- Sermon Notes
We are Changed at the Cross
Last week we looked at the seven things Jesus said as He was being crucified. These events are the center point of history. All of history looked forward to the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and all of time since then looks back to those events as the foundation for all eternity to come.
If you do a thorough study of the Old Testament, you find that it all points to the suffering of Jesus on the cross and the resurrection to newness of life. Going back even to Adam and Eve, when they had sinned they tried to cover themselves with fig leaves. I think we can safely assume that before they sinned, they were covered with the glory of God, but after they sinned they became aware of their nakedness. This is why they tried to cover themselves with fig leaves. I can't imagine this was a very comfortable solution, nor an effective one.
But out of this story also comes the anticipation of God's answer to our problem of sin. To cover their nakedness God made garments from the skin of animals and clothed them. In other words, by the shedding of blood their sins were covered. In fact the scripture tells us in the book of Hebrews that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
And then all through history you see God pointing toward the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only hope for life, even life eternal. So when we hear these words of Jesus on the cross of Calvary we hear the message of good news that God is declaring so we might receive eternal life and live in the love that God desires for us to receive.
What we see in the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus is the power of God to transform us, to change us into His image, so we might have newness of life even now.
In these verses we are introduced to a man named Joseph of Arimathea who asks for the body of Jesus so he might give Jesus a proper Jewish burial. We know from the other Gospels that Nicodemus also helped Joseph give Jesus a proper Jewish burial.
But what we see in these two men is also the story of transformation and we learn much about what God wants to do in us when we see what God has done in these two men.
We should begin with a biographical sketch of Joseph of Arimathea. His story is a testimony of the power of God to transform. First, we know he was wealthy and that he was a member of the leading council in Israel, the Sanhedrin. In fact, he was a prominent member of the council.
He was a good and upright man who was waiting for the kingdom of God. He disagreed with the leading members of the Council in regards to their plot and scheme against Jesus. No doubt this is because Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus.
Joseph of Arimathea has a powerful testimony because you see him transformed from being a secret disciple who is afraid to identify himself with Christ into a man who risks it all to ask Pontius Pilate for the body of Christ. Why would he do it? He had wealth. He had prominent friends. He was well known and respected throughout Jerusalem. Why risk it all? But he did. Seeing Jesus hanging on the cross dying, something happened in Joseph of Arimathea. He came to a decision, he made his move. He went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus whom he had been following secretly, but a secret disciple no more. This is a story we can learn so much from and apply to our own lives.
I. We Were Born in Weakness and Fear
- First of all, it's important for us to step back and see the big picture of what God is doing here because it is so pivotal to all of human history as well as all of eternity.
- We know that Jesus was paying the penalty for our sin when He died on the cross. We know that He died instead of us, but how did this happen?
A. We were born in the weakness of Adam
- Let’s step back even further and realize that we were all born in the weakness and sin of Adam. In other words, we were in Adam when he sinned.
- How? We were in his loins you might say. By being in him when he sinned, his sins were attributed to us.
- We don't have to look very far to see the consequences of that in our own lives.
- The tendency toward sin is part of the condition we were born in and we’re all well aware it.
Romans 5:18, So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men…
1 Corinthians 15:22, For as in Adam all die…
Romans 7:7-8, I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "You shall not covet." But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind…
Illus – We see that very thing in young children. Babies are the cutest things in the world; I submit that they’re so cute because their true nature has not yet been revealed. Wait till the get to the “terrible two’s.” Then, as soon as you tell them not to touch something, that's the very thing they want to touch. But we're the same way; all you have to do is go on a diet to see how strong our desires are for those things which harm us.
Proverbs 9:17, "Stolen water is sweet; and bread eaten in secret is pleasant."
B. Fear is part of the human condition
- We were also born with fear as part of our human condition.
Illus – Babies are afraid of being abandoned, later they’re afraid of the dark, then later they’re afraid of rejection, then older, they’re afraid of losing love, and then as they get still older they’re afraid of losing their health and their jobs.
- The story of what happens to the body of Jesus is not complete until we understand the background of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.
- What we see are two men who are taken by fear. They are followers of Jesus Christ, but in secret.
John 19:38, After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews…
- We first met Nicodemus in John 3 when he came to Jesus by night to talk with Him. Why did he come at night? No doubt because of fear.
- At one point Nicodemus tried to stand up for Jesus, but he couldn't do it.
John 7:45-53 Nicodemus was afraid.
- But then something happens. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus risked everything to be identified with Christ's death.
2 Timothy 1:7, God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.
- Joseph goes to Pontius Pilate and asks for the body of Jesus and then he, together with Nicodemas, takes the body of Jesus from the cross and prepares it for a proper Jewish burial.
- This meant that Joseph and Nicodemus would have to wash the body of Jesus. Can you imagine this gruesome task? To take the body of Jesus from the cross would have been difficult since it was nailed there, they couldn’t do it without getting the blood of Christ all over them. What love and what honor.
II. The Cross is Personal
- The love and care that they showed Jesus here is very beautiful and important for us to understand. The powerful spiritual reality is that we are to identify with the death of Christ.
- We rightly celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we must not pass over the importance of His death because it has everything to do with us.
A. We were in Him when He died
- That really is a remarkable statement and difficult for many people to understand.
- But it has everything to do with our salvation and who we are in Christ. But the Bible makes it clear that this is an important aspect of the life that we have now in Christ.
Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
- When we truly understand the significance of these truths, it makes us respond by loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
- But the scriptures present these truths very clearly in the book of Romans.
Romans 3:10, 23, As it is written, "There is none righteous, not even one;"… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death…
- We often hear that Christ died instead of us, but now we understand how that death is applied to us; we were in Him when He died.
- One of the best scriptures in the Bible that makes this so clear for us is found in Romans chapter 6.
Romans 6:2-4, How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death…
- We died in Christ; what a glorious declaration! My old life has died and I am made new in Christ by the power of the resurrection.
- This is why it is so important that people are baptized in water. Being baptized in water does not save us; it is a picture of what God does through His Holy Spirit and is our declaration to the world that we identify with the death of Christ. It's how our sins were paid for.
Illus – I remember telling this to a man who was about to be baptized that it is a picture of Christ washing our sins by His blood. His response, "Hold me down a long time, I have a lot of sins."
B. He is our resurrection and our life
- The wonderful truth, of course, is that Christ did not remain in the grave but was resurrected in power on the third day.
- The scripture says that Jesus appeared to more than 500 at one time when He was resurrected. I believe that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus would have been in that crowd.
- Do you think that all of those scriptures would've come to mind when they saw the resurrected Lord?
Isaiah 53:5, But He was pierced through for our transgressions, the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.
John 3:14-15, the Son of man must be lifted up so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
- Not only do we identify with his death and burial, but we also identify with His resurrection and life.
Romans 6:4-5, as Christ was raised from the dead to the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,
- Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were two of the wealthiest men in Jerusalem. If they were around today no doubt they would be highly sought after to give conferences on the topic of accumulating wealth.
- But I submit that they would have no interest in giving conferences on accumulating wealth. They would want to tell people about the power of the resurrection and newness of life.
2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
- Why would Joseph and Nicodemas risk it all to identify themselves with Jesus? Because life is better than death, because truth is better than a lie, because in Christ they have a great reward.
Hebrews 11: 24-26 Moses was looking to the reward
Philippians 3:8, More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.
Luke 23:50-56 NASB
50 And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man 51 (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God; 52 this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. 54 It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. 55 Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.