Summary: reflections on the cross
REFLECTION ON THE CROSS
Each year we come together on Good Friday to praise God and to recall again the wonderful gift of salvation which God wrought fro us through the death of His only begotten Son. This year more people are talking about Easter and about the cross of Christ because of Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ. Having watched the film I want to say it is gruesome and I found myself moved to tears on several occasions. The film is not 100% biblical but then no film could be. The film tells us how Christ died not why. The Bible tells us why He died and as to the how simply states that He was crucified. This evening I want to spend just a few moments reflecting on the responses of those involved in the crucifixion and then I want to leave time for you to respond to the crucifixion.
SET THE SCENE – the betrayal in the garden, the trial, the denial and the rejection by the people in favour of Barabbas. Christ has been flogged by Pilate and at the behest of the people is now given over to the soldiers to be crucified.
Turn with me to Luke 23 verses 26-49.
The first person we encounter is Simon of Cyrene. Cyrene was some 800 miles from Jerusalem. Simon had travelled a long distance in order to celebrate the Passover there. Now here he is, forced by Roman soldiers to carry the cross of a condemned man. The very fact that Christ’s blood would have fallen on to Simon as they, together, carried the cross meant Simon would become ceremonially unclean. He had travelled 800 miles to celebrate the Passover and now would be unable to do so. Let me read a verse to you from Mark 15.21 read. Whoever Rufus and Alexander were they must have been known to the early believers if Mark includes their names when identifying Simon. It is just possible that Simon of Cyrene was converted and his family because of this incident. Isn’t it ironic that according to the Law Simon would become unclean because of the blood of Christ and yet that same blood would save sinners from their sins.
RESPONSE OF SORROW (VERSES 27-31). Some of the women responded to the sight of Christ with tears of sorrow. Yet look at the response of Christ to their tears – compassion. Here he is weighed down with the burden of the cross and the burden of sin and his thought is not for himself but compassion for those who mourn. Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted. Yet what has Christ to say to them. He turns their sorrow away from his impending death to their own perilous situation. He wants to open their eyes to the fact that if this is how the innocent are treated how much greater will be the punishment of the guilty. He wants them to mourn for themselves – but in doing so to be lead to repentance.
This evening maybe someone here needs to respond by mourning and repenting of their perilous situation before God.
Response of Indifference (v34). I think this must be one of the saddest pictures around the cross of Christ. Callous indifference to the suffering of a fellow man. Callous indifference to the death of another human being. These soldiers were so hardened to death and death by crucifixion that their only concern was material gain. ‘What is there for me?’ that was their heart’s focus. How truly awful to be indifferent to the death of Christ. They gambled for his clothes whilst he died for their sins. They simply marked time till he had died. They were too involved in their daily lives to notice Christ’s death. They may have gained materially but they were impoverished spiritually. They responded to the death of Christ with indifference. Now you and I can say I am not indifferent to the death of Christ – after all I am here this evening. But, I wonder how often we are indifferent to his death. Indifferent when we return to the same sin time and time again. Indifferent when we take forgiveness for granted and never notice the cost. Indifferent when we grow materially wealthy whilst spiritually we become more and more impoverished.
Maybe tonight some need to repent from a response of indifference to the cross of Christ.
RESPONSE OF MOCKERY. There were many who mocked Christ that day. Verse 35 the rulers mocked him as he was hung on the cross. They hurled insults at him – ‘you saved others, save yourself.’ The other gospels tell us that they even offered to believe in him if he came down from the cross. They thought it weakness that he could not save himself from crucifixion. They thought it rejection by God that he was hung on a tree. After all the Law said ‘cursed is anyone hung on a tree.’ It was not weakness but the power of His Father’s love and His love which held him on that cross. He was indeed cursed by God – but not because of anything he had done, but because of their sin. He could not save them and himself. What mockery – by not saving himself he was in fact opening the way for their salvation.