If you have ever flown into Ireland, north or south, one thing will strike you. From the air, Ireland is remarkably green. What the tourist board is not so quick to point out is the rather obvious cause of this: It rains all the time. I could sum up almost 45 years spent in Ireland with one word: Damp. Or perhaps better, three words: Cold and damp. And then in the providence of God, we were uprooted and taken to Queensland, Australia, where the tourist slogan is, "Beautiful one day, perfect the next." Every day I get out of bed and thank God for the sunshine and say, "Where have you been all my life." Sometimes friends ask, "How do you cope with the heat?" I just say, "I love it." I've got 45 years of thankfulness stored up to draw on. It will be a long time before I ever take the weather in Brisbane for granted.
But taking people for granted, well, that's a different matter. Taking people for granted is easy to do. Most of us can pull it off without even thinking about it. But it's never a good idea. In marriage it causes hurt and tension. In families it causes damage and long term fallout. In the workplace it's one sure way of insuring a high staff turnover. In church it contributes to bitterness and burnout, making people feel used. Taking each other for granted is not a good thing. It's a recipe for simmering resentment.
But the consequences of taking each other for granted are nothing compared to the toxic effect in our relationship with God of taking the Lord Jesus Christ for granted. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it is all too possible that many of us are taking the Lord Jesus Christ for granted right here and right now. I know that at some level you and I are passionate about understanding and teaching the gospel. But are we passionate about the Lord Jesus Christ himself? For the truth is, we are all more than capable of taking Jesus for granted. Are we constantly bowled over by his tenderness and his steely resolve and his incisive wit and his flawless insight and his delightful playfulness and his vibrant personality, his overwhelming personal attractiveness, his sheer God-embodying beauty?
If not then we need to read the Gospels. Because the Gospels give us a person. Of course the Gospels are dripping with theology, but the theology is embodied, it's incarnated. In the Gospels and in Luke in particular, theology comes not so much in a cradle summary statement but in the flesh and the person of Jesus. And we must not miss Jesus, who stands out so dramatically in this long section. A simple read-through of the 500 words in this passage instantly creates an impression of Jesus Christ as the One who keeps his head when everyone around is losing theirs. Jesus stands out here first because he is in control.
Jesus is in control.
Look with me through the narrative. He leads the way to the Mount of Olives in 22:39. It's Jesus who prays and tells his friends to pray in verse 40. When they're falling apart, overcome with grief in verse 45, he stays disciplined and focused. Jesus takes the initiative with Judas in verse 48. Jesus ensures that the disciples' resistance stops as soon as it starts in verse 51. In verse 53, it is Jesus himself who says, "But this is your hour and the power of darkness." Jesus is not taken, he hands himself over. He's in complete control. This is not just submission to fear. This is not just embracing the inevitable. Jesus is taking all the initiative. He is making things happen. The contrast between Jesus and Peter could hardly be starker. Despite following Jesus in 22:54-62, where Jesus is measured, Peter panics. Where Jesus speaks calmly, Peter blurts out lies. When Jesus comes face to face with the high priests, not only does he refuse to be bullied by them, but he obliquely reminds them of his own authority as the Son of Man, the One who will ultimately judge them. In verse 67, he says, "If I tell you who I am, you will not believe. And if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God." There is a mind blowing sense in all this that the one who is on trial is actually orchestrating the trial.
Luke portrays Jesus' refusal to engage with Pilate as a calm and considered strategy. In the face of ongoing injustice, Jesus himself directs the outcome. His silence in 23:9 is not despair or stubbornness; he stays silent in order to move things forward towards his ultimate goal. Jesus hasn't given up. He knows exactly what he is doing. Pilate seems confused. He tries to pass the buck to Herod, then the crowd. The religious leaders try to shout and scream in verse 10 to control the events, but the prisoner is unflinching and resolute. He won't put on a show for Herod. He won't be drawn into defending himself in a sham trial. He is silent. And by his controlled silence, he brings his death for us one step closer. By choosing not to speak, he exercises perfect control in the situation.
If we need confirmation that Jesus isn't simply in despair or being swept along helplessly by events, Luke provides it for us in verse 27. When he does speak, it's obvious he's holding it together. His mind is fixed firmly on what he's come to do, and how it will affect ordinary people like those women who are so upset to see this man walking to his execution. "There followed him a great multitude of people and of women who were mourning and lamenting." But Jesus turns and says, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, weep for yourselves." Even as he walks to his death he is concerned for other people. He's thinking about the judgment to come, both the interim judgment on Jerusalem and ultimately final judgment beyond that. He knows, according to verse 31, that things will get worse for them, for those who side with him. But he is completely collected. Even when we reach the cross and Jesus is hoisted between the two criminals, ironically he's never been more in control. As he dies to save, he is mocked for his inability to save. But when he speaks, what does he say: "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they are doing .… Today you'll be with me in Paradise." This man is in control. He is even in control of the eternal destiny of those around him. This is the Judge of all the earth and he is in total control of all events.
It's almost the end of overtime; it's time for one last play. Who do you want to have the ball? You want the calmest guy out there. Imagine the security of the nation is threatened, threat levels have gone through the roof, attack is imminent. Who do you want to have the nuclear codes? Who do you want making the final call on what to do or not to do? You want a guy who is calm under pressure. That's how Luke presents Jesus in these chapters. He's under extreme pressure. He's under pressure we'll never even fathom. He's actually sweating drops of blood. And whether that's a metaphor or a medical condition, it is very stressful. And yet at every stage Jesus is calm.
He is in control of himself, but that's not all. And this is where Jesus leaves every sports star, every politician, every surgeon far behind. It's not just that Jesus is in control of himself, Jesus is in control of the events themselves. It's not just that he's able to handle his own adrenaline; he's able to dictate the result. It's not just he's able to act wisely under pressure, he's able to determine the outcome. Jesus isn't just able to respond skillfully to what he finds, he already knows what he will find, and has already mapped out the permanent solution to the deepest human problem of all. Jesus stands out in this because he is in control of the entire sweep of human history, even as he goes through his death.
So at one level, yes, we must see someone who is led like a lamb to the slaughter, but Isaiah also says, "Behold, my servant shall act wisely." Yes, Jesus Christ is effective but this narrative is so much richer and deeper and more moving than that, for the victim is utterly in control, moving powerfully and purposefully towards the completion of the mission he planned with his Father from before the foundation of the world. This is God's sovereignty in action. At this point in Luke the sovereignty of God has a personal face.
Can you see how Jesus uses his control, how he exercises his power? He uses it for us. Instinctively, when you and I are given control of a situation, we use it to make life better for us and ours. We'll think and act selfishly. But not Jesus. This is the most powerful expression of determined selflessness the world has ever seen or will ever see. He uses his authority, exercises his control, determines his destiny for the sake of you and me. Shouldn't that make us marvel at him? When we say Jesus Christ is Lord, we are saying that he is in control of the history of the world. And where do we see that most clearly? We see that as Jesus walks to his own death, as he uses his power and control not for himself but for people like us. Surely we cannot take this Jesus for granted.
Jesus is innocent.
Jesus also stands out because Luke goes to great pains to show that Jesus is completely innocent. As he's interviewed by Annas and then Caiaphas and appears before the Sanhedrin and then Pilate and Herod and Pilate again. Luke says over and over again, Jesus is completely innocent. Back at the start of the passage again in 22:47-48, Luke contrasts Jesus' obvious innocence with the way in which he is treated by the authorities. Jesus is praying, they come with armed men. They draw their swords, Jesus heals an injured slave. Jesus speaks gently and respectfully, they abuse and blaspheme him. In verses 66-71, when the kangaroo court is convened, Jesus maintains his silence. Not because he has a guilty secret; his innocence is obvious. But despite the lack of evidence, they rush him to Pilate in time for the daily court hearing. Pilate's verdict 22:4, "I find no guilt in this man." Herod echoes that by implication. Herod questions him at some length but he doesn't answer. There's no new evidence. His innocence is just as obvious as it was before.
Now, that doesn't stop the chief priests and scribes from abusing him and Herod and his bodyguards treating him with contempt and mocking him and dressing him up and sending him back to Pilate. Of course, he should be released at this point. He's innocent. But he's hated and mocked and humiliated. And just so that we don't miss this, Luke records Pilate's own words from verse 14, "You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. After examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him." Neither did Herod, "Nothing deserving death has been done. I will therefore punish him and release him." Jesus is officially innocent. They keep pushing. A third time, verse 22, Pilate says, "What evil has he done? I find in him no guilt deserving death." But their voices prevailed.
Luke makes it very clear—Pilate knows he's condemning an innocent man. Luke's less interested in Pilate's motivation, whether it is moral cowardice or political expediency or both, and much more interested in establishing the fact beyond all doubt that Jesus is utterly innocent. If you need more proof of this, then look at the closing verses of this long section. What's the verdict of the man dying next to Jesus? "We are receiving the due reward of our days, but this man has done nothing wrong." A centurion commanding the death squad. There's no John Wayne moment. In verse 47, for Luke, certainly this man was innocent is the key point. All three of these chapters, Jesus stands out because he's innocent. This is the most appalling miscarriage of justice in all human history. The miscarriages of justice are always effective especially seen in movies like The Shawshank Redemption, The Name of the Father, and The Fugitive, and a whole host more, so powerful.
But this is no mere miscarriage of justice. It's not just that Jesus was the wrong man, he is the perfect man. The righteous One. The pure One. He stands out from everyone else in this chapter, from everyone else who has ever walked on this planet. He is the perfect innocent human being. And we killed him. He is the Son of Man who is the Judge of all the earth. And we condemned him. Place this man beside any of us and he stands out in blazing purity. The sweetest baby is exposed as a ball of snarling selfishness. The greatest humanitarian suddenly appears as a bundle of self-interest. Our grasping, self-serving, shameful black-heartedness only serves to illuminate his perfect innocence. Aren't you so glad he cared? At last, here is a man we can count on, a man we can be proud of. Here is a man we can look up to, a hero who is worth having. Here is a man in whom there is no pride, no lies, no trickery, no spin, no wishful thinking, no dirty secrets. Just innocence, holiness, God-likeness. A man who is so brimming with selfless love that he dies for us at the hands of people like us. The contrast between his innocence and our wickedness is so incredibly stark and so morally confronting. It's exposing. Really, how could we take this innocent God-man for granted?
Jesus trusts his Father.
Luke's account, however, also highlights a third aspect of our Lord Jesus. For as well as standing out as the innocent one who is in control, Jesus stands out as the one who trusts God in the face of the most horrific challenge ever faced by a human being. This long section is bracketed by two simple things that Jesus says which made clear that all he says and does is underwritten by a straightforward trust in his Father. Yes, he's in control of his own emotions. Yes, at one level he is the one who is pulling all the strings here, but we must not miss the fact he is also the one who trusts his Father perfectly.
At the heart of his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane are these words: "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done." This unfathomable act of submission flows from a flawless trust in his Father. The same clear note is seen that at the end of Jesus' earthly life as he prays in 23:46 with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." This is naked trust. I suspect this is why Luke has chosen not to include every word that Jesus said during those long hours as his life ebbed away. He wanted to make sure we get the fact that this innocent man, this man who even as those around him wretch and conspire is in complete control is also the man who trusts God. Perfectly, flawlessly, unremittingly. Even as he faces the wrath of the Father. There is no moment like this in all of history. There is no one else like this. There is no one else worthy of our worship, our praise and our trust, and there is no one else who can trust for us.
Have you ever thought about that? Our situation is so hopeless, we actually need someone to trust God for us. One of the things I love when I come to the U.S. is seeing those four little words on coins and notes here: "In God We Trust." However, if I may offer a tiny critique as a visitor to these shores, there is a slight problem here. We don't. Even the best of us can't pull off trusting in God properly, which is why it's such a relief that Jesus Christ trusts God for us. Let me put it like this: My problem is not simply that I am not sufficiently trustworthy, although that may be a problem. It's that I'm incapable of exercising trust. And the bad news is you aren't either. We struggle to trust those in our lives who are the most trustworthy. We struggle to trust people who lavish their love on us for years. But more than that, we struggle to trust God himself. But we cannot pull off trusting God, especially not in the long haul.
But at last here in Luke is one who is both completely trustworthy and the one who has the ability to trust perfectly. Here is one who is in control and is perfectly innocent and trusts God perfectly for me where I cannot. I hope you can begin to see how Luke skillfully weaves these three related strands into his account of the most moving event in all history. Jesus stands out in these chapters because he is in control, even when everything else is falling apart, even when he is clearly innocent, even when those around him are determined to have him condemned as guilty, because he trusts God so perfectly. Even as his friends crumble and his enemies are hell-bent on destroying him.
Jesus overcomes our self-centeredness.
Sometimes I suspect we take Jesus for granted simply because we don't think enough about how awe-inspiring and attractive and complex and perfect he actually is. We slip into thinking of and speaking of our Lord as if he were one-dimensional, a kind of cardboard cutout. But in this passage he is anything but that. He is the One in whom all beauty and wisdom and strength and courage come together. We need to think more about the power and beauty and majesty of Jesus Christ.
I'm not sure anyone captures this incredible complexity and beauty in Jesus better than Jonathan Edwards. In the sermon called "The Excellency of Christ" preached in 1734, he said this:
And here is not only infinite strength and infinite worthiness, but infinite condescension and love and mercy as great as power and dignity. So if you are a poor, distressed sinner whose heart is ready to sink for fear that God will never have mercy on you, you need not be afraid to go to Christ for fear that he is either unwilling or unable to help you. Here is a strong foundation and inexhaustible treasure. Here is infinite grace and gentleness to invite and embolden a poor, fearful soul to come to it. If Christ accepts you, you need not fear that you will be safe for he is a strong lion for your defense, and if you come you need not fear but that you shall be accepted. For he is like a lamb to all that come to him and receives them with infinite grace and tenderness. It's true he has awful majesty, he is the great God, infinitely high above you, but there is this to encourage and embolden the poor sinner, that Christ is man as well as God. He is a creature as well as the Creator, and he is the most humble and lowly in heart of any creature in heaven or earth. You need not hesitate one moment but may run to him and cast yourself upon him. You will be graciously and meekly received by him. This is our Lord Jesus Christ, the proper man who is also God. The only innocent one, the one who trusts God. The sovereign God in the flesh. How can we fail to run to him? How could we take him for granted?
Jesus clearly does stand out in this chapter. But not least because of the fact that as these events unfold he is surrounded by people like us.
I don't know if you've picked this up as we've looked at this passage, but Luke includes a cast of thousands in his account of Jesus' betrayal and death. More than any other writer, Luke makes a real effort to give us little pan pictures of the supporting cast who are standing in the background. He wants us to know about the people who are watching Jesus and bump into Jesus and who speak to Jesus. Why does he do it?
Luke includes this huge cast of ordinary people to highlight the very simple fact that Jesus dies for us. Jesus is surrounded by weak people. The disciples here are presented as men who are falling apart. Look in Luke 22:42, Jesus finds that as he wrestles with the reality of providing atonement for people like us, his closest friends are so emotionally exhausted that they've fallen asleep. The primary issue here is their weakness. Jesus' concern for them is that they won't be able to handle what happens next because they are weak which takes us straight to Peter's weakness.
You've got to admire Peter for following Jesus when the others disappear, but it quickly goes wrong after that and it is obvious it's his weakness. In 22:56 Peter is intimidated by a servant girl who simply says, "This man was also with him." On the scale of names to be called or accusations made, that's fairly low down the scale. Peter says, "No, I wasn't." When someone else says, "You were with him," Peter steps up the aggression. An hour later when someone else suggests he's part of Jesus' entourage, Peter says, "I don't know what you're talking about." Hours earlier, he had said, "Lord, I'm ready to go with you to prison or death." He just can't live up to his good intentions. He's like the rest of us, he's weak. When he sees his weakness he goes out and weeps by the lake. Even Jesus' best friends are weak. He's surrounded by weak people, people like Peter, people like you and me.
He's also surrounded by evil people. We're given one picture of Judas. Judas performs one action with which he will forever be associated. Judas doesn't say anything in Luke's account, but Jesus highlights his betrayal through a kiss of death like this, "Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?" The evil of his companions, the chief priests and the officers of the temple and the leaders are also exposed by Jesus. Verse 53, "You could have taken me anytime but, no, you come at night." That's fitting. Judas' actions are evil, the leaders' actions are evil. In much the same vein, those who hold Jesus mock and beat and taunt and play cruel games. Herod and his soldiers humiliate him, treat him with contempt, and dress him up. The criminal next to him reels at him. This is warped, this is evil, this is injustice at its very worst. Jesus is surrounded by evil people, people like Judas, people like Barabbas, people like you and me. But it's quite striking that as these world-changing events unfold, the narrative is actually populated by people acting with what we could only describe as complete self-interest. Isn't it incredible that this account of God's outrageous self-giving grace is driven along by human self-interest.
Whatever moral qualms Pilate may or may not have had, it's very clear that the primary motivation for his actions is political self-interest. Luke's very striking. Pilate had already had his political win, already gained some credit. So what does he do? No, he says, it's not worth my while pursuing justice and losing political capital. He decided their demands should be granted. He releases Barabbas the murderer and delivers Jesus. Purely out of self-interest. Herod? Herod wants a magic show. And the events upon which the history of the world revolved are taking place in front of his nose. Herod wants to see some tricks. Entertain me. And Jesus doesn't perform for him; he turns on him, joining in the mockery of the soldiers. The criminal dying beside Jesus yells abuse at him because Jesus won't say a thing. The soldiers want some extra cash for his clothes. Jesus stings himself to face the wrath of God on our behalf; people are acting selfishly all around him.
Like Herod and Pilate we are desperately self-centered. I've said some dumb things in my time, but I think that one of the most crass, most cringe-worthy, most revealing things I ever said came when I was 17. My life was going so well and then it all came crashing down. The ultimate humiliation for a 17-year-old boy in Northern Ireland: I failed my driving test. There you go, it's out there, my shame is now a matter of public record. I made the tragic error of arranging the test during school time so that I could walk back into school just a little bit taller, chest puffed out a little more. However, I failed the test. I could not bring myself to go back into school and face my public humiliation so I walked home. There was no car in the driveway but to my surprise I discovered my father sitting in the living room, looking a bit chicken. Dad was never at home during the day and he explained that he had skated on black ice on the way to a meeting, he'd written off the car, he'd narrowly escaped lunging down a ravine into a river, he narrowly escaped being burned alive as the tank had leaked all over him, and he made his dazed way away from the wreckage. That's when I said it: "Well, you think you've had a bad day, but I failed my driving test." Well, my dad gently and graciously tried to point out that I may have gotten things a little bit out of proportion. I said, "But I've never failed anything." His fatherly wisdom had clearly survived the accident; he said simply, "Well, it's about time then." I was and am utterly self-centered, like Herod and Pilate in this narrative. But Luke wants us to see that Jesus dies for people like Pilate and Herod, for people like you and me.
Jesus dies for us.
But not everyone in the narrative is so obviously self-centered. There are also people who are just oblivious. There were people in this narrative who have no idea of what's going on, nor could they be expected to have much of an idea. The people around the fire who give Peter such a hard time don't know what's happening. Simon of Cyrene doesn't really know what's going on. The soldiers do what soldiers do, trying to bring some dark humor to their grim job to pass the time, with no clue of the irony of mocking Jesus as the king. Many of the crowd who look on have no idea of the significance of the events unfolding before their eyes.
A few years ago, The Edge, U2's guitarist, took his son out trick-or-treating in L.A. Both The Edge and his son dressed in The Edge's trademark black beanie, black leather jacket with a guitar slung around his neck. As they walked away from one door, they heard the couple in the house say, "That's a bit sad, that dad doesn't look anything like The Edge."
Luke 22-23 is populated by people who have no idea who is standing in front of their eyes, people who are oblivious, who have no idea of the significance of what's unfolding in front of them. People like the soldiers and Simon of Cyrene, people like you and me. People who are oblivious and people who get a little bit but not all of it. The group of men and women in 23-27 who are saddened by the obvious injustice of events as Jesus is shipped from one trial to another as he is jeered, mocked, beaten, dressed up, and abused, they look on and recoil: "This can't be right, how awful." But Jesus' response to their grief shows they really have no more idea of what's happening than anyone else. There are many people on the planet today who show some emotional connection to Jesus' self-sacrifice, who are moved by any representation of Jesus dying on the cross, people who know instinctively that this was a bad thing, and yet who don't quite get it, at least not yet. But Jesus dies for these women. He dies for people like you and me.
What's going on here? Why has Luke filled up these chapters with people, real people, weak people, evil people, self-interested people, oblivious people, and one or two more we'll come to in a second? Why has he written it like this? Why isn't there more on the theology of what's going on? This is the theology of what's going on. These are real people. This is real folly, real ignorance, real sin. This is fallen humanity. This is why Jesus had to die. It is this cast of thousands that Luke has embedded in his theology of substitutionary atonement. Here is one man dying for the ungodly; here is Jesus Christ. Luke makes it so clear that Jesus dies for people like us.
That becomes unmissable as he describes what happens with Barabbas. Luke 23:18, they all cry, "Away with this man and release to us Barabbas," a man who'd been thrown into prison for an insurrection and murder. Barabbas, the man named son of the father is released and the Father's Son who in Pilate's words has done no evil is chosen. Jesus dies, Barabbas lives. A tragic mistake? No. A glorious, deliberate, eternally planned switch. Jesus takes the place of a murderer. One Son of the Father takes the place of others. The One rejected by the mob is the Jesus chosen by God to save his people. Jesus is dying for us.
If you've read the book The Hunger Games or seen the movie you'll know the plot revolves around a horrible contest fought between young representatives of twelve futuristic districts. The winner of the Hunger Games is the last one standing as the contestants are forced to kill each other to stay alive. The hero of the book, Katniss Everdeen, is there because she volunteered to take the place of her younger sister who was drawn to represent her district in the games. It's an act of extreme bravery, of selflessness, of love. But it's utterly understandable. She does it for her little sister. Admirable, yes. The kind of thing we hope we'd all do for our younger siblings or our children or our spouses, yes.
But Jesus' substitution doesn't work like that. Whose place does Jesus the Messiah take? He takes the place of people like the overwrought disciples and the overreaching Peter. He takes the place of people like the scheming leaders and the spineless governor. He takes the place of people like the blood-stained Barabbas and the cursing criminal. The gospel is ultimately about God and people, it's about us, people for whom Christ died. The people are the reason that Jesus has to drink the cup of God's wrath. We're the reason that Jesus is dying. How could we ever take this for granted?
Conclusion: Jesus is recognized
At the end of this deeply moving account, Jesus is finally recognized. For most of this section it is obvious people really don't get who he is, as we've seen. He's not kissed in worship but kissed in betrayal. Instead of being listened to as the ultimate prophet he is told to prophecy for the amusement of the crowd. Instead of being acclaimed as the King of the universe, he is mockingly crowned king of the Jews.
But then he is recognized. First he's recognized by a terrorist. Remember, petty felons weren't crucified; only guys like Barabbas. These guys weren't thieves dying on the cross beside Jesus, they were terrorists. I come from Northern Ireland where former terrorists are now in government. But this? That another terrorist is apparently the first person to recognize what's going on at the center of history. That a terrorist is the first to receive a guaranteed invitation to join Jesus at the table of his heavenly banquet. But he is. "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." "Today you'll be with me in paradise." This man understands, he gets Jesus' innocence. He gets his guilt. He understands at some level that Jesus really is the King despite the clamor of all those around him, and he knows the only thing that makes any sense, he asks Jesus to remember him. He may not even expect an instant response. It may be a long term request, aiming for the day when the Messiah would set up the kingdom. But even as his friend taunts Jesus in one ear, he hears those words in the other: "Today you'll be with me in paradise."
Then Jesus is recognized by the universe he created. In the middle of the day, as Darrell Bock puts it, the heavens begin to comment. Everything goes dark. The earth shifts, the curtain rips, the cosmos itself recognizes Jesus and the implications of his death.
Then after Jesus, using the words of Psalm 31, calls on his Father to resurrect him, astonishingly a Gentile recognizes him. "Certainly this man was innocent." He realizes the ultimate switch has taken place. The innocent one has died for the guilty. Luke wants us to see that Jesus is our substitute. Luke wants us to see that Jesus is the righteous sufferer taking the place of the unrighteous. He wants us to see that Jesus is dying there for us. It is no accident that this chapter is filled with people. Weak people, evil people, self-interested people, oblivious people, sad people. The One innocent man is dying for guilty people like this. People like us.
The One who is in control, the One who is perfect and innocent, the One who trusts God in a way we can't is dying for us. He suffers for us, though he is innocent and we are guilty. He trusts for us, even though we are utterly unreliable. He dies for us, even though he is the perfect Son of the Father and we are utterly undeserving.
Luke invites us to stand with these messed up people and look on Jesus Christ as he's finally recognized by a terrorist and his Gentile executioner and by the universe itself. Luke invites us to join them. Luke invites us to see and savor this Jesus. To acknowledge this Jesus as the Lord of the universe and the one to whom we owe everything, to bow before this Jesus, the innocent one who takes our guilt. The Lord of the universe who brings about his own death that we might live. This is the heart of the gospel. This is the center of history. This is God's dying in our place.
How could we take this Jesus for granted? "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person, though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us."
A recorded version of this message originally appeared at the Gospel Coalition. Used with permission.