Scripture reading: Matthew 27:35-44, Mark 15:24-32, Luke 23:33-43, John 19:18-27
“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
Johnny Cash’s well-known song plays in my head when I read the Gospel accounts of that Friday morning when Jesus was nailed to the cross.
“Sometimes it causes me to tremble.”
Indeed, and so it should.
The crucifixion of Jesus was a terrible thing. The onlookers mocked, the rulers scoffed. Some spit at him, many jeered at him with invitations to deliver himself and show his power. It’s so hard to consider how frightening a scene this truly was. The Son of God, the one who deserves all glory, honor, and praise, he came in love to display mercy, and he received none in return.
There have been countless reflections written of the crucifixion, some that emphasize the physical torture, many that focus on the spiritual realities that were unfolding. One thing is for certain – what happened on the cross changed the course of history forever. In fact, one could effectively argue that the crucifixion is the most important event in all of history. The crucifixion is that unique aspect of Christianity by which everything else, including the resurrection, is given its true significance.
Movements of churches call themselves “cross-centered.” Christians throughout the ages have worn crosses from around their necks. The Apostle Paul declared that he was “determined to know nothing … except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
Why this focus on the cross? This focus on the crucifixion makes us uncomfortable; it reminds us that the invitation of Christianity is a call to die. Especially in a society used to comfort, aimed at success, given to optimism and positive thinking, the crucifixion of our Lord makes us tremble. The crucifixion is all at once a shocking statement of the cost of our sin, as well as a scandalous pronouncement of God’s love for us.
Apart from the crucifixion, we simply cannot understand the identity and mission of our Savior. It is here at the cross where his love and mercy are most revealed. God’s nature is on full display in this moment on a dark Friday morning, and is here memorialized for all ages in the pages of Scripture.
And therefore, this week as you read and ponder what Jesus accomplished on the cross, consider afresh how his nature is there proclaimed.
Contemplate the fact that while our sin put him there, it was his love for you and me that kept him there.
As you think about the agony that Jesus endured, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually, know deep in your heart that because of his sacrifice on your behalf, through faith in him, you will never know the wrath of God. Let that drive you to a place of abiding joy and rejoicing. As we celebrate communion as a church, let the atoning work of Christ on the cross be in full view, recalling to mind the benefits we receive because of his sacrificial act.
Let us be a church that proclaims in our lives every day, “far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 6:4)
During Holy Week, your pastoral team will share a daily devotion from Palm Sunday until Resurrection Sunday. Christ is risen!