God's Most Generous Gift (Matthew Sermon 95 of 151)
April 05, 2009 | Andy Davis
Fruit of the Spirit, Glory of God, Providence and Sovereignty of God
It is to the glory of a king to show lavish generosity. And the more lavishly generous, the more glory comes to the king, thereby. And we see this in scripture and we see it in history, Solomon for example, put on a lavish display of generosity for the Queen of Sheba, to impress her. And she, for her part, brought a lot of lavish gifts herself. So they were dueling in their generosity to see which could outdo the other in lavish generosity. But then in the Book of Esther, King Xerxes puts on a lavish and full and rich display of his wealth for 180 days showing just how generous he could be, and how rich. And it culminated in a rich seven-day feast in which all the nobles of his empire were invited and the palace was decked out richly with blue and white hangings and with silver decorations and everyone sat at table with the king and everyone drank from different goblets, however they wished, in keeping with the king's lavish generosity. And later in that same book when Esther came unannounced into his throne room and he extended the scepter to her, he said to his queen, “What is your request? Even up to half of my kingdom, I will give you.” What a bold statement.
But kings love to say these kinds of things. You remember King Herod, evil King Herod, said the same thing to a dancing girl after he was so pleased with that dance. He said, “What would you like me to give you? Even up to half of my kingdom.” She asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter, but the king wanted to show his lavish generosity and so he made such a bold boast. So also the Caesars ruling the world loved to impress with lavish and generous gifts. When Hadrian visited the city of Athens, he lavished on that city innumerable costly gifts, and competed with others to show who could have the most generous civic and municipal gift given to the city of Athens. So there are all kinds of building projects that were done. Ultimately he won and was shown to be the most generous, Hadrian. When King James took the throne to rule Great Britain, he put on a lavish Christmas and New Year's celebration to display his wealth and his largesse to the people. There were lavish feasts and gifts for all the guests, indescribable foods, and there was even a play written by one William Shakespeare and he even acted in his own play. So the king, King James, very very generous.
Machiavelli, in a cynical study of the power of kings entitled The Prince, said this about generosity by kings, he said lavish generosity is a way that a king would show his power and it's usually self-serving. And it's sometimes dangerous, for these displays are usually expensive and paid for by raising taxes. And the people start to get resentful. Even worse, they might actually come to expect it. So, Machiavelli said it was best for a king to be generally stingy and just occasionally generous, especially if his was somebody else's money. So if you won a military victory and it was some other king's money, spend that money like water. So that was Machiavelli. Well, I do believe it is to the glory of our king, the king of kings, the glory of the God of the universe, to be lavishly generous to us.
God, the creator of the ends of the Earth has been lavishly generous to his subjects, more than any king there has ever been. Now, this week is what we call Holy Week, the time in which Christians can meditate on and weigh again, and feel the weight of the glory of God in Christ at the cross, and also at the empty tomb. The cross on which the Savior of the World died and the empty tomb from which he rose. But what I wanna do this morning, and that's just in the natural text, the next passage that we're going to read in Matthew, and so we see the hand of God and the providence in lining that up for us. But I wanna take a concept from last week's parable and put it side by side with the plain prediction that Jesus gives his disciples of his death and his resurrection. And that concept is that God is free to be as lavishly generous with his own things as he chooses. He can do whatever he wants with his own. And so, therefore, I want to talk about God's sovereign freedom to be generous in all things, and especially in giving his son the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ Declares God’s Sovereign Freedom to be Generous
A Declaration of Freedom
So look back at the parable from last week in verse 15. I'm gonna read, I think, the ESV, which I think is a better, a little more faithful translation. Mathew 20:15 says, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me, or do you begrudge my generosity?” Now remember the context, the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. Some worked only one hour, and some worked more, some worked even the entire day, 12 hours. Those that worked only one hour received a denarius as you remember, and those that worked 12 hours also received a denarius. They each received the same. The one who worked only one hour had received lavish generosity, really surprising and even shocking generosity from the owner of the vineyard. Those that had worked 12 hours and received the agreed on wage, a denarius were not so impressed. And the landowner said “it's not a matter of justice here, friend.” Oh no, it's a matter of generosity. Look what he says in verse 13, “he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair or unjust to you, didn't you agree to work for a denarius?’” He said, “I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with my own things, what belongs to me? or do you begrudge my generosity?”
So the lavish generosity of God, the freedom, the sovereign generosity of God is on display, in this parable. He can be as generous as he chooses to be. And he says, “I want to give.” That's his nature. “I want. This is my will, it's my desire to be generous. I want to give this.” And he says, “Don't I have the right to do it? Isn't it right for me to do whatever I choose, with my own things?” So it's a matter of sovereign rights and privileges. And then he says, “Are you envious because I'm generous?” So it's a matter of generosity.
God’s Sovereignty Defined
So what do I mean by God's sovereignty, defined? Sovereignty of God is the doctrine that God is king over the entire universe. Every square inch of it is his. Every atom in it is his, for he made it. He can do whatever he wants with all of it. He owes us nothing. He does not ask us permission, he does not ask advice, he does not owe it to us to make us all equally gifted or blessed. He does not owe us a single word of explanation concerning what he does with his own. He is not accountable to us in any way, but we are accountable to him. And therefore, God can be as generous as he chooses to be with his own things. Now the tendency for us, in our sinful state, is to resent God's sovereign generosity and his freedom in giving as he sees fit. We tend to resent it. “Do you begrudge my generosity?” he says.
God’s Sovereignty Resented
The doctrine of God's sovereign generosity is a very troubling one to human beings. They resent the way that God sits on his throne. And is in no way held accountable to us. Doesn't need to give us any explanation. They resent that. It’s especially poignant, I think, for many in the issue of salvation. They feel if God does such and such for one person, he must do equally the same for all. He's under obligation to do the same thing for everyone, he must give everyone equal access to his grace and his generosity. So they say.
God’s Generosity Required for our Blessedness
Now, I say to you that God's generosity is absolutely required for our blessedness. If he is not generous to us, we will not be blessed. I say that in two senses, first of all, given our status as creatures, as created beings. God is glorified in creating us totally dependent on him. He created us that way, that we would be completely and totally dependent on God's generosity. Our very atoms are held together by a direct act of his sovereign will. Our biological lives depend on oxygen and water and nutrients that come from outside of us in. And if they're not out there, if they don't come in, we die. And so, God has created us completely dependent on him. We were created needy, and God is greatly glorified by this. It would be the case, even if we had never sinned.
God is honored by our dependence on him, so because we are creatures and he is the creator, we must have God's generosity, for our blessedness but even more now, friends that we are sinners. Even more now that we have rebelled against the king. When Adam sinned in the garden of Eden, all of his posterity, all of us, sinned in him and with him. We are members, therefore, of a sin-cursed race of rebels against the throne of Almighty God. We are all of us, each one of us, under a death sentence uttered in Genesis, in chapter 2, where it says, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die.” So also it's restatement later through the pen of the apostle Paul, “The wages of sin is death.” And we have sinned, friends. We have violated God's commands, not just in being descended from Adam, but in that we have actually violated his commands, his Ten Commandments. Or the summation of all of his commands. Look at that, the two great commandments, Jesus said, “The first, that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your strength. And with all your mind.” We have violated that commandment, we are sinners. And we should love our neighbors as ourselves, we've violated that, we have not done this.
And therefore we deserve condemnation. We deserve eternity in hell. We deserve the deepest punishment. Therefore for us to receive anything good at all is sovereign generosity on the part of God. If there's anything in this life that you enjoy, anything that brings you pleasure or happiness. Anything that lightens your burdens, it is a gift of grace, of sovereign grace given to you. And God didn't have to do it. That we should actually have sunshine and rain, and delicious food, and the beauty of the Earth and natural gifts and enriching and pleasure-filled experiences. All of this is nothing less than astonishing generosity from this sovereign God. So, we are totally dependent on God's generosity, in that first we are creatures and we depend on him for our very existence and secondly, because we are sinners.
We must start here, because we are creatures we can make no demands whatsoever on God, whatever he gives we receive gratefully. And how much more now that we have sinned? God can be as generous as he chooses to be and we would have no right whatsoever to complain. We all received a stay of execution from the death that our sin deserved. God decided to allow history to continue. Not just general history, but our own personal history. We didn't drop dead, the moment we sinned the first time. And so God's given us time and with that also many, many blessings and anything we get other than condemnation is grace from God.
God’s Common Generosity, Given as He Thinks Best
Common Grace Blessings
But let's look a little bit more specifically at aspects of God's sovereign generosity to us. I wanna talk first about common grace blessings, those things that are just generally given to human beings. Let's start with the heavenly lights, the sun, and the moon and the stars. In James 1:17, it says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the father of the heavenly lights, who does not change, like shifting shadows.” So it refers to the heavenly lights, the sun, the moon, and the stars, which Deuteronomy 4 says, “The Lord set in heavens as the portion for all nations.” So basically, all nations get to enjoy the sun and the moon and the stars and look up at them and see their beauty. And so Jesus extends it in Matthew 5:45 to talk about how life and nourishment and blessing comes from the sun and the rain. That God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good. And sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. This is just sovereign generosity on the part of God. Love to his enemies who do not acknowledge him.
And even beyond this, the Apostle Paul says, in Acts 14:17, “He has not left himself without testimony. He has shown kindness, by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons. He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” And he's speaking this to a bunch of pagans, idolaters who don't acknowledge him at all, but the apostle Paul says, “God gives you these things richly to enjoy.” And then there are kind of unique physical blessings given to people, different blessings at different levels in people's lives. Let's look at physical blessings. Some are tall, some are short. Some are strong, some not so strong. Also known as weak. Some are really, really attractive and beautiful, some not so much. Some people are quick and agile, others a little bit more awkward, a little slower. So also in the issue of mental strength, some are brilliant, intelligent, others not so much. Some people have the ability to concentrate and focus, and they have received gifts of insight and education. There are financial resources, inheritance money, talent for earning money, blessing in business.
God Sovereignly Gives Common Gifts
God gives these blessings as he chooses and he gives them in the measure he chooses and all of it is sovereign generosity. And it's patently obvious, I hope it is to you, that all men are not created equal when it comes to these things. Despite what the writers of the Declaration of Independence said. I'll go with the scripture rather than Thomas Jefferson, okay, on this one? But isn't it obvious? That we have not received equally of these kinds of blessings? Some live in particularly fertile soil, rich and black and nutrient-filled and the soil is soaked with the appropriate amount of rain. And so all they have to do is just kind of scatter seeds and everything just grows lavishly and it's an abundant harvest. Others have to scrape out a living from it looks like desert areas, and you wonder why they live there and they can barely survive. Some have excellent physical capabilities, they're excellent athletes, they excel on the ball-field on the basketball court, they're tall, they have incredible hand-eye coordination, very quick, and they're just skillful. I've seen others that are not so. I've had times like that myself.
But these are gifts that God gives or he doesn't. Some have clear minds, fantastic memories, sharp perception skills. They acquire new concepts with remarkable ease. Others struggled to concentrate, they forget things readily, they seem somewhat dense, they do not excel in mental tasks or in school. Now, God is free to give these gifts as he sees fit without asking us first, whether we'd like the gift package he gives us. He opens his hand, and gives them as he chooses. God sits on his throne and can be as generous as he wants to be, and it's for us to praise him and thank him for whatever we get. Whatever gift he has given and not to murmur against God. Or to boast about the gifts you have, for who makes you different from another? And what do you have that you didn't receive? And if you did receive it, then why do you boast as though you had not?
God’s Greatest Generosity, Given as He Thinks Best
The Greatest Gift in History: Jesus Christ
Yet, for all of that, God has been incredibly generous to the sinful human race. Far more generous than we deserve. We can see that generosity in these common grace blessings. How much more dear friends in the blessings of the gospel, in the blessing of giving his only begotten son poured out on the cross for us, resurrected from the grave for us. Let us stand in awe at his most breathtaking generosity. Put your hand over your mouth and be astonished that he would give his only begotten son for people like you and me.
And didn't he have the right to do it? Doesn't he have the right to be as generous with Jesus as he chooses? He didn't have to give him but he did. And this is the greatest generosity that we have ever received. I think that's the logic of Romans 8:32, the infinite value of Christ, Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also along with him, graciously give us all things?” Think of the logic of the verse.
“He who did not spare his own son, will he not also give us all things?” So his own son, infinitely greater than all things. That's the root concept of this verse is that the greatest gift God could have given, the greatest gift he did give, is Jesus Christ, not all things. His only begotten son, therefore, all the universe’s material wealth, all of its gold, and silver, and diamonds and starry host are as so much dust on the scales compared to the infinite magnitude of the gift of the only begotten son of God. And all of your talents and all of your abilities and all of your deficiencies and weaknesses and limitations, all of it is as nothing, dust on the scales compared to this gift, the gift of Jesus Christ. I've quoted it before, but C.S. Lewis said it so beautifully, “He who has Christ, and all the world has no more than he who has Christ alone.” So it is true. Now, God had the right to be generous with Jesus, he had the right and he was. This deliverance of Christ was done by the good pleasure of our Sovereign God. He was under no compulsion, he was under no obligation. God the Father gave God the Son freely and generously with lavish generosity and it was infinitely painful and costly because He gave Him up for us in death and destruction.
Details of the Most Generous Gift
Look at the details of that in verses 17-19, “As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles, to be mocked and flogged and crucified. And on the third day, He will be raised to life.’” In this intimate moment in which Jesus opens up his mind about his impending death, we see some amazing aspects of just how generous this gift of God the Father is. Does not the father have the right to be this generous with his son? Yes, he does have the right. But we therefore have an obligation to pick up this jewel and turn it and look at every facet of its glory and be amazed and have a sense of wonder and awe at the gift of Jesus Christ: Crucified, dead, buried, and raised again on the third day. So let's look at some details. First, look at the aspect of intimate relationship with Jesus.
Look at verse 17, “He took the twelve disciples aside,” that means away from the crowd. He pulled them away just to talk to them privately. The twelve were his chosen ones, his apostles, those closest to Jesus. The crowds that followed him did so for a myriad of reasons. Most of all because He healed all their diseases and sicknesses and that was a value. He had fed the 5,000 and they were there the next day looking for another meal. So that's a motive, for following Jesus. It was quite a show I'm sure. And they didn't have cable back then, and so there just needed to be something to do in a day. And so you're gonna just follow Jesus, “Where is he going today?” “I don't know, you're never sure where he's gonna go.” “Well, let's find him.” And so just to be there to watch it and to see the healings and to listen to the teachings and no man ever spoke like this man and, there's all kinds of reasons for following Jesus, but it says in John 2, that Jesus didn't entrust Himself to them for he knew what was in a man's heart. He knows what's inside man, he didn't entrust Himself to them.
But he pulled and said to these twelve aside, and they were his apostles, and it implies intimacy, it implies closeness in relationship with Jesus. A sweet relationship with Christ, what a gift. What a gift, listen to John 15:15. He says, “I no longer call you servants because a servant doesn't know his master's business, instead I've called you friends for everything I learned from my Father I've made known to you.” That's what he's doing here in these verses. He pulls them aside he says, “Friends, I want you to know what's gonna happen. I wanna tell you ahead of time.” He could have just done it. But he wants to let them in on it. He wants to have that intimate relationship with him. And frankly, other passages give us more of a sense of this intimacy, they really do: In John 12, Jesus opens up his heart to them and actually speaks about how he feels about his crucifixion. He says, “And now my heart is troubled and what shall I say, ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ It was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Oh, he's opening up his heart to them.
“It's hard for me to be crucified, it's hard for me, there's a part of me that's shrinking back but I want God to be glorified. Oh Father, glorify your name,” he's opening himself up. Intimacy. He does it even more in Gethsemane, you know that. He doesn't just take the twelve at this point, he takes Peter, James, and John aside with him, and the three in an incredible intimacy are invited to come and to be with Jesus in his time of unutterable agony. As he has revealed to him, I think, by the Father, just what it's going to be like to drink the cup of his wrath on the cross. And so he goes a little farther and he falls to the ground and says, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup be taken from me, yet, not as I will, but as you will.” And then he goes back to the three and talk to them and back to some more prayer. He's just drawing them into his feelings, intimate relationship with Christ, what a gift.
He didn't have to give that. That was sovereign generosity in the part of Jesus, he didn't have to give that. And notice the word of intimacy, we, “we” are going up to Jerusalem, we're going up together. Now, Jesus had to go to the cross alone as it says in the language of Isaiah, he trod the winepress, alone, he had to do that alone. But he wanted to spend it with them.
Secondly, we see the aspect of prophecy, of prediction. The ability to predict the future is a unique gift of God, to the human race through the prophets. Only God really knows the future. Only God knows the end from the beginning, only God can establish the future.
Isaiah 46:10, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times what is still to come. I say my purpose will stand and I will do all that I please.” So, the Bible is full of prophecies of God making known the end from the beginning, and of establishing His plan and His purpose and doing all that he pleases. And the center of the prophetic word is Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected, that's the center of the prophetic message. Some of these prophecies come in patterns and types. Things lived out in the life of Israel. For example, the saving of Isaac, on Mount Moriah, in Genesis 22, when God tested Abraham and said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and offer him up as a sacrifice.”
And you remember what happened, how Abraham obeyed God and was just about to kill Isaac, and the angel of the Lord calls out, and Isaac is spared by a substitute, the ram in the thicket caught by his horns. What a picture of the cross of Christ. Or the Passover lamb in Exodus 12, on the night of that dreadful tenth plague against the Egyptians when all the firstborn of Egypt were dying, and though the firstborn of Israel deserved to die, they did not die because the Passover lamb was sacrificed, and the blood of the lamb was painted over the door posts, and the angel of the Lord moving over saw the blood and forgiveness and freedom was given. What a picture of the death of Christ.
So those are types. Sometimes prophecies were verbal predictions like in Psalm 22, “They have pierced my hands and my feet.” And Isaiah 53, which speaks so plainly of substitutionary atonement, of Jesus standing in our place, “All we like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” So those are verbally predictive prophecies. So here, Jesus gives a simple and about the clearest prophecy you can have about his own death and resurrection.
“We are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of man will be betrayed to the chief priest and the teachers of the law, they will condemn Him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified and on the third day, He will be raised to life.” What a plain, what a clear prediction of prophecy this is. Now this prediction was given in love to teach us a simple lesson and that is that Christ willingly, gladly chose to go to the cross for you and me. He willingly, gladly, chose to lay down His life. “No one takes my life from me,” said Jesus, “but I lay it down freely.” And so it says in John 13:19, “I'm telling you now, before it happens, so that when it does happen, you will believe that I am.”
Thirdly, we see the aspect of betrayal. Let's look at some of the details of the prediction. “The Son of man,” He said, “will be betrayed.” This is a very specific word. Some of those horoscopes and Nostradamus predictions and all that are very general. Ever read a horoscope, and it says, “Something unusual will happen to you, today,” and you're waiting all day long for that unusual thing, and if you want to believe in horoscopes you'll find it, “Something unusual did happen to me today.”
Well, this isn't like that. This is something very specific, betrayal. He's going to be betrayed. And it really just connects with what we've already established, intimacy, relationship, the chosen ones. You cannot be betrayed by a total stranger, you can only be betrayed by a beloved friend, somebody close to you. And so he says, “The Son of Man will be betrayed.” He makes this much more abundantly later on at the Lord's Supper.
The Last Supper while they were eating, in Matthew 26, “He said, while they were eating, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.’ And they were very sad and began to say to Him, one after the other, ‘Surely not I, Lord.’ Jesus replied, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him, but woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man. It would be better for him if he had never been born.’ And then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, ‘Surely not I Rabbi.’ Jesus answered, ‘Yes, it is you.’”
Condemnation by the Priests
Betrayal, fourth, we see condemnation by the priest. Look at verse 18, “The Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priest and the teacher of the law, they will condemn Him to death.” The betrayer would hand Jesus over to his Jewish enemies, the leaders of the Jewish nation. The leaders were the chief priest and the teachers of the law. This is even more powerful, even more striking. These men spent their whole day, supposedly, studying the scriptures, immersing themselves in the written Word of God.
Jesus said in John 5:39 and 40, “You diligently study the Scriptures, because you think that by them you possess eternal life, these are the scriptures that refer to me. And yet you're unwilling to come to me that you may have life.” The priests were the ones who are supposed to ... Supposedly offering up animal sacrifices in fulfillment of the laws of Moses, all of those types, those predictions. Every animal sacrifice was a prediction of the death of Jesus. And so it says in Hebrews 10:11, “Day after day, every priest stands and performs his religious duties. Again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sin.” They should have known better, they should have known that the blood of bulls and goats could not in any way atone for human sin, they should have understood who Jesus was, why he had come, but they were the ones most set against him, they were his bitterest enemies. John 1:11, “He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.”
They therefore represent the rejection by the whole Jewish nation of Jesus from being their Messiah, they condemned him to death, amazingly and in so doing fulfilled the types of the animal sacrifice. It was only by their rejection and their condemnation of Him to death that Jesus would die, his blood shed for us.
Hatred by the Gentiles
The next aspect is hatred by the Gentiles. They'll condemn him to death, verse 19, and will turn him over to the Gentiles. Though the Jews' hatred for Jesus was strong enough to kill him, and frankly, many times in his life and his ministry, they sought to do so. From the very beginning when he was there in Nazareth and he opened up Isaiah and that whole encounter ends with them pushing him to the edge of a cliff as to throw him over. And they wanted to kill him right there and then, but Jesus just miraculously moved right through the crowd and went.
Or the time in John chapter 8, when Jesus made this stunning assertion, “Before Abraham was born, I am,” and they just picked up stones to stone him right there and then. Or later in John's Gospel when he said, “I and the Father are one,” again, they pick up stones to stone him. They wanted to kill him many times. But it was God's will, it was God's sovereign will, it was part of his sovereign generosity to us, that it would be both Jew and Gentile together that would condemn the Son of God. A collaborative effort. A few years ago, as you remember when Mel Gibson's controversial film came out, the Passion of the Christ, you remember that, do you remember some of the controversy on that? That the film suggested that the Jews were in any way involved in the death of Christ was offensive to the Anti-Defamation League. They found the Gospel of John in general offensive. But they found the film offensive and I think because they couldn't do anything with the Gospel of John, what could they do with that? They did something with Mel Gibson's film. But do you not see the sovereignty of God in ensuring that Jew and Gentile alike were equally responsible for the death of Jesus Christ?
For in this way, Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. In this way, Jews and Gentiles alike are all rebellious against God, Jews and Gentiles alike could not see in Christ the glory of God. Jews and Gentiles alike are in danger of the fire of hell. And so God ordained that the Jewish leaders would condemn Jesus to death and turn him over to the Gentiles, for what?
Well, to be mocked. What do we mean by mockery? It's a sense of perverted humor. Finding humor in a very dark and wicked and sinful way. There's an arrogance in mockery too, as though you are above the one that you're mocking. And so, the Gentiles would delight in mocking Jesus. Frankly, so were the chief priests and the scribes and the Pharisees, and the Jewish crowd, as well. This mockery was predicted in the Old Testament. In Psalm 22:7-8, “All who see me mock me, they hurl insults shaking their heads. He trusts in God, let the lord rescue Him, let Him deliver Him, since He delights in him.” So, this mockery predicted by Psalm 22, fulfilled in life of Christ. Now, first it was the Romans, oh, and they made a science of it. They were expert mockers.
Mathew 27:27 and following, “Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the praetorium, and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. And they stripped him and they put a scarlet robe on him. And they twisted together a crown of thorns, and set it on his head and they put a staff in his right hand, and they knelt in front of Him and mocked Him, ‘Hail King of the Jews!’ They said. And they spat on Him. And they took the staff and struck him on the head again and again,” driving those thorns deep into his scalp, blood flowing down his face. Mockery. Luke 22:63-65 says, “The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him, they blindfolded Him and demanded, ‘prophesy to us, Christ, who hit you?’” Little did they realize that he could read their minds and thoughts and could have said, he could have told their whole life history, if he'd wanted to, but they're mocking him. King Herod did the same thing, do you remember when they sent Jesus over to Herod, and it says in Luke 23:11, “And Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him, dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.”
The crowds that lined the street pitched in. Mark 15:29, “Those who passed by hurled insults at him,"” and the chief priests and the scribes, and Jewish leaders stood at the foot of the cross to rub it in. It says, “In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law and the elders mocked, ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can't save himself! He's the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross and we will believe in him. He trusts in God, let God rescue him now, if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” The soldiers who crucified Jesus mocked Him. Luke 23, “The soldiers came up and mocked Him. They offered him wine vinegar, and said, ‘If you're the King of the Jews, save yourself.’” Even the thieves crucified with Jesus, began the time mocking. Thanks be to God, one of them stopped. Thanks be to God, one of them repented in the middle and said, “Remember me, Jesus, when you come in your kingdom.”
We've been saved from mocking Jesus, amen. We don't mock Him anymore, we fall before Him and we claim that he is our God. But he was mocked. Amazingly the Bible speaks in prophetic form of how graciously willing Jesus was to submit to this mockery. Isaiah 50:6 it says, “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard, I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.” But yet, you know something? Galatians 6:7 said, “God cannot be mocked.” Jesus ends up looking regal to me, doesn't he to you? He looks glorious to me, He looks majestic to me 'cause I understand why he did it, and I see the glory of it, and I see the shame of the human race. We're really just mocking ourselves when we mock Jesus.
Well what's the next step? Well, he would be flogged. They'll turn him over to the Gentiles, to be mocked and flogged. Flogging is one of the most heinous tortures ever devised by man. It involves a short stick with long straps of leather. And at the end of the straps of leather, are bits of bone and lead, embedded in the straps of leather, and a skillful sadist who knows what he's doing, and what he's trying to do, could wrap these straps around the victim's back and plow deep into his back and expose the tendons and the muscles and the blood vessels and even the white bone. He could kill him if he wanted to.
Jesus spoke the single word “flog,” to be mocked and flogged. He spoke at about himself. What must have been going through his mind? The flogging almost didn't happen. Pontius Pilate wanted to release Jesus. He was innocent, he knew it was out of jealousy that the Jews had handed him over, he kept trying to set him free and finally he said, “Well maybe if I flog him, they'll wanna set him free.” And so, he had Jesus flogged, even though he said, “I flogged him so that you know I find no fault in him.” That makes no sense to me at all. That's why he did it. This is the flogging that Jesus predicted.
And then the final step of the agony, to be mocked and flogged and crucified. The most hideous form of death employed by the ancient world, invented by the cruel Assyrians. Picked up by the Romans for use only on foreigners, it was against the law to use it against any Roman citizen. It didn't matter how awful or heinous his crime, he would never be crucified if you were a Roman citizen. But a Jew could be crucified, and the mechanics of the death are well known to you: Hands and feet pierced, nailed to the wood. He's hanging there pushing up on His pierced feet so that he can gulp breath and sink back down until he needs another breath.
And in this way Jesus knew he would die. It had been written in the prophecies with specific word, “pierced.” Psalm 22:16-17, “Dogs have surrounded me, a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones, people stare, and gloat over me.” Isaiah 53:5 uses the same word, “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”
This is the cost of the gift of the only begotten Son of God, for us. This is what it costs us friends, and how could any of us come to the throne and try to persuade God the Father to send such a gift for people like us. This is sovereign, generosity of the highest kind, this is infinite generosity. And he didn't have to do it. He was under no obligation to do it. Why was the son of God so shamefully destroyed? Well, he did it as our substitute. You look at all of that suffering, all of that rejection, that mocking, spitting, blood, pain, all of that, the shame, then you must say as a believer in Christ, I deserve that, and worse. I deserve that, and worse, I deserved eternity under the wrath of God. And He came as my substitute. He came to take my place.
God's sovereign generosity culminates in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, in a human body, in flesh and bones to come back and show himself to his apostles, and say, “A spirit doesn't have flesh and bones as you see I have.” God's sovereign generosity culminates in the gift of the resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead.
He was resurrected for our justification, it says in Romans Chapter 4, that we might be justified, vindicated of our sins. Have you trusted in Him, friend, have you looked to him? Do you realize you have no standing before this God except that he be sovereignly generous to you? Have you asked Him for faith to believe? It's in his hand to give. Ask Him for faith to believe, look to the cross for the forgiveness of your sins, look to the empty tomb for your hope for the rest of your life. This is sovereign free generosity. Great and lavish generosity, more than Solomon did for the Queen of Sheba. More than Xerxes did for his 180 days and then the seven-day feast besides. A greater promise than “Up to half of my kingdom I'll give you.” Better than anything that Hadrian did for Athens, better than anything King James did on Christmas and New Year’s with William Shakespeare included, this is the most lavish generosity, the greatest feast any king has ever spread for anybody. Come to the table. Come and believe in Jesus. Find forgiveness of sins in God's sovereign generosity.
See Every Blessing as Grace from God
Now, what application can we take from that other than come to Christ. I would urge you to see every blessing you have in your life as a gift of sovereign generosity that God didn't have to give you. Thank him for it, for every physical capability, for every piece of food you enjoy, for everything that brings you any kind of pleasure, or happiness or peace, whatsoever, it is a gift of grace to you and, see, every earthly limitation you have, all of those things you've fought against your whole life, the struggles you've had with your mind, or with your body, with your nature, your tendencies those limitations are a gift of God to you for they cause you to look to something better, something higher. To look to Jesus Christ.
And they cause you to not be jealous or envious of someone else. To say, “I have my advantages and my limitations. They have theirs. All of these things are given as a gift, a lavish gift of God, and I don't deserve any of it. I'm delighted at any good thing that God gives to anyone else.”
Focus Your Minds on God’s Greatest Gift
And therefore, focus your mind on his greatest gifts. All earthly gifts are temporary and not worth comparing with this one, the glory of Christ crucified and risen from the dead. In Christ alone then find your worth, your success, your beauty, your strength, your righteousness, your achievement in Christ, and Christ alone. And thank God hourly for this, what Paul calls indescribable gift, it will sweeten your life. To live a life of thankfulness to God for what he has done, of His sovereign generous freedom. Close with me in prayer.