For the next few minutes, I invite you to disconnect yourself from worldly thoughts and join me while I follow Jesus Christ from a short distance. Although Christ’s birth, youth and ministry were very unusual to those who were watching Him and His followers, His last days and hours on earth were beyond human understanding and reason.
How things have changed since Jesus received a royal welcome while entering Jerusalem just a few days ago. First, we see one of His disciples plotting to betray Him. Then, we see Jesus having His last supper with His disciples, where He washes their feet and announces His death. Then, we hear Him predicting Peter’s denial.
Next, we follow Jesus into Gethsemane, where we hear Him ask His close friends and companions to pray with Him. But they fall asleep. While still in the garden, He is betrayed by one of His disciples and arrested like a criminal by the soldiers. At that particular moment, when He needed them the most, “all His disciples deserted Him and fled,” leaving Him alone (Matthew 26:56). One disciple who followed Jesus from afar, when questioned, denies that he knew Jesus at all.
Jesus is then brought to the high priest and the high council to be falsely accused by false witnesses, and there the chief priests and the elders decide to put Jesus to death. They bind Him and hand Him over to Pilate, the governor. And, while the governor tries to free Jesus, the crowds and the priests shout: “Crucify Him, crucify Him. . . and let His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:22 & 25)
And, as if all these things were not enough, in Matthew 27:27-31 we read: “The governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the governor’s palace, and the whole company of soldiers gathered around.
“They stripped off His clothes and put a bright red robe on Him. Then they made a crown of thorns and placed it on His head and put a stick in His right hand. Then they knelt before Him and made fun of Him! ‘Long live the king of the Jews!’ they said. They spat on Him, and took the stick and hit him over the head over and over again. When they had finished making fun of Him, they took the robe off and they put His clothes on Him. Then they led Him away to crucify Him.” There are no volunteers to help Jesus carry His cross so the soldiers force a bystander named Simon to carry the cross. (What a privilege!)
At the place called Golgotha (the Place of the Skull), they nail Him to a cross between two thieves. Passersby shake their heads and throw insults and curses at Jesus. “Save yourself, if you are God’s Son! Come on down from the cross!”
In the meantime, the soldiers are busy dividing His clothes among themselves by throwing dice. Then they sit down to watch Jesus die.
All of a sudden, at about 12 noon, the whole country is covered with darkness that lasts three hours. Then Jesus cries out with a loud voice: “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” People are still mocking Him when Jesus declares: “It is finished.” With that, He bows His head and dies.
The darkness disappears. The curtain of the Temple rips into two from top to bottom. The earth trembles, rocks shatter, graves break open and many of God’s people who had died are raised to life!
An army officer who, with his soldiers had been watching Jesus, cries out: “Surely He was the Son of God!”
What a tragic picture Calvary is of humanity! While the Son of God suffers for man’s sins, the soldiers gamble for His few earthly possessions, the religious leaders make fun of Him, and others just sit and stare.
Jesus’ last words, “It is finished” (John 19:30), were actually one Greek word: tetelestai. It was used by merchants to mean: “The price is all paid.” Servants would use it when their work was completed and they were re- porting to their masters. And Christ, the obedient Servant, had finished the work the Father had given Him to do. Christ willingly and deliberately gave up His life; He laid it down for His enemies.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord? the spiritual hymn asks. Well, I was. I was there when they crucified our Lord. My every weakness, my every shortcoming, my sinful and fallen nature was represented by those people there. Everyone was represented there. . .Priests and church leaders were there, fishermen and carpenters were there, government officials and soldiers were there, prosti- tutes and fornicators were there, Jews and Gentiles were there. Every conceiv- able sin and corruption was represented there.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Do you believe in Him? Have you accepted Him as your Lord and Saviour or you are still doubting Him?
Many today are like those around the cross, looking at Jesus but not believing Him, not receiving Him. They were so near Him, yet so far. But one dying man, nailed to a cross next to Jesus, reached out and said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Jesus answered him: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
What about you? Have you accepted Him as your Lord and Saviour? He died so you and I can live. What are you waiting for?
Pastor Joseph Hovsepian