Jesus: Despised and Rejected
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Jesus: Despised and Rejected

Luke 22:63  (ID: 2354)

Before His crucifixion, Jesus suffered the abuse of the soldiers, a sham trial by the Jewish leaders, and the passivity of Pilate. The schemes of evil purpose, however, were woven into God’s sovereign plan of salvation and were used for good. Jesus’ reign is not threatened by evil, Alistair Begg reminds us. We do not have to live in anxiety about a culture that rejects Jesus. Instead, we can trust God’s sovereign control over our time and place.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Luke, Volume 13

The Day Jesus Died Luke 22:39–23:56 Series ID: 14215

Sermon Transcript: Print

Having sung about the Word of God, I invite you to turn to the Word of God in 2 Timothy 3:14—page 1179 in the pew Bibles that are around you there. Two Timothy 3:14. Writing to a young pastor in the face of all kinds of contamination outwith the church and all kinds of confusion within it, Paul writes,

But as for you, continue in what you[’ve] learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

We pray, Father, that with our Bibles open before us, you will come to our help; that you will remove from us every distraction and enable us so to think on these things that the entrance of your Word may bring light into our darkness. We seek this in Christ’s name. Amen.

Now, if your Bible is open at the portion that was read for us a moment or two ago by Pastor McAlvey, you’re in the right place as we continue to move towards the conclusion of the Gospel of Luke.

Anyone reading this particular narrative for the first time might be forgiven if they came to the conclusion that the mission of Jesus was in a tailspin. Because even in the verses of chapter 22, everything seems to be hurtling towards the ground, spinning out of control. Luke has described for us Jesus agonizing in the garden and, at the same time, the disciples succumbing to the exhaustion that was brought on by sorrow.[1] And then we discover that one of his inner circle betrays him,[2] and another one denies him,[3] and then everyone else deserts him.[4] Yes, I think it’s fair to suggest that anyone who doesn’t know the end of the story, reading this for the first time, could safely begin to draw the conclusion that Jesus and his disciples had had their day in the sun, as it were. And now the darkness which Jesus said is reigning in this hour, at the end of verse 53, seems to be an impenetrable darkness, and the light is apparently almost extinguished. The pendulum seems to have swung very much in the favor of those who are opposing Christ. And it seems as though that everybody is in on the game, as it were. Everyone’s jumping in on the action. We considered last Sunday evening how, in the declension of Peter, we had the background information to the arrest in the darkening evening shadows. And in verse 63, when the men who were guarding Jesus take him into their custody, they decide that they’ll just mock and beat him and blindfold him and abuse him.

Cruel Clowning

I actually made headings in my own notes to try and guide me through this section. And the first heading that I wrote down, regarding verses 63–65, was simply “Cruel Clowning.” “Cruel Clowning.” Because that is the activity that is described for us here.

Now, most of us are not unfamiliar with this kind of thing if we went to school—and most of us went to school. I’m not sure; I can’t speak authoritatively concerning girls’ activities, although I have observed girls being particularly unkind to one another—more often with language than with bodily blows. But boys in particular understand this kind of cruel clowning around. And some of us remember with shame the fact that we were involved in this kind of cruel clowning. Some unfortunate disadvantaged figure becomes the butt of the class jokes, becomes the figure who is the object of insults and the slapping and the shoving. And the poor boy is almost afraid to come to school on a daily basis because it would seem that his whole existence has to do with being a kind of punching bag, being the butt end of the aggravation of those unfortunate and distasteful bullies who decided that they would use him as a figure of fun. That, of course, is distasteful activity at any time. And it dreadfully and definitely appears so here, doesn’t it?

Could we imagine that these individuals, the soldiers, were just bored, and boredom was the incubator in which their base behavior was hatched? Possibly. And even so, it wouldn’t excuse them in any way. They make Jesus the focus of a game. They slap him around, and then—verse 64—they blindfold him. And apparently, they’ve discovered that he’s been out there proclaiming that he is the Prophet, and so they said, “Well, why don’t we blindfold him, and then you go ahead and hit him, and then we’ll ask him, ‘Who hit you?’ And if he apparently knows things beyond the ken of others, then he should be able to answer that.” And so they blindfolded him, and they demanded, “Prophesy! Who was it hit you? And who hit you that time?” And verse 65 seems to suggest that Luke has drawn a veil over this bad activity. It was as if this was just the start of their insulting behavior.

Now, when you put this little scenario here in the context of what we read in the other Gospels—in Matthew and in Mark and in John’s Gospel—then, when you put all of the record together, it conjures up a graphic picture of undiluted hatred. It’s really what it is. I mean, there’s no way to suggest that it was that these individuals were just being playful, that they were somehow or another indifferent to Jesus. No, it is that they were despising and rejecting him. Unwittingly, they were actually fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, which is familiar to some of us who know our Bibles, in Isaiah 53, and to others of us perhaps simply through the work of Handel,[5] where at least on an annual basis we hear these words:

He was despised and rejected by men,
 a man of sorrow, and acquainted with suffering.
And as one from whom men hide their faces,
 we didn’t give him any sense of esteem at all.[6]

That’s what’s taking place here. And have you noticed that the response of Jesus is just silent? Of course, in Isaiah 53, the prophecy goes on: “He was led like a [sheep] to the slaughter”[7]—dumb before all that was crushing in upon him. And Peter, when he finally writes his letter, he summarizes it; he says, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate.”[8] Yes, it is, isn’t it, just an illustration of cruel clowning.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how boys grow up, and they don’t grow up. How you get in the locker room with a group of men—it’s still the same stupid stories, still the same filthy language, still the same boisterous clowning, still the same empty stupidity. You’d think if education did it, that by the time a man reached a certain age, he would have all that behind him. He would have been able to deal with all of the imperfections and insecurities. He would have been able to tackle all that silly stuff from his youth. But somehow or another, he looks in the mirror, and he’s still a silly boy. He’s still guilty of the clowning. He’s still capable of the cruelty.

Corrupt Scheming

And as darkness gives way to dawn—the dawn that is described there in verse 66—so the cruel clowning is replaced by corrupt scheming. That’s my second heading.

“At daybreak the council”—that is, the Sanhedrin, the highest-ranking court of the Jews—they decide to waste no time in conducting their formal interrogation. Now, I want you to try and catch the pace of things here. I want you to try and get a handle on the sense of urgency with which they’re moving things forward. And I wanted to move through the material more quickly than perhaps I would in order to reinforce this fact.

Luke’s account here is succinct. It’s very clear. It’s punchy. It’s brief. It leaves out much of the material that is covered in the other Gospels. That is why some of you reading this will say, “Well, what about the investigation or the interrogation that involved Annas? Or what about when Jesus was brought before Caiaphas?” Well, Luke doesn’t handle that. The other Gospel writers have filled in the blanks, and we know from reading the parallel passages that during the night, under the cover of darkness, all of these different things were taking place—that there was, if you like, a rush to judgment on the part of the Jewish authorities. They could see now that things were tipping in their favor, and if they moved quickly and they moved directly, then perhaps they would be able to bring their evil plot to fruition, and they could be done with this Jesus of Nazareth once and for all.

Now, as the Jewish court, they recognized, too, that they were unable to conduct any kind of legitimate investigation after darkness had fallen. It was illegal. You couldn’t pronounce a sentence of a trial that had taken place during the day after the evening shadows had fallen. And so all of the machinations that had been going on during the night needed somehow or another to be formalized and legitimized, and so now they seek to do something very improper but to do it in a very proper way. And that’s why at daybreak they said, “We’ll get together as soon as sun is up.” Because remember, the high priests were conspiring with the Jewish council. They were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. This is very, very important for us to keep in mind. We should not think that they are investigating Jesus here with the prospect of faith. No, they are conducting, as it were, a sham interrogation in order that they might bring to fruition their evil designs.

Can I just pause and acknowledge that there are all kinds of ways to come and consider Jesus? And some of you are here this morning, perhaps, because someone has suggested to you that although you’ve been a religious person, although you’ve known something of the Bible in your past, that you have never really considered who Jesus is and why he came. And so you’re here, and you’re hoping that something along the journey of the day, or in the reading that you’re able to pick up, or in the things that you listen to, or the conversations you have—that some of these things or all of them together—will begin to help you to understand who Jesus is. You have a genuine sense of intellectual integrity. You want to know about him as a historical figure. You want to know where he fits within the framework of God’s revelation. You want to find out if he really is the Savior for the sins of men and women.

The Bible will cater to our intellectual integrity.

But some of you are here, and you’re conducting your own investigation, and you haven’t the slightest intention of believing in Jesus. You just want to get as much information as you can to set him aside, to disregard him, to despise him, and to reject him. Well, I want to encourage you that the Bible will cater, as it were, to our intellectual integrity. You can wrestle with it. You can pull it apart. You can investigate it. But I don’t want to offer you any encouragement that Jesus is going to pander to your intellectual arrogance.

And these individuals were arrogant. You’ll notice that although they’re conducting some kind of trial, nobody brings a charge. You would expect that somebody would stand up as the prosecuting council and say, “Jesus of Nazareth, we’ve brought you here today, and the formal charge against you is…” But no, they just simply ask him to incriminate himself. “Tell us, are you the Christ?” they said. And Jesus responds very interestingly, doesn’t he? Look there in verse 67: “If I tell you, you will not believe me.” And then into verse 68: “And if I asked you, you would not answer.” Is Jesus here missing an evangelistic opportunity? “If you are the Christ,” they said, “tell us.” No, he understands their motivation. They’re simply looking for an excuse to get him over to Pilate and have him dead. So Jesus says, “Well, if I answered yes, you wouldn’t believe me. And if I asked you what you meant by your question, you wouldn’t even answer me.”

Now, this wasn’t an unfamiliar dialogue. You only need go back two chapters to chapter 20, and they had a similar tête-à-tête there—20:2. Again it’s the same group: the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.[9] They all come up to him, and they said, “Tell us by what authority you[’re] doing these things. … Who gave you this authority?” And Jesus replies ad hominem. He replies with a question. He says, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me, John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men?” And they realized that he had them. And Luke says, “They discussed it among themselves,” and they said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘[Then] why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, because they[’re] persuaded that John was a prophet.”[10] So they said, “Oh, we don’t know where he was from.” And Jesus said, “Well, then, I’m not going to tell you by what authority I do these things.”[11] It’s almost funny, actually. It’s very, very clever.

You see, they’re trying to jam him into a corner. Jesus knows. You can’t jam Jesus into a corner. He may choose to jam you into one, and extricate you from it, but you cannot jam him into a corner. “Come on, now! Incriminate yourself! You’re the Christ?” “Well, if I say yes, you won’t believe, and if I ask you why you’re asking, you won’t answer me. But I’ll tell you one thing,” he says—verse 69. “I’ll give you this information: I’m going tell you right now that henceforth the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

“Well,” you say, “that’s an interesting response, isn’t it?” Doesn’t mean very much to us this morning—not unless we know our Bibles. If we know our Bibles, then we know that the phrase “the Son of Man” was a favorite self-designation on the part of Christ. And these intelligent and well-versed religious officials were able to pick up very quickly what Jesus was saying, because what he was doing was he was reaching back into the prophecy of Daniel, right around the seventh chapter in particular,[12] and he was bringing this back into a moment in time, out of their history, and reminding them of this great figure who would emerge who would reign forever and ever—that he was going to be the judge of the living and the dead. And they had this little trial going on—a flimflam affair—and he says, “Well, the Son of Man is going to be seated at the right hand of Almighty God.” Well, verse 70: so they said, “Okay, then. You’re saying that you’re the Son of God.”

Now, you see, context allows us to understand what’s going on, doesn’t it? Luke expects us to be able to fill in the blanks. Because for us, for Jesus to say, “The Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of mighty God,” we might say, “What?” But they say, “Well, then, what you’re saying is that you’re the Son of God. What you’re doing is you’re taking that designation out of Daniel, and you’re applying it to yourself.” Jesus says, “Well, I wouldn’t necessarily put it that way, but since you have, then I can’t deny it.” You say, “Well, that’s not what it says in my Bible. It says, ‘You are right in saying I am.’” And that’s fine. That’s okay. But there is a sense in which what Jesus is doing here is saying to them, “When you make these statements concerning me, I know what you’re trying to do with them. So when I accept what you are saying about me, I am not at the same time accepting what you’re trying to do with them.”

But this was all they needed. “Why do we need any more testimony?” What are they suggesting, that they were going to call all these witnesses, and the witnesses would come up and incriminate Jesus? I don’t think they really had anybody at all. “Why do we need any more testimony?” “That’s it! We’ve heard it from his own lips.” Well, no surprise. Because remember, from chapter 9, Jesus had told—verse 22—he had told his followers that the elders and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were going to reject him. And now it seems they’ve got all the evidence that they require.

Political Maneuvering

Not that the Roman authorities are going to be particularly impressed with this. After all, why would the Roman authorities be concerned with this kind of intramural dispute? Why would they be concerned about the charge of blasphemy in relationship to Jesus of Nazareth? No, these individuals here are going to have to come up with a way of putting the facts together to convince Pilate in particular that this Jesus of Nazareth is a threat to the Roman authorities and therefore should be put to death. You see, they were also smart enough to recognize that they could not bring about the death of Jesus by the condemnation of a Jewish court. They did not possess that authority. And therefore, they had to bring it to the Roman authorities in order that Roman law combined with Jewish law would set Christ to his death.

So the scheming gives way in chapter 23 to a classic example of what we might refer to as political maneuvering—political maneuvering—first of all on the part of the Sanhedrin and then on the part of Pilate: “Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our nation.’”

Notice how they work together. You say, “Well, is there any surprise in this?” Well, actually, there is. Because this company of individuals who were now united in their desire to see Jesus put to death were not big buddies. There were all kinds of declensions and divisions among them, not least of all, perhaps classically, between the Sadducean party and the Pharisee party. And they disagreed radically over points of doctrine. In fact, they detested each other. But suddenly, those who do not like each other are united in a shared hatred for somebody else. Funny how that works, isn’t it? You can see it even in an office: two people that never discuss things with one another, people who do not get along with one another—when the opportunity comes to topple somebody that it would be in the best interest of both of them to topple, then they’re prepared to bury the hatchet of their own animosity in order that they might unite to bring down this figure whom they both despise. And that’s what’s happening here. They were prepared to set aside their differences and, with subtle cunning and abominable deceitfulness, to make sure that Jesus was put to death.

Is it much of a reach to suggest to you this morning that the same thing continues to happen on the stage of world religions? Are you noticing the way in which those who, in the religions of the world, disagree radically with one another at points of significant doctrine, whether it is Islam, or Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Shintoism, or Confucianism, disagreeing with one another at all kinds of points, seeking to substantiate their own claims and lead their own people—isn’t it interesting that one of the only points of unanimity that you can find on the stage of world religion is a unified hatred of Jesus of Nazareth? A hatred of Jesus of Nazareth! Not necessarily a hatred of organized Christianity, not necessarily a hatred of formalized Roman Catholicism or a hatred of Protestant liberalism, but a hatred of Jesus of Nazareth: “Of all things we will not tolerate, we will not tolerate this Christ who stands on the stage of human history and says, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. [And] no one comes to the Father [but by] me.’[13] We will have none of that.” And those who actually are at loggerheads with one another today unite in order, as it were, to crucify Christ all over again and to drive him from the place of influence and power which is his by sovereign right.

So, Jesus having confessed to be the Messiah, they then interpret this for Pilate. Look at the end of verse 2: “He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and [he] claims to be Christ,” comma, “a king,” In other words, “Pilate, we don’t want you to miss this. I know you don’t really care much about this Messiah business, but we want you to know what it means: if he is Christ, then he is king; if he is king, then, Pilate, Caesar has a problem. And if Caesar has a problem, Pilate, you’ve got a problem. And we’re here today to suggest to you, Pilate, that you deal with this problem. He stirs up disaffection and insurrection. He encourages the people to oppose the payment of taxes to Caesar. And he actually claims to be a king.”

So it’s no surprise, then, that Pilate’s first question is “Is that true, Jesus?” Verse 3: “So Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the king of Jews?’” Now, since we don’t have a recording of this, we don’t know the intonation in his voice. I’ve been intrigued by this this week. I’ve been going around my room, asking the question in all kinds of different ways: with a rising inflection and a lowering inflection, and with incredulity, and with curiosity, and with animosity, and so on. There are a million ways that you can say, “Are you the king of the Jews?” And it’s conjecture on my part, but I wonder whether he looks at this figure, this bound Galilean carpenter… And actually, in the Greek, the first word is “you”; it’s not “Are you…” He says, “You? You’re the king of the Jews? I mean, is this what I’m supposed to be worrying about? You?” It may not be that. Maybe he said, “Are. You. The king. Of. The Jews?” I don’t think so.

Pilate hadn’t got to this position because he was inadequate or incapable. No, Pilate was a sophisticate. Pilate was a political animal. Pilate would probably have risen to the highest realm of political maneuvering in any generation and at any time by dint of his personality and his capacity to read things. Because, you see, Pilate obviously sees through the accusation of these Jews. He is sharp enough to catch their plot. But he’s not morally strong enough to do what should be done. He knows this is a fraud, but he somehow or another cannot find it in himself to follow through on that basis, to simply say, “Listen: this is a crock that you’re bringing before me here. I want all you religious authorities to clear off, and I want you, Jesus, whoever and whatever you are, to get back out into the thoroughfare of life.” But he doesn’t do it. Sharp enough to figure it out and too weak to do what he ought to do.

Can I pause and make an application here again? I think there are some of you who come routinely to Parkside—intelligent, thoughtful, shrewd enough to figure it out. You’re not going to buy the nonsense that all roads lead to heaven like they lead to Timbuktu. You’ve already concluded that one way may be right, and the rest may be wrong, or every way may be wrong, but you’re too smart to conclude that every way is right. So you’ve narrowed your options down sufficiently, and you may even have come to a convinced conviction in your own mind concerning the truth of Jesus, but still you do not bow beneath his lordship. Still you do not believe in him. Still you will not bow your will to him. And the reason is you’re not brave enough. You’re not tough enough. You’re frightened to go back into the laboratory at Case and have your eminent scientific friend say, “You don’t mean it! You have not capitulated to the notion that Jesus of Nazareth is your Savior and friend!” and you just can’t get there. Or that your business colleagues, who have regarded you as astute and influential, you just can’t imagine having to say to them on a business trip, “Well, you know, I believe that Jesus is my Savior and my Lord and my friend.” You’re smart enough to get to where you need to be to believe, but you’re not brave enough to believe. I issue you a challenge today: take your stand with Christ. Do not do a Pilate on the issue of what you know to be factual, staring you in the face. You can see through the fraudulence of every other suggestion, but still you are an unconverted believer.

Well, if there was a rush to judgment on the part of the Sanhedrin, it was certainly equally speedy—the verdict that came from Pilate. Verse 4: “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” You can imagine them saying, “There’s nothing I can find wrong here. He seems harmless enough to me.” But this wasn’t what they wanted to hear. They’re not about to wait for the court of appeals to be called. They don’t want to lose the momentum here. During the night, they had arrested him, they had begun to formulate their strategy, they had called their council together in the morning, they had got an incriminating statement out of him, they had hauled him before Pilate, and everything seemed to be going fine, and now Pilate issues his verdict that says, “Sorry, I don’t find a problem here.”

And so they protest immediately. They insist. General charge—look at this: “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching.” Oh yes, he does! There was truth in that, wasn’t there? Not in the way they were suggesting. Not in terms of an insurrection. But sure, he was stirring up people. Stirred up blind Bartimaeus, didn’t he? “Son of David, have mercy on me!”[14] And Jesus healed him, and he went down the road.[15] Stirred up the community in Nain when the funeral procession was going down the street, and the widow whose son was on the funeral bier was encountered by this Galilean carpenter who stopped the funeral procession and reached out and began speaking to a corpse.[16] That would stir up the community! Somebody stops a funeral procession on 91 and opens the lid of the coffin and starts talking to the corpse—that would probably make the news! Yes, he has stirred the place up—raised the boy up, gave him back to his mother. He made the blind to see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear. Children loved him. Sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors, little cheats like Zacchaeus said, “You know, I love it when Jesus preaches. I’m sick of the synagogue stuff! Same old stuff all again and again—nothing that touches me where I live, no impact on my life. But when I hear this Jesus of Nazareth, man, he stirs me.”[17] So actually, what they were saying was in part true: he stirs people up all over Judea. And he does it by his teaching. This isn’t the circus come to town; this is Jesus teaching.

And then they happen to mention that “he started in Galilee and [he’s] come all the way here.” “This has been going on ever since he started in Galilee.” “Galilee?” Ding, ding, ding! Pilate—who has a dilemma, right? Pilate’s got a situation before him. He knows Jesus isn’t guilty, but he’s not brave enough to discharge him. He knows that their charges are bogus, but he’s not strong enough to tell them. He knows that they are consumed with the thought of the death of Jesus; he knows that it could be bad if Caesar gets a hold of the news that somehow or another, a potential insurrectionist has been set free by his Roman governor; but he doesn’t know what to do. But when Galilee comes into the picture, he immediately thinks.

Remember what I said: he didn’t get this job because he was a yahoo. You know, he didn’t end up in this position of influence coming up the Cuyahoga River on a banana skin. This fellow was good. He can think on his feet.

“And this had been going ever since he started this business in Galilee.”

“Galilee! Here’s an out. Here’s an opportunity to pass the buck. Here’s an opportunity, maybe, to make a buck. Galilee!”

Now, what do we know about Galilee? We know that Galilee is under the jurisdiction of Herod. And what do we know about Herod? We know that Herod is in town. How nice to know that Herod is in town! What do we also know about Herod? We know that Herod and Pilate weren’t friends. Pilate had overstepped his mark a couple of times, and he was in Herod’s bad books. So here is a masterful opportunity for political maneuvering. “Why don’t I take Jesus of Nazareth, send him up to Herod? That way, Herod will say, ‘Hey, that was nice of Pilate. He recognizes I’m an influential figure.’ And, at the same time, it will give me the opportunity to wash my hands of the whole sorry mess, and Herod can make the decision about Jesus of Nazareth.” “Why don’t I send this tape to my sister and see if she wants to become a Christian? I don’t need to make this decision today.”

Now, since it was the Passover, apparently Herod had gone up to Jerusalem. He’d go there not to participate in the celebrations but to observe them. Because, after all, he was a politician as well, and he knew that it was important for him to show up so that his constituency would say, “Well, that was very nice of Herod to come up here and make sure that he put in an appearance at our very special religious celebrations.”

So, on hearing the men—“It started in Galilee”—he said, “Well is he a Galilean? Jesus is a Galilean. Therefore, he’s under Herod’s jurisdiction. Therefore, why don’t we send him to Herod,” who was also in Jerusalem at that time. So the camera is about to cut, and the cut is just going to close us on the back of Jesus and is going give us a frontal picture with Jesus walking into the jurisdiction of Herod.

Now, that’s the story for this evening. Some of you will return and get the Herodian part. Others of you will need to get the tape, because apparently, you’re going to read the paper instead of listen to the Bible. That’s your decision.

Two Words of Application

How should I finish? You say, “Well, don’t ask us. Just finish.” Okay. Then let me finish with two points of application—very simple and straightforward.

First of all, a word to those who do not believe. The unbelief that we have just considered here on the part of these individuals is alive and well in Cleveland. Despite the curiosity of men and women and their willingness to acknowledge that Jesus of Nazareth was a fine ethical teacher and a good man and apparently a prophet, men and women remain unprepared to acknowledge that he is the Savior and that they are sinners—unwilling to acknowledge that they deserve everlasting punishment and that in the death of Jesus there was the vicarious sacrifice that was designed in order to satisfy the justice of God and to reconcile an offended God to the sinner. And so the unbelief that turned its back on Christ, that refused what the Father said concerning his Son, is alive and well in suburban Cleveland. And this morning, he remains despised and rejected by men. Again, let me point out to you: He’s not despised as a moral teacher. He’s not despised as a figure of history. He’s not despised as someone whose ethical impact is something that a society could do well to pay attention to. He is despised and rejected as the sole sacrifice for sin. Question: Is he despised and rejected by you? And if so, are you prepared to do something about that?

Nothing is out of control, and nothing is going to get out of control, because Jesus reigns, and he reigned from his cross.

Well, that’s the application to the person who doesn’t believe. What about the application to the person who does believe? Well, it’s very simple and straightforward: we should take heart by realizing that when Satan threw everything he could at Christ—and here we really have the master plot of hell—when Satan did everything he could to destroy God’s plan and God’s purpose, his schemes weren’t simply countered at every point by a different or a better plan; his schemes were actually woven into the plan and made to serve its ends. Peter grasps this and speaks it in Acts 2 when he says, you know, “This Lord Jesus was delivered up according to the plan and purpose of God, and he was crucified at the hands of wicked men.”[18]

It’s not unusual for me to feel or to meet others who feel that somehow or another, the pendulum has swung dreadfully against those men and women of faith, those who embrace Christianity, those who want to follow Jesus. My generation is saying, “Now, what will it be for our grandchildren?” That’s what they say now. And I find myself saying, “That’s what I heard my parents saying, and we’re living it,” and so on. But what we need to realize is this: that nothing is out of control, and nothing is going to get out of control, because Jesus reigns, and he reigned from his cross. And he reigns now from a throne, and everything is worked out according to the eternal council of his will.[19]

Father, we thank you that you’ve given us the Bible and that you ask us to use our minds to think properly. We thank you that it speaks to the very center of our being, encouraging us to feel deeply. We find ourselves saying,

It is a thing most wonderful,
Almost too wonderful to be,
That God’s own Son should come from heaven,
And die to save a child like me.

And yet I know that it is true:
He came to this poor world below,
And wept and toiled and mourned and died,
[And all] because he loved us so.

I cannot tell how he could love
A child so weak and full of sin;
His love must be most wonderful
If he could die my love to win.[20]

How deep is your love for us, Father. We bow beneath its wonder. We embrace it. We hide in it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

[1] See Luke 22:39–46.

[2] See Luke 22:47–48.

[3] See Luke 22:54–62.

[4] See Mark 14:50.

[5] See George Friedric Handel, Messiah (1741).

[6] Isaiah 53:3 (paraphrased).

[7] Isaiah 53:7 (NIV 1984).

[8] 1 Peter 2:23 (NIV 1984).

[9] See Luke 20:1.

[10] Luke 20:2–6 (NIV 1984).

[11] Luke 20:7–8 (paraphrased).

[12] See Daniel 7:13–14.

[13] John 14:6 (NIV 1984).

[14] Luke 18:39 (NIV 1984).

[15] See Matthew 20:34; Mark 10:52; Luke 18:43.

[16] See Luke 7:11–17.

[17] See Matthew 7:28–29; 22:33; Mark 1:22; 11:18; Luke 4:32; John 7:46.

[18] Acts 2:23 (paraphrased).

[19] See Ephesians 1:11.

[20] William Walsham How, “It Is a Thing Most Wonderful” (1872).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.