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There They Crucified Him

The word that's on my heart to share today is a very interesting word. It is a word out of Luke's legacy that begged to be preached for a number of years, and I could not get to it because what I felt was an immaturity in the Gospel. I've since had a chance to labor with it for a while, and all week long it has really been begging for attention, so I want to share it with you as I depart this time.

In Luke's Gospel, chapter 23, verse 33, I want to kind-of break some grammatical rules. You can do that when you are out of school. You've got to graduate first, though. It says this: "And when they were come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified him." It goes on to say some more things, but that is the part I want to deal with this morning.

"And when they were come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified him." I want to lift as a thought around this text: Why Calvary? It is up out of Luke's legacy that I am led to lift this word about our Lord.

Luke is, indeed, the third of the three Synoptic Gospels. Luke is the heavily editorialized biography of Jesus of Nazareth. Luke is the one that was written and addressed to that Roman dignitary, the most excelled Theophilus. Luke's Gospel is a most distinct biography. It is loaded with luscious tid-bits and a plethora of detail on the man from Galilee, his message, and his mission. ...

Luke's Gospel is the one that has some unique stories in it. Only Luke carries the story of the annunciation to Mary. Only Luke carries the story of Anna and Simeon in the temple. Only Luke carries the story of Jesus at the age of twelve being in the temple. Only Luke carries the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah. So I guess, as is bound to be, it would be Luke's Gospel and a luscious bit of detail that would demand our attention for this preaching moment.

Luke announces to us in this twenty-third chapter and thirty-third verse, "And when they were come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified him." In a sense, Luke serves as a tour guide within the walls of old Jerusalem. He points out to us the place where Jesus was illegally arrested and taken to Pilate's judgment hall. He points out that place where Jesus was arrested on trumped up charges, and where Jesus was unduly tried and unjustly convicted. Follow Jesus as he falls and as he rises, and then, finally, outside of the western gate on a little eighteen foot mound that is shaped like a skull known as Golgotha, Luke says, "And when they were come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified him."

Calvary—Golgotha—the place of the skull. It symbolizes the seat of death, the rule and reign of the grim reaper—Calvary. It was the citadel for that cold, unconscionable reality that has no eyes, no ears, and no heart. Death ruled and reigned on Calvary. Death was the real hallmark in the minds of those of that day on Calvary, and, "When they were come to the place called Calvary," listen y'all, "there they crucified him."

There's seemingly a malicious and blasphemous intent to take Jesus specifically to that place of the skull, that place where death ruled and reigned. "And when they were come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified him." Notice Luke says, "they" did it. "They." "They" is nameless. "They" is faceless. "They" is classless. "They" is gender-less. "They" is colorless. "They" did it. "They" did it. Why do you wear what you wear? Because they wear it? Why do you talk the way you talk? Because they talk that way? Why is that your value system? Well, everybody has this value system. "And when they were come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified him." It's a terrible thing to just be a part of the they, but why Calvary?

I raise this question in the Spirit: Why Calvary? What is going on here? It seems that there is some sinister intent to take Jesus specifically to this place called Calvary, Golgotha, the place of the skull. In my search, this is what was borne up out of my labor on this word. There is no entity, my brothers and sisters, of nature that is any more recognized in the scriptures than that tall accumulation of rock called the mountain. The mountain is recognized everywhere in the scriptures. God always utilized the entities of nature to get His will done. He turned water into wine. He turned water into blood. He changed the nature of ravens from being scavengers to being servants. God used the wind, and God used the rain. God used the frogs and the lice.

God used nature, but the mountain was the one that seemingly was used most of all. Remember, the law was handed down on Mount Sinai. The arc came to rest after the flood on Mount Ararat. Moses viewed the Promised Land from a peak called Pisgah on a mountain called Nebo. In the New Testament, there was the transfiguration of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah on Mount Tabor. Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac on Mount Zion. "I will look to the hills from whence cometh my help, for my help cometh from the Lord." That's what the Psalmists said.

The mountain has its place in salvation's history, so why, why does it seem to be that Calvary was the intentionally designated place to bring Jesus to his damnable end? Why does it seem that there is a satanic plot to get Jesus just to Calvary? I believe this: Number one, those who held sway in the precincts of religion didn't want to desecrate their already sacred mountains with this figure from Galilee. They didn't want to dirty-up their sacred spaces with this sinner, this friend of sinners, this man who hung out with prostitutes. They didn't want to dirty up their sacred places, so they bypassed those holy places to take him out to this hell-hole called Calvary.

But not only that, something tells me that they didn't want to take him to that hill, and then [have] God show Himself and then [see] Jesus catapulted into being all that he said that he was. The record says, "And when they were come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified him."

But not only that, death was reigning on Calvary, and death was the last word. Death was the bomb, y'all. Death was king. Death had the last word. Death had taken everybody. Death had taken Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. Death had taken all of the prophets, major and minor. Death had to wait on Methuselah for 969 years, but death won out. Hezekiah got a fifteen-year extension, but death still won out. Elijah resurrected a boy, but he only lived long enough to die again. Death was the bomb, and they wanted to make sure that they put Jesus in the hands of death so that he would be finished, so ". . . when they were come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified him."

That's what I got out of why they took him specifically to Calvary. But I had another question borne in my being and that is—Why did God the Father allow them to carry out their diabolical plot? Why did He allow evil to go that far? Why? Why did God let that happen? Why is it that the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper? Why does God not nip evil in the bud? Have you ever raised that question? I discovered that: He may not come when you want Him, but we learn that whenever He shows up, He is always on time. We've learned that Truth crushed to earth will rise again, and the reason God allowed this to happen was that this is how God was going to show that He was God. God doesn't have to nip anything in the bud because evil is temporal. Good is eternal.

God said, "Let me tell you, Youngblood, why I allowed them to go as far as they did with my Son. I want to tell you why. I wanted them to know that there really is no line of demarcation between the sacred and the secular. I don't participate in the philosophy of dualism. Ain't no Saturday night is the devil's night and Sunday is the Lord's day. I let them do all that they wanted to do so that they could affirm Psalms 24, 'The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwelleth therein . . .' I wanted to affirm," says God, "Psalms 139, 'That even if you make your bed in hell, I am there,' I am there.'"

Have you ever raised the question of why? What is God doing in hell? I raised that question, and I have learned that when you raise a question seriously, if you hang in there a while, the Spirit will talk to you. I wanted to know, "Why was God in hell?" The Spirit told me, "Because we are the ones with the wrong notion about hell." See, we think that Satan is in charge of hell, but you've got to know that Hell is a prison, and Satan is a lifer. God is still the warden. You can't get away from omnipresence, and God wanted to affirm the scriptures. That's why He let them go all the way to Calvary.

But is there another reason? And the Spirit said, "God didn't want any questions about who was really in charge. He let them go to Calvary because He inarguably wanted them to know that He was the victor. He wanted the victory of Jesus uncontested, indisputable, and the reason He let them go all the way to Calvary is because if they thought that Calvary belonged to Satan, then God was going to show that He was the Captain ... by whipping Satan on his own turf. He was going to beat him even though Satan had home-court advantage."

So what happened that fateful Friday? What happened was when the soldiers grabbed Jesus and laid him down on that old rugged cross, Jesus was talking to them all the while. He was saying, "Now, you can go on and nail my hands, but whatever you do, don't raise me. You can go on and you can rivet my feet, but whatever you do, don't raise me. You can go on and spear me in the side, and my head is already crowned with thorns and you've already whipped my back. You go on and do whatever you got to do, but I am trying to warn you now, whatever you do, don't raise me, don't raise me." I heard somebody say that what they did was they made the mistake of doing what he told them not to do. They raised him from a dead level to a perpendicular on the square. They raised him, and when they dropped him in that hole, the black preachers from Louisiana said that the whole world reeled and rocked like a drunken man. Midnight told midday, "Move over and let me sit on the throne, because the sun refused to shine, because two suns can't shine at the same time."

When they raised Jesus, he said, "I told you not to raise me. I told you it is all right to nail my hands and rivet my feet, but I told you don't raise me." When they raised him that is when he said, "And I, if I be lifted up, I draw all men unto me." So they raised him, and in their raising him, guess what? It changed all of history, because guess what?The law, the love of the law, was given on Sinai, but the law of love was given on Calvary. See, the waters receded on Ararat, but at Calvary all my sins were washed away. There was fire on Mount Carmel. Oh, but there's blood on Calvary. There was a transfiguration on Mount Tabor, but if you come to Calvary, you can be born again. Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac on Mount Zion, oh, but, "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

Copyright ©2001 The Rev. Dr. Johnny Ray Youngblood

Excerpted from  a homily  delivered at the Lenten Noonday Preaching Series at Calvary Episcopal Church, Memphis, Tennessee, on April 6, 2001.