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  • Truth on the Via Delorosa

    Posted on April 11th, 2009 admin No comments

    The Via Delorosa is a narrow street in the Old City of Jerusalem. This street follows what is traditionally thought to be the route Jesus followed on the way to his death. The “way of suffering” begins inside the Lions’ Gate in what is now the Muslim quarter of the Old City. The route ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is thought to mark Golgotha, the Hill of Calvary, the place where Jesus was crucified.

    The Via Delorosa has become a major tourist attraction. Today thousands of Christians walk the route, stopping at 14 stations along the way. The first station marks the place where Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus. Pilate addressed the chief priests and the rulers and the people. He said that after examination, he found nothing wrong with Jesus. He could not find him guilty of the charges brought against him. But, the people cried out, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas.” Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but the crowd kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him.” Pilate tried a third time, “What evil has this man done?” But, the crowd kept shouting: “Crucify, crucify him.” Pilate eventually gave in to their demand. He released Barabbas from prison, and handed Jesus over to the crowd.

    Jesus was mocked, severely beaten and spat upon. He was given the crossbeam of the very cross on which he would soon hang. He was led down the Via Delorosa and crucified.

    As he hung on the cross, Jesus made seven statements:
    1)    “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
    2)    “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
    3)    “Woman, behold, your son!… Behold, your mother!”
    4)    “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
    5)    “I am thirsty.”
    6)    “It is finished.”
    7)    “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit.”
    He then breathed his last breath, and died.

    Lord’s Table

    Tonight we remember his death by celebrating the Lord’s Table. For most of our lives, we’ve heard stories about Jesus’ death. We have images on our minds of his suffering. They remind us of Christ’s humanity. He suffered pain when his skin was ripped from his back. He suffered pain when the crown of thorns was pressed into his skull. He suffered pain as he kept falling to the ground, trying to carry his cross. We take the bread tonight remembering that God took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.

    (Take bread).

    The cup reminds us that Christ shed his blood. He was the sacrificial lamb who knew no sin. He was perfect. Yet, he died as the sacrifice for our sin. He died to grant us forgiveness. He died to bring us into relationship with God.

    The men will serve you the cup. As you hold the cup, hear Jesus call out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit.” Then, watch him breath his last breath, and die.

    (Pass the cup)

    “With this cup we proclaim death of our Lord Jesus Christ.”


    Resume Message

    When we think of the crucifixion story, we see Christ standing before Pontius Pilate. The chief priests have accused Jesus of many things. Pilate has asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer. He remained silent. His silence before Pilate fulfilled what Isaiah predicted hundreds of years earlier. Isaiah 53:7 says, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” The Messiah did not open his mouth.

    The next words we remember Jesus speaking are not uttered until the cross, “Father, forgive them.” But, think about it: What happened between Pilate and the cross? Surely, Christ must have said something? Well, he did. A passage in Luke tells us that Jesus’ teaching ministry continued while he suffered en route to the cross. Jesus shared heavy truth between his condemnation and his crucifixion, between Pilate and the cross. Tonight we will reflect upon that heavy truth often overlooked.

    What does God want us to know? It must be important because he reemphasizes it during the final hours of Christ’s life?

    ILL: When someone is hours away from death, they share important things. They know, “This could be the last chance I have to tell you what is on my heart.” Jesus could have been thinking, “If you haven’t listened to anything I’ve said the last three years, listen now.”

    Let’s direct our attention to Luke 23, where Jesus shares Truth on the Via Delorosa. Let’s read Luke 23, verses 26 through 31:

    26 When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. 27 And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. 28 But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 “For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30 “Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 “For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

    In the story, Jesus has been carrying his cross down the Via Delorosa. As he is carrying this heavy piece of rugged wood, people are beating, spitting and hurling abuse on him. He is exhausted from the torment, so much so that his legs give out again. He falls to the ground, first his knees, then his shoulders, then his face. The Roman soldiers have seen physical exhaustion before, and they are seeing it now. They know that this man, Jesus, can no longer carry the cross. As they head out of the city, to the place of crucifixion, they meet a man named Simon going the other direction. He is coming into the city, maybe to celebrate Passover, or to conduct business. His plans are changed when the Roman soldiers seize him and have him carry the cross. Simon makes a 180-degree turn and heads right back out of the city, only this time he is following Jesus; only this time he is carrying the cross.

    I would love to make a big deal out of Simon of Cyrene. His story could possibly be a picture of radical discipleship. He was heading one way – with his own schedule, his own plans, his own vision for what needed to be accomplished – when he met God. He set aside his personal mission, turned around and did what God wanted him to do, namely follow Jesus Christ. Simon followed Jesus, even through the dust, the grime, the blood, the yelling, and the screaming.

    The lesson may be follow Jesus, anywhere, anytime, doing whatever God wants you to do. As good as that sounds, there is much more ahead.

    Verse 27 says a great multitude of people followed Jesus. Luke draws attention to women in the crowd who were mourning and lamenting for Christ. They could have been professional mourners, paid for their service as was the custom, or they could have been women who were truly sympathetic for Jesus. Because Jesus addressed them as “Daughters of Jerusalem” in verse 28, chances are they were not the same women who supported him in Galilee. Regardless of who they were, we know they were not among the mockers. The mad mockers surrounded them, yet the women wept and wailed for what they were watching. They followed Christ as he crawled to the cross.

    The women make their way to the front of the crowd, near Jesus and Simon. In midst of the commotion, Jesus turns his head to them and says these words in verse 28: “Don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children.”

    How can he say, “Don’t weep for him?” – he’s dying. This teaching must have been hard to understand, but it revealed Jesus’ heart: Why weep for one man’s death, when an entire nation is about to be destroyed? A nation, destroyed? This is one man dying, not an entire nation. Jesus knew something that we may miss. What does God want us to know?

    With his words, Jesus predicted a time in Jerusalem’s future when the city would be destroyed. The pain would be especially difficult for women and children. Usually having children is a good thing, it is considered a blessing. But, in verse 29, Jesus says the opposite will be true. The days are coming when having children will be a bad thing, it will be considered a curse. It will be better to not have any children than to see them suffer. In verse 30, Jesus quotes from Hosea 10:8. In Hosea, God’s people are judged for their idolatry. God pours his wrath out on his own people because they have turned away from him. God’s judgment is so severe that people say to the mountains, “Fall on us,” and to the hills, “Cover us.” They would rather die a quick death than experience the pain of God’s wrath.

    Earlier in the book of Luke, Jesus already wept over the city of Jerusalem. Luke records the triumphal entry in chapter 19, verses 41-44:

    41When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, 42saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. 43″For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, 44and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

    Jesus wept over the city, because he knew that God’s judgment was coming on the people of Jerusalem. Jesus offered peace, but the people rejected his offer when they rejected him. Because the people rejected the Messiah, God would bring his judgment on them.

    Even Luke, who penned these words in chapters 19 and 23, did not know for sure what Jesus was talking about. Looking back in history, we see that Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, which happened in AD 70. The future Roman Emperor Titus surrounded Jerusalem with three legions on the western side and a fourth to the east, on the Mount of Olives. Titus allowed pilgrims to enter the city to celebrate Passover, but he would not let them leave. Supplies needed for survival eventually ran low. The people began to famine. They grew incredibly weak. Titus broke through the first and second walls of the city. He crucified Jewish deserters around the city wall to discourage those still fighting. He destroyed the Antonia Fortress, or the military barracks, and eventually destroyed the Temple by fire. Jerusalem was destroyed. The people were killed, captured and enslaved, or scattered. One historian writes that Titus refused to accept a wreath of victory, saying, “there is no merit in vanquishing people forsaken by their own God.”  Even wicked people recognize God’s judgment.

    God used the Roman army to punish that generation for rejecting the Messiah. That means God can accomplish his purposes by using wicked people. He did it before Christ, and he did it after Christ. In Habakkuk 1 he used the evil Chaldeans. In AD 70 he used the Roman army.

    In verse 31 Jesus quotes a proverbial saying, “For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” The green wood symbolizes a time when God’s blessing was upon his people. The dry wood symbolizes a time of judgment, when God removes his hand of blessing. The idea is that the worst has yet to come. If the Roman soldiers killed the perfect man Jesus when the wood was green, think about what will happen to sinful Jerusalem when the wood is dry.
    No doubt, on the Via Delorosa, Jesus was thinking about that future wrath. Here he was hours from death, and his heart broke for those who would face God’s judgment. It was the reason he said, “Don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”

    While the destruction of Jerusalem has passed, know that Christ’s words are still true. The language first used by the prophet Hosea, and here by Jesus Christ in verse 30, appears later in Revelation 6:16. John records what will happen when the Lamb opens the sixth seal. Revelation 6:15-17, “15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

    In the book of Revelation we see that all nations are subject to God’s judgment. People will call to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us.” They would rather die than stand before a holy and righteous God, who pours his wrath on those who don’t know him.

    What does God want us to know as we remember Christ’s words on the Via Delorosa?

    Judgment is coming. We are not talking about judgment for rewards; we are talking about severe judgment as God’s wrath. We can’t even imagine what this judgment looks like, but we do know it will be so severe that people would rather die than face it.

    ILL: There is a lot of talk about the end times. World events are featured on Christian websites, prophetic blogs and in the latest best seller that can be purchased at your local bookstore for $19.95. The big question Christians have asked for centuries is “When?” When is this world, as we know it ending? Friends have even asked me, “When?” The question is not “when,” but “what.” Don’t ask when is the world ending, but what will happen when it ends. The answer is judgment. God’s wrath. Eternal destruction.

    Why else did Jesus weep when he gazed over the city? Why else did he say, “Don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” He knew judgment is coming.

    ILL: Last October a lady’s home was burglarized in Palm Beach County, Florida. She set up a live Internet video feed so that she could monitor the interior of her home from the office. Yesterday, while seated at her office desk, she saw two strangers appear in her living room. They entered her home through the doggie door. The lady called the cops, who raced to her home and arrested the two men inside.

    Those men clearly did something wrong. They broke the law. While it may not amount to much, they can be certain, judgment is coming.

    ILL: How about the 13-year-old girl in Cheyenne who in one month “sent 10,000 text messages and received about the same,” even though her family’s plan did not include texting? Daddy wasn’t happy when he opened the bill and saw a request for $4,756.25.

    That girl clearly did something wrong. She should have been paying attention at school rather than sending texts. When she saw her dad approach her after school with the Verizon bill in one hand and a hammer in the other, she and her cell phone were certain, judgment is coming.

    God wants us to know that judgment is coming. All of humanity did something wrong. All of us sinned against God in Adam. We inherited a sin nature that separated us from the Holy God. We were conceived with an eternal death sentence embedded in our genetic code. We deserved nothing less than the full wrath of God until God, in his grace, sent his Son to die in our place. Jesus Christ was the sacrificial lamb who was slain as the payment for our sin. The only way to reconcile our spiritual account with God is to believe that Jesus died in our place. That one act of faith saves us from God’s eternal judgment. That one act of faith saves us from God’s wrath.

    Did you catch that?

    There is a way to escape God’s wrath, and it is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Most of us here tonight know that. We will not face God’s eternal wrath, because we have been set free. We have believed in Christ.

    Our relationship with God does not change the truth that judgment is coming, it only means our future is different than those who have not called upon Christ for salvation.

    You may ask, “What difference does this truth make to me, I’m a Christian?”
    Let it be a reminder to weep not for Christ; but to weep for those who do not know him. When you look upon the cross, pity those who have not yet believed. Pray that their eyes would be opened. As you pass people, look into their eyes. Realize they will one day gaze into the eyes of Christ – only then he will not be as a sheep silent before it’s shearers, but the Sovereign Lord who pours his wrath on those who reject him.

    Look to the pagan as one who needs rescued from God’s wrath. Just as you would throw a life vest to struggling swimmer at sea, share the truth that judgment is coming and explain that God in his love has provided a way to escape eternal damnation. Don’t be like me and miss opportunities: Brandon on the golf course Friday, the guy who sat beside at Ann Gnagy’s funeral Saturday, Daniel whom I met for the first time Sunday, Bree at the Sport’s Bar Monday night. Let’s at least invite people to church if we aren’t bold enough to share the Gospel with them ourselves. Let’s invite people to the worship services this Sunday. Men, invite your friends to the breakfast tomorrow morning at 7:30. You’ll eat good food and hear a testimony about God’s grace. Women, invite your friends to Expresso this Tuesday night, 7:00 pm in the Lower Auditorium.

    There is still time to believe in Jesus. If you have not yet embraced Christ, do that now. Give him your life, knowing he gave his for you.


    ILL: Monday an earthquake hit Italy at 3:30 in the morning. At least 235 people were killed. 17,000 people lost their homes. A fireman, who helped rescue efforts at a university, unearthed the body of his own stepdaughter. He, of course, broke into tears. One news source reported that a 37-year old lady “sat on a blanket with a Bible in her hand and a vacant look in her eyes.” She and her husband had jumped out of the window after her apartment began to crumble around them. She said, “I can’t even bear to think of the future, because I have no idea what we will do.” “Yesterday was full of panic,” she said. “Now I just feel a deep sadness.”

    We know that Christ has died. All the commotion of walking the Via Delorosa has calmed. We now feel a deep sadness. It is not a sadness for Christ, but for those who do not know him.

    Let’s pray. Father, we know that judgment is coming. Your wrath awaits those who have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ. We hear your instruction, “Weep not for Christ, weep for those who do not know him.” Please give us opportunities to tell people “Christ died in your place,” and please open eyes so that people believe. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


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