Summary: Events in the Bible that took place on a mountain
Mountain Moving Faith
Have you ever wondered why Luke and the other gospel writers don’t go into the details of the crucifixion? Luke only used four words in v. 33. He wrote, “There they crucified him.” The answer is simple. Nearly everyone in the first century had witnessed crucifixions. Back in the days of Jesus, executions were staged for the public to see, with the belief that witnessing a horrible death would serve as a deterrent for crime.
So, for his original audience, Luke didn’t need to describe the crucifixion—they knew the horror of it. None of us have ever seen a real crucifixion, and probably most people in this room have never watched a person die from any cause. All of the movies, plays, and paintings of the crucifixion of Jesus are sanitized versions of what really took place. We cannot imagine the obscene horror of Roman crucifixion. It was such a grisly way to die that those being crucified welcomed death like a warm blanket on a cold night.
If I told you I came up on a wreck yesterday on Highway 75 where an 18-wheeler crossed the median and hit a pickup truck head-on, I wouldn’t have to go into details—you’ve seen enough wrecks to imagine the carnage. But if I went back in time 2,000 years and told Luke the same thing, he would scratch his head—he wouldn’t have a frame of reference for an automobile wreck. The same is true for us and the cross. Today, people wear crosses around their necks—while during Jesus’ day it was an instrument of horrible torture. I think it’s important for us to have a clear understanding of just how much Jesus suffered for us. (Share some from last week)
Remember, there were three crosses that day, and three men crucified. There three crosses each stood at the beginning of a road to somewhere—so today I’m going to be talking about three cross-roads. Read Luke 23:33-43. The Jewish leaders intentionally crucified two criminals with Jesus because they wanted people to consider Him guilty by association. But it was God’s plan all along. 700 years earlier Isaiah had prophesied the Messiah would be “numbered with the transgressors.”(Isaiah 53:12) The Jews put Jesus between two known criminals for humiliation but God used for illustration to teach us some wonderful lessons about salvation. We can learn a lesson from each cross. The first is:
1. THE CROSS OF REJECTION.
We don’t know the names of these two criminals, so in order to distinguish them, without saying, “thief #1 and thief #2” I’ll call the first thief Eli, a common Jewish name. The word Luke used for both these men mean bandit or robber. Mark uses a word that could mean “murderer.” These weren’t good guys who slipped into crime as first offenders. They were hardened criminals—guilty of multiple acts of violence.
As Eli hung there, he fell into the chant of the crowd. He heard them calling out, “IF YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD SAVE YOURSELF!” So he parroted what he heard the others say. He cried, “IF you are the Christ, save yourself and us!” He didn’t believe Jesus really was the Messiah—he just wanted to be rescued.
You may wonder how a man could die within a few feet of the Son of God and still reject Him. The sad truth is many people don’t call out to God for mercy in the moment they die. Eli’s behavior isn’t the exception, it’s the norm. Jesus said, “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and MANY enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13) When you stand at the cross of rejection, it is a road that leads straight to hell.
Some people have chosen to stand with Eli at the cross of rejection and they refuse to trust Jesus for forgiveness. On June 11, 2001, Timothy McVeigh was executed by lethal injection for the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in OKC in which 168 people died. His last words were from the poem “Invictus” written by William Ernest Henley which say, “I thank whatever gods that may be; for my unconquerable soul;…My head is bloody but not bowed;…It matters not how strait the gate;…How charged with punishments the scroll; I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”
Eli was willing to believe in Jesus, only if Jesus would get him out of his mess. There are many people today who have that kind of attitude. They say, “If God will fix my problem, I’ll trust Him.” Or sometimes they phrase it as a question, “If God is so loving, and so good why did He let my child die, or my husband die, or why did He let me lose my job?”