Summary: A study in the reality of the forgiveness that can only be found in Jesus
Will Jesus Really Forgive Me?
March 20, 2005
Palm Sunday - Morning Message
This week as I was preparing for this message I was looking at the hymnal, something we don’t do much of here because we have the technology of the projection system. As I looked at the pages I saw something that we got a taste of this morning, the cross should be the central theme of our worship in the church. Let’s take a moment to look at the words of some of these songs that are so much a part of the church as a whole.
At the Cross
Lead Me to Calvary
The Way of the Cross leads Home
Calvary Covers it All
The Old Rugged Cross
The hymn writers were not afraid of drawing the image of the cross to our minds. Why did they do this? It is vitally important to remember the reality of the cross and the suffering of Jesus!
The fact is this we have a problem with the cross. We want the power of Easter without the pain of Good Friday. We want the salvation without having to think about the sacrifice and the suffering that paid for it. We want deliverance without understanding the death that bought it.
I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the center of the market place as well as on the steeple of the church, I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles: But on a cross between two thieves; on a town garbage heap; At a crossroad of politics so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek... And at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse and soldiers gamble. Because that is where He died, and that is what He died about. And that is where Christ’s men ought to be, and what church people ought to be about.
-- George MacLeod
I think we are guilty of making the cross into something it was never meant to be - neat ant tidy. We want a cross that has no mess. We want a cross we don’t have to think about or at least one that doesn’t haunt our thoughts or burn its image on our minds. We want a cross that is safe and politically correct.
The reality is that no such cross exists except in the fantasy of those who want nothing more than a dose of cheap grace. The cross was a bloody nightmare. It was a gruesome gift of God’s divine grace. It was a mixture of love and sacrifice on a divine scale. The cross stands as a testament of victory. I saw a t-shirt that had a huge cross on it and said: Jesus beat the devil with a big ugly stick.
As we look at the cross once again today, let’s not put it on a hill far away but rather let’s draw close to gain a greater understanding of the One who died on it.
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 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." 38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don’t you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." 42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. " 43 Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
Before we launch into the reality of the cross I believe it is important to see where the cross stands for the execution of Jesus. We need to understand that the cross stood on the place of the Skull, Golgotha.
Golgotha served three key functions for the city of Jerusalem. The first was a garbage dump for all of the refuse of the city. The second purpose was that it served as an open grave. Poverty was so great in Jerusalem that beggars literally died on the streets. With no money for a proper burial the Romans used Golgotha as a place to take the bodies. Literally the place would have been filled with skulls. The third purpose was a place for Roman executions.