Summary: Easter sermon that asks "Who would you die for?" and, more importantly, in the shadow of the cross, "Who would die for you?"
Hanging on the cross … between Heaven and earth … what did Jesus see? He saw two other men … criminals … one to His left and one on His right … being crucified with Him. He saw His Roman executioners gambling over his clothing, indifferent to His suffering. He saw the religious leaders, who were there specifically to watch Him suffer and die. They were the ones who spearheaded His death.
They added to His suffering by mocking Him:
“He saved others, but He cannot save Himself.”
“He’s the King of Israel! Let Him come down now from the cross and we will believe Him.”
“He trusts in God. Let God rescue Him now if He wants, for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:42)
There were curious spectators, who also mocked and derided Him:
“You who would destroy the Temple and build it in three days … save yourself!”
“If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” (Matthew 27:40)
But in the midst of all this gawking, taunting, and derision … in the midst of all this rage and fury, pain and suffering … Jesus sees five people standing there who are dear to His heart: He sees His mother, Mary; He sees His mother’s sister, Salome, the mother of James and John; He sees Mary Magdalene; He sees Mary, the wife of Clopas; and He sees John, one of His beloved disciples.
Four people who loved Him so much that they dared to stand that close to the cross … knowing that their closeness to Jesus could result in their arrest and the possibility that they could be banned, beaten, imprisoned … or possibly end up like Him … and yet, there they were. They stood at the foot of the cross … they heard Jesus speak His last words. Why would they take such a risk? How could they stand there and watch someone they love being made to suffer like that? They were there because they loved Jesus, because they wanted Him to see them and know that they were going to be with Him to the end … no matter what the possible risks were to their own lives. They did not want Him to die alone, surrounded only by people who hated Him or were just bored. They knew the cost of going to the cross … but their love for Him was greater than their fear and they went anyways and stood before Him as a way of showing Him that they stood beside Him.
Standing with Jesus can be a risky, dangerous thing. There are some who dare to draw near to Christ … and then there are some who do not. But here’s the truth, my brothers and sisters, you are either seeking and drawing nearer to Him … or you are not. There is no in-between. It’s easy to stand in the crowd and feel like you’re participating in something. You can sing about the cross. You can listen to sermon after sermon on the cross. But if you want to experience the power and the truth of the cross, you must go to the cross. You must stand in the presence of the cross. You must stand close enough to hear the ringing of the hammer pounding on the nails. You must stand close enough to hear the dull thud of the cross as it is dropped into the hole. You must stand close enough to hear His final words and hear His final breath. To experience the cross … to have your life changed by the cross … you not only have to get close to the cross, you have to get close to the One who is hanging on the cross.
How close are you willing to get to the cross? Are you willing to stand so close that His blood spills on you? Are you willing to face the ridicule and scorn of the crowd? The world? Are you willing to risk your life? Where do you stand? Close to Christ … or do you choose to watch from a distance? Only you can decide how close you are willing to get to the cross of Jesus Christ.
How do we, more than 2,000 years later, do this? How do we get close enough to the cross to be spattered with His blood? How do we get close enough to hear Him breath … to hear Him speak from the cross? Jesus gives us the answer in Matthew 10:37-39:
“He who loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son and daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.”