FAMOUS LAST WORDS: WORDS AT THE CROSS
Today and next week, we will be looking at two final scenes regarding the cross of Jesus Christ.
Why should we spend so much time at the cross? Why should we care about the intricate details of the cross? Why would we want to lift up the cross for all the world to see?
Because the cross is where the eternal Prince of glory died for me.
The cross is the place where the debt for my eternal salvation was paid in full.
The cross is the dividing line of history and eternity.
Of all that you could ever do in your life, there is nothing greater than for you to live in the greatness and glory of the cross.
Paul said it best when he wrote, God forbid that I should boast (in anything) except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ... Galatians 6:14 NKJV
There is nothing greater that you will ever do with your life than for you to live for the glory and honor of what Jesus Christ did for you at the cross.
If I had a thousand lives and ten thousand tongues in each of those lives, I would still never be able to fully describe the glory, the power, and the eternal wonder that comes to us from the cross.
For the past several weeks we have walked with Jesus from the garden where He was betrayed, to His trial before Pilate, and finally to where we humbly stood on holy ground before the cross of Jesus Christ. In this series on the cross…
We watched as He was betrayed and lead away into the night.
We watched as He was mocked and beaten.
We watched as the solders mocked Him and placed a crown of thorns on His head.
We watched as Pilate stood before the eternal truth of the world and asked, “What is truth?”
We watched as His own people rejected Him as their Messiah and King.
We watched as He carried His cross to Calvary, the place of the skull.
We watched as the solders nailed Him to the cross and then lift Him up for the world to see.
We watched as His blood ran down the cross; not just any blood, but the Royal blood of heaven that has the eternal power to completely forgive sin and wash it away.
For six brutal hours Jesus hung from the cross. And during those six hours, we humbly listened as He would push up on the nail in His feet and speak.
Seven times He spoke. Seven times He pushed up on the nail in His feet and with a grasp of breath He would speak words filled with such majesty and power and wisdom that to this day there is nothing on earth that can match them.
And now today, by God’s grace, we again stand on holy ground before the cross, but
today will be different. Today we are going see the cross from a different perspective. Today, we will see the cross through the eyes of unbelievers. We are going to hear their scorn, their mocking, and their ridicule. We are going to hear their words, because what they said at the cross are the same things the world still says about Jesus today. We are going to hear their words, and then we are going to put an answer to the mocking questions and to the challenges that they asked at the cross.
Let’s stand together and listen to what the word of God has for us today.
Matthew 27:37 And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 38 Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left. 39 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, "You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross."
41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 42 "He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. 43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.' " 44 Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.
50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God!" NKJV
These scriptures identify several challenging questions that were made against Jesus that day at the cross. These challenging questions were not asked as philosophical questions with the hopes of receiving a philosophical answer. They did not care if they received an answer. They were not interested in the truth.
Their questions and comments were made with the single desire, to mock, to ridicule and to scorn the Name of Christ. But, their mocking questions and their false accusations are still being asked today. As believers in Christ, we need to know the answers to the questions the world asks about the cross of Christ. The Bible tells us we should always be ready to give an answer of what and why we believe in Jesus Christ. (I Peter 3:15)
There are several factors here that are important for us to see and hear. We need to see what the world sees when they see the cross. We need to stand among the crowd and hear what the world hears when the world stands before the cross. Why? So that we can give the world an answer as to why we so deeply believe in the cross of Jesus Christ.
The cross is the dividing line of history and eternity and the world struggles with that concept.
The world struggles with the who and the why of the cross. The accusations and insults that were hurled at Jesus that day at the cross, are still the same type of questions being asked today. So I want to take the time today to give the world an answer to the questions that come to us from the cross.
FIRST, THE MAN ON THE MIDDLE CROSS
Again, as we walk through this, we are looking at this through the eyes of an unbelieving world with the hopes of giving an answer to why we believe in the cross of Christ.
John 19:18 tells us that Jesus was crucified between 2 thieves.
So the first thing that captures our attention is that there are three cross, and as we look at these three cross, we immediately see that the middle cross is different from the other two in that it has a title above it that reads, “JESUS OF NAZERTH, KING OF THE JEWS”
We also find in John 19 that this postscript above Jesus was written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, and I’ll show you why that’s important in a few moments. (John 19:20)
There are two things here that I believe are absolutely vital that we dare not miss.
First, it is absolutely vital for your eternal destiny that you determine for yourself the true identity of this man on the middle cross.
Pilate made sure for the whole world and for history that there would be absolutely no doubt that the man on the middle cross was Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
This is huge. The statement above Jesus head was put there by an angel. It was not put there by one of Jesus disciples. It was not put there by His mother. The statement above Jesus head was put there by Pilate, who was not a follower of Christ. Pilate’s statement above Jesus head was a statement to all the world, and for every person in history who would look at the cross that the man on the middle cross was without any doubt Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
So when the world mockingly asks who is this man on the middle cross, Pilate, who was also an unbeliever, gives the world a clear answer that the man on the middle cross is Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Even the chief priests and the Pharisees who hated Jesus argued with Pilate over the wording and in doing so they were also admitting that the man on the middle cross was Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
The world needs to see that picture. The world wants to mistaking say that Jesus Christ
did not exist and that He can be easily dismissed. But that’s not true.
History has clearly proven and verified as a historical fact that Jesus Christ lived and died on the cross. But the real question that haunts the world is who was Jesus Christ?
Who was Jesus Christ…? That’s the true question that has to be asked and answered.
The greatest question you will ever face is, who is Jesus Christ? Who was He really,
and why did He die on the cross?
There are two opposing views on how the world sees Jesus Christ.
There are those who see Him as nothing more than an ordinary man and at most a great teacher, who made false claims about being the Son of God; and then there are those who by faith see Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the eternal King of kings.
Which one is He? Was He nothing more than just an ordinary man who was a lunatic making false claims about being the Son of God or is He truly indeed Jesus the Christ, the eternal King of glory?
He can’t be both. He can only be one or the other. He is either a crazed lunatic and a liar, or He really is the Son of God, and the King of all kings, with an eternal kingdom.
Which one is He?
He is either the only way of salvation or He’s not
He is either the Son of God and the eternal King of kings or He’s not.
You have to decide for yourself what you believe, and the decision you make will have eternal consequences.
As I have said before, the cross is dividing line of history and of eternity. But most importantly for you, the cross is the dividing line of your life and your response to what you believe about Jesus Christ will determine your eternal destiny.
What do you see, when you look at the cross of Jesus Christ? Do you see Him only as a man, or do you see Him as your Savior and the great King of an eternal kingdom?
There are the questions of the world and this is why we must know that Jesus Christ is the man on the middle cross.
Second, there is one other thing about the postscript written above Jesus. John tells us that the postscript above Jesus head was written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin.
I know you see that and think, so what? The big deal is that these were the three most well-known languages of the world at that time, which means God was making sure that all the world would know what happened that day.
Everyone who saw the cross that day could easily read the postscript above Jesus and know without any doubt who it was on the cross.
The point is, God wants the message of the cross proclaimed. He wants it to be known in every language and to every people group on earth. He desires for every person,
including those who hate the cross, to hear its eternal message of salvation and of God’s
God wants everyone to see that this man on the middle cross is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, who has the power and authority to forgive sin and to give eternal life.
And God is still doing that today. He promises that before Christ’s final return, that every nation on earth will have heard the gospel message of salvation.
Now that brings us to the mocking questions that were hurled at Jesus like arrows.
THE SON OF GOD
Matthew 27:40 "You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross." 41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 42 "He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. 43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.' "
Within all of this mocking and scorn, and ridicule, there are three things that stand out that we as believers in Christ need to address for the world to understand.
First, there is the great question that the world is still asking today; is Jesus Christ the Son of God, and if He is, what is the evidence to prove it?
There are a lot of things we could look at there, but there are two definite pieces of evidence that prove beyond all doubt that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
The first great piece of evidence is the prophetic word of God.
The Old Testament gives us a list of at least 456 specific prophecies on how to recognize the Messiah, and that had to be met in every detail with 100% accuracy for that person to prove they were the Son of God.
God fixed it this way so that only one person could fit all the details and accurately meet all of the requirements as Messiah and the Son of God.
And when we take these ancient prophecies and match them with various people from history, we find there is only one person who can fully match the precise details of every single prophecy, and that one person is Jesus Christ. No one else in all of history that comes even close to matching these prophecies.
(Dr. Robert Stoner and his example of silver dollars to show the probability of Jesus fulfilling just 8 of the 456 prophecies is 10 to the 17 power.)
The second piece of evidence that clearly proves Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world is the resurrection.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single greatest proof that Jesus Christ is the Son
of God. The evidence pertaining to the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so staggering that nothing on earth has ever been able to stand against it.
For the past two thousand years, many of the world’s greatest minds and academic
scholars have tried unsuccessfully to prove the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a hoax and a lie.
Instead, many of these great scholars themselves become believers in Christ because they discovered for themselves the reality and truth of the resurrection.
The first question is, is Jesus Christ the Son of God and the evidence says that He is.
WHY DIDN’T JESUS SAVE HIMSELF FROM THE CROSS?
The second great question that is asked at the cross is, why didn’t Jesus save Himself and come down from the cross?
Matthew 27:42 "He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.
The world struggles with that question. The world cannot comprehend why Jesus would refuse to save Himself but would choose instead to die on the cross.
The world sees the cross and wonders could Jesus have saved Himself? Could He have come down from the cross?
The answer is yes!
He could have easily called upon a whole legion of angels to deliver Him, but He chose not to.
He had already demonstrated that He held within His nail-scarred hands the power of the universe, but He refused to use His power and come down. It was not because He couldn’t, but because He chose not to and He chose not because of love. It was not the nails that held Him to the tree; it was His love for you.
John 18:37, Jesus said, “for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world…”
He was born to die on a cross and to die for the sins of the world. This is exactly why Jesus Christ is the only one who can be our Savior and the only way of salvation.
It was God’s will and purpose that Jesus remain on the cross and die for the sins of the world because if He comes down from the cross, eternal life for any of us would be impossible.
There is a powerful message here that speaks to every believer. As a follower of Christ, you will be tempted by the world to take the easy way out. You will be tempted by the world to follow the will of the world and not the will and purpose of God. The world will ridicule you, mock you and scorn you for following Jesus Christ, but in the end, the most important thing you will ever do is to follow Jesus and do God’s will, even if it means staying on the cross.
WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR YOU TO BELIEVE?
We now come to the third question from Matthew 27:42.
Matthew 27:42 If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and
we will believe Him.
The key word in this verse is believe. The word believe is a very powerful word that describes something you are fully committed to. The Bible speaks of belief in Jesus Christ as an attitude that says you would rather die than to deny Him.
This crowd said to Jesus that if He would come down from the cross they would believe in Him, but we know that is not true.
Was it possible for Jesus to come down from the cross? Absolutely, but He chose not to.
They had already witnessed His many miracles. They had heard His eternal words of truth. They had the prophecies and the word of God but in spite of all the evidence, they still did not believe. And that is the sad state of the world today regarding Jesus Christ.
So the question that comes to us here is…
What do you believe about Jesus Christ? And the bigger question is…
What would it take for you to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?
What would it take for you to believe that the cross of Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation?
What would it take for you to believe that Jesus Christ’s love for you was so great that He refused to come down from the cross?
What would it take for you to believe?
Only your heart can truthfully answer that question.
IN CLOSING, THE FINAL EVIDENCE…
In closing, I want to show you two pieces of evidence of what happens when you open your heart to the evidence and truth that comes from the cross of Jesus Christ.
The first piece of evidence come from Matthew 27:54.
Matthew 27:54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God!" NKJV
A few moments ago, I asked what would it take for you to believe?
The centurion was battle hardened soldier. He had fought numerous battles and had faced down death numerous times. He was not a man who gave into fear. But when he saw how the darkness blocked out the sun, and when he saw the earth shake like Jell-O and then when he heard Jesus mystifying words from the cross, He knew that the man on the middle cross was more than an ordinary man. He knew this man on the middle cross had to be the Son of God.
This Roman centurion had far less evidence than you and I have today, and yet this man chose to believe what his heart told him to be true, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I have often wondered if this centurion at the cross is Cornelius, the Roman centurion of
Acts 10. One day in God’s kingdom we will find out.
The second piece of evidence that is so overlooked comes from Acts 15:5
Acts 15:5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up..." NKJV
Capture what’s being said here. It implies that many of the Pharisees became believers and followers of Christ.
Think about this.
These are the same group of men who condemned Jesus to death.
These are the same group of men who turned Jesus over to Pilate for crucifixion.
These are the same group of men who stood before the cross and mocked Jesus and scorned Him while He hung on the cross.
These are the Pharisees who hated Jesus and now they are believers.
There is no way these men would have ever believed in Jesus unless, they knew without any doubt that He was who He claimed to be; the Son of God.
The fact that they became believers and followers of Christ is overwhelming evidence of what can happen in a person’s heart if they will sincerely look at the evidence and have the courage and faith to believe.
What would it take for you to believe?
The evidence is clear and overwhelming, but only you can choose what you will believe.
Now take this evidence and believe and as a believer, I encourage you to live your life for the glory and honor of Christ.
Let’s live our lives so that the world can see that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
This is what the world needs to see and hear about the cross of Jesus Christ.