Summary: Good Friday brings us to a subject where men of all ages stand in awe, for it brings us to the cross. Ever since that awesome event on Golgotha's hill men have looked at the cross and thought, "Wonder of wonders that Jesus loved me."
I remember learning a poem when I was a boy, which you will no doubt recognize. The
first lines were, "Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are." I have been told
that this poem is out of date, for the scientifically educated modern child can say, "Twinkle,
twinkle little star, I know precisely what you are." Then they can go on and describe how
much oxygen, hydrogen and other elements compose the star. Because of the rapid advance
in knowledge, that which was mysterious and awe-inspiring to one generation may be
understood common knowledge to the next generation.
Good Friday, however, brings us to a subject where men of all ages stand in awe, for it
brings us to the cross. Ever since that awesome event on Golgotha's hill men have looked at
the cross and thought, "Wonder of wonders that Jesus so loved me." Certainly any believer
has experienced something of the feeling of the poet who wrote,
I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die,
For poor on'ry people like you and like I.
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.
Martin Luther one day determined to understand the cry of Christ from the cross. He
sat down to meditate, and for a long time without food or drink and little movement he
concentrated on the cross. Finally, he broke his silence with a cry of amazement: "God
forsaken of God, who can understand that?" No one since has ever claimed to fully
understand, and we shall not begin to grasp it all, but if we cannot exhaust it, we can at least
examine it, and I trust go away with a deeper understanding of the meaning of the cross.
I. THE TEMPORARY TRAGEDY AROUND THE CROSS. v. 39-44
I use the word temporary because even the hate and evil of those who crucified Jesus
was forgiven, and they too were free to accept the pardon, which He purchased on that cross.
We first see those who passed by. The cross was on a hill near a main road going into
Jerusalem, and so many going to and from could see the cross. Many were passing by on the
way to the city, possibly even to worship in the temple. They would see Him who said,
"Destroy this temple and in 3 days I will raise it up." Seeing Him they cried out, "Where is
your boasting now? Come on and let us see some of that power of yours. Come down and
show us." There was not a sign of sympathy as they went on their way totally unconcerned
about His suffering. It would have made no difference if they had seen Him in a ditch having
been beaten by robbers. They did not care, for how could His suffering affect them. There
was not a Good Samaritan among them.
People have not changed, for they are still self-centered, and only things that interest
them and profit them are of any concern. They do not see the sufferings of others. We have
to ask ourselves if we were on that road to Jerusalem, would we have been concerned? Are
we so wrapped up in our own problems that we do not see the burdens others are bearing?
John Wesley had to learn the hard way. He rebuked a man in anger for his small
contribution to a worthy cause. He knew the man had a good income and it angered him that
he gave so little. The man looked him in the eye and said, "I know a man who buys in the
market once a week and boils parsnips in water and lives on that all week." "Who is that?"
asked Wesley. "I am that man." Wesley responded, "I don't understand." The man
explained, "I made many debts before I became a child of God, and now my goal is to repay
them." Wesley thought only of his perspective, and he did not see from that man's
perspective. So it was for those who passed by the cross.
This tragic self-centeredness is seen even more clearly in their cry for Him to come
down and then they would believe. This is the height of self-centered pride. Man is dictating
the terms by which he will believe. Man is demanding that God conform to his will or he will
not believe. People still do this, and they say if God will do such and such, then they will
believe. Leslie Weatherhead tried this and when it failed he woke up to realize he was
reducing God to a magic rabbit's foot. He realized that God is not a cosmic slave who runs
our errands. We can thank God He did not answer that foolish prayer and come down from