Summary: An evangelistic message on the purpose and power of the Cross of Christ.
Palm Sunday 2002
The Rev’d Quintin Morrow
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Fort Worth, Texas
The Cross of Christ
“Then they led Him out to crucify Him” –Mark 15:20.
The image of the Cross seems to be everywhere. It hangs from the rearview mirrors, and rests upon the dashboards, of our cars. It dangles as jewelry from about our ears and necks. It adorns ballcaps, t-shirts, bumperstickers and buildings. From sheer visibility alone it would appear that the Cross is a much beloved, revered and respected object of people’s faith. But you and I know that that isn’t the case. Far from it. Indeed, turning the Cross, an instrument of capital punishment, and the object of scorn and fear, into a marketing tool reveals how little people really understand what happened on it.
What did happen on the Cross? Taken from merely a human point of view, not much. A Jewish itinerant teacher, accused of sedition, was executed there. Taken from a legal point of view the Cross was simply a terrible miscarriage of justice. The Jewish religious establishment feared Jesus’ popularity, so they paid witnesses to testify against him, and they brought him before the Romans on trumped-up charges. And because the Roman governor was a weak man, he had Jesus executed, though he himself, by his own admission, could find no fault in him. Taken from the point of view of drama the Cross rivals all of the tragedies that either the Greeks, the Romans, or William Shakespeare ever penned. A humble, innocent and gentle man—the hero of the story—who came to help others, was railroaded and murdered by an immoral and unfeeling establishment.
But if those were the only ways to view the Cross, it really wouldn’t merit much notice. After all, other men have died more horrible and agonizing deaths than Jesus Christ.
And yet, taken from the divine point of view the Cross becomes the fulcrum of history, the apex and the acme of Almighty God’s work to redeem a fallen, wicked and rebellious human race from sin, death and hell. For, on that lonely hill outside of Jerusalem, suspended between heaven and earth, between two thieves, God’s Son bore the entire burden of humanity’s sin upon himself, satisfied the Father’s justice, and freed from guilt and judgment all who fly to Him in faith.
What did happen on the Cross? Why was the Cross necessary? And what difference does the Cross make to you?
The answers to all of those questions can be found in three “V’s. The three “V’s” of Calvary.
The first “V” is for voluntary. Voluntary. Jesus Christ suffered and died on the Cross voluntarily. No one compelled Him. No one forced Him. He was not constrained or compelled to go and die on the Cross of Calvary by anyone but Himself. He went and died there voluntarily—of His own accord.
During His trial Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, and the Roman Procurator, representing the mightiest power in the world—the power of Imperial Rome—said to Him, “Do you not know that I have power to crucify you, and power to release you?” To which Jesus replied, “You could have no power at all against me unless it had been given you from above.”
Over and over, throughout His public ministry, Jesus told His disciples, “I am going to Jerusalem, and there I will be handed over to the Gentiles and I will be put to death.” Jesus confessed that He had legions of angels at His command to come and rescue Him from the Cross, had that been His desire. But it wasn’t. Because He was there voluntarily.
Christ’s death on the Cross was voluntary. But why? For what reason did Jesus willingly submit to an ignominious death upon the Cross? One reason, and one reason only: Love. Because He loved you, and He loved me. “Greater love hath no man than this: That he lay down his life for his friends.” “Therefore My Father loves Me,” Jesus said in John 10, “because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”
But more than simply one man dying for his friends, the death of Jesus Christ upon the Cross becomes the premiere event which proclaimed God’s love for all of mankind.
St. Paul puts it this way. In Romans chapter 5 the apostle writes:
“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were
still sinners, Christ died for us…”
While we were still God’s enemies; while we were still disobedient, selfish, dishonest, lustful and murderous, Christ showed the Father’s love to us by coming and dying on the Cross.