Summary: We gather here on Sunday morning but we cannot gather here in isolation of all that transpired during that dreadful weekend.
He’s Not Here
Luke 23:39 -43 & 24: 6 - 8
Around the necks of hundreds of thousands in our society today are crosses of gold and silver. Many of them are beautifully decorated with precious stones – sapphires, rubies and diamonds. The people who wear them, in the majority, blissfully go on their way without even the vaguest understanding of the meaning of the true Cross. The Cross has merely become another item of jewelry. Yet, there were no jewels in the Cross which executed our Lord Jesus. Our culture has lost its understanding of the Cross. What about you? What does the Cross mean to you?
Travel with me back into the corridors of time and the pages of history more than 2000 years ago; to a dreadful dastardly time in the history of humankind. When man was lost, baffled and tossed by every new wind that blew. It was a time called the Intertestamental Period: the waning moments of the old standing on the precipice of the new. The law was about to bow subject to grace. The old dispensation was prepared to be succeeded by the new dispensation. Those who had been looking for a great and shinning knight in armor that would lead the people of Israel to a golden age were dismayed and distraught. For the only hope they had was now hanging on a tree; with spikes in His feet and with nails in His hands. It was a time in history when Satan almost became our savior. When we were lost without any hope of being found. When we were looking for the Lord to speak a word but it appeared that even silence came from heaven on high.
Travel with me to that period in history as we re-enact the most eventful weekend that humankind as ever experienced then or since. We gather here on Sunday morning but we cannot gather here in isolation of all that transpired during that dreadful weekend. This Sunday morning worship service doesn’t mean much if we don’t understand the crucifixion. And the celebration of this day will mean nothing if we have not entered into the suffering of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Look at the paradox of the weekend if you will; it was ugly but at the same time it was beautiful. It was ugly because evil had seemingly had won out. Satan appeared to be in charge and good appeared not to be able to stand on its own two feet. It was ugly because, as somebody said, the sun refused to shine. The earth began to quake and we are told that everything that had life became listless on that dreadful Friday afternoon. It was ugly because it appeared that the darkness would never be disbursed by light. And it appeared that humankind would be lost in the vast quagmires of a sin that would never loose them nor let them go.
But not only was it ugly but it was beautiful at the same time. It was beautiful because the Lord was teaching us what real celebration is all about. He wanted us to know that you can’t go up until you have first gone down. And He wanted us to know that you cannot really celebrate until you have first sorrowed. And that you cannot really understand living until you have determined what it means to die. And that the Resurrection means absolutely nothing if you have not determined what it means to go to Calvary’s awful hill. There were three cross there and I would like to use the dimension each cross to illustrate several points and then I will be done. Is that alright with you? Are you gonna pray with me?
I. The first dimension is the dimension of REJECTION. For there was an unpentative thief who absolutely said, “No!” to the “Yes!” of God. He was there just a stone’s throw away from your savior and mine but yet he determined that Jesus was not the god of his salvation. He looked about at the crowd, he looked at the Roman centurions…saw Herod and Pilate and all those with power and he made a conscious decision to say “No” to God and “yes” to the powers that be. He looked at Jesus in the center and said, “Why, I would follow you but it seems to me that you have no power. If you did have power it seems to me that even if you would not save us at least you would save yourself. And so my choice is that I choose Rome and I choose the government; they are killing me but at least I am dying with those who have the power.”
And you know my bothers and sisters many of us are still rejecting Jesus Christ. Many of us, perhaps not in words but in the demonstrative acts of our life have determined by the way we live and by the valued decisions that we make and by the values that guide us from the cradle to the grave that we have said “No!” to the Lord when the Lord has wanted us to say “Yes” to Him. Most of us will talk about how we want Him in our life but when it gets down to how we live we have demonstrated that we, like the thief on the cross, have said, “No” unto the Lord.