Easter is a time we remember the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross at Golgotha. It is a time many folks, who only come to church once or twice a year, get to hear the real Gospel story. Pastors focus messages on the reason for, and blessings of, Christ’s death on the cross. It is a happy time. It’s a time for celebrating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Easter is a “feel good” day.
But Easter is also a time of reflection for us. Jesus knew exactly when and how He would submit to the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world. He also taught us that He created His children for a life of sacrifice. Christ said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:34-35.
In Jesus’ time criminals were often forced to carry their own crosses to the place of execution. The crosses, said to be made of dogwood, were heavy and cumbersome. Add to their weight the drag of the cross on the ground and the trip to the place of execution was tortuous, almost unbearable.
Have you thought of your own cross this week? What load are you bearing? Whose load are you bearing? As we consider on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we need to understand that He challenged us to do the same–to sacrifice our lives for the benefit of others and to honor God. Bearing our own crosses creates sacrificial living for us. Bearing our own crosses in sacrificial living is not easy. Nor is it fun. Sacrifice was not easy or fun for Jesus, nor will it be for us.
Besides understanding Jesus sacrifice and living the same, we need to understand the signs that fulfilled His purpose as our Savior. Pilot hung a sign above Jesus’ head proclaiming, “Behold, the King of the Jews.” Pilot didn’t have a clue what he was doing. When he called Jesus the King of the Jews, The Jewish rulers protested because they rejected Jesus as King. He was a threat to their livelihood and their religious stranglehold on the people. The Jewish rulers wanted Pilot to change the sign to claim Jesus “said” He was King of the Jews, which would make the statement hearsay and they could dismiss it and Jesus.
But God had a purpose for Pilot as well. Pilot thought he was mocking Jesus, but God used Pilot’s intentions to proclaim Jesus’ purpose for living and dying.
Jesus even used the Roman soldiers attending the crucifixion that day to fulfill the last prophesy of Jesus earthly ministry. Psalm 22:18 prophesies, “They divide my garments among them and for my clothing they cast lots.” The soldiers were at work. It was their job to be there. They had crucifixion duty that day. They didn’t have a clue their gambling for the robe of a condemned man meant anything to anyone.
In addition to Jesus’ sacrifice that day we need to understand that God will fulfill His purpose. His will never be thwarted. He will use even the ungodly to fulfill His purpose for Jesus and for us.
If we’re to understand the cross of Christ we need to realize that even in the agonizing throes of unparalleled agony and suffering He showed compassion for His mother and John. Looking down from that cross Jesus made sure His brother would now care for His mother. Even in the anguishing last moments of life, Jesus reached out to serve and protect.
Probably the most important thing for us to understand about Jesus’ death on the cross is his proclamation of His completed work. In his letter to the Philippians Paul tells us Jesus “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond servant, and being made in the likeness of men, being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.” Philippians 2:7-8. He had done everything God sent Him to earth to do.
His last words before He took His last breath and gave up His spirit were, “It is finished.” Following three years of ministry, following His profound teaching about the Kingdom of God, following His choice of 12 men to carry on and set up His church on earth Jesus’ finished earthly mission.
As we think about Jesus this Holy Week, ask yourself: How heave is my cross? Have I taken up my cross like Jesus said for me to do? Am I living a sacrificial life? Do I give of my time and resources for the good of others? And most importantly, do I understand the magnitude and the glory of Jesus crucifixion on the cross?