Summary: This is the second in an Easter series. This sermon deals with the power and reality of forgiveness found in the shadows of death.
Shadows of the Cross
Pt 2 – Golgotha, In the Shadow of Death
Last week we walked in Gethsemane’s shadows – facing the broken promises, broken religion, and Jesus’ broken heart.
Today we move further into the shadows – as we enter the very shadows of death.
This passage opens on a hill in Jerusalem called Golgotha “the place of the skull”. A place of Pain, Brutality, Torture, and Death. I hope that these passages this morning make you squirm just a little in your seat – they certainly make me squirm to read them. The truth is I hate these lines of scripture – I hate them and I love them – and I squirm at the conflict – because I am faced in full with the cost of my sin and disobedience.
Golgotha – it is brutal, bloody, and horrifying place. When we come to these passages of scripture they should break our hearts open with grief and should wipe away the pride of our hearts. The Songwriter put it this way – When I survey the wondrous Cross on which the Prince of Glory died – my richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride.” Golgotha is a place on which our lives should break and crumble and where Christ should become all in all. Look into the shadows of the cross on Gologotha’s hill and find in the shadow of death…
1) The Power of Forgiveness v34 – this passage continues to amaze me. – This is one place that I don’t like my translation. V34 in the Greek text reads this way – and after all this Jesus said. Those are some of the most powerful words in all of scripture. After all this – what’s this? Stand with me at the foot of the cross for a moment – not the sterilized picture that we often portray – but the foot of a torturous device of capital punishment. Today the cross is worn as jewelry hung in homes, stands in our churches – and it symbolizes freedom, salvation, beauty and hope. But that is not the cross that throws it’s shadows on Golgotha. This cross is a device of unimaginable brutality, torture, and death. See Jesus, God in human flesh, hanging from nails driven into His hands and feet – see the crown of thorns pressed down on His head – see the blood dried and caked on his body from the brutal beatings and scourging that has gone before. See the Messiah now bearing the full weight of the sin of the world upon Himself – crying out Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani – my God my God why hast thou forsaken me? Sins separation of Father from Son. Now see with me His lips as they form the words – Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Seeing through the ages – Jesus looks upon – every lie you have ever told – every time you have cheated your boss, every word of gossip that seeped from your mouth, every outburst of anger, every moment of neglect, every act of disobedience, every lost and squandered moment – and those words ring more clearly Father forgive them they do not know what they are doing. He sees these things because He bore them all in His body. He hung on that cross to pay the price for what you purchased.
Clear now are the scriptures from Isaiah – “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.” And so the words ring loud and clear “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
2) The Reality of Forgiveness – Today ... paradise. No sweeter words have ever been spoken. Here was a man who had squandered his entire life – and with his dying gasps called on Jesus. And into his hopeless condition Jesus spoke these words of hope. Today you will be with me in paradise. This criminal is an example and testimony to the fact that nothing you can do will ever separate you from the love of God. Earlier as they carried these crosses up the hill – both criminals were hurling abuses at him. But something happened in one of them that day – something in those final moments of life changed in his heart. And when his heart changed so did his eternal destiny. Today Jesus said “you will be with me in paradise.” Forgiveness full and free – given to the undeserving and the unfaithful. By one rejected with eternal consequences – by one accepted with paradise to gain. No outward changes took place in this mans life – but eternal changes washed over him in a moment. In a matter of minutes he would understand the reality of forgiveness.