Summary: Jesus and the cross is the hinge that brings life to what once was dead.
Title: The Hinge
Date: 4/5/15 Easter
CT: Jesus and the cross is the hinge that brings life to what once was dead.
FAS: Some years ago, a 14-foot bronze crucifix was stolen from Calvary Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas. It had stood at the entrance to that cemetery for more than 50 years. The cross was put there in 1930 by a Catholic bishop and had been valued at the time at $10,000. The thieves apparently cut it off at its base and hauled it off in a pick-up. Police speculate that they cut it into small pieces and sold it for scrap.
The thieves figured that the 900-pound cross probably brought about $450. They obviously didn't realize the value of that cross.
That is the problem, of course—understanding the value of the cross. As the gospel writers relate the story of Jesus' crucifixion, the theme that runs through them all is rejection. Not only did people not see the value of Jesus, they also didn't understand the value of his death. May we not be so blind!
Author Max Lucado describes the pivotal nature of the cross in history and in each of our lives.
It rests on the time-line of history like a compelling diamond.
Its tragedy summons all sufferers.
Its absurdity attracts all cynics.
Its hope lures all searchers. History has idolized and despised it, gold-plated and burned it, worn and trashed it.
History has done everything but ignore it. How could you ignore such a piece of lumber? Suspended on its beams is the greatest claim in history.
A crucified carpenter claiming to be God on earth. Divine. Eternal. The death-slayer. Never has timber been regarded so sacred. No wonder the apostle Paul called the cross event the core of the gospel even in it’s foolishness to some.
It's bottom line is sobering: if the account is true, it is history's hinge. Period. If not, the cross is history's hoax.
Which is the cross for you, hinge or hoax?
I. If there were ever anything in this world that changed the way it is viewed over time, it would be the cross. It began as a symbol of suffering. Jesus used the image of the cross to prepare his disciples for the struggle they were about to face.
Matthew 10.38-39, Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
This verse applies to us here today. Being a Christian brings opposition when we identify with Christ. When we take up our cross, there will be struggles and sacrifice.
Verse 39 teaches us to not cling to the things of this life that cause us to forfeit the best from Christ in this world and the next. If we love our leisure, power, popularity and money more than Christ, we will end up empty, lifeless.
So in the time of Jesus’ walk on this earth the cross meant struggle and sacrifice.
II. The cross as a symbol of death. The cross for the average person in Jesus’ time was a reality of the most horrific death imaginable. Jesus faced this cross willingly for all of us.
John 19.17-18, Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him. Jesus was killed by the worst man had to give him.
Perhaps the most cruel, vindictive, torturous death anyone at anytime in history could have ever experienced was to be crucified. There is nothing that is even remotely close to such a barbaric death penalty as crucifixion was. The Romans had stolen the idea from the ancient Persians and Alexander the Great introduced the idea to the Greek Empire, but these forms of death were given only to pirates and the worst of criminals.
In the Roman Empire, the crucified person would be left hanging on the cross for several hours of torture. They were crucified completely naked and well above the ground and usually on main thoroughfares and on high ground so that everyone could see the penalty for committing crimes or insurrection. It was meant to be a deterrent. It was meant to instill fear into the people being oppressed. At Jesus’ crucifixion, which took place on Golgotha there must have been thousands who witnessed it. The chances for survival were next to impossible.
When we read about the nails that pierced Jesus’ hands and feet, these were not nails as we think of them. They were much like railroad spikes but much longer. They resembled what are called garden spikes and they were about ¾ inch wide and around 6 to 8 inches long. When they were driven through the hands and feet, they were hammered flat on the back side of the wooden beam so that they would keep their impaled victims in place. These nails were not driven into the hands but actually into the wrists because the wrists were considered to be part of the hand and the palms of the hands were insufficient to hold up the weight of a person. There were enough tendons to support the body weight of a man if these were driven through the wrist between the radius and ulna, which is where these had to be hammered in order to hold him up on the cross.