The Darkest Hour of the Human Race

Title: The Darkest Hour of the Human Race

Text: Luke 23:32-34

Time: April 13th, 2003

At the end of human history, whenever that is, if you were to have human high light clips of important moments in history, if you also showed human low light clips, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ would be at the top of the list. The brutal beating and murder of Jesus Christ on the cross two thousand or so years ago would be the darkest hour in human history. Also strange is that just three days later you would have to show the human high light clip of the resurrection because that is the brightest day in the history of the world. So within less than a week the darkest day occurred on the planet and also the brightest day on the planet. I’ll be talking about the resurrection of Jesus next Sunday on Easter morning, so we’ll save that. But what I want to talk about this morning is the crucifixion, and why it was so dark and so bad, and what it means to us today. Let’s say you are playing on “Who wants to be a millionaire?” and the question is: “Name the lowest moment for the human race in the 20th century?” what would you answer? Hitler’s Nazis murdering six million Jews? Stalin’s purge of opponents in Russia by the millions? China’s Mao slaughtering millions of Chinese? World War II with over 50 million deaths? Ok. Now, if you were to go back into all of recorded history and name the one event that was the most evil, most awful thing in all of history it would have to be the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Why? Because like I talked about last week Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, He was the human face of God, He was God in human form with a human voice showing Himself to us on our own level. And what did we as a people do? We murdered Him, we murdered God when He came to visit our planet. Lest you think that you would have treated Him better, let’s look at what the people did to Jesus before the crucifixion and let us ask ourselves how we would have reacted if we had been alive at that time. I think what we’ll see is that we would not have treated Him with the kindness and respect He was due, but that wouldn’t stop Him from loving us anyway. Remember what Jesus said on the cross: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Who was He talking about? Just the people back at that time? Or was He talking about you and me today? Let’s come back to that later, but let’s look at how everyone pretty much abandoned Jesus at the darkest hour the world has ever seen.

First, there were the Jews who plotted and arranged for the execution of their own God in human flesh. What a terrible crime. Second, there were the Romans who actually cared nothing for Jesus, even though He was there God too being the one true God of all, they didn’t even care enough to investigate His true identity. To them, he was just another Jew who could live or die for all they cared. The soldiers and even Pilate display this careless attitude. Third, there were the disciples who either betrayed, denied, or abandoned Him at His the time of death. And with all three groups Jesus still says on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they’ve done.” That is John 3:16 love: For God so loved the world. But let’s look at the crime the Jews committed first. The Jewish religious leaders hated Jesus because he challenged there authority and their religious traditions. Like the video we just saw written by Michael W Smith, one of the lines states, “Challenging those in powerful positions.” The Jewish leaders had their man-made religion all set up and they were in charge of things and then Jesus came on the scene and challenged a lot of what they were teaching. Actually, a lot or even most of what the Jewish religious leaders taught about doctrine and morality was what Jesus taught, but Jesus taught salvation by free grace, by faith, not by obeying the law. The Jews taught that you had to earn your way to heaven by obeying or keeping certain laws, but Jesus taught that there is no way you can earn eternal life by obeying laws because nobody perfectly obeys them. So salvation is by a free gift of God not by obedience. That doesn’t mean we are not supposed to obey moral laws, it just means we shouldn’t think we can earn heaven by doing so. That made the Jews mad so they decided to kill him. “Where’s the love man?” So the priests, the scribes, the lawyers, and other Jewish leaders arranged to have Jesus arrested and handed over to the Romans for crucifixion. Now how many of us have opposed Jesus with our lives, like the Jews opposed Him? How many of us feel threatened by the presence and teachings of Jesus in our lives? Before we were Christians many of us were in opposition to Jesus because we didn’t want Him to control our lives; we wanted to control our own lives. Some of you today, this morning, may still be trying to oppose Jesus’ influence on your life because He’s a threat to your freedom. You know that if you get too close to Jesus He may try to influence you to change your ways and you like your own way. But even if you are like the Jews in opposing Jesus, He still loves you, and says from the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Even if you are fighting Jesus and His will today, He still loves you and is still waiting for you to receive Him, why not receive him today during this Easter season?

Second, then there were the Romans. They didn’t oppose Jesus, they just didn’t care about Him. You might say they remained neutral on the whole Jesus matter. Look at the way the soldiers abused and beat Jesus. They didn’t hate Him. They didn’t have any deep anger for Him, they were just playing with Him. Using Him for human sport. They are like some street gangs who just pick on some random person and beat him up. They don’t have anything personally against the person, they just don’t care either way. There are lots of people today like the Romans who just don’t care about Jesus. Maybe you are like that. Maybe you were like that before you became a real Christian. Lots of people who attend church are really like the Romans were – yea, they attend church, yea they believe in God, Jesus, church, whatever – but their heart is not really in it, and they could give it up easily and quickly if something else came up. There are lots of modern age people who really live their lives pretty much apart from any and all contact with Jesus, not because they have a lot against Him, they just don’t care much for Him. To many people today, Jesus is just a long ago religious figure who provides comfort and inspiration for many people who need that kind of thing, but for many Jesus isn’t really important to them. Are you that kind of person? Are you like the Romans? Are you apathetic or careless toward Jesus? Sure, you’ll go to church once in a while, sure you’ll pray sometimes on occasion, but you know in your heart that Jesus isn’t really real to you and you really don’t think much of Him or care much about Him one way or another. If so, you are like the Romans. Pilate could have prevented the death of Jesus but he just didn’t think it was as important as keeping the peace between Rome and the Jews. Pilate’s wife was a little bothered by Jesus being put to death, but only because she had a nightmare, or it caused her to be upset, not because of the injustice of it, or out of love for Jesus Himself. Are you careless toward Jesus? Even as Christians we can sometimes get careless toward Jesus, take Him for granted. He’s shown so much love for us, yet we often treat Him so disrespectfully. Think back before you were a Christian, how you ignored and neglected your Savior. But again, just like those who hate Him, Jesus loves those who ignore Him to by saying on the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Think of it, Jesus said to you from that cross: “Father, INSERT YOUR NAME, he or she knows not what they do.” All through your rebellion and sin Jesus keeps saying, Father forgive them they know not what they do. That is the real message of the cross.

And finally, three, there were the disciples who betrayed and abandoned Jesus. Jesus was left alone on that cross. Outside of a few women, including His mother, everyone either hated Him, didn’t care for Him, or abandoned Him. He was really all alone. The disciples fled when they saw that it might mean they too might be beaten and killed as well. One of the disciples, Judas, actually turned Jesus over to the Jews. How many of us have betrayed Jesus at one time or another? Maybe not in the same way as Judas, but in other ways? During a rebellions period, some of us betrayed our Christian heritage, or the Christian faith we learned as a child. We got off to college or left home and walked away from the faith and moral teachings of Christianity. We knew it was wrong but we like Judas turned traitor. But Jesus on the cross says to you, if that is you, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” Some of the other disciples didn’t betray Jesus but they abandoned Him. Most of the disciples ran when Jesus was arrested. They didn’t want to die, they didn’t want to suffer and lose their life, so they took off and left Jesus. How many of us have abandoned Jesus when the going gets rough? Maybe something doesn’t happen in life the way we want it to so we abandon the faith. Maybe pressure is put on us at work or among our friends to abandon our faith and so we do. Maybe we don’t completely abandon Christianity, but like Peter we deny it temporarily. We find that our faith cramps our style, or we might appear as uncool, or somebody might think we are fanatical or taking ourselves too seriously, so we downplay Jesus, we try not to say anything about Him at work or to our neighbors out of fear of what they would think. Peter did that when he was out in the courtyard. Maybe you have done that, or maybe you are doing that today in your life. But Jesus still loves you and says, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” And it is true. If we really knew and really grasped the love of Jesus, the love of God in human flesh, we would never do anything other than receive Him and live for Him. But Jesus loves us in our ignorance and stupidity. I remember hearing one man tell his Christian testimony with tears running down his cheeks repeating, “Jesus, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I just didn’t know what I was doing, I’m sorry.” Think back on your life, and all the things you’ve done that have offended and hurt Jesus.

I’ve heard it said that if you were the only person in the whole world, Jesus would still have died for you. If that is so, then that means you would have had to crucify Him. But it really was us who crucified Him, our sins, our rebellion, our disobedience. Oh, on this Easter morning won’t you confess your sins to Jesus, and express your love for Him? The most terrible thing to ever happen in the whole of human history, mankind murdered its Creator, it’s God, Jesus Christ, as He appeared in human form on the earth. If a very important person were to come visit you, wouldn’t you treat him with love and respect? Wouldn’t you do your best to make him feel welcome? Well, the most important person of all, God, came to visit our planet and we killed Him. What an awful crime, the crime of all crimes. Yet, even during the murder, on the cross, God says, “I forgive them, they know not what they do.” What is your response to that kind of love? What is your reaction to a God who would suffer death and still love those who kill Him? Tell us how you feel about God’s love today. Share with us your love for God who would love you no matter what. Please go to the microphones and share with us your heart.

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