This Week's Gospel Sermons
June 12 - 17, 2011 Gospel Meeting At Jackson Drive.
Speaker: Bob Hutto
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July 17, 2011
Where’s the Cross?
Can you see the cross of Jesus?Sometimes it seems to be obscured or to “get lost” in all that is going on around us. Then, sometimes, we may think we see the cross and know right where it is, but we really aren’t looking. Do you and I assume we know where the cross is and just forget?
The cross is the central focus of all things spiritual. It is certainly what the apostles and others who belong to God speak of as being the focal point. Listen to Peter: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36). Listen to Paul: “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1Corinthians 2:2).
Since the cross is this vital, don’t you and I need to make sure we know where it is? Don’t you and I need to spend time looking to and dwelling on the cross? Do we think the cross is located outside of Jerusalem on a hill? If that is all that you see when you look at the cross, you’re missing a lot.
It’s in the midst of violence.
The people:“Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Crucify Him!’ And he said, ‘Why, what evil has He done?’ But they kept shouting all the more, saying, ‘Crucify Him!’” (Matthew 27:22-23). It is hard to imagine anything more cruel and violent than crucifixion, yet this is the action for which the people clamored. “And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25).
The soldiers: The Roman soldiers carried out their duties of violent scourging as commanded them (Matthew 27:26), but they went even further with their torture. They twisted a crown of sharp thorns for His head. “They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head.” (Matthew 27:30).
What a cast of characters. We see elite soldiers of the Roman empire, those of the gentiles, and we see the crowds and even the religious leaders of Jesus’ own nation—God’s chosen people—the Jewish nation. These people all converged in a fit of brutishness, savagery, and sadism; but, what do see in the middle of all of this? The cross.
It’s in the midst of vice.
The soldiers:Vice is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “immoral behavior; a weakness of character or behavior.” Certainly, the soldiers had weakness of character. It had been exhibited in their violence, of course, but continued in such a calloused way: “And they crucified Him, and divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man should take.” (Mark 15:24). Once again, right here in the middle of weakness and immorality, we see the cross.
It’s in the midst of mockery and blasphemy.
The soldiers:“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him. They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’” (Matthew 27:27-29).
The people: “And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’” (Matthew 27:39-40).
The rulers: “In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, ‘He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIGHTS IN HIM; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:41-43).
All of this blasphemy—yet where do we find the cross?
It’s in the midst of corruptness.
The rulers:The leaders of the Jews paid Judas in silver to betray Jesus. They are corrupt throughout the entire crucifixion scene. “Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death” (Matthew 27:1) … “And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer” (Matthew 27:12) … “But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death.” (Matthew 27:20).
I wonder if the leaders remember the word of God through the prophet Zephaniah? “I said, ‘Surely you will revere Me, Accept instruction.’ So her dwelling will not be cut off According to all that I have appointed concerning her. But they were eager to corrupt all their deeds.” (Zephaniah 3:7). Still, the cross is right there, in the middle of this hatred and corruption.
Do you see it?
The cross is in the world, not heaven (Though the crucified resides in heaven). The cross is in the midst of sin, not righteousness (Though the crucified IS righteousness). The cross is not in a cathedral between two candles, but on a hill of disrepute between two criminals (Though the crucified has the name above all names).
Do you see where the cross is? Do you see the type of people for whom Jesus died? Guess what—I’m one of them, and so are you. We might not see ourselves as especially violent or particularly vice-ridden. We might not use the words of the rulers to mock and perhaps we don’t share their same level of corruptness, but sin is sin—period. You and I need to understand, not just intellectually, but emotionally as well, that Jesus died for all of those people present in that day; He died for me—a sinner; He died for you—a sinner. He came and lived, died, and was raised again in the midst of sin so that you and I can have forgiveness. That’s another place where the cross is.
It’s in the midst of forgiveness.
Jesus:Does Jesus “practice what He preaches”? “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Look at the cross and see. “But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). In the center of all of this hatred, violence, brutality, and corruptness this attitude of Jesus shines. This is where the cross is—surrounded by loving forgiveness, a forgiveness made available to all who will turn in belief in obedience to the One who came to “seek and save the lost,” who came to “save His people from their sins.”
It’s in the midst of belief.
The Centurion and his guards: Even those who are not already followers of Jesus, if they see the cross, recognize the glory they behold. “Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’” (Matthew 27:54).
The criminal: “One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, ‘Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!’ But the other answered, and rebuking him said, ‘Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!’ And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.’” (Luke 23:39-43).
Can any doubt that the cross is the very center of belief?
It’s in the midst of obedient steadfastness.
Jesus says: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23). The apostle Paul explains how following and obeying Jesus relates to the cross and the resurrection: “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4). Walking in newness of life is steadfastness.
The women: The women who have followed Jesus during His life follow Him to the cross, too. They are steadfast in their discipleship. “Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him.” (Matthew 27:55). They don’t give up after His death, but stay at hand. “And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave.” (Matthew 27:61). They know where the cross is. Do you?
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.