Call to Worship March 10 2019

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 23:26-38

“We ought to notice, in this passage — our Lord’s words of prophetic warning. We read that He said to the women who followed Him, as He was being led away to Calvary, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me — but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed indeed are the women who are childless, the wombs that have not borne a child and the breasts that have never nursed.’

These words must have sounded particularly terrible to the ears of a Jewish woman. To her, it was always a disgrace to be childless. The idea of a time coming when it would be a blessing to have no children — must have been a strange and fearsome thought to her mind. And yet within fifty years, this prediction of Christ was literally fulfilled!

The siege of Jerusalem by the Roman army under Titus, brought down on all the inhabitants of the city the most horrible sufferings from famine and pestilence that can be conceived. Women are reported to have actually eaten their own children during the siege for lack of food. Upon none did the last judgments sent upon the Jewish nation fall so heavily, as upon the wives, the mothers, and the little children.

Let us beware of supposing that the Lord Jesus holds out to man nothing but mercy, pardon, love, and forgiveness. Beyond all doubt, He is plenteous in mercy. His mercy is like a mighty stream. He ‘delights in mercy.’ But we must never forget that there is justice with Him — as well as mercy. He is preparing punishments for the impenitent and the unbelieving. There is wrath revealed in the Gospel, for those who harden themselves in wickedness.

The same cloud which was bright to Israel — was dark to the Egyptians. The same Lord Jesus who invites the laboring and heavy-laden to come to Him and rest — declares most plainly that unless a man repents — he will certainly perish; and that he who does not believe — shall be damned. (Luke 13:3; Mark 16:16.)

The same Savior who now holds out His hands to the disobedient and rebellious — will come one day ‘from Heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God, and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction, and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power!’ (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.)

Let these things sink down into our hearts. Christ is indeed most gracious. But the day of grace must come to an end at last. An unbelieving world will find at length, as Jerusalem did — that there is judgment with God, as well as mercy. No wrath will fall so heavily — as that which has been long accumulating and storing up.

We ought to notice, for another thing, in this passage — our Lord’s words of gracious intercession. We read that when He was crucified, His first words were, ‘Father, forgive them — for they do not know what they are doing.’ His own racking agony of body, did not make Him forget others. The first of His seven sayings on the cross was a prayer for the souls of His murderers!

He had just exhibited His prophetic office by a remarkable prediction. He was about to exhibit His kingly office soon — by opening the door of paradise to the penitent thief. His priestly office He now exhibited — by interceding for those who crucified Him. ‘Father,’ He said, ‘forgive them!’

The fruits of this wonderful prayer will never be fully seen, until the day when the books are opened, and the secrets of all hearts are revealed. We have probably not the least idea how many of the conversions at Jerusalem, which took place during the first six months after the crucifixion — were the direct reply to this marvelous prayer.

Perhaps this prayer was the first step towards the penitent thief’s repentance. Perhaps it was one means of affecting the centurion, who declared our Lord to be ‘a righteous man’ — and the people who ‘returned home, beating their breasts.’ Perhaps the three thousand converted on the day of Pentecost, were among our Lord’s murderers — and owed their conversion to this very prayer.

The day will manifest it. There is nothing secret, which shall not be revealed. This alone we know, that ‘the Father always hears the Son.’ (John 11:42.) We may be sure that this wondrous prayer was indeed heard.

Let us see in our Lord’s intercession for those who crucified Him — one more proof of Christ’s infinite love to sinners. The Lord Jesus is indeed most pitiful, most compassionate, and most gracious. None are too wicked, for Him to care for. None are too far gone in sin, for his almighty heart to take interest about their souls. He wept over unbelieving Jerusalem. He heard the prayer of the dying thief. He stopped under the tree to call the tax-collector Zaccheus. He came down from Heaven to turn the heart of the persecutor Saul. He found time to pray for His murderers, even on the cross.

Love like this is a love which surpasses knowledge. The vilest of sinners, have no cause to be afraid of applying to a Savior like this. If we desire warrant and encouragement to repent and believe — the passage before us surely supplies enough.

Finally, let us see in our Lord’s intercession — a striking example of the spirit which should reign in the hearts of all His people. Like Him, let us return good for evil, and blessing for cursing. Like Him, let us pray for those who do evil against us and persecute us. The pride of our hearts may often rebel against the idea. The proud world may call it foolish to behave in such a way. But let us never be ashamed to imitate our divine Master. The man who prays for his enemies, shows the mind that was in Christ — and will have his reward.”