The Words of Jesus from the cross – part three
Today is Palm Sunday when we remember Jesus entering throught the gates of Jesusalem at Passover. It’s the beginning of a week that will challenge and provoke a wide range of responses and reactions and ultimately lead to the cross and our salvation.
It’s also the last in our series of the words that Jesus said on the cross.
As Jesus entered Jerusalem, He understood where the journey was going to take Him, and He repeatedly tried to help his disciples to understand the significance of what was happening.
In Luke 22 we see how much Jesus was in anguish about what was to come. He was after all fully man as well as fully God. He prayed ‘Father if you are will ing take this cup from me, yet not my will but yours be done’. In verses 43-44 we see an angel of the Lord appeared to Him and strengthened Him. And being in anguish he prayer more earnestly and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. We can be in no doubt as to the depths of pain and suffering at this point. And His betrayal, trial torture and subsequent execution was still to come.
Jesus very identity would be called into question.
Through chapters 22-23 of Luke you can hear people constantly asking him if you’re Messiah tell us. Are you the son of God? Are you the king of the Jews? He saved others let him save Himself if he’s the Messiah, the chosen one. Are you the king of the Jews save yourself. Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us.
The irony of this last comment, hurled at Jesus as abuse, was that Jesus was the Messiah. The Christ. And he was sent to save.
Psalm 118 is a psalm of salvation. Jesus understood that altoough rejected, he would become the chief cornerstone. That he would be gloriously raise up, and be the salvation of the world. The very reason he came, as Emmanuel. God with us to seek and save the lost, to seek and save us. God’s perfect rescue plan.
Luke 23:26-49 describes the final moments in dramatic detail. An unearthly darkness descends over the whole world. Jesus is punished for the worlds transgressions, -for our transgressions. He fights for breath – fights for me. God forsaken, and separated from His heavenly Father. Because of us, because of me. Taking the whole weight of sin, bearing the whole wrath of God. And as he cries ‘It is finished ‘
The curtain of the temple is ripped in two. The curtain was huge. It completely separating the people from the Holy of Holies in the temple. It was a symbolic and in the temple a physical barrier between a broken, unfaithful and sinful people and the holy presence of God. This curtain was divinely torn from the top to the bottom. Jesus called out in a loud voice ‘Father into your hands I commit your spirit’ and when he said this he breathed his last. A perfect sacrifice made once for all, and we are now free to enter into the presence of God, clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
Psalm 118: 23 says ‘The Lord has done this and it is marvellous in our eyes.’
Luke goes on to tell us about the various people gathered around the cross that day, and how they responded.
The centurion a Roman and a Gentile, seen as the enemy by many , praised God and said ‘surely this was a righteous man’ . In accounts by Mathew and Luke he goes further and says surely he was the son of God. After all the questioning and all the mocking, Jesus is seen for who He really is. The Christ , the saviour of the world. The people gather around, the spectators were conscience stricken by what they saw. They beat their breasts and went away, and we do not know what, if any, long term impact the death of Jesus had on their lives after that. Then there were those who knew him, who had followed him from Galilee, standing at a distance, watching these things. Unable to comprehend what had happened, or what it might mean. Fearful for what it might mean for them personally to be known as a follower of Jesus. Unsure of what the future might hold.
So where are we?
At the end of lent and the beginning of Holy week where do we stand at the foot of the cross?
Are we like the centurion feeling like an outsider, but drawn to this Jesus? Recognising in him something more, something profound and divine, daring to believe that he loved me, and died for me so that I can be free from all the massive mistakes I’ve make. Daring to believe in a new and eternal life with him.
Or are we like the spectators. Appalled by the brutality of the cross and a sense of injustice, but at the end of the day will go away from this place unchanged. The sceptic in us not prepared to explore whether the claims of Jesus were true, but to dismiss the event as a cruel miscarriage of justice, and the death of a good man, but nothing personal.
Are we like those who knew Jesus watching things unfold from a distance. Watching but not really knowing what our next step should be. Perhaps fearful of what God may be asking of us. How does what Jesus did and said from the cross change us?
I’m a bit of a fan of the Church of England apps, and they’ve had one recently called ‘ Live lent- I’d just like to read the Reflection for Palm Sunday.
Holy week begins today as we celebrate Jesus entry into Jerusalem. Crowds cheering , branches waving. Today also starts the last week of Jesus life on earth. His journey to the cross and to death., and through death to life.
Jesus says I am the way, walk with me, follow me, come with me to the Father. To follow Jesus is not primarily to follow a code of practise, or even a rule of life. It’s to walk with Him. At the beginning of his ministry he invited people to come and see, and live. At the end of his life he does the same.
So let us journey with Him.
If we believe along with the centurion and the disciples that Jesus is the son of God. If we are at all moved to understand the full magnitude of what He did for us on the cross. Then by his death and resurrection we can come to the presence of a holy, awesome, God, and have eternal life with Him.