Jesus is the Supreme Hoax or the Supreme King in History?
Intro: Well morning friends and visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and today we stop (on this Australian public holiday) to honour a man who was rejected as a King, condemned as a criminal and killed on a cross 2000 years ago. Yet\, we still honor him with public holidays. So today I want to reflect on THE CLIMAX of the greatest story ever told – in the hope that you might recognize true greatness.
PRAYER: Well, a few weeks ago, the Australian Community Survey Group released a statistic that 42% of Australians say they would still attend an Easter church service – if invited by a Christian friend. The study, asked a number of spirituality type questions. But the surprise was that 42% of non-church going people – said they would still attend an Easter service – if genuinely invited by family or friends. When asked WHY – MOST RESPONDED that they would attend Easter services – simply out of respect for their friend or family’s faith.
Now remembering that as a church we are meant to be A Community overflowing with faith, hope and love in Jesus – that’s a great statistic to remember – before next Easter. (Or perhaps even before Easter Sunday) There is still 48 hours and for every 10 people you invite, 4 people are likely to say “YES”. Now if you want to further increase – your chance of people saying “yes” – the study found 1) that WOMEN were slightly more likely to say yes than men; 2) UNIVERSITY GRADUATES were slightly more likely to say “Yes” than trades people and 3) NEW AUSTRALIANS (from non-English speaking countries) were more likely to say “yes” than traditional westerners.
Another interesting statistic was that only 30% of people in the survey said they would definitively say “No” to an invite to church. So that means 4 out of 10 people will say “yes” and a further 3 out of 10 are a “maybe”. Only 30% are a definite no! So the odds are in our favour when it comes to inviting people to Easter church services…
So there may be some people here today – who have come to church – because someone invited you to church (or you just wanted to find out a bit more about Easter). If that is the case – “a special welcome to you. Its great having you here.” And today I want to share with you the basic story of Easter – because the survey (I was just speaking about) also showed 41% of Australians don’t really know the basics of Easter anymore.
So put very simply – GOOD FRIDAY (today) the Christian church focuses on Jesus’ death on the cross and EASTER SUNDAY – we focus on Jesus coming back to life, (his resurrection). As Christians we believe Easter proves that Jesus is the King of Kings (the most powerful being in the universe) and Easter (especially Good Friday) also proves Jesus is loving and merciful and good. So let’s look at the basic story – because it all revolves around the question – is Jesus really the King of Kings or is just a fraud?.
Point 1: The Story begins with Jesus being mocked as a King
Show: Matt.27:27-30 (READ)
Explain: Well as you can see – the Roman soldiers are MOCKING Jesus. They begin by – dressing him in a purple or scarlet robe – the colour of royalty. Then 2) they put a crown of thorns on his head (and push it down hard) because every king needs a crown. And 3) then they put a staff in his hand (like a royal sceptre) before bowing down and saying “Hail, King of the Jews”. ITS PURE MOCKERY – because they also spit in his face and hit with the staff. They know Jesus claimed to be the Jewish Messiah and King of Kings. But they do not believe it.
Now let me say that if Jesus is the King of Kings (and the Bible is true) I pity these men come judgment day. Imagine trying to explain to Jesus – why he should let you into heaven (and not send you to hell) – after mocking him and spitting in his face. But here’s what Christianity is all about. Will you recognize Jesus is your King OR will you reject him?
Prior to Jesus’ birth – God promised the Jews that one day he would send A SPECIAL KING (a descendant of King David) who would literally save the world. THIS SPECIAL KING was called the Massiach or in English – Messiah. So the Jewish Scriptures (written 500-1000BC) are full of prophecies about 1) where the Messiah would be born, 2) what he’d be like and 3) how he’d save the world. Basically, the Jews believed the Messiah would make Israel great again. Sound familiar. The Bible also said he’d drain the swamp – and fix all the problems caused by sin and evil. And ultimately the Messiah would bring blessing to everyone who voted for him. I mean believed in him. What’s more, the Jews believed this blessing would come because people would begin to follow Gods rule and Gods properly..
So orthodox Jewish faith (from the earliest days) includes belief in the coming of a great Jewish King called the Messiah – who saves the world. Even today, Orthodox Jews, are still watching and waiting for the great King who will “Make Israel Great Again.”
Now in the first century Jesus turned up – and all the prophecies seemed to align with his life. He also knew more about God and the Jewish Scriptures than Israel’s high priest. And finally Jesus even claimed he was the Messiah. So some believed he was. Some didn’t. So that is the question of Christian gospels. AS JESUS 1) dies on the cross and 2) then rises again – the gospels ask you (the reader of the story); do you think Jesus is the Messiah or not? That’s the question.
Now all historians (even atheistic scholars) generally admit Jesus was a real historical figure. There is just so much evidence – that a charismatic, wise man named Jesus gained a Jewish following, but was ultimately crucified in Jerusalem in the first century – that it is impossible to deny Jesus’ historicity. What’s more, it also impossible to deny that Jesus has had huge influence on our world. In 1999 Time Magazine (a secular, non-Christian magazine) stated that Jesus Christ is undeniably the most influential person in all of history. This is what Time magazine said about Jesus (Slide 3).
Apply: So there is no doubt Jesus was a historical figure. There is also no doubt his teachings, morals and example of love have shaped the western world. Such basic expressions – as love your neighbour and turn the other cheek are common language because of Jesus. But was he really the Messiah. Was he really the King of Kings who deserves our worship and obedience? The soldiers mock and ridicule Jesus – because their conclusion is no. But what about you?
Point 2: Story continues with Jesus being crucified as King of the Jews
Show: Matt.27:32-37 (READ)
Explain: Well the reason Simon of Cyrene iss needed to carry the cross – is probably because Jesus is now too weak. The normal Roman procedure was to get the condemned criminal to carry their own cross to the place of execution– as a sign of complete subjgation. You were forced to cooperate in your own execution. But we know from the other gospels – that just before Jesus is condemned, he was also flogged with a whip called “the flagellum”. It was a whip – with bits of steel and broken pottery tied into the leather. The bits of steel and pottery tied into the whip would then literally peel all the skin off your back – sometimes even rupturing kidneys or lungs as you were flogged.
The flaggelum was so bad – that many people who received it died shortly thereafter from blood loss. So having been flogged and unable to walk under the weight of the cross – it appears the soldiers forced a local man, named SIMON OF CYRENE – to carry Jesus’ cross.
Then, when they get to Golgotha – Jesus would have been forced to lay down on the cross while LARGE NAILS were driven through his wrists and ankles. Then the soldiers would lift the cross into the VERTICAL POSITION – so the condemned person could be seen by everyone. More than likely Jesus would have been naked. No loin cloth. No fig leaf to hide behind. Crucifixion was about both PAIN AND SHAME. It was a brutal statement from the Roman Empire; Don’t mess with us – because we could do this to you too. The cross was Caesar refusing to accept any other authority – except his own. This is how false kings and insecure rulers govern in our world – through fear.
Now just before Jesus is nailed to the cross – they offer him ALCOHOLIC WINE VINEGAR mixed with various drugs. Crucifixion was so bad, that sometimes the soldiers would intentionally turn a blind eye – so friends could run forward and give the condemned a mixture of alcohol and drugs – to numb the pain. But Jesus refuses to drink.
Then, Jesus is lifted-up on the cross – probably about 6-8 feet off the ground; on the hill of cavalry. And just like that – Jesus (the greatest man in the history of the world) is crucified between two common criminals. As the soldiers begin the long wait for the condemned to die, they cast lots for the meagre possessions. But there is not much to excited about. Despite the sign over Jesus’ head (in verse 37) that says King of the Jews – they are not casting lots for a palace, or a gold crown or a fine Bentley chariot with 502 horsepower. Just a few pieces of clothing. So is Jesus really a King?
Apply: And if Jesus really is a King, what sort of King? I mean he is REJECTED by his own people, MOCKED by soldiers, literally HANGS OUT with criminals and has NOTHING TO HIS NAME – but a few modest pieces of clothing. Again, as you hear the Easter story – you are being asked to reach your own verdict. Is Jesus a great King (worthy of worship) OR simply a pathetic criminal who got on the wrong side of the Roman law? WHAT DO YOU SEE – as you look at the cross? How did this man become the most influential man – in the history of the world?
Point 3: The Story finishes with Jesus the King crying out My God, My God.
Show: Matt.27:45-51 (READ)
Explain: Well as Jesus dies – the world goes dark; the earth shakes and a huge curtain in the Jewish temple is torn in two. SUPERNATURAL EVENTS are happening around Jesus. Of course, that is one of the things Jesus was famous for – doing supernatural things. But what is happening?
Now normally, it takes 2 to 3 days for someone to die of crucifixion. With all your weight hanging on your arms – eventually your body becomes too weak to INHALE or EXHALE and you suffocate. But Jesus seems to be dying more quickly – probably because of the blood loss from the flagellum. But just before Jesus dies, he cries out in a loud voice “Eli, Eli, lama Sabbacthani.” Now some in the crowd think Jesus is calling out for a great Jewish prophet named ELIJAH. They think Eli Eli – is Elijah, Elijah come to my rescue.
But others realise Jesus is actually quoting Psalm 22. Eli Eli lama sabacthani means My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Psalm 22 was written about 1000BC by KING DAVID – Israel’s greatest King. The Messiah was meant to be a descendant of King David. But the Messiah was meant to be greater than King David. But what is really fascinating is that as Jesus dies on the cross PSALM 22 is becoming lived experience for a second time. In Psalm 22 – King David talks about all his enemies MOCKING him – just like what is happening to Jesus. In Psalm 22 David talks about his HANDS AND FEET being pierced, in a manner similar to Jesus. Psalm 22 – talks about people casting lots for King David’s possessions, just like Jesus. And in both cases of suffering King David and King Jesus experience something of GOD FORSAKENNESS. The complete absence of God’s blessing.. But why? What does Jesus want us to see in Psalm 22? (PAUSE)
I think Jesus is reminding the Jews (and us) that even King David (their greatest king) suffered mockery, persecution. rejection and many people tried to kill him before he was truly recognized as a great King. According to Psalm 22 – King David’s story and King Jesus’ story are still mirroring each other – even as Jesus is dying on the cross.
Of course, MANY JEWS rejected Jesus as their King – because they couldn’t RECONCILE Jesus’ kingship and crucifixion. It didn’t make sense. MANY PEOPLE TODAY still reject Jesus – because they don’t respect a king who was crucified. It seems stupid that Christians would worship a crucified King. But is it? EACH YEAR IN AUSTRALIA – we honour the ANZAC soldiers – (as great men and women) because they suffered and died for the sake of other people. In some ways being willing to suffer and die for the good of others is the highest and most noble definition of true greatness. And the general consensus is that the worse the suffering and death (that is willingly endured) the greater and more noble the person. So at the cross are you witnessing the normal evil, pathetic power struggles of sinful men OR are you witnessing the goodness nobility and loving sacrifice of the true King of Kings? I urge you to look twice (before you turn away) because I and many others – see a King to admire; a King to honor and a King worth emulating.
Apply: Now the reason King David suffered – was because there was a false, evil king already on the throne, named Saul. Even though King David was God’s chosen King – Saul did not want to give up the throne. So King Saul persecuted David, denounced him as a common criminal and gave orders for David to be killed. PURELY, because Saul didn’t want to give up the throne to the rightful King. So for many years – David had to live in caves in the mountains (a bit reminiscent of a tomb) – because he faced a trumped up death sentence for treason. Of course, he had nothing wrong. But David was rejected, suffered (and faced death) because a pretend king refused to give up the throne for the True King.
Now at that point (under the shadow of death) David felt completely forsaken by God; Eli Eli Lama Sabacthani was probably David’s prayer hiding in the caves. But shortly after Saul’s downfall – King David was vindicated, everyone recognized he was the true king and he entered into his DAYS OF GLORY – which is how Psalm 22 – concludes. David leads God’s people in worship in the temple. So Psalm 22, reminds us that sometimes NOBLE SUFFERING precedes TRUE GLORY (in this world) because evil forces (like King Saul) are at work – who do not want to give up their thrones to the true King.
Apply: Now in some ways the Easter story is the EPITOME of powerful, evil men – conspiring, lying and working together to destroy the most humble, loving, gentle and wise man that has ever lived – simply because they don’t want to surrender the throne to him? They are no different to King Saul. But where does such evil come from?
Well, the Bible explains there is another illegitimate King – who doesn’t want to surrender the throne to the true king – either. SATAN (a fallen rebellious, angel) has made himself the defacto king of this world and he rules through lies, oppression and fear. He rules through mockery, suffering and crucifixion of all those who oppose him. And just like King Saul – Satan endeavoured to kill off the true King, rather than surrender the throne. So Satan used his pawns – 1) the Jewish religious leaders, 2) King Herod and 3) the Roman Governor, Pilate who are all like little satans themselves, Little satanic leaders (conspiring and working together) because they do not want to surrender the throne – to the rightful king. Do you see that? Is that what is actually happening?
And what if this refusal to surrender the throne to the true King of Kings is actually lurking in all our hearts. Do people reject Jesus (the greatest man in all of history) simply because the Easter story has no credibility and Jesus is so obviously not the true King? Or do we mock, reject and join in killing off Jesus as King of Kings because we want to remain kings and queens of our own lives.
(GOSPEL) The Bible explains that ever since the beginning of the world – the real problem for humanity is we have rejected God as King. We made ourselves kings and starting doing whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. BUT IN THE PROCESS – we have all become like little sinful, selfish, satans – damaging others – as we try to preserve our self rule. THE CONSEQUENCE of all this – is that we deserve to be punished by God. We deserve to die for rejecting God’s kingship. But the true King – Gods Son (the Lord Jesus Christ) – then comes to earth and allows himself to be put to death – to take the punishment for our wrongdoing. Jesus does this because he loves us.
Jesus also does this to liberate us – from a delusion. What do you see as truly great? What do you aspire to in this world? Is true greatness – Satanic-like kingship that steps on others and holds them down in order to stay on top OR is it Jesus-like kingship that even allows his enemies to step on him, in order to save them and lift them up. I certainly know what is more rare in this world. And to the degree Jesus type kingship is more rare, I would also say it is more precious.
But as I finish today I want to remind you that in the end – King Saul was unable to prevent King David from taking the throne. And when King David did take the throne 1) he rewarded the men who always acknowledged him as king and 2) he blessed those who were loyal to him. But 3) he did remove from the Kingdom those who sided with Saul (and continued to promote the house of Saul). The same will ultimately be true of King Jesus. Satan could not prevent Jesus from taking the throne either. (If you come back on Sunday – you will hear of Jesus resurrection, vindication and glorification as King). Jesus really is the King of Kings and he is already blessing those who acknowledge him as king and are loyal to him. So please recognize the true king now. For a time will soon come (when Jesus’ kingship will be manifest to the world) and at that point – all those who continue to reject his kingship and side with the house of false, evil kingship – will be cast out.
So what do you see at Easter – a pathetic, suffering victim of evil or the true King of Kings? If you would like to think more about Jesus being King – I encourage you take one of the cards out of the Bible – fill it in with your name and contact details and tick the box saying “you’d like to do Christianity Explored.” Then, put it in the offertory bag in the final song – and we’ll be in touch after Easter. Don’t put this off. There is a truth – that has the power to save and change your life (and ironically you can see it on the lips of the Roman Centurion who supervised Jesus crucifixion (Slide 11)