Wednesdays Word - 'The Cross'
In this week's Wednesday’s word we will be carrying on with our series about Easter. This week we are looking at 'The Cross'.
Growing up I had an idea/image of what happened at that time. I had this image of Jesus getting arrested and put in prison like you would see nowadays (minus the technology). I thought that he would be sitting in an old dusty cell on his own with guards on the door, being fed a couple of very basic meals each day with some occasional water. I never truly thought about what Jesus really went through. It wasn't until I started properly reading the accounts of what happened, that my understanding of what really happened completely changed….
We are mainly going to be reading from the account in Mark’s Gospel. If you have a Bible I’d recommend grabbing it and turning to Mark 15 and follow along. We aren’t going to be talking about every single verse so after this I’d highly recommend going back and reading the whole account through.
After Jesus is arrested in the Garden, he is taken to the High Priest and the other members of the Jewish council. Then at the start of chapter 15 Jesus was handed over to Pontius Pilate, where he is interrogated. In verse 2 Jesus is asked 'Are you the king of the Jews?' and Jesus replies 'You have said so'. Jesus, knowing that he was fully God and fully man gives a very vague answer. Pilate goes on to say 'Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.' But Jesus doesn’t reply...
We read in last week's word that Jesus prayed, 'Yet not what I will, but what you will'. Jesus knew what he was going to endure, but he also knew why he had to endure it.
In verses 13 and 14 we see the crowd yelling to Pilate, 'Crucify him!'. For a moment, put yourself in that crowd of people with everyone around you shouting for Jesus to be crucified. How would you feel?
Personally, I’d be scared, angry and confused. If I was around at that time and was a follower of Jesus, I’d be confused as to why he is being put on trial, I’d be angry at the crowd for wanting to kill Jesus and I’d probably feel the urge to defend Jesus. However, if I were to try and defend Jesus,I would be scared because I don’t know what the crowd would do to me.
Jesus was sentenced to death by crucifixion, but before he goes to the cross he is flogged. Now in the Roman times this would have been excruciatingly painful. They would have stripped Jesus and used whips with sharpened sheep bones or metal balls on them to inflict more pain. They would have flogged him almost to the point of death. Then to make it even worse, the soldiers made a crown of thorns, mocking the fact that he was called 'The King of the Jews'.
We go on to read that after the flogging and mocking, Jesus is taken to be crucified. They took him to a place called 'Golgotha' which would have been a place just outside the city next to a busy road. Crucifixions are probably the worst form of death penalty that you could get. They are very public displays where anyone could walk past and see. At the same time as being extremely painful, it is also humiliating. People who were crucified would have been naked and very visible to the public.
People walking past were insulting him and were questioning his authority. But Jesus again doesn’t acknowledge the insults and abuse.
I’d like you to imagine yourself at Golgotha as a bystander as we read the death of Jesus. We are told that at midday/noon, darkness came of the whole of the land for three hours and at the very same time, Jesus cried out, 'Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?' meaning 'My God, My God, why have you forsaken me'.
Now if you read Psalm 22 after having read the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion, you'll see there are many similarities, not just the phrase, 'My God, My God, why have you forsaken me'. In those days many Jewish people would have known the Psalms by heart, or a lot of them would. I wonder what they might have thought when they heard this?
Although it doesn't mentioned this in Marks gospel, according to John 19:30, at the very end of Jesus life he says, 'It is finished.' I just love this, a declaration of victory. In that moment Jesus bore the weight of all sin, He took the punishment that we deserve. Now some people see this as Jesus receiving punishment from God the Father, but it’s not like that at all. Jesus is God. So much so that he took on the punishment of sin himself. How incredible is that? God, the perfect holy one died so that us as sinful, imperfect people can have life.
In Matthew 27 we read;
'At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, 'Surely he was the Son of God!''.
This is the beginning of the fulfilment of the prophecy that Jesus said himself, that he would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days (John 2:19) . But it has great significance, the place behind the curtain of the temple was only to be entered by the priests and it was where God’s dwelling place was. Jesus’ death tore the curtain meaning that God’s dwelling place is no longer in a certain place but is with his people. Imagine being a bystander again, there has been darkness for the last 3 hours then as soon as Jesus dies there is a massive earthquake, one that is big enough to destroy the temple.
If I could give you one takeaway point, it is that God loves YOU, so much so, that he decided to go through torture and death for YOU. He bore all the weight of the sins of all his people forever. For me this puts a lot of stuff in perspective, for example, how much I take for granted and how little I actually sacrifice. For me the cross represents love. It shows just how much God loves you.
Questions/Activities for you
What does the cross mean for you?
How often do you really take a moment to think about how much Jesus went through for you?
If Jesus sacrificed his life for you, what can you sacrifice for Him?
Try going for a walk and listening to an audio version of one of the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion and imagine yourself as a bystander.