The cross… Today we see crosses on the top of churches, or hanging from people's necks, but 2000 years ago, no one would wear a cross as jewelry.
The cross was not a fun symbol at all, it was a symbol of unimaginable pain, incalculable shame and utter despair. Only criminals were executed on a cross, and to wear a cross around your neck 2000 years ago would be like wearing a hangman’s noose around your neck today!
1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV Strong's)
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
So on this Good Friday, the day when we remember Jesus’ death upon a cross, I want to focus on the cross, it’s significance and ask, “What does it all mean today 2000 years later?” What was the cross all about, and why did it have to happen?
To answer that question I want you to come with me, back in time 2000 years and walk the road to the cross with Jesus.
THE NEED FOR THE CROSS
The Bible tells us that, if we sin, we are destined for a lost eternity, separated from God forever in hell. People got upset this week when Israel Folau suggested that homosexuals are going to Hell. Well, you can get offended if you like, but he’s right! I didn’t say it, God did. They are destined for hell, as are adulterers, thieves, gossips, people with anger, doubt, fear or selfishness.
Romans 3:23 (ESV Strong's)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
We are all of us guilty of sin, every one of us! We are all destined to hell. All of us have sinned… I have, and you have. Ever got angry at someone? Ever been envious? Ever been selfish? Ever hurt someone or let them down?
All of these things are sin, and all of them separate you and I from God. In the OT, sacrifices were required for sin, to reconcile us back to God…
Hebrews 9:22 (ESV Strong's)
Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
So rather than kill us and shed our blood for sin, Jesus came and paid the price for us. He left His home in glory, and came to us with the express intent of dying in our place.
We all need the cross, and though the world hates it and thinks it foolish, we know it is salvation for every single one of us!
I should have been hanging on that cross, you should have been. But He chose to give His life for ours. He experienced what we should have experienced, to give us what we never deserved… a chance to be right with God. Why? Because He loves us.
THE MOTIVE OF THE CROSS
A holy and just God cannot simply excuse sin, because if He did, He would no longer be holy. If God just let everyone into heaven, heaven would be hell! So instead of excusing us, or condemning us to a lost eternity, God solution was to find us guilty and then pay the price for us. We stand accused before the judge, the penalty is a million dollar fine or death, and we are helpless to pay the fine. The gavel falls, out fate is sealed, but once sentence is pronounced, the judge Himself breaks out His wallet and pays the price, setting us free.
That is the motivation of the cross. God paid the penalty for our sin by sacrificing His own Son in our place.
Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
The Bible tells us that Jesus is God. He’s not a god, He’s not a created being, He is actually God, but He chose to empty Himself and come as a servant, as a sacrifice, for you and I. God’s motive in sending His one and only Son was because He loves you..
A true story is told of a drawbridge keeper on the Mississippi in 1937, who brought his 8 year old son to work one day. The draw bridge was raised as a train approached, and it was time to lower the bridge, but he saw his son had tripped and fallen into the gear assembly. He could see the child was hurt but trapped, but the Memphis express train was approaching, so the man faced a choice… save his son, and hundreds of people on the train plunge into the river, or sacrifice his son and the trainload of people live. He pushed the lever, the bridge began to lower and the train went over the bridge as he heard the screams of his dying little boy.
Make no mistake, nails did not hold Jesus to the cross, love did. He died in your place, because He loves you!
THE ROAD TO THE CROSS
The road to the cross showed us how Jesus can relate to all of us, whatever we have been through.
And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
Jesus was betrayed by a close friend. Some of you here have experienced that, where a supposed friend has let you down or betrayed you. He understands because it happened to Him.
He was unjustly accused, and unjustly convicted. Many of you have been unjustly accused of something you have not done, and He understands because that is what happened to Him.
Jesus was abused horribly.
They whipped Him, they placed a crown of thorns on His head, with thorns longer than a man's fingers, and mocked Him, driving those spikes into His head with blow after blow. They tore the beard from His face? They mocked and beat Him.
Jesus was beaten to within an inch of His life. The Bible says His back was like a plowed field. The Romans had refined cruelty and pain to the point of science. They called such a whipping the halfway death, and for a whip they used a cat of nine tails, with stone, bone and bits of metal embedded into the leather. When they struck the sharp objects would embed into His back, tearing it to pieces as they were pulled away.
Unbelievable pain, that He could have stopped at any moment… but He chose no to.
Why? Because He loves you!
Then He was taken away for the death sentence to be carried out. He was ordered to carry the crossbeam of the cross, a terrible burden after being so abused. Some of you here have been abused, and many of you here are carrying burdens that seems to heavy to bear.
Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV Strong's)
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Jesus will bear the burdens of life with you, because He know and understands whatever you face right now, and Because He loves you!
THE WORK OF THE CROSS
And so He was abused and driven to Golgotha, Skull Hill… and they crucified Him.
The cross wasn't really on a hill faraway, it was the base of that hill, at a well used road which today is an Arab bus stop.
They laid the cross member down and secured it to the rest of the cross. They then held out His quivering hands and drove massive nails, much like what they secure railway sleepers with, through His wrist. If they went through His hands the flesh would tear, but through His wrists and ankles the body would be pinned in agony to the cross. They they raised it up and dropped it into the socket in the ground. Imagine the jarring pain!
And there He hung in agony. He could have called down a legion of angels to remove Him from the cross, but Jesus chose not to. He hung there in agony.
Why? Because He loves you!
The cross wasn't high at all, it was more or less at eye level or just above. People could almost look straight into the eyes of Jesus as He hung there in agony. People passing by mocked and insulted Him…
“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.
The soldiers offered Him wine mixed with gall, a pain killing drug, but Jesus even in intense agony refused the drugs. He could have dulled the pain, but He bore it all for us.
The cross was an almost perfect instrument of torture. On the cross you die of suffocation. Jesus pushed His body up on the spikes, but the unbelievable pain drove Him into unconsciousness. He then slumped collapsing His lungs, but the need for oxygen revived Him and made Him push up again despite the unbearable pain to breathe.
The Latin or Roman word for crucifixion is CRUCIERE, from which we get the English word, excruciating, meaning intense, unbearable pain. Jesus suffered for 3 hours in this excruciating pain under the intense heat of a Palestinian sun before God said enough, and covered the world in a supernatural darkness.
Jesus continued to suffer for another 3 hours in ways we cannot begin to understand. He could have stopped the pain at any point, but He chose not to.
Why? Because He loves you!
THE END OF THE CROSS
After 6 tortuous, agonising hours,
Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
My God the Father, my God the Holy Spirit, why have you forsaken me?
At that point God turned away from His beloved Son. In those moments a holy God, who will not look upon sin, saw your sin and my sin upon the shoulders of Jesus, and He rejected Him. At that moment Jesus took our sin upon Himself, and as the Father rejected Him, Jesus opened the way for us to stand sinless before Him.
Then it says this…
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
He slumped, dead on that cross. Ultimately they didn't take His life, He yielded it. He could have stopped it at any time, but Jesus yielded His life in unbelievable pain for your sin and my sin. Remember, nails did not hold Him to that cross, love did!
Because He loves us.
They took His body down from the cross and buried it in a fresh tomb.
THE RESPONSE TO THE CROSS
There were 3 soldiers crucifying Jesus that day, and they had several responses to watching Jesus die.
One was a materialist. The Bible says they gambled for Jesus’ cloak. It was a rabbis coat, all one piece, the only seams being around the arms. It was valuable. This soldier just got what he wanted for himself… a good coat, nothing more.
The second was a soldier who thrust his sword into the heart of Jesus, and ripped it out, causing a flow of blood and water, showing Jesus was truly dead. His experience was one of hatred and anger towards Jesus. Some of you here might be angry that God hasn't done what you wanted. This man trampled the blood, the precious blood of Jesus underfoot.
Today across out nation, most of our people will be thinking about a day off, about hot cross buns and Easter eggs , and they will tread with contempt the precious blood of Jesus into the red soil.
But the third man was a centurion. A leader…
And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
YOUR RESPONSE TO THE CROSS
What are you going to say this morning to this One who died for you? Are you out to get as much as you can from Him? Are you angry or upset at Him, or even ignoring Him? Don't tread His precious blood underfoot this morning. Why not be like the centurion, why not accept the gift Jesus offers you this day… the Son of God, who died for you your sin, and who paid the price to win you eternal life, this day offers you salvation, no matter what you’ve said or done. The opportunity to get right with God, the opportunity to turn your life around, the opportunity to be sure of your eternal destination.
When you look at the cross, my question is, how will you respond this Good Friday? Remember, love held Him to the cross, not nails. Love for you held Him there. Today is the day to get right with Him, and make this Good Friday the best Friday ever.
If you’re not sure of where your life is going, today is the day to make sure. If you were to die tonight, where would you spend eternity, in heaven with God, or in hell, separated from God’s love forever. You don’t have to earn His love, you don’t have to meet minimum standards, you just have to accept His free gift, the one He paid so high a price for.
And if you already know Him, I want you to think about your life, think about what your greatest burden is right now. What’s your greatest need, your greatest struggle or your greatest ongoing sin. Write it down, we are going to pray, give it totally to Jesus.
After we’ve prayed, I’m going to give you the chance to come forward and nail it to the cross.
Stay in an attitude of prayer, and when you nail that sin or burden to the cross, let it forever…