Summary: This message was given to a four church community service on Good Friday.
What does the cross mean to you?
Disclaimer: This sermon came from ideas from Sermon Central and my own private study of the Word.
Walk quickly through the holy week events.
What is the most common religious symbol?
In the West, it is the cross.
Crosses on churches.
Crosses on jewelry.
Athletes bless themselves before an event.
It wasn’t always a popular symbol. During the days of Jesus, the cross was a symbol of shame, embarrassment, a symbol of terror.
The Romans used it as a very painful way to execute criminals.
So bad that they would not execute Roman citizens because it was so shameful.
It was for slaves, robbers, rebels, assassins.
Caesar Augustus bragged about capturing 20,000 slaves, all that were not claimed were crucified before the people. Reminds you of gladiators fighting each other. Life not having much meaning.
1800’s where everyone would come to the town square to watch a hanging. Today, where people are rubbernecking in the hopes of seeing the result of a accident.
For the Jews, the cross represented the worse way to die.
It meant that you have been cursed by God.
It was not always a sign of the Christian church. Until Roman emperor Constantine took over in the late 4th century, the cross could not even be pictured with anything religious. Constantine adapted the cross almost as a “good luck” charm. A symbol of triumph. He place the cross on the shields for protection.
Question- What does the cross mean to you?
Is it a good luck charm? Like a baseball player, do you kiss the cross for protection?
Is your Jesus on or off the cross? It does make a difference.
Romans- It was a shameful way to die, a symbol of death.
Believers- Because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross- it is a symbol of life and forgiveness and relief.
The way that the criminals blasphemed the Messiah reminds us of how our world is today.
Jesus is the Son of God- I don’t think so.
Why doesn’t he do something to prove to me He is the Son of God.
Someone I should worship? Don’t think so
They have this idea of eternity with a harp, sitting on a cloud singing 24/7. They think they would be bored. They think they will not have any fun.
We have more in common with the criminals than we want to admit.
God tells us we must do things His way. We tell God, no, I’ll do it my way.
When things don’t go our way, we say..I doubt you’re the son of God, I don’t need a savior, prove to me , show me something.
That is blasphemy on the same level as the loud criminals next to Jesus.
The Romans did not put Jesus on the cross. It was our rebellion, our sins, our cursing of God that put Jesus on that cross. Jesus takes our sins, our punishment.
Then one of the criminals has a change of heart.
He stops mocking God.
He rebukes his fellow criminals.
“Don’t you fear God?, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
A change of heart.
He defends Christ.
He confesses his sinful life.
He acknowledges that Jesus is innocent.
He is repenting. He is making a 180 degree turn. Sorry is not enough. Repentance without change is not repentance.
He realizes his sin. He sees his life as dirty in his sins.
The holy Spirit is leading him to truth. Repentance brings the Spirit of God flooding our souls.
He defends Christ- he now takes a stand. He gets holy boldness to stand up.
He confesses his sin- acknowledges he is a sinner, and in need of a savior.
In other words,
I repent of my life as a criminal. I repent of my mockery of God. I believe you are the Messiah who has come.
The thief says:
Forgive me When you come into your kingdom, have mercy on me. Remember me
The song writer Isaac Watts sums up the feelings.
At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light
and the burden of my heart rolled away.
It was there by faith, I received my sight
and now I am happy all the day.
Even though they did not show mercy to Christ, Jesus showed mercy to them.
Today you will be with me in paradise
comforting words to the thief on the cross- comforting words to us as Jesus becomes more than words, but becomes our savior, our blessed hope.
Jesus gives him, he gives us by our repentance and His mercy an unconditional pardon.
He forgives us. He gives us hope for eternity.