The Kingdom Purchased
If you have a Bible, I invite you to turn to Luke 23. And if you don’t have a Bible, there should be a Bible under the row of chairs in front of you. If you can grab a Bible, we are going to be in Luke 23, this morning.
We are continuing in our sermon series on the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the sovereign rule of God, through Jesus Christ, which is both a present reality and a future hope.
Throughout this series, we have seen the inauguration of the Kingdom, how Jesus came to the world and announced that the Kingdom of God had come, but that there is an aspect of the Kingdom that was still to come. And so, we currently live in the now and the not yet of the Kingdom.
We have seen the citizens of the Kingdom, how Jesus fulfilled what we could not and how through Jesus we become true citizens of the Kingdom.
We have seen the nature of the Kingdom, how the Kingdom of God is an upside-down Kingdom that does not work like the kingdoms of this world do, where we see the exalted become humbled and the humbled become exalted.
We have seen the Kingdom declared, how Jesus gave us the Kingdom to announce to everyone.
We have seen the Kingdom demonstrated, how Jesus showed Himself to be King over everything we see and know to exist.
We have seen the Kingdom deployed, how the church is on mission to bring this Kingdom near to the world, through our words and through our actions.
And then, two weeks ago, we saw the Kingdom promised, how God promised the redemption to come out of the Fall of mankind, and how Jesus has promised us a renewed Kingdom when He returns.
And today, we are going to look at the Kingdom purchased. The reason there is a Kingdom that stretches over this world, the reason we can be citizens of such a Kingdom, the reason we have hope in the renewed Kingdom to come, is because of the Kingdom purchased.
When I enrolled in Bible College, I needed to take out a Student Loan. I had very little money to my name, and I needed a lot of help, financially.
So, I took out a Student Loan. And what this did is it gave me the opportunity to attend Bible College. I would not have been able to go, otherwise, because the College needs money to be able to function. They can’t just offer free education.
But what this also meant is that I now had to pay back that loan. It’s not like the bank is going to give me free money to be able to get a Bible College education. They expect me to pay that loan back. And this is a debt that I’m still paying back to this day, even though my time in Bible College is over.
But what would happen if someone came along and completely paid off my Student Loan debt? What would happen if someone came along and said, “You don’t need to make one more payment to that loan, because I’m going to cover it for you?” What would happen, is that my loan would be paid, and I would be free from burden of debt.
And church, this is what we are going to look at, this morning. We are going to see how the victorious death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has purchased a people for the Kingdom of God, and how we have been set free from the burden of sin and death.
So, if you have your Bible opened to Luke 23, we will begin reading in verse 32, but I just want to set the stage for us, this morning.
You see, the Romans had perfected the most torturous and shameful way to kill a human being. They would strip you naked, and then they would nail your hands and your feet to a wooden cross, so that the only way to breathe would be to push up on the nail that had been driven through your feet, gasp, and then collapse back down with the weight of your body on those nails.
And if you did not die of exhaustion, they would break your legs, so that you couldn’t prop yourself up anymore, and you would eventually die of asphyxiation.
And all the while, you are naked and mocked and belittled by the most despicable human beings imaginable. They called it crucifixion. It’s where we get the word, excruciating, because there was nothing on the planet that was as painful as that.
And in our passage, this morning, Jesus has just been betrayed, He has been wrongfully accused, He has undergone an unfair trial, and He has been sentenced to crucifixion.
So, let’s pick it up in verse 32: “Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!’ 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ 38 There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’”
“39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ 42 And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ 43 And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”
This morning, I want us to look at the intercession of Jesus, the enthronement of Jesus, and the promise of Jesus. That’s our roadmap. And I want us to see how Jesus is the King who suffered for His subjects and purchased them for Himself.
1. And we begin by looking at the intercession of Jesus.
And the Gospel writer, Luke, sets the stage for us: The soldiers are gambling for Jesus’ garments, they are mocking Jesus while He is on the cross, and random people are standing by, watching all of this take place. Isn’t that weird? Have you ever thought about that? Why were people there? At what place in your life do you need to be, for this to be a good activity?
It was sadistic enough for the Romans to come up with the idea for crucifixion in the first place, but have you ever thought about the individuals who just stood around and watched? That’s a special kind of person. You have no mercy and no compassion. At that point, you just want to see someone die.
But listen to Jesus’ words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus is experiencing the worst human torture imaginable, and do you know what He doesn’t say? “You sick, demented people…” No, He doesn’t say that. Instead, Jesus pleads with the Father on their behalf.
Jesus is on the cross, He’s taking all the shame and all the mocking, and He’s turning it into a prayer of intercession for those who were doing this to Him. This sounds like craziness to us, right? But it’s what Jesus taught.
If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. Love your enemies. Bless those who persecute you and revile you and speak all kinds of evil against you.
Jesus is living out His every word. And better yet, He’s interceding on behalf of those who don’t care about Him. Jesus is saying to the Father, “These people don’t fully understand the evil they are committing. Have mercy on them.”
And we can sit here and say, “How despicable they were for treating the Son of God with such contempt. I mean, didn’t they know who they were crucifying?” But haven’t we all been here?
Romans 5:10 says that we were enemies with God. Ephesians 2:3 says that we were children of wrath. From conception, we despised the cross of Christ. There was nothing redeemable in us that was reaching out for God. We were born into a position against God. That’s who we are, by nature.
We sang a song earlier, called, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us. And verse 2 says, “Behold the Man upon a cross, my guilt upon His shoulders, ashamed I hear my mocking voice, call out among the scoffers. It was my sin that held Him there, until it was accomplished. His dying breath has brought me life. I know that it is finished.”
There is a sense, in which we are right there with the soldiers, with the hammer and the nail in our hands. There is a sense, in which we are right there, gambling for Jesus’ garments and mocking Him with our words. Do we feel that?
But there is also a sense, in which Jesus’ plea, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” rings true, today. We don’t truly know the horror, so Jesus pleads with the Father on our behalf.
And this is really good news, because what Jesus experienced on the cross is greater than any of us can ever imagine. It was more than just the excruciating nature of crucifixion. That was bad enough. But what Jesus experienced on the cross was the full extent of the wrath of God against sin.
You see, God cannot let sin go unpunished. Sin had to be dealt with, fully and finally. And so, what the cross did is it made a way for every sin to be laid on Jesus. All the guilt and all the shame and all the mocking. Jesus took it all, satisfying the wrath of God against sin. And He did it, on our behalf.
And do you know what we receive? Forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
When we acknowledge that we are sinners in need of a Saviour, we are no longer enemies of God, but citizens of His Kingdom. We are no longer objects of God’s wrath, but objects of His grace and His mercy. All because of Jesus and His intercession on our behalf on the cross.
2. So, we see the intercession of Jesus, in purchasing a people for the Kingdom of God. But we also see the enthronement of Jesus.
Look at verse 35: “And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!’ 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ 38 There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’”
Now, I want us to see the irony of what is taking place here. The Jews hated Jesus, because He was making these claims to be God. Even though Jesus was the King they were waiting for, He was not the King they wanted. So, what do the Jews do? They hand Jesus over to the Romans to be crucified.
And the Gospel writer, Matthew, records that they stripped Jesus and put a scarlet robe on him, and they twisted together a crown of thorns, and they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And they knelt before Jesus, mocking Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
And what they failed to realize is that the King of the Universe, greater than the Emperor, was before them. They are bowing down in mockery, but what they have failed to realize is that a day is coming when, at the name of Jesus, “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”
And then, you get to the cross. And above Jesus is this inscription: “This is the King of the Jews.” This makes the Jewish leaders angry, so they go to Pilate, who wrote the inscription, and they ask for him to change it to: “This man said, I am King of the Jews.” And Pilate just says that what he wrote is what he wrote, and they're going to have to deal with it.
And then, we come to the cross itself. I remember when I used to wear this metal chain with a cross on it, around my neck. And I would wear it all the time. And one time, I was having a conversation with this one individual and they asked me why I wore the symbol of a torture device around my neck.
And I was kind of shocked by the statement. I didn’t know what to say. And the individual went on, “It would be like wearing a guillotine around your neck, wouldn’t it?” And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was not wearing the symbol of some torture device; I was wearing the symbol of a throne.
The hymn, The Old Rugged Cross, explains this so well. It says, “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame. And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best for a world of lost sinners was slain. Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me; for the dear Lamb of God left His glory above, to bear it to dark Calvary. In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, a wondrous beauty I see; for ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died, to pardon and sanctify me.”
Jesus is King on His throne, even on the cross. It doesn’t make sense to this world, because a worldly king lords authority over others in order to get his way. That’s not our King. We have a better King. Our King, King Jesus, is the King who gave His life, so that others might have life.
The statement, “He saved others; let him save himself,” completely goes against the mission of King Jesus. Jesus did not come to save Himself; Jesus came to save the world.
And when we talk about the Kingdom purchased, here is what Jesus purchased for us on the cross: Freedom. We were enslaved to sin and death. We had no God and no hope in this world. But Jesus comes along, and through the death of Jesus, we have freedom from sin and death.
It’s just like my Student Loan analogy, only greater, because we have a sin debt that we can never pay back on our own. That’s our predicament.
And Colossians 2:13-15 says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
What King Jesus does, is He takes our sin debt, and He writes on the ledger, “Paid in Full,” so that we are no longer in debt, we’re free. And we are now citizens of the Kingdom of God that Jesus has purchased, by His blood. The suffering Saviour has become the rightful Ruler. That’s our King.
3. So, we see the intercession of Jesus and the enthronement of Jesus, but there are two more individuals in the narrative that we must highlight to get the full picture of the Kingdom purchased.
Look at verse 39: “One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ 42 And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ 43 And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”
The one criminal wants Jesus for what Jesus can do for him, while the other criminal wants Jesus for who Jesus is. And here is where the Word of God presses in a little uncomfortably for us: Do we ever want Jesus for what He can do more than for who He is?
Here is the reality: Jesus is King. He could have called a legion of angels to take Him off the cross. That’s not a problem for King Jesus, but it was not the plan from the beginning. The plan form the beginning was to go to the cross to crush the head of the serpent, which was the promise back in Genesis 3.
But sometimes, and I’m thinking of myself here, as well, sometimes our circumstances can be so big and so overwhelming for us, that we want Jesus to take us off the cross. And we want Jesus to do something for us, rather than drawing near to Jesus and leaning into Jesus and pressing in to Jesus, in our circumstances.
You or a loved one might be experiencing some significant health issues right now, you might be experiencing marriage or parenting challenges, you might be stressed out from work, you might be experiencing financial pressure, you might be concerned about what the days ahead hold for you. Whatever your circumstances, maybe you just want Jesus to get you off the cross.
And that’s not wrong. I believe that God is greater than our circumstances, and that He can and does intervene from time to time, in extraordinary ways.
But the problem comes when we make the ultimate thing, the solution to our circumstances, rather than the journey through our circumstances. The problem comes when we want relief more than we want Jesus, if that makes sense.
I know I talk a lot about my eyesight, but it’s because it’s at the forefront of my life. It’s always there. But when I was diagnosed with my eye disease, I just wanted to be healed of it. I didn’t want to go blind; I wanted to have sight when I was older. So, my blindness was always something I resented.
What I wanted is I wanted Jesus to do something for me. I didn’t want Jesus for who He was, I wanted Jesus for what He could do. I knew that He could take this away from me. I knew that He was able. But my problem was that I didn’t see this as a tool for growth; I saw this as a detriment. And how could God redeem this?
Look at Jesus’ response to the criminal who leaned into Jesus, and who recognized Jesus for who Jesus was: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
This was not a person who resented his circumstances. He knew exactly why he was on the cross. It’s not like he was hanging there, going, “You’ve got the wrong guy.” He knows he’s guilty. But he knows that Jesus is innocent. And he knows that the sign above Jesus is true. And he knows that the mocking of Jesus is wrong. And he knows that Jesus is who He said He was.
And the response he receives is the promise of life. “Today.” Not tomorrow. “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
That’s a promise. And the reason Jesus can make such a promise is because He is purchasing for Himself, a people, for the Kingdom of God, on the cross. Jesus put to death whatever sin that criminal had committed. And Jesus put to death whatever your circumstances are.
When our circumstances become overwhelming, whatever it is we are going through, and we would rather have Jesus for what He can do rather than for who He is, this passage reminds us of something greater.
When we press in to Jesus when things get hard and difficult, and they will, it’s like Jesus is telling us, “I’ve got you. Paradise is waiting for you. That’s a promise.”
This has echoes of Eden, doesn’t it? Where the wolf will lie down with the lamb, and the lion will eat with the ox, and the children will play with cobras. It’s a picture of the redeemed Kingdom to come and what the Kingdom of God was always intended to be. It’s what we will conclude our series with, next week.
But the only way this is possible, the only way Jesus can give the promise of paradise to the criminal and to us, is because of the Kingdom purchased, because Jesus paid the high cost for the penalty of sin.
And here is the challenge for each one of us: If the King of the Kingdom was peculiar for being enthroned on a cross, then His followers are going to be peculiar. We are naturally going to be strange to the world. That’s just the reality.
The Kingdom of God is founded on grace. It views power differently. It views suffering rightly. We will have different views than the world on money and marriage and parenting and sex and morality and ethics.
So, we shouldn’t be surprised when we are viewed as strange by the world, because we are citizens of a better Kingdom—a Kingdom that has been purchased by King Jesus.
But the question is: Are we peculiar? Are we strange to the world? Are we a peculiar people, or can no one tell that we are different from the world? Jesus is a peculiar King. Are we, as Jesus’ followers, a peculiar Kingdom people?
1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
The gospel is going to be offensive. And if we are dying to self and taking up our cross and following Jesus, we are going to be peculiar and we are going to be strange to the world. But Jesus says, “Take heart; I have overcome the world.” Let’s pray…
Heavenly Father, I thank you for these men and women. I thank you for the cross, and the picture of what it means to live in the Kingdom. I pray that you would give us the courage and strength to die to self. And help us understand all the more fully what it means to take up our cross and follow you.
God, we see the influences of the world all around us. And yet, there is Jesus on the cross, reminding us of a better way. Whether its power or money or morality, we see that we are different. I pray that your Spirit would continue to shape us into the kind of Kingdom people who reflect the King of the Kingdom. And I pray that we might embrace the peculiar call on our lives, to just be different. Thank you for you goodness and faithfulness to us. It’s in the beautiful name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.