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Sunday
Apr292007

The Ironies of the Cross from D. A. Carson

Do you have some boring spring cleaning or yard work to do? Download a good sermon, like The Ironies of the Cross from D. A. Carson, and listen while you work. Don’t worry that you can’t take notes, because I’ve already done that for you and posted them right here. And don’t think that you can skip the sermon because you’ve read my notes. The sermon has so much more, not the least of which is Don Carson’s dramatic reading of the scripture.


 
The text of this sermon is Matthew 27: 27-50.

The use of irony in narrative is a way of telling us what’s important in a story. In this account, Matthew gives us four ironies in the story of the cross.

The Four Ironies of the Cross

  1. The man who is mocked as king is king. (verses 27-31)

    • The ironic statement in scripture:
      And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

    • How this statement is ironic: Those mocking think it’s false, but Matthew and his readers know that Jesus really is king, but a different sort of king with a different sort of kingdom. See Matthew 20:20ff, which includes this statement from Jesus:
      You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

  2. The man who is powerless is powerful.  (verses 32-40)

    • The ironic statement in scripture: 
      You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.

    • How this statement is ironic: The mockers interpret Jesus’s statement about rebuilding the temple in three days as a claim to great power, and they see  his constraint on the cross to be a sign that he has no power. However, it is by remaining on the cross that he fulfills his statement about rebuilding the temple. He really could call angels to recue him from the cross, but he won’t do that because he is accomplishing something great by remaining on the cross.

  3. The man who can’t save himself saves others.  (verses 41-42)

    • The ironic statement in scripture:
      He saved others; he cannot save himself.

    • How this statement is ironic: The mockers are speaking more truth than they know. Jesus does indeed save others.  It’s by not saving himself that he does save others, for he can’t save himself and save others, too. So while it is true that he can’t save himself,  it is not because he is constrained by physical weakness, but because he is contrained by a moral constaint to do his Father’s will by saving others and not himself.

  4. The man who cries out in despair trusts God. (verses 43-36)

    • The ironic statements in scripture: 
      He trusts in God; let God deliver him now.

    • How this statement is ironic: The mockers are are, once again, speaking better than they know. Christ does trust in God, and that’s the reason he went to the cross. He trusts God, so he is doing God’s will, knowing full well that he is there by his father’s decree. Even Christ’s statement of despair, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” comes from Psalm 22, which is, in the end, an expression of trust in God. It is because Christ trusts God that he comes to this place of despair. Furthermore, it is because Christ feels forsaken by God that none of us has been forsaken by God.

    Yea, once Immanuel’s orphan cry His universe hath shaken;
    It went up single, echoless, ‘My God, I am forsaken!’
     

      It went up from the holy lips amid his lost creation,
      That, of the lost, no son should use those words of desolation…

      ——Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Cowper’s Grave

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Reader Comments (5)

When I first heard it I was blown away and was starving to re-read Matthew.

May 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRey

It is a great sermon. Carson's that rare combination of top-notch scholar and excellent preacher. He preached at our little church (he's friends with my pastor), and it was marvelous.

May 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDan Phillips

When I first heard it I was blown away

Me too.

Carson's that rare combination of top-notch scholar and excellent preacher.

And Canadian, too, which makes him even rarer. :)

May 1, 2007 | Registered Commenterrebecca

Thanks for the link. I listened to the sermon while I made dinner which I'm posting the recipe for tomorrow. He is engaging. I really love your summary...it prepared me to listen better to the sermon. Thanks.

May 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEllen B.

I'm glad the notes helped, Ellen, and that you enjoyed the sermon.

May 1, 2007 | Registered Commenterrebecca

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