Vernon Joyce - Brisbane, Queensland, Australia Convention - Sunday Morning, 2018

John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world, to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” God’s plan from the beginning and before time was eternal. God’s plan for us men and women is based on and founded on love. God sent His only special Son, and Jesus did not come to condemn us, but He came to save us. It doesn’t say that God sent Jesus to save people in Brisbane Australia, but He gave His Son to save the whole world. God loves your fellowship meeting and God also love your neighbour and God loves the drunk down the street. God loves the one that has not even heard His name. God love the one that cuts you off when you want to get on the freeway and God loved and loves the whole world. If you are having a difficult time with the person that cut you off on the motorway, and just remember that God loved him or her also, just as much as He loved you. Jesus' life we can read about in the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and those words will judge us according to how we respond. But the purpose Jesus came was to save us. There is no greater love that can be manifested to mankind that God had when He sent His only Son.

This morning I would like to visit a very difficult but precious place and spend some time at the cross. To get a deeper feel and a deeper appreciation for the love that God had for us when He sent His only son. God’s plan was that His Son would be willing to be the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The love God had for you and I and He allowed people to spit on His Son. God allowed people to mock His only begotten Son and falsely accused Him. Pilate said, "I find no fault in Him," but the angry mob cried out, "Crucify Him, crucify Him." Jesus lived the life focused on His Father’s will. When Jesus was a young lad, He told His mother, "I must be about My Father's business." With Jesus as it was all business, and it was His Father’s business and that is a great example for all of us.

Luke 23:33-43, “And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him and the malefactors, one on the right and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.' And they parted His raiment and cast lots. And people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided Him, saying, 'He saved others; then save Himself if He be the Christ, the chosen of God.' And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him and offering him vinegar. And saying, 'If Thou be the King of the Jews, save Thyself.' And a superscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. And one of the malefactors which were hanging railed on Him, saying, 'If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us.' But the other answering rebuked him saying, 'Dost not thou fear God seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man hath done nothing amiss.' And he said unto Jesus, 'Lord remember me when Thou cometh into Thy kingdom.' And Jesus said unto him, 'Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.'”

We read that they lead Jesus away and crucified Him. I do not want to cause any of our young children to have nightmares. This is horrible and crucifixion is the worst possible pain that the Romans could think of and torture someone to death. Jesus and the two criminals were crucified together and they were not the only ones, it happened all the time. History tells us that crucifixion was a very common thing. Everyone knew what it involved and it was horrific and horrible and they didn’t have to go into details, because they all knew it. Here is Jesus and He had been scourged and even before He was put on the cross, He was beaten with a whip and His back would have been open with wounds and bleeding. He is on the cross and people are still mocking Him and they are saying, "If you are the Son of God."

The two criminals crucified with Jesus, the one on the right and the one on the left. One of them want to be saved from the experience, "If you are the Christ, save yourself and us." The other one incredibly sees through the experience and he sees something more than life and he admits, "I had this coming to me. Basically, I am paying with my life and I deserve it. This man does not deserve this pain as He has done nothing amiss." I don’t know if this man knew Jesus before, or that he heard of Him on that day, or he may have seen the way He would beaten and that Jesus opened not His mouth, He did not try to defend Himself and it was a wonderful example of the Lamb dying and that softened that hard criminals heart. "I do not want to live any longer in this world and I want to live in the next world and I want to live in the next kingdom."

Somehow in his severe pain, He found the energy to say, "Remember me when You go into Your kingdom." They are beautiful and wonderful words and wonderful words of comfort and wonderful words of hope that Jesus could say to this man, "Verily I say unto you today, thou shalt be with Me in paradise." That is the last thing we read of what that criminal said and we don’t read anything more, but Jesus did reassure him that he would be in paradise with Jesus. Still the pain and still dying and maybe they were not beaten as much before the crucifixion as Jesus was. The soldiers came along and broke their legs to hasten their death. They did not have the do that with Jesus as He had already passed away. What probably started out to be that man’s worst day of his life, and it ended up being the best day of life. That is something that man will be thankful for forever in eternity. We do not know what heaven will be like, but could you imagine him sharing that experience with people in heaven, "I am so glad that I got caught and I’m so glad I got crucified next to Jesus and I am so glad that I am here."

John 19:25–3,0 “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, 'Woman, behold thy son!' Then saith He to the disciple, 'Behold thy mother!' And from that hour, that disciple her unto his own home. After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished that the scripture might be fulfilled saith, 'I thirst.' Now there was set of vessel full of vinegar and they filled a sponge with vinegar and put it up on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, 'It is finished,' and He bowed His head and gave up the ghost.” Jesus would have had a healthy relationship with His mother. A good natural and spiritual relationship. She didn’t fully understand some things and pondered them in her heart. Now she is standing at the cross, maybe she sees Him not as her son, but as her Saviour. I admire the people that had the courage to stand there at the cross with Jesus. There were reasons they needed to be afraid.

There was Mary and some other women there and Jesus takes the time and the energy and a little strength and His body is wracked with pain and every word He says takes great effort to say. He transfers the care of His mother to another disciple which He loves and asked him to take care of His mother. Those of us in the work and Jesus promised us to relieve our mother or our father or our brothers or our sisters and we leave them for the gospel sake, we will be replenished 100 fold. That is so true and I have valued the opportunity to prove it is true. I have had many mothers and many fathers. You only have to get a little sick and you have all the cures coming out of the closet. Jesus made it very clear that day, "You just take care of My mother."

Matthew 27:45-46, “Now from the sixth hour, there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice saying, 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?'” He would have said these words before He yielded up the Holy Ghost. In the agony and in the pain and in the darkness, He felt forsaken, a feeling He had never experienced before. Jesus and God were together in the beginning and to think of Jesus getting up early of a morning and praying and we also read about Jesus praying all night and being in communication with His Father. He said, "I always do those things that please My Father." and it says that Jesus knew no sin. Then in the height of His physical pain and in the pain of dying a horrible torturous death, Jesus was unable to contain His motions and it says He cried out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" He did not say Father. God just did not turn away, He forsook Jesus. He died forsaken by God and that was for you and me so we did not have to die that way. He died a sinner’s death who knew no sin. Hell is reserved for people who do not know God and who do not want God. That is how Jesus died in darkness and in agony on the cross.

When the soldiers came to get Jesus and He was in the garden with His disciples, they came with their torches and their lanterns and their swords. Judas kissed and betrayed him with that kiss. Then they asked, "Who is Jesus?" and "We want Jesus," and Jesus stepped forth and said, "I am Jesus." One of the gospel, it tells us that the soldiers fell backwards onto the ground. Tough roman soldiers trained as killers, and they could not even stand up. Peter didn’t fully understand and that’s when he cut off the servant ear. A very sensitive moment and almost explosive not knowing what is going to happen and soldiers there with weapons. What did Jesus do? Jesus fixed his ear, just like it had never happened and that is a beautiful picture of forgiveness. Jesus took care of it and said, "Peter, put away your sword." Then He touches the ear and fixes it. Later on, that man would have been in town with blood on his clothes and they would have asked him what happened. He would have said, "Peter cut off my ear," and then they would say, "What is that on your head?" and he would say, "My ear." He would say, "Jesus fixed it, but I was part of them that led Jesus away."

So from the sixth to the ninth hour, it is darkness. Jesus was on the cross dying this slow agonising death. Every breath He took would have been agonizing. Jesus bowed His head and said, "It is finished." The last action that Jesus did was to bow His head and gave up the ghost. Death relieved Jesus of the mocking crowd and the agony, so death was a friend to Jesus. No longer would He have to show Himself to the unbelievers, and no longer would be happy to accept their slapping and their mocking and their spitting. Death came and released Him of the pain from His body. He said, "Father, into Thy hands, I commend My Spirit."

Jesus died gave up the ghost. Then Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus came and took away Jesus' body. Pilate had the right to take care of the body of Jesus. They took His body down of the cross very respectfully wrapped in linen and spices was a custom of that day. They laid Him in a new sepulchre and they rolled a stone to block the entrance. The story does not end there.

For some people, they were very discouraged and scared. I was thinking about that couple walking back to Emmaus. They were walking and talking and they were sad. Jesus joined up with them and they did not realise it was Jesus and Jesus asked them why they were sad, and they said, "You do not realise what has happened." Then they began to speak about Jesus. Luke 24:28-35, “And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went; and He made as though He would have gone further. But they constrained Him saying, 'Abide with us, for it is towards evening and the day is far spent.' And He went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass as He sat at meat with them, He took bread and blessed it, and brake and gave to them. And their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight. And as they said one to another, 'Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way He opened us the scriptures?' And they rose up the same hour and returned to Jerusalem and found the eleven gathered together and them that were with them. Saying, 'The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared to Simon.' And I told what they were done in the way and how He was known of them in breaking of bread.

Mary came to the sepulchre and the tomb was empty and the stone had been rolled away. So they said, "Jesus has risen so let us go and tell Peter and the other disciples." When Mary gave that message that Jesus had risen is the best message that has ever been given or received. Just imagine all those memories of Jesus dying and the agony He suffered still very fresh in your memory and your own understanding and your own fear and the message has come Jesus has risen. To a lot of them, it is so incredible they cannot take it in and they cannot believe it. Gradually, it becomes their personal experience. Remember that time Jesus showed Himself to His apostles and Thomas was not there. Thomas said, "Unless I see Him and touch Him, I do not believe." A week later, Jesus said, "Thomas, you go ahead and touch Me," and then Thomas said, "I believe my Lord." It is something like you have never seen before and you have heard about Jesus having risen and resurrected and something like you have never ever heard before. Jesus spoke and you recognised his voice. Jesus has risen and there is victory.

Hebrews 11:35, “Women received their dead raised to life again; and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” These people were encouraged because they believed in the resurrection. Jesus was willing for the cross and God raised Him up again. So great was that victory and so great was that resurrection and they didn’t mind what they did for Jesus' Sake and if they were tortured because they believed in Jesus. They believed in eternal life and believed God’s eternal plan. Spiritual life is far greater than natural life.

When I look across this crowd I do not know many, but I know there are a lot that have lived longer than Jesus. A lot of us have had a lot more opportunities. A long life is okay, that is not the greatest blessing. The greatest blessing is to have the understanding of living for the resurrection morning and when we breathe our last breath to be able to say, "It is finished," and to have the peace that only comes from God. We can die understanding the purpose of life.

There are causes that people think are worthy to die for, but they are only human causes. A man put himself in a tent full of malaria so that he can get malaria as he is a doctor and wants to experience it. He knew what was happening and he died coming up with the cure for malaria. They thought, "What a cause," but it was only for here and now. We have a great privilege of following Jesus and God's love to you and the love your neighbour and everyone and He gave His only begotten Son. Jesus has offered us abundant life.

When we think we are struggling, just take a trip to the cross and spend a little time at the foot of the cross and our little struggle is nothing compared to what Jesus went through and what He did for you and what He did for me. If we are having trouble forgiving someone, just think about Jesus. When God looks down and sees His people and what He sees through the blood of His son and He sees people that His Son loved and died for brings great joy to His heart. He sees people in their weakness and in their struggle who love Jesus. Jesus said, "We must love Him with all our heart and He is worthy of that love." Amen.