Bruce preached a unique and excellent sermon today. He walked through the song "Silent Night" and contrasted its lyrics (and the corresponding picture of Christ's birth) with passages speaking of Christ's death. He spent very little time commenting on the texts and much more simply allowing the words to speak for themselves. I'll content myself with doing the same. (Note: Bruce exclusively used the NLT today, so that is the source for all Scripture citations.)
Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner—anyone the people requested. One of the prisoners at that time was Barabbas, a revolutionary who had committed murder in an uprising. The crowd went to Pilate and asked him to release a prisoner as usual.
“Would you like me to release to you this ‘King of the Jews’?” Pilate asked. (For he realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy.) But at this point the leading priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?”
They shouted back, “Crucify him!”
The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship.
All is calm
But at this point the leading priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?”
They shouted back, “Crucify him!”
“Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”
But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”
All is bright
At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock... the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart...
Round yon virgin, mother and child
But I am a worm and not a man.
I am scorned and despised by all!
Everyone who sees me mocks me.
They sneer and shake their heads, saying,
“Is this the one who relies on the Lord?
Then let the Lord save him!
If the Lord loves him so much,
let the Lord rescue him!”
My life is poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax,
melting within me.
My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.
My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
an evil gang closes in on me.
They have pierced my hands and feet.
I can count all my bones.
My enemies stare at me and gloat.
They divide my garments among themselves
and throw dice for my clothing.
Luke 23: 35-36
The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine.
Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha).
So tender and mild
At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips.
In heavenly peace
“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword."
Sleep in heavenly peace
Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.
Bethlehem was remarkable, beautiful, and strange—but it was only the first step on the road to Calvary and a cross. It is beautiful because it ends with an open tomb and the promise of his return.