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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
Title:Christ the King endured the curse of sin
Text:Matthew 27:27-31 (View)
Occasion:Easter (Good Friday)
Topic:Our Salvation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Liturgy from 1984 Book of Praise

Read:  Psalm 2, John 18:28 – 19:22.

Text: Matthew 27:27-31. 

Psalm 2:1,2

Psalm 22:11

Psalm 35:5,6,7

Psalm 2:3,4

Hymn 21:3,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When they crucified our Lord, the soldiers put up over His head the accusation written against Him:  “This is Jesus the king of the Jews.” 

The chief priests did not like that sign.   “He is not our king”, they claimed. 

We do not like that sign either, very much.  He is not simply the king of the Jews, but the King of kings!

But is He the King?  Is Jesus the One we had all been waiting for, or do we have to wait for another? 

Concerning the Christ, God said in Psalm 2, “Ask of Me, and I will give you the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession.”  But Pilate, that vassal of the emperor of Rome, had said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me?  Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?”  (John 19:10).

In Psalm 2, the LORD had said to His Anointed One, “You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”  But in Matthew 27 we read of a reed being shoved into Christ’s right hand.  And instead of Jesus breaking the nations with a rod of iron, we see the nations striking Him on His own head with that reed.

In Psalm 2 the kings and judges of the earth are warned to “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way.”  The soldiers were not kissing Him:  they spat on Him.

In Psalm 2 the LORD says, “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.”  But on Good Friday we don’t see Christ set as King on Mount Zion.  We see Him raised up as a criminal on the hill of Golgotha. 

Psalm 2 says, “Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”  But on the eve of His crucifixion, Simon Peter had denied Him.  The other disciples had all fled.  The crowds were crying out for His blood and the chief priests said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.”

And Pilate said, “Behold your King!”

And He is indeed our King.  In Psalm 2 the kings of the earth and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and His Anointed.  And when they crucified our Lord, believing that they had bruised His head, the One who sits in the heavens had the last laugh.  For it was through the cross, and through the mocking derision of the seed of the Serpent that Christ conquered the kingdom of Satan and received His crown as King of kings and Lord of lords.  For by enduring the curse of sin, He conquered sin and was given the right to rule the nations.

As we consider the suffering and death of Christ this morning, I wish to focus on the mocking that Christ received at the hands of the Roman soldiers.  We will see that although Christ was subjected to the greatest mocking and humiliation imaginable, it was also through this that Christ both endured and conquered the curse of sin.  I preach to you the Gospel this morning under the following theme:

Christ the King endured the curse of sin.

1.    Christ crowned.

2.    Christ cursed.

3.    Christ’s conquest.

1. Christ crowned.

Boys and girls, I am sure that many of you have either a dress-up box at home, or you like to find clothes to dress-up in.  Perhaps you have a clown costume, or a fairy princess or the costume for a king or a queen or a soldier.  When you dress up as a clown or a princess or a soldier, you pretend you are that person.  Dressing up can be fun, and sometime even adults dress up for some sort of a masquerade. 

When Jesus was crucified there was also a game of dress-up happening.  The soldiers dressed him up to look a bit like a king. 

But this was no game.  And it was not fun.  It was an attempt to mock Jesus and to laugh at His claim that He was the King.  Pilate had asked Jesus in John 18:33, “Are You the King of the Jews?”  And Jesus had answered and said, “You say rightly that I am a King.” 

“Well then,” said the soldiers, “Let’s make Him a king!  We’ll show the world what sort of a king He really is!”

But it was not just the soldiers who were playing this little game.  It was Satan who wanted the most to see Jesus dressed up and mocked as a king.  Satan was laughing.  Satan knew that since the Fall into sin, there was a battle between himself and the Seed of the Woman.  Satan knew that Jesus had come to take the kingdom away from him and restore it as the kingdom of God. 

But now look at Him!  “Hail, King of the Jews!”

Satan had been working towards this moment ever since Christ was born.  After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem asking,

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?  For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”  (Matthew 2:2)  That was the reason for Satan’s first attempt to destroy Jesus.  Herod and all Jerusalem were bothered about this, and in an effort to kill this King, Herod ordered that all the baby boys of Bethlehem be killed.  But Jesus escaped to Egypt and later grew up in Nazareth.

Then at the beginning of Christ’s active ministry on earth, Satan tried again.  He showed Christ all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”  (Matthew 4:8,9)  But Jesus refused to do that.  He had come to establish a new kingdom, not sit at the right hand of Satan in his kingdom.  Soon afterwards, Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  And from then on, the Kingdom of heaven was a major theme in the ministry of Jesus Christ. 

For the people who followed Him, this came to a climax a week before the crucifixion.  On that day our Lord came into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey.  The people were besides themselves in excitement!  Some spread their clothes on the road and others cut down palm branches and they cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!”  And some cried out in excitement, “The King of Israel!”  (John 12:13)  Here was the One who would overthrow the Romans and re-establish the throne of David.  And although He was not wearing one when on that donkey, the crowds could see His crown in their  minds.  A golden crown, rich and glorious.  Blessed is the King of Israel!  Hosanna!

And now Pilate himself will soon present Jesus to the crowds and say, “Behold, your King!”  (John 19:14) 

But what sort of a King is this?

After Pilate had Jesus whipped, he handed him over to the soldiers to be crucified.  But they were not ready to crucify Him just yet.  First they wanted a bit of fun.  It was quite normal for Roman soldiers to abuse and humiliate their prisoners before they crucified them.  But when it came to Jesus, they would have taken particular delight in mocking Him.  Here was a man who was to be crucified for calling Himself a king.  Here was the man whom so many in Jerusalem had hoped would attack them and take on the Roman empire.

The soldiers themselves were not Jews; they were most likely from Syria and pressed into Roman service.  They belonged to a garrison of about 600 men and were in Jerusalem to protect Pontius Pilate.  But they would have known the Jewish customs and also spoken the Aramaic language that the Jews were speaking at that time.  They would have heard the excited cry of “Hosanna to the Son of David!”  And so when they mocked Christ as King, they were mocking who they believed to be the failed king of the failed line of David.  The One who had spoken of a kingdom, the One whom the people hoped would usher in a kingdom, even a kingdom that extended from sea to sea, was at their mercy.

The soldiers did not want to merely punish Jesus by whipping Jesus and crucifying Him.  They wanted to make sport of Him, mock Him.  Did Jesus claim to be a king?  Well then, let Him be king!

Like a pack of dogs, like beasts that play with their prey before they kill and eat, the soldiers called their comrades to engage in a bit of fun before the crucifixion began.  Pilate’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium, the official residence of Pilate, and most likely the old palace of Herod the Great, the one who had tried to kill Jesus so many years before.  And then the whole garrison, as many of the 600 men as could be found, gathered around. 

Herod and his troops had already mocked Christ as a king.  Herod had already dressed Him up as a king before sending Him back to Pilate.  But now the soldiers wanted their own fun with Jesus.  The whole garrison, a group of jeering, blasphemous soldiers, gathered around Him.  Most would have jeered and cheered from the fringes.  But from the soldiers emerged the ringleaders, the clowns and the bullies.  After they had stripped Jesus of His clothes, they found a scarlet robe.  It was not the robe of a real king:  commentators believe it to have been an old soldier’s uniform.  That was how they wanted it.  For the soldiers did not want Him to look like a king in all his splendour:  they wanted to laugh at His ridiculous costume. 

But the soldiers had to do better than Herod did at dressing up Jesus as a king.  An old soldier’s uniform would only be the start.  What Jesus needed was a crown!  A crown was the sign of royalty above all else. A crown was not something a man put on his head very lightly.  By accepting a crown on his head, a person accepted the claim that he was supreme, the great king.  A crown also meant that a person was himself divine, or at least connected to the gods.

Then someone saw a thorn bush.  It may have been growing there; more likely it had been collected earlier as fuel for the fire.  Quickly but carefully the thorns were woven into a crown.  And then that crude sign of royal and divine power was placed upon the head of the Great King. 

And then, after placing a reed in His hand, the stage was set.  As the other jeering soldiers looked on, a parade of men lined up to look Jesus in the eye, to bow down in mock homage and shout “Hail, King of the Jews!”, to spit on Him and then take the reed they had placed in His hands and beat him over the head with it. 

And as that parade of mocking and jeering soldiers filed past Jesus, spat in the face of God and beat the eternal Son of God over the head, we can be sure that Satan and his cohorts had also come to watch the spectacle, the mock crowning, the coronation ceremony of the Son of God.  This was their moment and the hour of darkness.  Psalm 2:2,3 comes to mind: 

“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us.”

Here was Jesus: stripped of His dignity as the King of the Jews, as the King of all.  “What a king You are!  One who gets beaten over the head with His own sceptre!”

But Christ is not only a King.  He is also a prophet and a priest.  And as the crown of thorns was beaten into the head of Christ we see not just the King mocked; we also see the sacrifice of our eternal Highpriest.  We see His blood begin to flow.  We see Him submit to the full weight of the punishment for sin.  We see Him suffering countless insults.  We see Him do that willingly.  We see Him do that for us.  And in so doing He fulfilled Isaiah 50:6, “I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.” 

The soldiers laughed and mocked.  Satan was doing the same.  But this was not the end.  The soldiers mockingly gave Jesus a crown of thorns.  But God would exchange this crown for one that would never perish.  Indeed, “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the LORD shall hold them in derision.”  (Psalm 2:4)  Sin and Satan would be conquered.  The time would come when we would stand with Christ before the Father, unstained and unashamed.  But for Christ to accomplish this and for the full Kingdom to be His forever, He had to endure the curse of sin.

2. Christ Cursed.

There is something about war that brings out the worst in people.  Although we praise our soldiers for fighting for freedom and we honour them each year “lest we forget” there is another side to war and soldiering that we struggle with.  During and at the end of every war we become shocked as tales of war crimes begin to emerge.  The killing of civilians in the Boer war.  Genocide in World War 2.  The My Lai massacre in Vietnam.  The degrading torture of Iraqi prisoners of war.  The abuse of women and children in almost every war.  Put a uniform on a man, a gun in his hand and, in certain environments, he can become an animal.

Jesus also suffered from that dark side of humanity.  A war crime, if we can put it that way, was also committed against Him.

When you read the gospels it is striking that Pontius Pilate commanded that Jesus be scourged, or whipped.  Pilate also instructed the soldiers to crucify Him.  But Pilate did not instruct the soldiers to mock Jesus.  Pilate did not order them to dress Him up or press a crown of thorns on  to His head or strike Him with a reed.  Pilate did not command the soldiers to mock Jesus or spit in His face.  But the soldiers did that too.

When Jesus was brought into the Praetorium, the whole garrison, the whole pack of soldiers was called in to enjoy the scene.  Strong, rested, armed soldiers surrounded the exhausted and nearly dead Man from Nazareth.  And they wanted to do more than just kill Him.  They were planning to perform a war crime against the Prince of Peace.

Spitting does not hurt the body.  Pain was not the primary intent of the soldiers at this point of time.  Nor was the inflicting of pain foremost in their minds when they put a scarlet robe on Him or a crown of thorns or even when they hit him over the head with the reed they had placed in Christ’s hands.  What the soldiers were trying to do was not just crucify Christ’s body; they also wanted to destroy His soul.  They wanted Him, who was presented as the King of the Jews, they wanted Him to be made worthless and small. 

They did not have to do this.  They did not have to humiliate Jesus in such a way.  But what motivated the soldiers to do this was the evil nature of their own hearts.  What motivated the soldiers to humiliate Christ in this way was the corruption, the total depravity of man.  Man who was created in the image of God now spits in His face.

And so they poured the ugliness of sin upon the Christ.  The enmity between the seed of the Serpent and the Seed of the Woman came to its fullness.  

But Jesus Christ willingly carried the ugliness and the filth of sin all the way to the cross.  As Jesus made His way to the cross, mixed with the blood and the sweat upon His face was the spit of the human race.  God could have done differently.  Just as Simon of Cyrene carried His cross, so God could have appointed another to clean His face with a towel.  Just as God controlled the sun, so He could have sent a rain storm to wash the filth away.  But the LORD did not.  Jesus was forced to wear a crown made of thorns, the symbol of a world cursed.  He was covered with the filth of man, a symbol of the vileness and filthiness that was man.  But Jesus carried that to the cross.  He took the darkness of our hearts there.  He bore our sins for us.  In fact the Bible says He became sin for us. 

John Calvin said, “Our filthiness deserves that God should hold [us] in abhorrence, and that all the angels should spit upon us; but Christ … to present us pure and unspotted in the presence of the Father, resolved to be spat upon, and to be dishonoured by every kind of reproach.”

And so we don’t just see the soldiers and gasp in horror at what they did.  Rather we see that in the midst of that hatred and mockery, Christ the King endure the curse of sin.  We see Him not as a man beaten and bloody but as the Son of God, the Saviour, actively and willingly accepting the punishment for sin so that we might be brought into His Kingdom. We see the Christ laying down His life for us when we were His enemies.  We see Him taking our sin, our scorn, our shame, our filth and our curse to the cross.  We see Him become sin for us, so that we could become sinless, pure and undefiled.

3. Christ’s conquest.

At His crucifixion, Jesus was given a robe, a crown and a sceptre.  They did it to mock, and as the jeering laughter of the soldiers echoed around the Praetorium, all of hell laughed with them.

But we know that Christ gets the last laugh.  He endured the cross and despised the shame because He knew that this was the way that He would be proclaimed King.  On Good Friday His head wore a crown of thorns and in His hand there was a reed.  But He believed that there would be for Him a golden crown and a rod of iron.  And the day will come when at the Name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that He is King!  On that day, He will return on the clouds of heaven and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him.  And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.  (Rev. 1:7)  On that day He will cast all His and my enemies into everlasting condemnation and on that day He will refuse all mockers and revilers from entering the Kingdom of Heaven.  (1 Cor. 6:10)  On that day He shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel. 

And then, as it says in Revelation 19, He will have on His head many crowns and “from His mouth will go a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.  He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of almighty God.  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”  (Rev. 19:15,16)

But that is not all there is to the conquest of Christ.  What is even greater and more wonderful is that some of those who spat Him would soon kiss Him. 

“Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way.”  (Psalm 2:12)  There were some of those who had first spat on the Son but later turned to Him and lived.  When Christ was crucified there were soldiers keeping guard at the cross.  And when payment for sin and the curse was completed they began to see Christ not as the man they had mockingly jeered a few hours before.  They began to see Him for who He is.  Matthew 27:54, “So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Christ died for those very men who had reviled Him and spat on Him. 

And Acts 6:7 tells us that when the Word of God spread, “a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.”  From the priests, who before had also joined in spitting Him, the priests, who had answered Pilate saying, “We have no king but Caesar!” Christ claimed some for His own.

Christ defeated Satan and his dark dominion so completely that He could enter Satan’s strongholds at will, and even cause those who had abused and spat Him to turn to Him in faith and be joined to His Kingdom!

And we too are a part of Christ’s conquest.  Jesus Christ now wears not the crown of thorns but the crown of victory.  He is our King and we are His people.  And as His people we too shall receive a crown, for we too shall have dominion over the kingdom of darkness, and we too shall rule with Him.

Jesus Christ, the One who was robed in an soldier’s robe, the One who wore a crown of thorns, who was mocked, spat at and beaten, is the King whom we were waiting for.  Through His suffering and through the Cross, He received the victory so that he could be our King forever.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2010, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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