Your Clean, New Heart Matthew 27:32-44

Matthew 27:32-44

The world is full of injustice.  It’s a common theme of life and it’s a common through scripture

  •  from Joseph being abandoned in prison for two more years because Pharaoh’s cupbearer had a bad memory, to Stephen the first martyr who was killed because the Pharisees accused him of blasphemy. 
  • The story of injustice is just as prevalent as the story of redemption and it’s big as day in Jesus’ crucifixion

Not only is Jesus absolutely sinless, but one of the reasons for putting him to death is just plain wrong.  Look at v. 40 “you who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days”.

  • This was the trumped up charge the false witnesses tried back in 26:61 
  • But here’s the thing:  That’s not what Jesus said—in John 2:19 Jesus actually said, “you destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

But as our Lord is hanging there:  beaten and naked on the cross, now is not the time to quibble over words. 

  • You can take this point to heart, though– it’s very important to know what Jesus did and didn’t say.  We’re not looking at that today.

And as he hung on the cross we see the offer of onlookers to believe in him if he would just come down. 

  • Isn’t that our tendency?  To promise God our faithful service if he would just prove himself again? 
  • That’s completely backwards—it’s trying to make God into our servant rather than serving our God.
  • What we should be doing is seeing the grace God has already shown us. These people mock him for claiming to be God as he dies for the sins of anyone who believes.
  • That’s another point we should take away as we read about Jesus’ death—look to see the grace God has already shown you.  We’re not looking at that today either.

As we get to our focus today, don’t forget what crucifixion meant

  • You die an agonizingly slow death in public, hanging on a cross, naked, for anyone to watch your final hours. 
  • Typically the victim was tied to the cross, but the Romans nailed some of the convicted criminals to the cross if they were particularly heinous—like Jesus,  he was nailed.  
  • The way the physics and physiology of crucifixion worked, you would actually struggle for breath for hours and even days.
  • While you slowly suffocated, lifting yourself with whatever strength you could muster, your feet were enough that animals, even the wild dogs Jesus referred to in parable,  could actually eat your feet and lower legs as you waited to die. 
  • Since your hands were secured, the flies and insects that landed on your wounds would stay there and feed on your already dead body.
  •  Typically crucifixion took hours and even days—it was meant to be cruel and unusual. 

AS the crucifixion begins, Matthew tells us:  “ they went out…to place called Golgotha”.  Our Lord was taken outside of the city gate with common criminals to die for our sins.

Jesus’ death pays for our sin and gives believers clean new hearts.  The debt is paid once and forever, but our hearts need cleansing over and over again.  That’s our point today—we need clean hearts and we need them cleaned constantly.

Three points on the death of Christ for you:  1.  Atonement.  2.  Cleansing.  3.   Return.

  1. Atonement—a distinctively OT word, but it has many NT references
    1. OT it essentially means “to cover” –the sacrifices pointed to the ultimate “covering” for sin that Christ gives believers.
    1. In the NT:  Reconciliation, the payment for sin’s debt, and propitiation
      1. Reconciliation:  Through Christ’s sacrifice believers are reconciled to God.
        1. Romans 5:10  “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son”.
        1. There was a breach in between us and God—Jesus fixed it by his death.
      1. Payment is referred to in terms of ransom, Matthew 20:28, “the Son of Man came to give his life as a ransom for many”. 
        1. Like in a kidnapping the hostage is under the rule and authority of the kidnapper.
        1. We were under the rule and authority of sin, but Jesus’ death paid our ransom and believers are free from sin.
      1. Propitiation—sin makes God angry, for justice to be served the holy wrath of God has to be poured out on sin.   Jesus became sin on the cross—2 Cor. 5:21 “he who knew no sin became sin for us”—and God punished him with all of his holy fury, 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
        1. All of the punishment, all of God’s holy anger was absorbed by Jesus on the cross.
    1. Jesus is taken to Golgotha, the place of the skull, to suffer for the sins of his people, to suffer God’s wrath to make us free from sin and  to reconcile believers to God.
  2. Cleansing—Jesus’ death cleanses his people
    1. Sinners are made clean through the perfect blood of Jesus. 
    1. Puritan Isaac Ambrose, “come then…Christ is scourged all over, because all over, we were full of wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores.”[1]
    1. And another puritan, Stephen Charnock, Christ’s blood “cleanses from all sin universally.  … the blood of Christ exceeds all the bulk of finite sins, and is equal in dignity to the infinite majesty of God, who our sins have injured.”[2]
    1. This is what David pled for in Psalm 51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
      1. Assurance of pardon—God’s purging, God’s washing always works! 
      1. It’s not a maybe with God—his cleansing touch always makes clean.
      1. Teaching your kids to clean and asking them to clean the countertops—they might be clean when they’re done…and they might not, well, probably not.
      1. It’s not that with God!
    1. Our OT reading was all about the strange ceremony for making ritually cleansing water
      1. A red heifer
      1. A lot of burning and ashes
      1. Then anyone who did anything with it needs a thorough bath…and they’re still not clean until sundown
      1. OT rituals point to the work of Christ
        1. They work in a ritualistic way, but fundamentally only Christ’s work really works
    1. The red heifer ash water is very potent and you only need a few drops to cleanse anything—here’s the point that there is an abundance of cleansing available to God’s people
      1. More cleansing than we would ever need, because Jesus’ blood is more precious than we can even conceive.
  3. Return—the massive amount of ashes produced by burning an entire cow as compared to the few drops of ash water you need to clean everything you owned is meant to point us to the infinite worth of Christ and his cleansing
    1. Look at it from the sinner’s perspective—your perspective:  We need to be cleansed again and again—because we sin again and again!
      1. His death is your life and your purification.
    1. Jesus was led out of the holy city, like the red heifer that was sacrificed outside of the camp, to remove sin from God’s people, making us clean.  And we need repeated cleaning.
    1. We might not say it out loud, but most of us think, doesn’t my effort, or aching conscience cleanse me?
      1. No.  You are cleansed by grace.  You were saved by grace and you are cleansed by God’s grace.
      1. In the OT when you did something wrong against a neighbor you had to make it right, plus add something to it worth 20% of what was lost.
        1. That was your part, pay your debt plus 1/5.
      1. But there was also a sin offering—an offering that removed the stain of guilt—it pointed to the cleansing merit of Christ.
      1. You return to Christ as the only answer for your filth.
        1. As a child if you were outside doing your chores and started getting dirty while you did them, you didn’t get clean by doing the chores better.
        1. You had to come in and take a bath.
    1. Christianity is essentially a long faithful journey full of a normal and obedient life that includes repeated washings.
      1. The faithful and obedient part is set against the normal part
        1. Just to be clear—it is normal for you to obey and be faithful, that’s what God created you for.
        1. But it’s also normal for you to sin, because you have a fallen sinful nature that causes you to sin, and even in your best works, in your best prayers and praises, you’re still sinning.
      1. That means that the long journey of faithful obedience is always mixed with sin, failure, and disappointment.
        1. Your chore of living has gotten you dirty, the answer isn’t doing more chores, or doing them better.
        1. The answer is to return to Christ.  Return to the fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins, sinners plunged within that flood lose all their guilty stains.
    1. We live in a state of constant dependency, but the problem with us, is that we don’t always act or believe like we’re dependent.
      1. We act like we can do this on our own
      1. We believe we’ve got it all under control
      1. Then something proves to us, we can’t do it and we’re shown again, that control is an illusion—we have to return.
      1. We live in a state of constant dependency, so we have to live in a state of constant return! 
    1. The question is HOW?  How do we do that?
      1. Cultivate a desire for Christ.  Often, we have a desire for ease of life, or looking into the future, we desire heaven—but what we need is a desire for Jesus Christ. 
      1. Look and see what he’s done!  If you believe in him as your savior, look and see what he’s done for you!
      1. If you are a believer, then as you read what is written about Jesus’ suffering—the mocking, the scourging, the nails in his feet and hands, the slow, agonizing death on the cross—everything that is written about Jesus’ suffering, he suffered while your name was written on his hands and his heart!
      1. Cultivate a desire for your savior by meditating on who he is, on what he did  for you, what he’s doing for you now!
      1. Do you need help meditating on Christ?  We all do from time to time.
        1. Some motivation from Th. Watson: “the reason we come away so cold from the reading of scripture is because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.”
          1. “Its not the one who reads the most, but the one who meditates that will be grown by the Spirit in the word.”  Brooks
        1. Read your Bible.
          1. Spend time in the Scriptures and if you need help understanding it—call me, I’ll be happy to help.  (I don’t’ have all the answers, but I’ll help you find them.)
          1. Change your reading habits if you need to. 
            1. If you usually read slow and concentrate on a verse or two, try reading several chapters and getting a “big picture”.
            1. Or switch it up and focus on a verse or two.
              1. Different genres lend themselves to different types of reading.
          1. Don’t forget to pray!  Beeke’s 10/10/10.
        1. Read good authors.  Read different types of authors—some for new understanding of old topics (Jerry Bridges), some to stretch your understanding and faith (puritans), some to deepen your thoughts about God (theology).
          1. They give you the tools to meditate better.
        1. Get together with spiritual friends and talk about spiritual things.

The answer isn’t anything new—you’ve heard it before.  Return to Jesus, stop making excuses or trying to logic your way out of it and get your heart cleaned.  If you were truly logical, you’d clean what was dirty—go back to Jesus, crucified and cursed outside of the camp so you would be included inside God’s family.  Amen.

The Affirmation of Faith                                                The Philippian Creed

We believe in Christ Jesus, Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

The Hymn of Response         TH#170                              Fairest Lord Jesus

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, to strengthen you according to the gospel of his holiness, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.


[1] Beeke and Jones.  A Puritan Theology.  Quoting Isaac Ambrose, p.361.

[2] Ibid, quoting Stephen Charnock, p. 361.  Adapted for use in preaching.