Summary: Had you gone to Jerusalem that day so long ago, and had you gone just outside the wall to the north, out through the Damascus gate, there you would have seen a rocky hill. And on that hill, you would have seen three crosses, with three men on those crosses.
Good morning to Cross Church and happy Palm Sunday to you. Turn to Luke 23 with me this morning. The universal symbol of Christianity is the cross, the old rugged cross. While the empty tomb is the foundation of Christianity, the cross is the focus of Christianity.
And while I cannot take all of you there today, I will bring down the Via Dolorosa, or the way of suffering. We are entering the very heart of Christianity by looking at the cross of Jesus. It is early in the morning on what is known as Good Friday. The cross of Jesus is a university where saints study. Here are three quick reasons why you should see rehearse the mournful narrative of our Lord’s grief carefully:
1) Seeing Jesus’ Sorrow Lightens My Pain
One cannot think long about Jesus’ agony without tears. I have personally have had to pause in reading about Jesus’ week of trials and pain because of excessive emotion. When you stop to consider what Jesus went through, your heart breaks. Yet, there is something so power in this for His grief dwarfs our grief. While I would not want to minimize your grief even for a moment, for there is substantial pain and hurt in our world today. Yet, His agony makes our pain into light affliction.
2) Seeing Jesus’ Sorrow Stimulates My Passion
Not only does our hearts break at the sight of Jesus’ pain, but the cross of Jesus stimulates a passion for Christ inside me. Though you are nearly crushed by the sight of Jesus, there’s within you a strong, resolute and fervent passion for Him that explodes forward. Nothing is too hard for us to attempt and nothing is too difficult to endure for the One who sacrificed Himself for us. And while we are grieved to consider that our best will be so little in comparison to what He did, we are resolved in this: He deserves nothing less than our best.
3) Seeing Jesus’ Sorrow Destroys My Carelessness
His shame makes my indifference unthinkable. When I see His sufferings, my careless heart is disturbed and disrupted. I am weaned from my love of sin by hearing about Jesus’ pain on my behalf. Invariably, men and women fall before the great bow of God when He dips His arrows in the blood of Jesus. The arrows that are armed with His agonies cause deep wounds which can never been healed other than by His nailed-pierced hands.
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” 48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things” (Luke 23:32-49).
It’s nine a.m. on Friday morning and Jesus is being led to Golgotha, the site of His execution. Today, we refer to this as Calvary, which comes from the Latin word for “skull.” With no sleep and being bounced from trial to trial, Jesus must endure even more torture. Tucked away in the midst of the agonizing story of Jesus’ death is the famous story of the dying thief. Here is an incredible story of the power of Christ to save and God’s abundant willingness to receive anyone who comes to Him.