September 5, 2014
How do people react to Jesus?
As we saw in last Sunday’s sermon, in Matthew’s account of the crucifixion, once Pilate condemns Jesus to death, all the people who speak mock Him:
- The soldiers bow before Him, saying in mockery, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spit on Him and beat Him.
- Those passing by deride Him, calling on Him to save Himself, to come down from the cross if He is the Son of God.
- The religious leaders also mock Him, saying He cannot save Himself, and claiming they will believe in Him if He comes down from the cross. They also say, “He trusts in God; let God deliver Him now, if He desires Him. For He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
Where are those who followed Him? Where are those who acclaimed His entry into Jerusalem just a few days previously? Will no one speak for Him? Will no one see Him for Who He is?
Yes. Someone will. Yet, as is so often the case in Matthew and, indeed, throughout Scripture, those who speak are not the ones we would expect.
About noon, unexpected darkness covers the land. The mocking evidently stops – none of the Gospel accounts record any further mocking after the darkness falls.
Jesus yields up His spirit.
Suddenly there is an earthquake. Rocks split and tombs open.
And then someone speaks up. Someone speaks for Jesus. Someone sees Him – at least partially – for Who He is.
The centurion and the others soldiers say: “Truly this was the Son of God!”
The very ones who had nailed Jesus to the cross, the very ones responsible for ensuring His death – perhaps the very ones who had spit upon Him and beat Him a few hours before – now see what the religious leaders cannot see. They see what those who had read the witness to Him in the Hebrew Scriptures cannot see: He is the Son of God.
Those passing by had said, “If you are the Son of God,” laughing at the idea. The religious leaders had mocked Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God. But these Roman soldiers proclaim: Truly. Truly. Jesus is the Son of God.
Surely none of these soldiers would have been able to explain the doctrine of the Trinity. It seems likely when they made this confession they were still polytheists, believing in many gods. But here at the cross, seeing what has happened, they say with certainty: “What this man said about Himself must be true.”
This statement by the soldiers, in my opinion, is a major highlight in Matthew’s account of the crucifixion. All builds to this point. After all the mocking, all the suffering, all the tragedy, these Gentiles proclaim Jesus to be the Son of God. And they are the firstfruits of those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation that will worship Him forever and ever.
Johann Sebastian Bach also saw this confession as the highlight of Matthew’s account. In what may be his greatest work, St Matthew’s Passion, Bach has the entire passion account of Matthew sung by soloists and chorus, interspersed with responses to the record of Scripture. The entire Passion takes around three hours to perform, but I urge you to listen to the seven minutes that include verses 45 to 54 of Matthew 27. In this 1971 recording – which includes subtitles since the singing is in German – this section runs from 2:46:30 to 2:53:36. The only addition to the words of Scripture is one verse of a chorale sung to the tune we use for “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.” See how Bach builds up to the confession of the centurion and then renders those words in painfully beautiful but understated music.
Ponder this confession prior to this Sunday morning. Then join us as we look in more detail at the words of the centurion. May we all together proclaim: Truly Jesus is the Son of God.
December 30, 2009
December 29 is our thirtieth wedding anniversary. God has blessed me beyond measure through Beth – and more and more with each succeeding year. In honor of this event, consider these excerpts from Proverbs 31. I preached on this passage three years ago under the title “The Valiant Wife” (audio is here); an edited version of the conclusion to that sermon follows .
Proverbs 31:10-12, 25-31 10 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. . . . 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” 30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
God has granted me a valiant, excellent wife who displays strength and wisdom daily. She fears the Lord; she loves His Word; she is generous with her time and energy. Self-indulgence is far from her. She provides for her household with material goods, with fragrant smells, with wise teaching, with thoughtful kindness. I trust her implicitly to such an extent I can’t even imagine not trusting her. Whatever honor and respect I have, to whatever degree I fear the Lord and glorify Him, results in large measure from God’s work in my life through Beth.
So I have no hesitation in saying to my sons: Marry a woman like your mother.
- Not necessarily in personality;
- Not necessarily in looks;
- Not even necessarily in the way she cooks (though there are side benefits to that!).
But marry a woman who desires to become wise. Marry a woman who wants to learn from wise women how to be wise. Marry a woman who fears the Lord, and will be worthy of your trust.
Also, remember: The lessons from Proverbs 31 are not just for marriage. This passage calls to all of us: Be like this wise, strong woman. Notice the women around you who live out this picture. Praise your mothers and grandmothers, praise the other women in your lives, to the extent they exemplify such wisdom.
Praise such women – yet remember the focus. This chapter does not tell us, “A diligent, strong woman is to be praised.” Rather, it says, “A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” For all – even the strongest and wisest of us – have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All of us – even the most morally upright of us – deserve God’s wrath and judgment. The only hope for any of us – virtuous by man’s standards or corrupt by man’s standards – is being united with Christ in His death and resurrection, through faith in Him.
So I praise God for His work in Beth, for her fear of Him. Indeed, I see her sinfulness, and she sees mine – better than anyone else. And I have seen Him mold and change her more and more into His likeness. So all glory to God who takes an object of His wrath and so sanctifies and purifies her so that she becomes like Christ – wise, strong, and valiant.
This is what I have seen in Beth – and what I hope you see in your wives and mothers. May such women through their wise examples show us all the way to the fountain of life and wisdom: Jesus Himself.
January 24, 2009
Listen to the last twelve minutes of John Piper’s January 4, 2009 sermon via this link. The entire sermon is excellent and quite unusual; these last twelve minutes focus on two topics: First, the need for our minds to be engaged with the Word in order to live lives worthy of God’s calling and in order to fight Satan effectively; second, the responsibility of fathers and husbands to apply the Word to issues in the family. Very powerful. This section begins 35 minutes and 50 seconds into the sermon.