtract from the final, full, and finished work of your Savior. (applause) Nothing in your past, present, or future will ever able to separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

“There is— now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” and “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This is your God. Because you are forever loved by Jesus. You are the one Jesus loves, and so “it is finished.” “It is finished.”

Let’s pray.

Oh Father, thank you for this grace. How marvelous that you would send your Son, that He would bear our sin and shame, and that it really can be finished in Him.

Father, thank you for helping us to not look away, but to stare in the face, the glory and grace and life of our Jesus. How marvelous that it is ours forever in Him. We thank you for the cross. In Jesus’ crucified, buried, risen, and exalted name we pray, Amen.

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