The soldiers at the foot of Christ’s cross witnessed the most significant event in human history, yet they are completely oblivious to it. The Son of God is dying on the cross above them and they’re playing games. Somehow they completely missed the one thing that had the power to change everything. ​​Maybe, like the soldiers, you’ve dismissed Jesus. Would you stop for a moment and look up at the cross? Even if you have heard the story a thousand times. Even if you are turned off by Christians. Even if you’ve got a lot going on in your life. Would you turn your eyes upon Jesus and look full in his wonderful face?

Pr. Todd Mathison

Dismissed By Soldiers

The Ultimate Question
John 19:23–24
February 18, 2024
The soldiers at the foot of Christ’s cross witnessed the most significant event in human history, yet they are completely oblivious to it. The Son of God is dying on the cross above them and they’re playing games. Somehow they completely missed the one thing that had the power to change everything. ​​Maybe, like the soldiers, you’ve dismissed Jesus. Would you stop for a moment and look up at the cross? Even if you have heard the story a thousand times. Even if you are turned off by Christians. Even if you’ve got a lot going on in your life. Would you turn your eyes upon Jesus and look full in his wonderful face?

Well, we are going to be jumping into the deep end here at Victory for Lent. It’s only February, I know. It’s kind of an earlier Easter, but we’re going to be spending time here Sundays and throughout the week looking at Christ and His cross, and here on the weekends, you’re going to be trying to answer the ultimate question, which we’ll be starting off with today. So, in your mind’s eye, I’d like you to go to Mount Calvary with me. Golgotha, the place of the skull. Maybe you just close your eyes just for a moment and can you picture it? A hilltop outside the walls of Jerusalem. And now, in your mind’s eye, focus on the cross and Jesus on it.

Are you there? You can open your eyes now. Now I’d like you to think about things for a bit from the perspective of Jesus on his cross. I wonder what Jesus thought when he looked down at his bloody feet, nailed to a cross. His vision would have been blurred. Certainly from the excruciating pain, if not just from the blood and sweat, that he was powerless to wipe from his eyes. Those six hours on that cross were the most painful, lonely, and desperate moments of his life. As the life of all was hanging in the balance. What did Jesus see from his cross? What did he hear? What did Jesus experience that first Good Friday? What he witnessed was a group of people, different pockets of them around the cross, who, whether these people knew it or not, they were answering life’s ultimate question.

And there are a number of different responses from people around the cross of Christ. And today, we often still choose those same responses, as each of us answer what is still life’s most important question. And here it is. What will you do with Jesus? Perhaps the first group of people Jesus saw when he looked down from his cross were those who nailed him to it. As he looks down past his feet, he sees the soldiers who had beaten him nearly to death. And now, do you know what he saw them doing? They were gambling for his clothes at the foot of the cross, huddled in a circle. These soldiers, they weren’t concerned about the cross above them. He’s just another criminal, just another Jewish rebel. Instead, they were gambling for some used clothes worn by a carpenter who claimed to be a king. The most important event in human history, and they were completely oblivious to it. The Son of God dying on a cross above them, and they’re playing games. Somehow they had missed the one thing that had the power to change everything.

The soldiers quickly dismissed Jesus on the cross. We read about these soldiers in several of the Gospels. I want to read today for us the account from John chapter 19. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side and Jesus in the middle. When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in a single piece, top to bottom. Let’s not tear it, they said to one another. Let’s decide by lot who will get it. This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment. So this is what the soldiers did. The gospel of our Lord.

Let’s pray. Living God, as we delve into your word now, we need your Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit, enliven our hearts to see Jesus, to see his cross, maybe for the first time, maybe afresh. Work in each of us and speak to each of our hearts what we need to hear and receive from you today, Jesus. I ask in your precious name. Amen. Dear friends, grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. These soldiers, you know, the reasons that these Roman soldiers were so quick to dismiss Jesus, we’re going to look at how they are really some of the same reasons why people today Dismissed Jesus also. And here’s the first. Familiarity. Familiarity. They’d seen all this before. You know, it’s kind of a law of familiarity that states that no matter how valuable, given enough time, everything will be taken for granted. And this was true for the soldiers when it came out to carrying out crucifixions. I mean, the death penalty for us today, I mean, it’s rare enough, it still gets headlines.

But death by crucifixion in Jesus time, it was common. In his book, Crucifixion, Martin Hengel, professor of New Testament at Tübingen in Europe, reports that during Titus siege of Jerusalem, which occurs about 40 years after Jesus on the cross, the destruction of Jerusalem, up to 500 500 people a day were whipped, tortured, and crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem in hopes that that gruesome sight would move the besieged people inside the city to surrender 500 a day. Tradition holds that when Jesus was a tradition, uh, was a teenager, there was a Jewish rebellion near his hometown. The Roman army crushed it. And to assure that it didn’t happen again, they crucified an Israelite every ten meters along a road about sixteen kilometers long. In other words, sixteen hundred or so people on a cross in a stretch of about ten miles had to leave an indelible impression upon the mind of a teenage Jesus.

So these soldiers, they probably performed so many crucifixions, it was beyond counting. It was just methodical for them. Nasty business to be true, but just part of their job. And they’d probably become accustomed to it. Listen to the way Matthew records what happened, just kind of matter of factly. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they, this is the soldiers, they kept watch over him. I mean, you get the impression it’s, it’s no big deal, just another day at work for these soldiers. They’d become used to the screams, they’d seen the grimaces, they’d listened to the pitiful pleas for mercy. They, they knew what to expect. In a matter of time, the man’s breathing would become more spasmatic and life would slowly And painfully ebb away. And when it was all said and done, they’d go home and eat their supper. And for many of us, the story of Jesus can become so familiar that it loses its impact. I mean, I’ve heard it. I remember as a child in Sunday school, the flannel graph stories of even Jesus and his crucifixion. Those of us who grew up in the church, remember a youth group, hearing about it, and then this time of year, it’s preached on all the time, every time, and, and every Bible believing Christ preaching church. And as we grow older, we’ve heard this story so many times that perhaps you can actually identify with the reality of that familiarity can breed indifference. Is it possible for those of us who are regularly a part of the church to become so familiar with the cross that we’re no longer moved by it? Maybe you’ve grown up in a church and you sang When I Survey the Wondrous Cross so many times that you can sing it now without even thinking about the words.

Many of us grew up in a faith tradition, where we celebrated communion on a regular basis. And yet, there are times when you’re honest with yourself, and you just kind of go through the motions. It doesn’t, familiarity doesn’t always bring intimacy, does it? It can bring indifference. So people may dismiss Jesus and His cross because of familiarity. The soldiers did it. Sometimes we might do it as well. Here’s a second reason that people sometimes dismiss people today. They dismiss Jesus, and it’s prejudice. Prejudice, people are turned off by God’s people. And prejudice can make us do terrible things. I mean, the reality is that the Romans and the Jews hated each other.

The Romans hated being stationed in Palestine. They looked down on the Jews as being inferior people. There was constant fighting among them. And so the Romans couldn’t stand the Jews. And the feeling was mutual. I mean, the Jews were proud and independent people who, of course, didn’t like to be under Roman opposition. Let alone occupation. So name calling and ridicule, racial slurs were no doubt hurled back and forth. Some Jewish zealots even carried knives under their cloaks so that they could cut at the Roman soldiers when they brushed by them in the streets or even murder them if it was an isolated side street. And chances are, I think, that because of the Roman prejudice against the Jewish people, the Roman soldiers may have relished the opportunity to torture and crucify a Jewish carpenter. They were so prejudiced against the people of God that they couldn’t see in front of their eyes the Savior dying for their sins.

And if you pause for a moment and think with me, perhaps that might be you or me at times. We’ve dismissed Jesus, sometimes perhaps because we’ve developed a prejudice against those who claim to be his followers. In other words, maybe the church has left such a bad taste in your mouth that you won’t taste and see that the Lord himself is good. You know, there’s just so many ways the church can hurt and disappoint people, let you down. Maybe you’ve shut Jesus out of your life because a Christian exploited you. Or maybe someone from the church cheated you out of some money. Maybe you can hear your neighbor with the Christian bumper sticker and t shirts yelling at his wife. Maybe your Christian co worker stabbed you in the back. And I know sometimes that we are hurt by people in the church so badly that even our faith comes into jeopardy, let alone the ongoing, lingering, deep wound that you’ve received. And you’re sorely tempted to bail on the church, and perhaps even to risk the vitality of your faith. So I ask you today, will you see beyond the imperfect, sometimes hypocritical people of God? And look to Christ Himself. Don’t be like the soldiers. Don’t let a prejudice toward God’s people keep you from embracing His Son. I’m asking you to get above the crowd and to see Jesus. The third reason people dismiss Jesus and His cross today. Familiarity, prejudice. People are focused on other things. I mean, did you notice what the soldiers were preoccupied with? Instead of giving their attention and focus to the job at hand, which was to crucify Jesus and these other criminals, they were caught up with, who would win the garment that had been taken from Jesus? I mean, this, this seamless undergarment was pretty valuable.

So the soldiers said, look, let’s not cut it up, but let’s cast lots for it. Let’s gamble for it to see who gets it. Maybe you’ve seen some pictures of the soldiers around the foot of the cross. Here’s one. It just shows, there’s the cross, you see Jesus feet there, but then the soldiers are completely oblivious, focused on gambling for Jesus clothing. And is this not another reason that Jesus is also dismissed, perhaps by us today, when we are distracted by other things in life? Maybe it’s your investments, your business, your hobby, your retirement planning, your house, your health that’s become a seamless undergarment and you’re playing games, maybe trying to accumulate a little bit more and you don’t see Christ and His cross, so I just ask you to lift Your eyes up to see Jesus dying for you.

First Corinthians 15 tells us, For what I received, Paul writes, I pass on to you as a first importance. Meaning, here’s the main priority that should capture your attention. I pass on to you as a first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures. In other words, the death of Jesus on that cross is absolutely the most important event in human history and in your life and mine. I once heard a story about a missionary family. They’d been in China for a number of years and And after the Communist Revolution, most missionaries were kicked out. And so indeed, they were placed under house arrest by the Chinese government and are waiting to hear when they could go back to America. One day, a Chinese soldier came and knocked on the door and told them that they could go back to America that day. He’d be back to pick them up to take them to the airport, but they could only take 200 pounds with them. So, I mean, what would you do? Husband and wife? Two kids? And now you’ve got to decide what’s most important really needed to go.

The wife thought the vases and the sewing machine were most important. The man thought his computer and books were most important. The children, concerned about their toys and games and clothes, they had way more than 200 pounds. So they got the scale out, and the arguments continued. And while they took something off, they’d still debate until they finally got down to what was exactly 200 pounds. So, later that day the Chinese soldier came and said, Are you ready to go? The man said, Yep, we’re ready. Did you weigh everything? We weighed everything. Did you weigh the kids? We didn’t weigh the kids. Weigh them, the soldier said. You talk about cutting through to what is of top priority? Friends, may the Holy Spirit do that kind of work in our own hearts to see the priority of Christ’s cross. In your life and mine. Don’t let distractions have you dismiss Jesus. The Bible tells us in Hebrews chapter 12, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. And maybe, like the soldiers, you’ve dismissed Jesus. So, today, in this season of Lent, would you stop and look up at the cross? Even if you’ve heard the story a thousand times. Even if you’ve been turned off by Christians or the Church.

Even if you’ve got a lot going on in your life, would you turn your eyes upon Jesus? And why? Why fix your eyes on Jesus? It’s because Jesus has fixed his eyes upon you. Do you know who Jesus saw when he looked down from his cross? Yes, it was to those right around him, even the soldiers who dismissed him. But he looked across time and the centuries. And He saw you. He went to the cross to die for your sin. Knowing that you, me, none of us deserve it. And yet He did it on His own accord. Because He knew of our great need. I mean, if there’s anything that I want you to get from this sermon, it’s this. To know that Jesus has fixed His eye upon you. And He gave His life as a ransom for you. And that does nothing other than call your whole being. Bow down in humility. Repentance, worship, and a grateful receiving of all that His cross and empty tomb mean for you. So let us, with a renewed focus, fix our eyes upon Jesus. Turn our eyes upon Him, and look full into His wonderful face, and I think you’ll find that the things of earth will grow dim in the light of His. Glory and grace. Let’s pray. Lord Jesus Christ, be lifted up in our hearts right now. Draw our focus and our life attention toward you. And with gratitude in our hearts, we say thank you for dying for us. And now by your Holy Spirit, continue to build that life you’ve given us through faith in you. Keep us in the faith true until we see you face to face, I ask in Jesus name.

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Whether you are new in faith or are seeking to deepen your walk with Jesus, we are eager to connect with you.

Don’t hesitate to reach us out at (480) 830-5024, or message us filling the form below.

GriefShare

The GriefShare Program is a 13-week series of videos that we watch each week of the meeting. Each weekly GriefShare group begins with a 30-minute video featuring respected experts on grief-related topics and helpful stories from people who have experienced loss. Their insights will help you manage your emotions, gain clarity, and find answers to your questions as you walk through the grief process. We welcome everyone who has a loss; whether it be a child or a parent or spouse.

The videos are followed by discussion. Talking with other people who understand what you’re experiencing brings great comfort, normalizes the grief experience, and offers a supportive environment to work through your grief.

Each session stands alone, so you can join anytime. Consider a single session to learn about the program.

We meet every Monday from 12:30-2:30pm here at Victory.
Check out the schedule.

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Do you have more questions? 
Don’t hesitate to reach us out at (480) 830-5024, or message us filling the form below.
Learn more about GriefShare at their webpage: www.griefshare.org.

WOMEN’S MINISTRY

We meet throughout the year on the 2nd Tuesday of the month for Bible Study.

Summer Schedule (May-Sept): 2nd Tuesday of the month all groups meet together on campus at 9:30am

Winter Schedule (Oct-April): 2nd Tuesday of the month

Esperanza Bible Study – 9:30am

Mary Bible Study – 1:30pm (in home)


Women’s Ministry

PURPOSE STATEMENT

As a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship in Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to grow in faith, affirm our gifts,  support one another in our callings, engage in ministry and action, and promote healing and wholeness in the church, the society, and the world.

We meet throughout the year on the 2nd Tuesday of the month for Bible Study:

Summer Schedule (May-Sept)

2nd Tuesday of the month all groups meet together on campus at 9:30 am.

Winter Schedule (Oct-April)

  • 2nd Tuesday of the month
  • Esperanza Bible Study - 9:30am
  • Naomi Bible Study - 2:00 pm
  • Mary Bible Study - 1:30 pm (in-home)
  • Women’s Ministry

    PURPOSE STATEMENT

    As a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship in Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to grow in faith, affirm our gifts,  support one another in our callings, engage in ministry and action, and promote healing and wholeness in the church, the society, and the world.

    We meet throughout the year on the 2nd Tuesday of the month for Bible Study:

    Summer Schedule (May-Sept)

    2nd Tuesday of the month all groups meet together on campus at 9:30 am.

    Winter Schedule (Oct-April)

  • 2nd Tuesday of the month
  • Esperanza Bible Study - 9:30am
  • Naomi Bible Study - 2:00 pm
  • Mary Bible Study - 1:30 pm (in-home)
  • Stephen Ministry

    Stephen Ministry equips lay people to provide confidential one-to-one Christian care to individuals in our congregation and community who are experiencing a difficult time in life, such as grief, divorce, job loss, chronic or terminal illness, or relocation.

    Stephen Ministers are trained by their congregation’s Stephen Leaders using resources from Stephen Ministries St. Louis. The training they receive in the congregation equips them to provide high-quality care to people who are hurting.

    Care receivers are individuals in the congregation or community who are going through a crisis or life difficulty. Potential care receivers first meet with a pastor or Stephen Leader, who assesses their needs for care and matches them with a Stephen Minister.

    After being matched with a person experiencing a life crisis, the Stephen Minister meets with that person on a weekly basis for about an hour to listen, care, encourage, and provide emotional and spiritual support. The caring relationship lasts as long as the need for care exists.

    “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, NRSV)

    FAMILY PROMISE

    Four times a year we host families experiencing homelessness at Victory for a week at a time. Volunteers needed to set up rooms, preparing a meal, serve/clean-up dinner or stay as an overnight host.

    Upcoming Host Weeks: April 16-23, 2023 & November 112-19, 2023

    STEPHEN MINISTRY

    Stephen Ministers are lay congregation members trained to provide one-to-one care to those experiencing a difficult time in life. 

    GRIEFSHARE

    A grief recovery support group where you can find help and healing for the hurt of losing a loved one.

    13-week Program: Mondays, 12:30-2:30pm, February 13-May 8, 2023
    (No meeting April 10th)
    GriefShare.org

    LSS-SW

    Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest (LSS-SW)

    I-HELP PROGRAM: We provide a safe and secure place for women who are currently experiencing homelessness the 2nd & 4th Thursday of the month.

    FOOD PANTRY: Food boxes distributed Mondays & Wednesdays, 9:00-11:30am.
    Utility & rental assistance by appointment only 480-654-4539.

    Victory Quilters

    We meet the 3rd Tuesday and Wednesday of the month at 8:30am. Come when you can, stay as long as you can; everyone can cut, sew, pin and tie knots. You do not need to be a church or circle member to attend. Bring a friend! The quilts are donated to Navajo Lutheran Mission, Orchard: Africa and Lutheran Social Ministries. We typically break for the summer. Please check schedule.

    MUSIC MINISTRY

    Ensembles at Victory practice weekly during the high season to prepare for weekly worship and special events. In addition, many people share their talents individually. Click here for our concert line-up!

    NAVAJO LUTHERAN MISSION

    Serving the Navajo community of Rock Point, AZ, a remote, isolated village near the Four Corners. The Mission campus includes a K-2 private Christian school, clinic, cultural center, water project and food bank.  (nelm.org)

    FAIR TRADE

    Victory Women support Lutheran World Relief (lwr.org) by selling Fair Trade hand-made crafts, jewelry, coffee and tea that generates income for small-scale businesses in third world countries. 

    OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD

    A “shoebox ministry” of Samaritan’s Purse, delivering gift-filled shoeboxes to boys and girls around the world.

    ORCHARD: AFRICA

    To equip the church to respond to poverty & injustice, thereby caring for the vulnerable using four programs: Food & Agriculture, Care, Education and Ministry.  (orchardafrica.org)

    Stephen Ministry

    Stephen Ministry equips lay people to provide confidential one-to-one Christian care to individuals in our congregation and community who are experiencing a difficult time in life, such as grief, divorce, job loss, chronic or terminal illness, or relocation.

    Stephen Ministers are trained by their congregation’s Stephen Leaders using resources from Stephen Ministries St. Louis. The training they receive in the congregation equips them to provide high-quality care to people who are hurting.

    Care receivers are individuals in the congregation or community who are going through a crisis or life difficulty. Potential care receivers first meet with a pastor or Stephen Leader, who assesses their needs for care and matches them with a Stephen Minister.

    After being matched with a person experiencing a life crisis, the Stephen Minister meets with that person on a weekly basis for about an hour to listen, care, encourage, and provide emotional and spiritual support. The caring relationship lasts as long as the need for care exists.

    “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, NRSV)

    WOMEN’S MINISTRY

    Welcome to the vibrant women’s ministry at Victory Lutheran Church! As a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship in Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are committed to growing in faith, affirming our gifts, and supporting one another in our callings. Our purpose is to engage in ministry and action, promoting healing and wholeness in the church, society, and the world. At Victory Lutheran Church, our women’s ministry provides a nurturing and empowering space for women of all ages to connect, grow, and serve together. Through uplifting worship, inspiring Bible studies, enriching events, and impactful service opportunities, we equip women to live out their God-given purpose and embrace their unique gifts. Join us as we journey together, fostering fellowship, spiritual growth, and making a lasting impact within our church, our families, and our wider community.

    PURPOSE STATEMENT

    As a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship in Jesus Christ,  and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to grow in faith, affirm our gifts,  support one another in our callings, engage in ministry and action, and promote healing and wholeness in the church, the society, and the world.

    We meet throughout the year on the 2nd Tuesday of the month for Bible Study:

    Summer Schedule (May-Sept)

    2nd Tuesday of the month all groups meet together on campus at 9:30am.

    Winter Schedule (Oct-April)

    • 2nd Tuesday of the month
    • Esperanza Bible Study – 9:30am
    • Naomi Bible Study – 2:00pm
    • Mary Bible Study – 1:30pm (in home)