Gospel Judgment Matthew 27:11-26

Matthew 27:11-26

Introduction:  “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit”—Johnny Cochrane famously said in OJ’s trial for killing his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and his friend Ron Goldman.  Of course, OJ was guilty—everyone knew it—but really good lawyering got him acquitted—partly because the glove didn’t appear to fit.

My point is this: there’s injustice in the world and the closer it strikes to home, the more we hate to see it.

We’re reading in this passage about the biggest travesty of justice ever committed—Jesus Christ is sentenced to die on the cross.  But Jesus isn’t the only innocent person ever to be executed, though.  Since 1973 in the U.S. there have been 195 (or 196) people exonerated from death row.  That’s about 1/8 of the population of death row, considering that, then, we know there has had to be some people who have died for crimes they didn’t commit.  It’s injustice, it’s a travesty and terrible crime to punish someone for a crime they didn’t commit. 

But, of course, Jesus was innocent in a different way altogether.  He was absolutely innocent.  He was totally blameless.  Jesus never did anything wrong, never even had a wrong thought.  And he was killed for it in the name of justice.  In our text we see that the veneer of doing this for justice was so paper thin that even Pilate could see through it—v. 18 “he knew it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up”.

We tend to think that gospel is all about salvation when really the gospel is about judgment.  Jesus stated it perfectly:  25:31-32 “ “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” 

  • Everyone will be judged
  • Either you will be judged to be in Christ or in yourself
  • If you’re in Christ, then you are covered by Jesus’ righteousness—judged absolutely pure and holy and worthy of heaven
  • If you’re in yourself then you stand before God resting in your own righteousness—basically the opposite of Jesus, because you’re sinful, impure, and totally unworthy of heaven

Starting in v.1 Matthew switched his focus from Jesus and his disciples to Jesus and his judges

He is handed over to Pilate the governor because the Jews didn’t have authority to put anyone to death.

That combined with Judas’ betrayal, and the Sanhedrin condemning Jesus and finally the entire Jewish crowd hollering for Barabbas instead of Jesus, chanting “Let him be crucified!”  Are the already of God’s judgment against his covenant people—like Brian read in Jeremiah 25, “ For behold, I begin to work disaster at the city that is called by my name, and shall you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth, declares the LORD of hosts.”  Israel’s final judgment will happen in AD 70, but as the Bible reveals, it was sealed here when they sent their Messiah to the cross.

The gospel is about judgment.  Three points today:  1.  Judgment;  2.  Justification;  3.  Pursuing godly justice 

  1. Judgment—everyone’s guilty, Romans 3:23  “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”
    1. As I said earlier there are two choices—be judged on your own merits, “in yourself”, or be judged on Christ’s infinite merit, “in Christ”
      1. Romans 5:12-15  Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. . . for death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
      1. All of us are sons of Adam by virtue of natural birth, but believers are sons of God by believing in the salvation offered in the second Adam’s work.
    1. So, believer what do we do with God’s judgment coming against us? 
    1. Be confident in Christ’s work.  1 Thessalonians 1:4-10 shows us that it’s possible to have assurance and confidence in Jesus’ work.
      1. Not just for the individual believer, but there’s so much evidence that it’s possible for others to see the work of God and be confident that you are elect.
      1. 1:4 “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
      1. Paul says “we know that he has chosen you”—that’s a pretty bold statement! 
      1. Why is he sure?  Because he saw the gospel come and work—in word, in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction.
    1. Be confident that when the day of judgment comes you are covered by Christ Jesus, live as if that were true, pray as if that were true, believe and hope as if that were true.  Because it is.  It’s absolutely true—if you believe in Christ as your savior though you fall and fail, you trip in your sin, Sin does not reign over you as it once did!  You will be told at the last day “well done, good and faithful servant” and “enter my child into my eternal rest”.
  2. Justification—“just as if you never sinned”
    1. God declares you “not guilty” in the heavenly court room, not because you are sinless, but because Jesus took your punishment, so it would be unjust for God to punish you for the same sins.
    1. Justification is the hinge upon which true religion swings.  It’s the foundation that determines whether the church will stand or fall.  This doctrine was one of the central features of the Protestant Reformation and it is the reason Paul wrote Galatians. 
      1. If you get justification wrong, you’re understanding of who God is, what Jesus did, and grace itself will be wrong in some way, or possibly every way.
      1. You can’t really rank the different teachings in the Bible, but if you did justification would be near the top.
    1. Practically speaking justification comes with benefits that are essential for us to hold on to as we live our lives before God and for God.   Just to name two:  Acceptance, Access
      1. Acceptance—the Father has accepted you, you are his.  1 John 3:1  “see what kind of the love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are.”
        1. Understand why you’re accepted—in Jesus.  By faith you are united to Christ. 
        1. It’s reassuring to know our acceptance is in Christ, because if you were accepted in yourself, in some quality you’ve demonstrated, then what happens on those days when that quality isn’t so good?
        1. Your acceptance is based in the unchanging, eternal, perfection of Jesus Christ.
        1. That means your approach to life and faith and obedience can be free and joyful serving in thanksgiving, knowing that when you mess up you have a father who will forgive you.  When you fall into sin, you don’t have to fear that God won’t accept you, because he already has in Jesus and he’ll never turn you away.  John 14:6 isn’t just for conversion, it’s for daily conversion, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
      1. Access—you have access to God himself.  Romans 5:1-2  Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
        1. Remember what was immediately lost when Adam and Eve sinned?  We lost God’s presence, we lost access to God. 
        1. In Christ we have obtained access by faith into God’s presence!
        1. Access to his strength that is made perfect through our weakness—all we have to do is somehow remember our weakness and rely on his strength.
        1. Access to the hope of his glory—looking beyond what we see and experience into the future glory of Jesus’ return.  It’s not just a psychological trick—this is a mystical truth that the Spirit imparts in us to fortify us for the long haul.
    1. Our justification allows us to work from a position of grace and love to offer up sacrifices of thanksgiving to God without fear of rejection.
  3. Pursue godly justice—back to where we began:  in 1995 OJ got off, on Oct. 7 Hamas did horrific things to Israelite civilians
    1. Justice is lacking in our world—how do we respond?  What is the Christian’s duty and how should we think about injustice?
    1. We start where God does:  evil deserves to be punished
      1. We should desire to see justice served, even if it means that bad people should suffer for it doing evil things.
      1. To support this we can look to the Psalms.  Very often in the Psalms, David is complaining to God.
        1. Complaining about evil and injustice in the world
        1. And sometimes they even end up being “imprecatory”
        1. Imprecatory is defined as “invoking a curse that brings down calamity”
        1. Psalm 59  Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me; deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men. . . Kill them not, lest my people forget; make them totter by your power and bring them down, O Lord, our shield! For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips, let them be trapped in their pride. For the cursing and lies that they utter, consume them in wrath; consume them till they are no more, that they may know that God rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth.
        1. “Kill them not…” sounds like goodwill toward the enemy, but then you realize he’s asking for God give them a slower punishment:  “make them totter and bring them down” before you “consume them till they are no more”.
      1. So we see that It is good to desire evil to be punished.  It is good to pray for God’s justice.  The Bible gives us a voice in the Imprecatory Psalms to lament evil and express our desire that evildoers would be punished.
    1. We also acknowledge that we live in a fallen world and perfect justice will have to wait.
      1. That can be frustrating, but it’s also comforting.   It’s comforting because there’s so much partial justice and injustice in the world, but we know there is a day coming when perfect justice will be mete out against all evil.
      1. It reminds us to live with a future hope rather than present hope, and “Vengeance is mine, says the LORD” we live for that hope by resting in God’s sovereign power.
    1. In the meantime, we can do more than looking to heaven and waiting.
      1. Just because we are Christians submitting to God doesn’t mean we have to submit to injustice.
        1. Why can I say that and be confident of it?  Because justice is an attribute of God and every authority on earth is given that authority by God, therefore they are divinely bound to seek and enforce justice.
      1. We seek after justice in every legal way we can.
        1. Steven wright said, “two wrongs don’t make a right, but three lefts do”
        1. Three lefts are ok, but breaking the law isn’t.
        1. Injustice on the part of one person or the government doesn’t excuse us to work for justice outside the law, or in sinful ways.
        1. Learn to judge situations rightly—there’s degrees of innocence and degrees of guilt in a fallen world.  Remember Proverbs 18:15, 17 “ An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”  Seek knowledge of a situation and remember to examine both sides, because we’re prone to believe the first side without question until the second is heard.
    1. Seeking godly justice means We rest in God’s omnipotent hand.
      1. We know that ,in Christ,  we are accepted and given access to God’s benefits:   Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
      1. These benefits mean:
      1. We pray for his justice to be served
      1. We pray that we can be instruments of his justice and grace on earth—because we have received grace may we also be agents of God’s grace for others
      1. We pray for our enemies and if we can’t do that, we pray that one day God would grant us the grace to pray for them.
      1. And We give thanks that our omnipotent Lord suffered the injustice of sinful men for our salvation. Amen.

Philippian Creed

75  O Father, You Are Sovereign

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.