Explore the Bible Study: Sacrificed

7:59 AM


How do you feel when you have to pay a penalty, such as a speeding fine, a late fee, or a tax penalty? How does your perspective change if the penalty is unjustified? None of us like to pay a penalty, especially if it’s one we don’t believe we owe. It has been several weeks since we celebrated Easter, but we should never forget the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross and how it affects all people every minute of every day of the year. He paid an unjustified penalty for sins that He didn’t commit. We will revisit the cross and all Jesus did for us in this Explore the Bible Study: Sacrificed.

Leading up to the Scriptures for this session's focus, Peter left the courtyard broken after denying Jesus three times. Following this, Jesus endured several trials before the Jewish elders, Pilate, and Herod Antipas. Finally, recognizing that none of the charges against Jesus were valid, Pilate tried several times to release Jesus, but the religious leaders continually provoked the people to cry for Jesus’ crucifixion. Finally, when Pilate’s position with Caesar was threatened, he yielded Jesus into their hands. 

After the trials, Jesus was scourged. A heavy, rugged cross was placed on Jesus' shoulders, and then He was led from Pilate’s palace, past the city gates, and up a nearby hill, finally arriving at the place called the Skull. Along the way, weak from blood loss and the beatings, Jesus struggled with the weight of the cross. The Romans forced Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus’ cross to Calvary. Cyrene was in North Africa and was home to many who embraced Judaism. Mark 15 tells us that Simon likely had come to Jerusalem for Passover.

As you read about Jesus’ arrival at the place where He would eventually die for you, you will be reminded of the sacrifice He made for you. As you examine how Jesus died, take note also of how He lived in those final hours. You will discover by how He lived, actions you should embrace as you live for Christ in a sin-broken world.

Luke 23:33-34 tells us about Jesus’ actions when facing the pain of the cross.

How were the actions at the crucifixion intended to humiliate Jesus? What message was being sent to the onlookers by how He was treated?

Jesus was crucified beside criminals, indicating that He too was a criminal. Though their accusations were weak, the Jewish leaders claimed He had committed blasphemy against God. Jesus’ clothes were taken, exposing His body before the crowd. While His crucifixion fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy that the Messiah would be “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3), at this moment in time, it was intended to humiliate Jesus and to quell anyone’s desire to continue following Jesus.

Jesus was stretched across the rough frame of the cross as His executioners drove nails through His hands. Jesus was hung between two criminals communicating that He was no better than they were. We see how the soldiers continued to humiliate Christ by gambling away His clothes. Even in this attempt to humiliate Christ, the executioners unknowingly fulfilled another Old Testament Messianic prophecy foretelling that the Messiah would be killed along with criminals (Isaiah 53:12).

What are your thoughts regarding how Jesus responded in this passage? 
In spite of experiencing excruciating pain and ultimate humiliation, He prayed to the Father, not for relief, but asking God to forgive them. Jesus remained focused on His purpose of bringing forgiveness of sin.

While we know some followers were present and observing this tragedy unfold based on the other gospel accounts, it seems their voices were silent or drowned out by the response of the crowd.

We see a disturbing, yet not surprising, response by those who were present in Luke 23:35-39.

Imagine watching this unfold. While the exact location of Golgotha is not conclusive, we do know it was a place on a busy byway near the city. Many people who came for the Passover would have passed by, shaking their heads as they watched the spectacle. Some of them most likely waited to see if the Miracle Worker would wondrously remove Himself from the cross. 

Others looked at the sign above His head that read “King of the Jews” and simply shook their heads. The fact that even the leaders were scoffing indicates that these people participated in mocking Jesus. Even these responses fulfilled the Scripture from Isaiah 53:3 that stated, “He was despised and rejected by men.”

The soldiers also mocked him. Some of them may have participated in His scourging and in the gambling for His clothes. Now, they laughed scornfully as His body reacted to the pain. They returned His compassionate prayer of forgiveness with cruelty, offering Him sour wine. 

The soldier’s mockery focused on the primary accusation against Jesus—that He supposedly claimed to be the king of the Jews. Jesus told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world, but the guilty verdict did not depend on facts. They yelled, save yourself! If Jesus were the king, why couldn’t He call on the populous to rescue Him? If He were truly a miracle worker, let Him come down from the cross. Their snide rebuke did not move Jesus to respond. 

Then, one of the criminals began to yell insults at him. The tense of this verb conveys continuous action. Over and over, he goaded Jesus – if Jesus were the Messiah, why didn’t He save them along with Himself? 

How do you feel about the soldier’s response? 
How do you feel about the crowd’s response? Was the one criminal mocking Him, or was he truly desiring Jesus to rescue him? Why do people respond to Jesus in this way, even some who are at death’s door?

Jesus is the Christ, regardless of what others may say. He didn’t have anything to prove to the crowds, to the soldiers, or even to the men being executed alongside Him. His proof would come on the morning of the third day. They couldn’t understand it, but He did. For the joy set before Him—the salvation of all believers—He endured the cross, despising the shame.

In the midst of all this chaos and pain, there was one person who sought forgiveness. This person was the second thief hanging on the cross beside Jesus. Luke 23:40-43 gives us a glimpse into the heart of one who truly seeks Jesus.

Matthew and Mark wrote that both criminals insulted Jesus at first. Luke indicates that, as time passed, one criminal defended Jesus by rebuking the other criminal for mocking Jesus. He knew he and the other sinner would have to stand before God, but Jesus held no guilt.

What can you learn from the repentant criminal?
We should speak truth when someone is speaking negatively about God, as did this second criminal. He did not remain quiet regarding how Jesus was being treated. We should also understand what it takes in order to come before Jesus for salvation. This criminal came clean regarding his sin and understood that his punishment was just. He stated that he was getting back what he deserved for his sinful actions. Then the criminal expressed faith in Jesus by asking Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. Like this man, God wants us to respond to Him in the same manner.

Does society today have trouble accepting the fact that people get what they deserve for the things they do? If so, how does this impact their view of sin and the need for repentance and forgiveness?

What can we learn from Jesus’ response, or what have you learned from past studies and sermons regarding Jesus’ response? (Examples Include: God doesn’t show favoritism. As long as we have breath, it’s never too late to come to Christ. Jesus will receive anyone who comes to Him in repentance and faith. Jesus is the only way to the Father. We all come to Jesus the same way, through repentance and faith, no matter our background or what we have done in the past.)

Finally, in Luke 23:44-46, Jesus takes His last breath and completes the payment for our sin.

Jesus’ death was like an exclamation mark at the end of the final sentence that emphasizes an important statement. God made a statement about His plan for salvation. When God judged sin, it seemed His entire creation participated as darkness was cast over the entire land, the sun’s light failed, and there was a great earthquake.  The sanctuary curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies split from top to bottom, symbolizing God giving believers access to Himself due to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Finally, Jesus’ last words were an Old Testament quote from Psalm 31:5, signifying His fulfillment of God’s plan.

1 Peter 5:6-7 tells us this: Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you.

When we are tempted to question whether Jesus cares for us, our minds need to go back to that day when Jesus paid dearly in order to bring salvation to us. We need to remember that Jesus paid our penalty and took our punishment for sin so that we might be restored into a right relationship with God.

We need to be ready to tell others why Jesus cares for them by clearly explaining how Jesus demonstrated His love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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