"Cries from the Cross"
While many will celebrate today as "Palm Sunday," I want to take the time to center on what happened later that week. When Jesus hung on the cross, he uttered several phrases. Today we will listen to the cries of Christ and reflect upon the meaning of the cross.
Cries from the Cross
A. If you are visiting with us today, we welcome you to journey with us as we have been walking through the week prior to the crucifixion. While many today celebrate Palm Sunday and next week as Easter Sunday, I am going to ask you to step in between those two Sundays with me today and meet me at the cross.
B. A young man once said, “I want to know what really counts. I am tired of religion, theology, and church. Is this all there is? Is it about Sunday attendance, pretty songs, golden crosses, fancy Sunday clothes and leather Bibles? They are all nice, but what is the heart of it?”
C. I understand the question. The answers we give sometimes seem trite or theological, but not real. So I take us back to the cross; that is what Christianity is the heart of it. The cross of Christ becomes central to our salvation and his resurrection becomes the reason for our eternal life. Paul makes the statement in Gal. 6:14, “Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So for a few moments, let us go back to cross.
D. Jesus had been beaten by Roman guards, but that was not enough. The crowd had cried for his crucifixion and that is what would take place. But Jesus did not go to the cross because of man’s evil desire; Jesus went to redeem man from his evil desire. What they thought they were doing to get rid of Jesus was all being done by the will of the Father, the plan of God from before the creation of the world. So I come to the cross and I listen and learn.
A. As we try to piece together the four gospel stories of what happened at the cross, tradition states the first of seven sayings was, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34) With the pain of humanity in his body, he doesn’t cry out for his justice, but for my mercy.
B. Jesus asks to forgive me before I asked to be forgiven. It doesn’t work like that in my life. Yet, what freedom I can have when I learn to forgive those who only wish me evil. Rom. 5:6-8.
C. Jesus called for my sins to be wiped away not because I was good enough, not because I tried hard enough, not because I repented deeply but because he loves me – still. Father, forgive me and help me learn to forgive others the same way.
A. The second statement that is recorded was said to someone who needed forgiveness just like me. You see, Jesus was not alone on that cross. He was crucified between two thieves. While they mocked him, one realized a truth. One realized that he deserved the punishment of death, but he knew that Jesus did not. He said to the other thief, “We are receiving the due rewards of our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then, with faith that heaven saw, this thief said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come in your kingdom.” Wow! I have no idea what he had heard, if he had been somewhere where Jesus taught, but this sinner knew Jesus had a kingdom and that death would not keep it from coming.
B. To that faith, Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) In Greek, the word “paradise” means “park” or “garden.” It is used by the LXX as the “paradise of Eden” in Gen. 2-3. Jesus tells this man that in death they would live in God’s paradise – the future reward, what we call Heaven.
C. My request is no different than this thief, for I am no better than he. My prayer is that Jesus will remember me in paradise. I look forward to day he says, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master.”
A. A third statement Jesus makes is to two people at the foot of the cross. Only John tells this story, and it’s personal to him. You see, while at first they all ran away, there were some women who did not. One of those women was Mary, the mother of Jesus. At some point in time John comes to the foot of the cross.
B. I don’t want to watch a child of mine die. I cannot think of the pain that Mary must have felt or how she must have felt alone. Jesus hangs on the cross, but he thinks of earthly mother. And he says, “Woman, behold your son. Son Behold your mother.” (John 19:26–27)
C. The presence of Mary at the cross helps us to remember the humanity of Jesus as well as his divinity. Even as he was saving the world from sin, he never stopped being a son. Jesus has a request, “take care of my mother.” Only John could write those words and I believe as he penned his gospel he did so with tears in eyes. Jesus taught true relationship. I learn from Jesus the need to take care of family and make sure things go well when leave them.
A. Matthew and Mark record for us the next words. They are the ones that cause me so much grief. For on that cross as Jesus has asked for my forgiveness, given salvation to a thief, taken care of his mother, he cries out, “My God, My God, have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34)
B. The words of Jesus are actually taken from Ps. 22:1-2. We will never fully know what Jesus meant by those words and many have sought to explain them. But I can only feel that somehow Jesus felt alone, abandoned by the holiness that he had always known as God. For God cannot sin, so how he bore my sin in his body and remained God I don’t know. Maybe what we hear is that Jesus for some moment allowed his godliness to be removed and experienced the pain of spiritual separation because of my sin.
C. Whatever happened, the cry of that moment haunts anyone who has received from Jesus the salvation of their sin. For each Christian knows that without the cross we are lost.
A. The fifth statement seems strange to have recorded by John. Remember, John is at the foot of the cross seeing and hearing all that is taking place. John tells us that Jesus said, “I thirst.” (John 19:28). It is a phrase that shows me the distress that human body of Jesus faced. Listen to the context (John 19:28-29). Now listen to Ps. 69:20-21. Jesus was taking the language of the Psalmist and experiencing it in his death.
VI. Triumph and Reunion
A. The last two statements speak of the triumph and reunion of that the death of Jesus would bring.
B. John records Jesus saying, “It is finished” and then dying. Luke records Jesus saying, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” and then dying. These two statements speak of the triumph of the mission. What was finished? Everything that needed to be done to save me from my sin. With that having taken place the curtain in the temple ripped from the top to the bottom. God opened himself up to all who would not come. The old law was finished. The priesthood that man used was finished. The separation between God and man was finished. It is finished is a cry of victory.
C. The phrase “Father, into your hands I commit my sprit” is Jesus letting go of this world and entering back to the one from which he came. Jesus entrusted everything to him who judges justly.
A. I come to the cross of Christ and hear his cries and learn. I learn that in all that he went through he did for me. I learn that nothing else in this world matters but the cross. If I boast or glory in anything, let it be the cross of Christ.
B. So we enter a week that many will talk about Jesus, but today you heard Jesus. You heard his cries. You maybe were touched by his tenderness, love, and also his pain and suffering. The cross is of first importance.
C. The cross is not a place of defeat, but a place of victory. And the victory that overcomes is when I put my faith in the one who went to the cross. For Jesus did not simply die and was buried, but as we will study next Sunday he rose up, never to die again. I glory in the cross is also my cry of victory, not defeat. I may weep for my sin took him there, but without Jesus going there I would still be in my sin. Praise God Jesus didn’t come down from the cross.
D. Today, if you are here and are still in your sin, don’t walk away from the cross in defeat and death. Don’t leave this building alone. Instead, come to the cross and in your repentance, let the blood of Jesus wash you clean as you are immersed into him and raised in newness of life. If you need to respond to the cross, then come as we stand and sing.