They Remembered His Words

Sermon preached on Luke 23:26-24:12 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 01/08/2023 in Petaluma, CA.

Sermon Manuscript

Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.

This passage has a range of emotions and reactions, from people mourning over Jesus to people laughing at him, to people afraid at the angels announcing his resurrection, to people bewildered by its report, to people doubting to people believing. But in all of it, Jesus is about the work his father had given him to do, work that involved his becoming a sacrifice to atone for the sin of the elect, and even a preaching ministry through it all.

We begin in our first point to see a crowd of the people, especially made up of many women, forming and following Jesus as he marched to his death. They are mourning and lamenting for him as they see him led on to Calvary. By this point, his physical exhaustion from everything he endured in that last several hours had reached a point that he could no longer even carry his own cross. So, the soldiers compelled a bystander to help him, this Simon of Cyrene. That this crowd had formed and shown such emotion for Jesus reminds us that not everyone was opposed to him. What had just happened over that night was the engineering of the religious leaders and as many as they could stir up against Jesus. But so many people had loved to listen and learn from Jesus. Remember, that we’ve recently seen that the reason the religious leaders had arrested him secretly was because they feared all the people who had been supporting him. So, surely such people are represented by this great crowd mentioned in verse 30.

We can appreciate why the masses who had been excited for Jesus’ ministry and not to mention all his miracles would be weeping and lamenting here. Here is this Jesus who surely by now looked to be in sad shape after all he had endured. He had already been flogged and already a crown of thorns put on his head. Surely, he got little to no sleep over night. Surely any human in his state would have been a sad sight to see. But to those whom he had been a beloved bible teacher and prophet you had been learning from, this would have been even more lamentable. Of course, there were surely different convictions represented in the crowds. Some might be lamenting here that a prophet is being unjustly persecuted. But who knows, others might be lamenting that a prophet had done something wrong to deserve such a punishment. We don’t know all the motives of these lamenters, but it was definitely a lamentable situation.

So then, while in general this would have been a lamentable sight to behold, let’s really draw out the full picture here. This is the Messiah. The long-awaited King to come from the line of David, who was to reign over an enduring kingdom, this is the one who now is being led captive off to his death like a criminal. Israel’s king is here led captive off to his death, numbered with the transgressors. Of course, this would not be the first time a king or otherwise hero of Israel was led captive off in seemingly defeat. During the last days of Jerusalem’s history before Babylon had previously destroyed it, this happened a few times. An Egyptian Pharoah captured and led away King Jehoahaz, son of King Josiah. And then later the Babylonians did the same to King Jehoiachin and then King Zedekiah. How shameful to God’s people in each of those cases, that their king in the line of King David was so disgraced and defeated. Yet, I would ask that if you were part of God’s people at that time, and you witnessed such shame, what should your response have been? It should be lament and mourning, yes, like they do here with Jesus. But it should have also been an opportunity to personally repent. Israel’s kings were so captured and conquered as a sign of God’s judgment upon them for their wickedness and rebellion against God. That would have been a warning by extension to all the people to yet turn from such a trajectory. And yet, if that is the case for such wicked kings, how much more that such an evil had come here upon the righteous King Jesus? And it would be one thing if this was just the pagan Gentiles leading off the king of Israel to his death, but it was also and especially the Jewish religious leaders who were responsible for the righteous King Jesus to be led to his death.

So then, let’s turn now to our second point to see what Jesus has to say to this crowd that has formed to follow him. What a loving and merciful savior, that in the height of his suffering he yet continues his prophetic teaching ministry. He makes his horrible suffering an occasion to teach them an important lesson that they need. His words are in verses 28-31. Start at the end with verse 31. There Jesus makes it clear there is something for them to learn from this by saying, “For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry.” Green wood is the opposite of dried out wood. When you first cut down a tree and cut it up into firewood, you wouldn’t usually go and burn it right away. That green wood is not going to burn easily. You need to let it dry out for a long time before you try to use it as firewood. We call it seasoning the firewood, and apparently you might need to let it dry six to eighteen months before it is really ready to throw into the fire. But if what is happening here to Jesus at that time is like the burning of green wood, what will things be like later when the fire comes to the dry wood, so to speak. So, Jesus uses what was likely a well-known proverb to signal them to the fact that what is happening to him then and there should alert them to be ready for the future when judgment befalls them.

Indeed, that is what Jesus says before this explains what he has in mind. Notice starting in verse 28 he particularly addresses the Daughters of Jerusalem. This confirms what we understood about this crowd, that it was especially made up of many women. To clarify, by calling them daughters of Jerusalem, he is distinguishing them from those women who had been traveling along with Jesus from Galilee, whom are referenced later in our passage today. So, this crowd that had followed him especially included here local women from Jerusalem. So, Jesus addresses a coming judgment upon them and in context we naturally think of this to have in mind judgment coming upon Jerusalem. He speaks of how a terrible judgment will come upon them so that it would be better for the women to be barren than to be pregnant or giving birth in such circumstances. That is pretty shocking to here because normally to be barren would have been considered a negative thing, but here Jesus says given the circumstances it would be better. But the judgment that will come upon them will be so terrible, it will be like verse 30 says, that people will want the mountains and hill to fall on them and hide them from it.

To think of this judgment as something especially to be coming upon Jerusalem is fitting with what Jesus has been recently and repeatedly talking about since he arrived in Jerusalem the Sunday before this. Remember at the triumphal entry in chapter 19 he wept over Jerusalem and foretold its coming judgment. Then in chapter 21 he again foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, and including the temple, by the hand of the Gentiles, who would then reign for a set season of time. This would happen in about 40 years when the Romans would conquer and destroy Jerusalem. It would be a horrible destruction to befall the Jewish people. Here, Jesus warns them of this terrible judgment to come.

I would note that while Jesus’ words surely most immediately have in mind that 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem, we can think of a final application at the end of this age when Jesus returns as the Son of Man coming in the clouds. I say this because of what Jesus says in verse 30 about how people will want the mountains and hills to fall on them. You see, that is a reference to a previous prophecy in Hosea 10:8 that is foretelling how the northern kingdom of Israel would end up be conquered and destroyed by Assyria and the survivors led away captive. So, Jesus quotes Hosea but makes a new fresh application to a similarly terrible judgment coming upon Jerusalem. But then this same language is again picked up in the book of Revelation 6:6. There, that language is clearly used to describe the final wrath and judgment to fall upon all the earth at Christ’s second coming. So then, this is sometimes how prophetic words are used, where there is an initial fulfillment, or even initial fulfillments, but looking forward to a final ultimate fulfillment. I hope you understand why this is important. Because it doesn’t take us off the hook in 2023. The final day of judgment is yet ahead, and it will be worse than the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. So, Jesus’ warning to Jerusalem has yet a warning to us too.

As Jesus’ speaks this warning to Jerusalem here, I can’t help but think of some interesting similarities and differences with the ancient prophet of Jonah. Jonah was sent to preach to the evil city of Nineveh and he went to the town and proclaimed for three days that the city would be overturned in 40 days. From what is recorded in Jonah, his message was basically understood as an announcement of judgment, but with no explicit message of how the city might be saved. But those pagan Ninevites repented of their sins and began to lament and mourn saying, “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” Here then, Jesus preaches to Jerusalem of a judgment of how the city would be overturned in 40 years. Jesus even tells them to lament and mourn over this, clearly implying a call to repent of their sins that they might yet be spared from God’s wrath. I would add that Jesus even commented earlier in Luke 11 that Jonah who had been saved from death out of the belly of the great fish even became a sign to Nineveh. Jonah was a literal sign that God forgives repentant sinners as Jonah was a sign of God bring life out of otherwise death. Jesus would himself literally be that same sign here and now. Jesus was going to his death and then as we read he is restored to life on the third day. That is a sign to all Jerusalem and to the whole world. If God so raised Jesus, he will save all of us who repent of our sins and put our faith in Jesus.

Let’s turn now in our third point to hear the final words of Jesus that read in today’s passage. I’m referring to verse 6 which is actually the angels reminding the women from Galilee about the words Jesus had previously told them. So then, the setting here is that after Jesus died on the cross on that Friday, his body was taken down and this godly Joseph of Arimathea received permission to bury him. He then buried Jesus in his brand new tomb, and these women of Galilee noted where he was buried. They went home and prepared spices and ointments that they would then take to Jesus’ body after the Sabbath. So then, they come back on Sunday morning and that is where they find the tomb empty and the stone rolled away. There they see two men in dazzling apparel. They were angels. And that’s where we see them give a message to these women.

The angels say to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” So then, this is some admonishment by the angels. They had come with these spices and ointments because they thought Jesus would still be dead. These angels tell them they are seeking the wrong thing. Jesus isn’t dead but alive! The angels go on to say to them, “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” In other words, here are more of Jesus’ prophetic teachings. He had foretold them this would happen. They could have been expecting this, if they remembered his words. They should have been expecting this, if they had remembered his words. But at the angels’ reminder it says, “And they remembered his words.” Praise God that they did ultimately remember those words!

This is a reminder, by the way, that in addition to Jesus’ inner circle of twelve disciples, he also had this supporting group of women disciples that had come with him from Galilee. We see some of them mentioned by name in verse 10, Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. These were just a few of them. Mary Magdalene and Joanna are both described back in chapter 8 as women who helped provide for Jesus and his ministry out of their own personal means. This Mary mother of James might refer to the disciple known as James son of Alphaeus, though James was a very common name. But the point is that you had these women who had also been traveling around with Jesus and learning closely from him along the way, even and especially including his prediction of his death and resurrection. As we think of the wonderful witness that the twelve apostles gave of Jesus’ resurrection, we should remember that it was to these women disciples that he first appeared and they make up part of this larger group of eye witnesses to the risen Lord. Along these lines, we will see next passage that besides those of the original twelve disciples, there are not only these various female disciples but also other male disciples as well. So then, the fact of Jesus’ resurrection is quickly established by many witnesses who bore testimony to its truth, many more than just the original eleven disciples.

So then, as the angels remind the women of Jesus’ former words, realize what Jesus’ words had taught. They teach that Jesus would have to first suffer and then enter into his subsequent glory. That is the teaching that will be driven especially home in next week’s passage, but it is a teaching that Luke has been developing throughout his gospel account. That’s because it was a truth that Jesus had been teaching his disciples along the way. Jesus as the Son of Man would first suffer unto death on the cross. Then afterwards he would rise from the dead, and ultimately ascended up to heaven to sit at the right hand of God in power and authority as the God-man Messiah.

This theme in Luke’s gospel of the idea of suffering then glory is obviously very climactic here at this section of Luke where Jesus’s suffering comes to a climax at the cross. When you read the other synoptic gospel accounts of the cross, you can find a lot of echoes of Psalm 22 being fulfilled by Jesus there at the events associated with the cross. But in Luke’s account, I think it is more along the lines of seeing what is going on here as a fulfillment of Isaiah 53 and Jesus as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. Remember, leading up to this, Jesus explained in Luke 22:37 that what he would soon face here at the cross was the fulfillment of Isaiah 53 that said he had to be numbered with the transgressors. Luke’s gospel more than the others really highlights his being numbered with the transgressors, especially with this dialogue with the two who hung alongside him, an account unique to Luke. Verse 46 also reminds me of Isaiah 53 when Jesus says, “Father, in your hands I commit my spirit,” and then breathes his last. Isaiah 53:10 said that it was the “will of the LORD to crush him,” and Isaiah 53:12 says that the Suffering Servant would “pour out his soul to death”. Jesus’ last saying on the cross expresses the heart of the Suffering Servant who submit to his Father’s will even to give up his life on the cross.

For Jesus knew why he suffered. Isaiah 53 indeed is so clear why he suffered. It was so that his life would be an offering for guilt, a bearing of the sin of many, he took on the chastisement of the elect so we could have peace. This is how a wicked, guilty criminal like this who hung next to him could find forgiveness and grace and salvation even at his dying moments. Isaiah 53:11 wonderfully teaches the doctrine of justification that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, even as our sin was imputed to Christ on the cross. So that for all of us who repent and turn looking in faith to Jesus, we are saved. We Christians have the same hope as this criminal of being in paradise with Jesus when we die.

In conclusion, what we have in this passage is twofold. It is the reason why there is a gospel to preach, because Jesus suffered, died, and rose again. And it is also becomes a presentation of the gospel as Jesus warned of judgment, and subtly implied a call to repent. Again, if those pagan Ninevites could figure that out from Jonah’s preaching and the sign of his life, then surely we can too from Jesus’ preaching here and the sign of his resurrection.

To say this one more way. We don’t have to be like those Ninevites who said “Who knows” if God will yet forgive us if we repent. We can instead “remember his words” and know that we can surely find salvation in his name. We remember Jesus’ words again today. There is a final judgment coming. But he suffered and then came into his glory so that we too could be delivered from suffering unto an eternal glory in his kingdom. Let us indeed remember his words, now and always. Let us remember those words not only for the eternal hope but even for the wisdom for living that they gave us each day here and now. The wood is almost dry. Let us be ready in Christ when judgment comes.


Copyright © 2022 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.


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