Summary: This message looks at the different types of people gathered at the foot of the cross, and encourages everyone to find themselves in that crowd.
33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals--one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One." 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." Luke 23:33-37 (NIV)
2000 years ago – a multitude found themselves at the foot of a cross – from many walks of life, for many reasons. In hindsight, we know that they were witness to the most pivotal event in human history. But they had no idea… Some of them would come to realize – and their lives would be forever changed.
The crowd has grown... Regardless of race or religious persuasion, mankind cannot escape the cross. Every time we talk about dates we position ourselves relative to the cross. The cross has become a symbol for medical healing and efforts (Red Cross).
Today across America, millions of people will wear a cross on a chain around their neck, and walk through doors that are underneath a cross on a steeple, and listen to a preacher behind a pulpit with a cross on it – and in all of that, will miss the blessing of the cross.
On the cover of your bulletin today, you will see an artist’s rendering of Golgotha. It is one of my favorite works of art, painted by a man called Pordenone in 1520. Unlike many of the paintings of the time – he attempted to capture the struggle - the passion - the emotion. It is a dark, disturbing image, as was the reality.
As I reviewed many paintings of the cross – one thing I noticed… Jesus looks much the same in each – but the crowd seems to be dressed appropriate for the day in which the artist lived. Imagine if an artist did that today – we would be incensed. Why – because it would make it much more difficult for us to distance ourselves from the moment. But we were there – we are there!
Whatever the perspective of those gathered there that day – their lives would never be the same. I invite you to find yourself in that crowd - break through the reasons that you came – and discover the life-changing difference that the cross makes.
One of the groups there were the critical. There was a great deal of attention given to Jesus – and they resented it for one reason or another.
- Critical RELIGIOUS people (v 35)
These Jewish leaders expected a miraculous deliverer. They constantly looked for a sign – a quick fix to their problems. They simply did not understand or respect the idea of a suffering Savior. They definitely did not want to yield to his authority – he was not compelling enough for them.
Certainly the message of Christ is not the message of religion. If we’re honest – we have to confess it is not even the message of Christianity! American Christianity serves a sterile Jesus – a long-haired, fair-skinned pansy – who speaks softly. They picture a Christ that loves and accepts nearly everyone, that never makes waves.
I’m wondering – if Jesus came today, and told us what he really thought about our churches, what would we be saying?
Unfortunately – many cannot receive the cross. It is not a pleasant thing. It’s not about success. It’s not about wealth and prosperity. It’s not about laughing children and smiling parents. It’s not about quick fixes and signs and wonders.
I’m amazed at the reasons people decide on churches… It has little to do with a desire for truth. It has little to do with sacrifice and mission. Everyone is looking for a Christ that fits. But Christ comes and says – the way you are now is not right. You must change. You must submit your life to me. You must take up your cross, and follow…
Unfortunately – even here in the heart of the Bible belt – we may find ourselves looking critically on the scene, saying – this isn’t what I came to church for! This Jesus can’t save himself – how can he save me?
- Critical SECULAR leaders (v 36-37)
Besides the religious folk – many of the Romans were scoffing as well. They really could care little for religion – to them this was simply stupidity. This was not the path to prosperity. This was not about winning friends and influencing people.