Summary: His opponents said that Jesus could not save himself and, in a sense, they were right.
What would you do if you were a high school football player and your coach sent in a play which called for you to run backward to your opponent’s goal line? It has happened!
At the end of the 1988 football season, Tishimingo High was playing Faulkner High. The outcome of that game would determine one of the teams in the Mississippi state playoffs. With seven seconds left in the game, Tishimingo was winning 16-14. They had the ball on Faulkner’s 40-yard line. All they had to do was run out the clock on the next play, and they would win the game by two points.
The coach sent in a play to the quarterback, who was his son. The play called for a handoff to the tailback and for him to run backwards as fast as he could for the opponent’s goal line.
When the play was given in the huddle, one of the players told the quarterback, "Your daddy must be crazy!" They argued in the huddle so long that a delay-of-game penalty was called against them. Finally, the team lined up, the ball was handed off to the tailback, and he ran 55 yards in the wrong direction. He laid down in the opponent’s end zone and waited for the clock to run out with practically everybody on the field and in the stadium confused. A two-point safety for Faulkner. Score tied. Time expired.
Would you say the coach was a fool? Not exactly. You see, there’s one more thing you need to know. In order for the team to reach the playoffs, Tishimingo had to win by four or more points. After thinking about the chances of going 40 yards in one play or kicking a field goal from that distance, the coach decided overtime was his best bet. So he gave the other team two points to send the game into overtime.
The result of the game was that Tishimingo won in overtime, 22-16, on a run by the tailback. That tailback finished the game with minus 29 yards for the night. But his team won and went on to the playoffs.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds a bit like the cross to me. God became a man, was pushed around by his enemies, and was executed by a Roman governor of Palestine. Satan appeared to have won. Jesus of Nazareth was dead. His disciples were scattered. God had suffered defeat. Or had he?
Three days later, Jesus was alive from the dead. Over a period of 40 days, he showed himself alive to hundreds of people. Then 51 days later, Peter explained that it had all been part of God’s plan. He said Jesus was "delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God." (Acts 2:23). Those words tell us that what happened on the cross was not an accident. As foolish as it may have seemed at the time, it was God’s plan from the very beginning of time.
It was a plan that didn’t seem to make much sense. A plan that looked to all the world like craziness. But the Son did exactly what the Father wanted him to do. And he died on the cross for the sins of the human race.
Paul explained it best of all when he wrote, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (I Corinthians 1:18).
I. The Scene at the Cross
I want you to go back in your minds for a few minutes to the scene of the crucifixion. There was Jesus hanging on a cross, just outside the city walls of Jerusalem at Golgotha, the "place of the skull". It was a rocky hill that some people say was shaped like a skull. It was a grim name for a grim place where grim things were done.
Imagine, if you will, the men who stood around Jesus as he hung there -- his enemies. They could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, it was true that Jesus had attracted quite a gathering of people. And it was true that Jesus had undeniably performed miracles. It was even true that Jesus had made fools of them all as they tried to trap him in his words. But they could grant him the triumphs of yesterday because this day, they felt confident the victory was theirs!
They had managed to capture Jesus without a fight, rush him through the mockery of a Jewish trial, and even have him convicted by the Roman authorities, all in one night, before most of the Jews in Jerusalem even knew what was going on. They had succeeded in finding him guilty of treason, a crime punishable by death -- death on the cross.