Dan Lightfoot

Flowers & Thorns at the Cross --Dan 1446


I Cor. 1:18 -- "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

Two types of people were touched by the cross: those touched by choice, and those touched by chance.

I. WHO WOULD HAVE BELIEVED? (What was about to happen?)

A. It's Friday morning. The news is blazing... 1. Nicodemus is about to go AWOL...Graves are about to pop open...An earthquake is about to shake the city. The temple curtains are about to be torn in two. Confusion ...

2. Someone wonders aloud if this was the same man who was recently celebrated on a carpet of palm leaves & proclaimed king!

b. "A lot can happen in 7 days," he comments.


1. Ask Mary. Who would have convinced her yesterday that today would find her a few feet from the torn body of her son?

2. Who would have convinced John on Thursday that he was 24 hours away from anointing the corpse of his hero?

3. Who would have convinced Pilate that he would pass judgment on the Son of God? A lot can happen in 24 hours.

4. Peter can tell you. If you had told this proud, devoted disciple that this morning would find him in the pit of guilt and shame, he would have proclaimed his loyalty!

5. And Judas! Yesterday he was determined & defiant. Today he is dead.

C. No one has been left untouched. No one!

1. The immensity of Jesus's execution makes it impossible to ignore.

2. Women arguing on the corner? Lay odds the subject is the Nazarene.

3. Two women at the market? Giving their opinion of the self-proclaimed Messiah.

4. Countless pilgrims are here for the Passover? They ill go home with a spellbinding story of the "teacher who was raised from the dead!"

D. Everybody has an opinion....choosing a side!

a. For every cunning Caiaphas, there's a daring Nicodemus.

b. cynical Herod / a questioning Pilate.

c. pot-mouthed robber / a truth-seeking one.

d. turncoat Judas / a faithful John. Flowers & thorns.

E. A lot can still happen in a day -- Mt. 24:37-39 -- "For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38"For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the

coming of the Son of Man be."


A. Malchus, Lk. 22:50-51--And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51But Jesus answered and said, "Stop! No more of this." And He touched his ear and healed him.

1. Servant of the H.P. -- doing his job at the garden.

2. Being quick to duck saved his life. Saved his neck but not his ear.

3. Peter got a rebuke, Malchus got a healing touch, & it was history.

a. History to everyone but Malchus.

b. If not for the telltale bloodstain on his cloak, he might have tho't it was a crazy dream.

4. Some believe Malchus became a believer...(don't know)

a. But I am sure of this: When Malchus heard people talk of the carpenter who rose from the dead, he wouldn't scoff.

b. He would tug at his earlobe & know it was possible!

B. Barabbas (Mt. 27:16) -- The man who missed his cross.

1. "Son of Rabbi" (Master, Teacher). Preacher's kid!

a. Some MSS call him "Jesus Barabbas" in Mt. 27:16.

b. One "Jesus, Son of the Master" exchanged for the other.

2. Matthew: "a notorious prisoner". Mark: "bound with them that had made insurrection, men who in the insurrection committed murder." John: "a robber."

3. But it happened fast. One minute he was on death row... the next he was outside squinting at the sun.

a. ''You're free to go." --He scratches his beard, "What?"

b. "You're free. They took the Nazarene instead."

4. Barabbas has often been compared to humanity (and rightly so!)

a. He stands for us: a prisoner, freed because of someone he had never seen who took his place.

b. Maybe he was smarter than we. As far as we know, he took his sudden freedom for what it was, an undeserved gift.

c. He was tossed a life preserver & he grabbed it, no questions asked

d. He did not try to earn it... or diagnose it... or pay for it.

5. It is hard to be saved by grace.

a. But we are: (Eph. 2:8-10)

b. We need to learn to simply say, "Thank you" & "Here am I, send me."

c. Yet something in us reacts to God's free gift.

1] Somehow we try to find some way to feel "worthy"

2] You're not! You've sinned & never will be!

6. WHY do we do that?

a. Probably PRIDE!

b. To accept grace is to accept its NECESSITY! And most folks don't like to do that!

c. We have to realize our despair - and we're not keen on that either!

7. Barabbas knew better!

a. Hopelessly on death row, he wouldn't balk at a stay of execution!

b. Maybe he didn't understand mercy - or deserve it - but he wasn't about to refuse it.

8. But our plight is worse! I Cor. 6:9-10-- "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor Łeffeminate, nor homosexuals, 10nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.


b. ...prisoners with no chance of appeal.

c. Why some prefer to stay in the prison of sin while the cell door has been unlocked is a mystery worth pondering!

d. Paul goes on: "Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." I Cor. 6:11

e. Like Barabbas, we can miss the cross because of Jesus.

C. Roman Centurion (Mt. 27:54)

1. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, the Centurion got a dictionary full!

a. All he did was see Jesus suffer!

b. Never heard Him preach... saw Him heal... or followed Him... or witnessed Him calm the storm...

c. But he witnessed the way He died!

d. He saw the test! And took a giant step of faith - "When the centurion & those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake & all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!"

e. The rubber of faith - meets the road of reality - under hardship!

f. The trueness of one's belief is revealed in pain.

g. Genuineness & character are unveiled in misfortune.

h. Faith is at its best - not in 3-piece suits on Sunday - but at hospitals, cancer wards, & cemeteries.

2. Maybe that is what moved this crusty old soldier.

a. Serenity in suffering is a stirring testimony.

b. Anybody can preach a sermon... but only one with a gut full of faith can live a sermon on a mountain of pain!

c. How about you?

D. PILATE (Almost...!!!)

1. Runs herd with "nearly", "next time", "if only", etc.

a. "Almost" is missed opportunities, aborted efforts, fumbled chances, runner-up, on the bench, burnt cake.

b. How many's claim to fame is "almost"? The one that got away? Gamble that almost paid off?

c. But Pilate missed something far more significant than a catfish or an award.

2. He almost performed history's greatest act of mercy.

Almost pardoned the Prince of Peace.

Almost released the Son of God.

Almost opted to acquit the Christ. Almost!

a. He had the power. He had the choice. The signet!

b. He knew what was right! & almost did it!

3. Why is there such a gap between "he almost" and "He did!"?

a. Luke 23:22 tells us: "A third time Pilate said to them (the crowd), 'Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no crime deserving death; I will therefore chastise him and release him.' He knew the right thing to do.

b. "But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail." Lk. 23:23

c. That's right. Their voices prevailed. --Result: Pilate's pride prevailed. His fear prevailed. His power-hunger prevailed.

4. Theirs were not the only voices. There were 3 others:

a. The voice of Jesus

1] 5 times Pilate postponed the decision

2] Jesus' silence was louder than the crowd's demands.

3] But Pilate didn't listen.

b. His wife's voice

1] "Have nothing to do with that righteous man for I have suffered much over him today in a dream." (Mt. 27: 19)

2] One must wonder about the origin of a dream that would cause a lady of purple to call a small-town Galilean righteous.

3] But Pilate didn't!

c. His own voice!

1] He found nothing wrong! 3 times (Lk. 23:4, 14, 22)

5. Who's voice prevailed? Satan's voice prevailed!

a. It often does!

b. Have you heard these?

"One time won't hurt!" "Other people do much worse things." "I just want to be with my friends" "She'll never know." "At least you're not being hypocritical."

c. But Satan promises the moon & delivers disaster.

6. God, meanwhile, never enters a shouting match.

a. Truth need not scream. God stands permanently, quietly pleading, ever present. No tricks, no side shows, no temptations, just open proof.

b. People react differently:

1] turn quickly to the Prince of Peace.

2] or go immediately to the peddler of poison.

c. Most of us are caught between, lingering on the edge of Satan's crowd - yet hovering within earshot of the message of God.

7. But Pilate learned that this stance of "almost" is suicidal. While we waver, the other voices will win.

a. Pilate paused -- & sent Jesus to the cross.

b. If you pause to listen to the crowd -- you will nail Him there again. -- Heb. 6:6 - "They crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."

c. Whose voice are you listening to?

8. The crowd's voice is too strong.… it's call too compelling.

a. & there is no darker hell than one of remorse.

b. Washing hands 1,000 times won't cure the guilt.

c. It's one thing to forgive yourself for what you did! It's harder to forgive yourself for what you might have done but didn't!

9. Jesus knew that all along. For our own good He demanded, and still demands absolute obedience.

a. There is no room for "almost".

b. You are either with Him or against Him.

c. He is your Lord - or you are.

10. Almost may count in horseshoes & hand grenades, but with the Master, it is just as good as a "never."

11. "Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."

(Acts 26:28, KJV)

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