Lives Changed Through the Lens of the Cross
Sermon Summary
This message looks back at some of the lives in the New Testament which were changed because of the events surrounding the crucifixion. It starts with two who saw Jesus when He was still an infant, but recognized He was the One who would someday be sacrificed for in order to save them. It also looks at two members of the ruling council who decided to follow Jesus, secretly at first, but after the crucifixion with boldness. Peter, one of the lead disciples became fearful for his life during the trial of Jesus and denied knowing Jesus. Jesus looked at him with a look of disappointment, yet at the same time with love and compassion. After the crucifixion and resurrection, Peter also lost his fear and became a bold witness for Christ. The final testimony comes from the Roman Centurion who was in charge of the crucifixion that day. He declared that Jesus was a righteous man and truly the Son of God. The take home in for us is when we look through the lens of the Cross and see the price Jesus paid for us even while we were yet sinners, it will change our lives.

Community Group Discussion Guide
1. With which of the six testimonies do you most closely relate? Simeon, Anna, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, Peter, or the Roman Soldier.

2. Joseph of Arimathea had wealth, power and position, but was willing to risk it all when he boldly asked for Jesus’ body and placed it in his personal tomb. Discuss how the following statement applies to Joseph of Arimathea’s actions: “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Mark 8:35  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
Mark 8:36  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?
Mark 8:37  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

3. Brother Larry made some assumptions about the look Jesus gave Peter after the third denial. What are your thoughts on what Jesus’ look communicated?
Luke 22:61  The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times."
Luke 22:62  And he went outside and wept bitterly.

4. One of the common traits that became apparent after the crucifixion in many of the followers of Jesus was the lack of fear. Why do you think this happened and in what ways has your experience at the Cross helped you face your fears?
1 John 4:15  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.
1 John 4:16  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
1 John 4:17  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.
1 John 4:18  There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:19  We love because he first loved us.

Full Sermon Notes
Lives Changed Through the Lens of the Cross

As we've seen in the last few weeks, the Cross was changing lives 1,000 years before the Crucifixion of Christ ever took place! We've looked at how the message of the Cross was seen by the ancient prophets of God and they wrote in amazing detail about the events surrounding Jesus' suffering and death. Today we move to the New Testament.
The messages of the past few weeks have been purposely designed to help people have a better understanding of the legitimacy and historical accuracy of the message of the Cross of Christ! I can't prove to anyone Jesus was who He said He was or that His death happened in order that we might have our sins forgiven and someday live in
a place called heaven. No, I can't prove that, but I believe that! What I can do is help you  see the amazing accuracy of Holy Scripture when it comes to its accounting of historical events, and that's a good place to start with a generation that sometimes follows the advice of the Science Channel…"Question Everything!"
And please remember, I'm not against asking questions and God welcomes questions, even the toughest ones! At some point, every person has to decide whether or not to trust the message of the Bible, and to put their faith in the
One of whom the Bible speaks.
My desire has been to embolden your faith and help you to understand, contrary
to popular culture, you're not an idiot for believing the claims of Jesus Christ, to the contrary, you are quite wise!
In fact, I love what Paul told his young apprentice, Timothy. Listen...
2 Timothy 3:12-15 (NIV)
12In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
13while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,
15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 3:12-15 (NIV)

Today we're going to look at some examples in The Holy Scriptures of lives that were changed because they looked through the lens of the Cross. Today my goal is for those who have no faith or those who are struggling with their faith to find encouragement and inspiration through the testimonies of these lives which were radically changed!
It is my desire for each of us here today is that we will leave better, stronger, and more deeply committed to the cause of Christ! Let's pray and then we'll hear ancient testimony so relevant for today!
PRAY!

Testimonies 1 & 2
Simeon and Anna

The following testimonies come from two people who met Jesus as a child but would not live long enough to see the actual crucifixion, yet they saw it through the very prophesies we've been studying. It changed their lives! Listen...

Luke 2:21-38 (NIV)
21On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.
22When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord” ),
24and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Let me just interject something here. It's interesting they offered a pair of doves or two pigeons. The Levitical law required a lamb to be sacrificed for the mother's purification unless they were poor, then the doves or pigeons could be substituted. This tells us our King of Kings entered this world through a poor family. However, though Mary could not have fully understood, she did offer a lamb that day… Jesus, The Lamb of God!

Let's read on… Luke 2:25
25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
(The consolation of Israel was the belief the Jews had that The Messiah would bring comfort to take away the grief and pain they had suffered for so long.)
Let's read on… Luke 2:26
26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,
28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.
30For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
33The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.
34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Simeon, while Jesus was still an infant, knew Jesus would be pierced for our transgressions, for it had been foretold by the prophets! He knew this would pierce Mary's soul and break her heart.
There's more... Luke 2:36
36There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,
37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
38Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem
Luke 2:21-38 (NIV)

She spoke to everyone who was looking forward to the redemption of Israel about the child!! Folks this is huge!! It wasn't like no one knew that Jesus was the Messiah. The old man Simeon and the Old prophetess Anna knew and they weren't silent about it! It changed their lives! They had been praying to see the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies! God granted them their prayer request! Although they didn't see the actual crucifixion they had seen the very lamb of God who had come to take away the sins of the world!! There were other Jewish folks who made the connection with Jesus and the prophesied Messiah, but it took longer for
them to fully commit.

Testimonies 3 & 4
Joseph of Arimathea &
Nicodemus

John 19:38ff
38Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.
39He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.
(75 pounds, that was the amount normally used for a King! Think about that for a few seconds!  …. Ok times up...)
40Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.
41At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.
42Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
John 19:38-42 (NIV)

John gives us some valuable insight into these two guys before the crucifixion. Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the ruling council, had been a secret follower of Jesus because he feared the Jews and don't forget, he was a Jew.
His fear was not a racial fear, it was fear of the hypocrisy and darkness of religious leaders who were driven by their own personal desires, greed and pursuit of power!
Remember, Nicodemus, a Pharisee and also a member of the ruling council, had visited Jesus at night for the same reasons.  

It was during this meeting that Jesus told Nicodemus that a man must be born again if he is to enter the kingdom of God! It was also during this conversation that Jesus said to  Nicodemus...

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
John 3:16-17 (NIV)

So these two religious rulers had been unable and unwilling to dismiss the amazing parallels between Jesus and the prophesied Messiah. And after the Cross, they embraced Christ as the Messiah. Listen to Mark's Gospel 15:42ff

42It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached,
43Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.
44Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died.
45When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.
46So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.
47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
Mark 15:42-47 (NIV)

He went boldly to get the body of Jesus. No more secret disciple!! And by the way, just whose tomb was it that Jesus was placed in? For this we go to Matthew's gospel chapter 27:59ff...

59Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
60and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.
Matthew 27:59-60 (NIV)

There was no hiding anymore! Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man, a religious ruler, a man of power, had turned his back on everything he had once considered most important, to embrace Jesus Christ! He knew he might lose everything, but
he didn't care! He had gained what he could never lose. He had encountered The Messiah through the lens of the Cross and like Simeon and Anna, he now fully believed and had a peace of soul and mind money and power could not buy!

Are there any folks in our world today who think money and power will bring happiness? What are you pursuing today? Is it more money? More power? More prestige? More pleasure?

Learn from this man's testimony! Real happiness and purpose in life is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ!
Seeing things through the lens of the Cross is a game changer!
There was another group of Jews who radically changed after seeing Jesus through the lens of the Cross! They were
Jews who had decided to follow Jesus publicly, but who had some second thoughts about it just before the crucifixion.
Who am I talking about? The disciples of Christ. We will look at the testimony of one of these men, Peter.

Testimony 5
Simon Peter

Now I know you're thinking, wait a minute. The disciples? They were with Jesus when He did His miracles! And Peter, why,  Jesus allowed him to walk on water. How could he possibly have second thoughts? I mean he was a leader among the disciples. Yes he was. His name is listed first when the disciples are listed, and was close to Jesus.
Peter was a big talker and he talked big! Remember his name was Simon before Jesus gave him the name Peter.

Luke 22:31-34 (NIV)

31“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.
32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
33But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
34Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
Luke 22:31-34 (NIV)

Did it happen? Let's look and see...

54Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance.
55But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them.
56A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”
57But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.
58A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

59About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”
60Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.
61The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”
62And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Luke 22:54-62 (NIV)

Yes, big talking Peter denied not once, but three times.
What happened after the third time? The rooster crowed, but Luke gives us an additional detail…
"Jesus turned and looked straight at Peter!”
What kind of look was it? It wasn't a condemning look, but I do believe it was a look of disappointment. Even though Jesus knew Peter was going to do it, it still had to hurt! I also believe it was a look of love! I believe Jesus loved Peter and felt deep sorrow for Peter. He knew Peter's heart wanted to be strong, but the fear of dying was too much!
Peter went out and wept bitterly! He had let the Lord down. He wasn't the man of courage he thought he was. Can anyone here relate? Have you ever felt like you let the Lord down, like you disappointed Him?

I've got good news for you. Through the lens of the Cross everything changes. It changed for Peter and it can change for you. Beginning next week I'm going to show you how the Cross changes everything, your past, your present, and your future. The foundation has been laid and the practical application will be profound. But back to
Peter's testimony. After the Cross and the resurrection, Jesus gave Peter a chance to repent of the denials.

It was beautiful. You can read it in John 21:15-ff.

Did it make a difference in Peter's life? Shortly after Jesus ascended back to heaven, on the day of Pentecost, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit spoke to the very people who had crucified Jesus. This time, no fear ...

22“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.
23This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
24But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
Acts 2:22-24 (NIV)

Remember, this was the very crowd that had yelled, "Crucify Him, Crucify Him!" But Peter was no longer afraid! What happened? Peter had seen the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus! He knew the truth!

Let's skip down to the end of Peter's sermon … Acts 2:36-41

36“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
37When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off —for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Acts 2:36-41 (NIV)

One last testimony today! It wasn't only the Jews who were changed by the looking through the lens of the Cross!

Testimony 6
The Roman Centurion

Luke 23:47 (NIV)

47The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”
Luke 23:47 (NIV)

This was the very soldier who had been in charge of the soldiers who carried out the order of Pilate and the wishes of the Jewish leaders. However, after witnessing the events of the crucifixion, this gentile knew Jesus was in fact who He said He was! It says, after seeing what happened he praised God. What did this Roman soldier see when he looked through the lens of the Cross?
We'll end with what he saw and what you should see when looking through the lens of the Cross...

On the one hand, He saw, through the Pharisees, how dark religion can be when it's not based on a personal relationship with God! On the other hand, through his own soldiers, He saw how cruel humans can be to one another when there are no religious values and morals to guide behavior.

The centurion saw a man unlike any other he had ever seen. This man did not fight back or struggle against them. This man didn't complain about his innocence. In fact He said very little and when He did speak it was to pray for the very ones who had beaten Him, mocked Him, and nailed Him to the tree! The centurion heard Jesus offer hope to one of the criminals dying beside Him. I guess you could say, the centurion saw that day the worst of humanity and the
best of God! This Roman soldier saw other amazing things that day. The sky grew dark, the ground shook, and supernatural things took place. But I believe the thing that changed him the most was when he realized Jesus did this for me! I believe this man had looked into the face of Jesus and saw the same look Peter had seen on
the night he denied Jesus. Why do I say this? Mark's Gospel tells us...

39And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Mark 15:39 (NIV)

Life change happens when you look through the lens of the Cross and see Jesus looking into you eyes with the same love and forgiveness He offered to Simeon, Anna, Joseph of Aramethia, Nicodemous, Peter, the thief beside Him and the Roman soldier in front of Him.

Let's pray!