The Power of the Cross
Updated: May 17
We take time today to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for sinners. It is a time of joyful sorrow. Joyful, in that we celebrate his victory over sin. Sorrowful, as we ponder the great pain and loss he experienced on our behalf.
It is appropriate that we look to the account of Jesus' last hours in order to prepare ourselves for Easter.
SCRIPTURE: (Read John 18-19)
Much happened in the life of Jesus before we got to this account in John 18-19. Jesus had begun his ministry with a message, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15)
His message was clear and impactful. So impactful that people were either saved by the power of the truth or enraged at him for speaking such things. Some would follow Jesus just to enjoy the miracles, some would repent and follow as true believers, but most would resent him and pursue his death.
In John 12, Jesus makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem as a humble King. He was not the King people wanted; he was not a military leader who would rescue them from Roman oppression. Jesus had come into the world and was arriving into Jerusalem as the deliverer from sin and death. Jesus had come as the promised Messiah to save his people eternally. Jesus entered Jerusalem, during his final week, on his way to the cross.
We can see in John 18-19 a picture of Jesus' life from the people that are involved during his last hours: Judas, the Jewish leaders, Peter, Pilate, the Soldiers, and the Criminals.
Judas was chosen as one of the Twelve and was entrusted by Jesus to even keep the money. Judas heard all of Jesus' messages and saw his miracles. But even though he knew all about Jesus, he never truly believed or loved Jesus. We read that Judas eventually betrays Jesus with a kiss. The Jewish religious leaders despised Jesus and denied the truth that he was the promised Messiah. Of all the people who should have believed in Christ, they refused to acknowledge that he fulfilled Scripture and turned on him. Jesus was a threat to their power and they stopped at nothing to rid themselves of his influence on the people. Peter was an Apostle and faithful disciple but we read in the text about his denial of Jesus when temptation overcame him and he was questioned about his relationship. By God’s grace and the prayers of Jesus, Peter would turn back and his faith would be strengthened and restored. Pilate, the Roman leader, wanted nothing to do with Jesus; he truly only wanted peace and for the Jews to leave him alone. Pilate found no guilt in Jesus but appeased the mob by ordering him to be crucified and washed his hands of Jesus. The soldiers mocked Jesus and gave him no notice as any type of Messiah or King. We read where they hit him, flogged him, made a crown of thorns for his head, and even divided his garments among them as a sort of prize. And then we come to the criminals who were put on crosses beside Jesus. Much more of their story is recorded in Luke 23:32-43. One of the criminals scoffs at Jesus and says, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39) But the other criminal looks upon Jesus and has the eyes of his heart opened to the Savior. He heard Jesus’ words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) He looks at this Christ who even in his last hours, is asking the Father to forgive the very people who have betrayed him. Looking at the cross of Christ, the criminal sees his own sin and knows without forgiveness he will perish. Humble and repentant he pleads, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)
In this world, there are those who will hear the teaching of Jesus and even follow him but never truly love him. There are those who are very religious and have knowledge of scripture but will deny Jesus as the Messiah; especially if he challenges their power or interrupts their life. There are true disciples who when faced with trouble or even persecution, may deny they even know Jesus; some deny Jesus for much less when it is a popular thing to do or just to be accepted by the world. Pilate tried to wash his hands of Jesus,which is impossible, but still others today will try to avoid the Truth and explain Jesus away instead of turning to him. It is apparent that most of the world today scoffs at Jesus and mocks the very notion of him being the Savior. There are those who are guilty and face condemnation but like the one criminal they will not fear God and see Christ for who he truly is and come to him with a repentant heart. But then there are those like the other who hanged on a cross beside Jesus. He looked upon the cross and saw his Savior. The power of the cross opened his heart and Jesus redeemed him. “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Today as we approach closer to Easter and celebrate the empty tomb, let us never forget the power of the cross. Jesus came into this world to save sinners and that salvation would be paid with a price. The Eternal Son of God would humbly come and give his life for people that would betray, envy, deny, avoid, scoff, mock, beat, and put him to death. Take time to look upon the cross of Christ. Look at your Savior and open your heart to the love he displayed for you. Look at the cross and rest in the truth that Jesus died so that you could live eternally and be in paradise with him.
written by David McBath