It was a Friday morning about 9:00 that it began. It would
be over by 3:00 that afternoon. What can you do in six
hours? In our modern, high-tech world, you can send e-mail
all over the world and you can get an automobile and travel
300 miles or more. You can hop on an airplane and go from
one end of the country to the other. There's a lot you can
do in six hours. But that day was over 2,000 years ago.
What did the people do in those six hours? Probably like
any other day, a farmer got up and began to plow his field
because it was spring and it was about time to plant. A
housewife I'm sure got up and began to be busy with her
daily house chores. A merchant opened up his shop, and he
did a brisk day's business for six hours, getting ready for
the Sabbath and for the Passover weekend. You can do a lot
in six hours. But all that was done in Jerusalem during
that six hours, and for that matter all that was done all
over the world in all the days combined, paled in
comparison to what was being done on a hill called,
"Calvary." A man was being crucified, a very special man
nailed to a Roman cross. His was on one of three crosses
erected that day, the middle one.
A visitor who happened to come to Jerusalem that day might
have seen the crosses, shook his head and thought, "Oh, one
of those sad but necessary executions in order to keep the
peace and to keep justice." The Roman soldiers assigned to
the task knew little of this mysterious young carpenter who
refused to beg or whine or complain. They had no idea that
this one that practically laid himself down on that cross
could be anything other than just a Nazarene.
Oh, but some strange things began to happen. First, there
was the darkness, a blackness darker than an eclipse. The
sky had an eerie, hellish gloom. It's as if God, the
Father, had turned his back on the earth, maybe even to
shed a tear. Then there was the earthquake that Matthew
tells us about. A mysterious rumble from the very womb of
the earth caused the rocks to split. Prisoners of the grave
were released from death's cold grip. Reports spread all
the way around Jerusalem of the bodies that had been
entombed actually walking down the streets; no doubt loved
ones saw and talked with them.
The curtain, that massive veil in the temple that separated
the holy place from "the Holy of Holies," would be torn
apart. The place where only once a year as the High Priest
would take in the blood from an unblemished lamb to
sprinkle upon the mercy seat to make atonement, a sacrifice
for all the people. That curtain was 40 feet high and it
weighed several tons. But during those six hours, somebody,
something, somehow tore that massive curtain from top to
bottom as if two great hands ripped it apart. As if the
great God of the universe was saying, the high priest has
entered the Holy of Holies for the last time, the final Day
of Atonement. He'll never have to go in there again.
Well this was no ordinary Friday. Jerusalem was captured in
the throws of the mystery that she couldn't understand.
People were beginning to wonder as they saw some things and
as they heard other things. Could it be? Could it be? No!
It couldn't be. That Nazarene man might be something other
than just a man, something more than just a carpenter who
lived in Nazareth, maybe even something more than a
prophet. You can almost hear the entire thought process of
an entire community. In fact, they buzzed about it for days
and days and days.
Do you remember Pentecost? Do you remember how 3,000 people
were baptized on one day? Have you ever wondered how 3,000
people were baptized on one day? It wasn't just the power
of one sermon. You see what had happened in Jerusalem that
day was all that everybody talked about for seven weeks.
What did all those mysterious things mean? Then Peter on
that Pentecost Day, inspired by the Spirit, unsealed it. He
said, "That was the Son of God on that cross." That's why
Have you ever stopped to consider how central it is to
human history? All of time is measured by it. All of this
book, the Bible, is its story. All the Old Testament
history points to it, a type of things to come. Now type is
a person, place, or thing in the Hebrew religion that
foreshadows or anticipates a person, place or thing in the
New Covenant. In other words, it was a symbol back there
that foreshadows or anticipates something here. Frankly,
the Old Testament is filled with beautiful types. When you
take the time to see and understand them, it helps you to
piece together God's magnificent providence and you can see
that the story is the same all the way through history,
pointing to the very same conclusion.
The most beautiful types in the Old Testament are those
that foreshadow the cross. Do you remember the first
Passover? As the blackness of the plague of the death of
the firstborn crept across Egypt, it surely foreshadowed
the blackness at midday on that Friday just as a Lamb was
slain in each of those Hebrew homes that night so the death
angel would pass over, leaving that family unharmed. It set
the stage for the time that the real Lamb, the Lamb of God,
would be slain allowing death to pass over humanity
Or how about that Ark of the Covenant, the mysterious Ark
of the Covenant introduced to us in Exodus 25 on Mount
Sinai? Do you remember the name of the covering of the Ark
of the Covenant? It was called, "The Mercy Seat." On that
"Mercy Seat" once a year, the high priest would come into
the Holy of Holies with the blood from an unblemished lamb
and sprinkle drops of blood on the Mercy Seat so that sin
would be taken away. But it was at the cross where the real
mercy seat was established and where the blood of the
perfect sacrifice wasn't just sprinkled, but flowed that
would take away all sin for all time.
Or how about when the Israelites had been grumbling and
complaining and sinning again and God threw them in the
midst of venomous snakes and they were being bitten and
being killed. Then Moses, after praying fashioned a bronze
serpent, put it on a pole and lifted it up. Their cure from
certain death was free and available to all. But they had
to take some action on their on. They had to look upon it
to live. But in doing so they did not earn the cure for it
was free to all. By looking upon the bronze serpent they
did not work but they did take action in order to live.
(Numbers 21) Jesus said in John 3, just like that bronze
serpent, "If I be lifted up, I'll draw all men to myself."
I could give you two dozen others, but the Old Testament is
like a huge sign with an arrow saying, "This way to the
cross. This way to the cross."
Then when Jesus came, he lived for it. He lived for the
From his earliest days, the cross cast its shadow ahead of
him. From the very day that he came into this world in
Bethlehem where there was no room in the inn. It was saying
right then, "There's no room for you in this world. You'll
not find a place to stay here. You'll be rejected and even
The gospels record for us no less than a dozen different
accounts of Jesus foretelling his own death. I think about
Matthew 16 when he and the disciples were having a little R
& R (rest and relaxation) at Caesarea, Philippi. Jesus
asked, "Who do you think I am?" After they had given
speculation, street talk of what others were saying, Peter
looked at him and said, "You're the Christ, you're the Son
of the Living God." Jesus said, "Blessed are you Simon, son
of Jonah, for flesh and blood hasn't revealed this to you,
but my Father in heaven." Jesus knowing now that the men,
who would carry on what he was going to die for were
beginning to understand. Verse 21 says that, immediately,
from that time on, Jesus began to explain to his disciples,
how he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the
hands of the Elders, Chief Priests, and teachers of The
Law; that he must be killed and on the third day, raised to
He said the same thing in Matthew 17, 20, 21. In Matthew 26
at that Last Supper, He told them again, "I'm about to be
killed." In those few hours after that in the Garden of
Gethsemane, He bowed on His face and asked if there were
any other way He knew that it was for this destiny that He
was born. The cross was what Jesus came here for, and He
always knew it.
The entire New Testament reflects it. Paul said, "Jews
demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we
preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and
foolishness to Gentiles." (1 Corinthians 1:22, 23) "For I
resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus
Christ and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2) "May I never
boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
(Galatians 6:14) Do you see those three statements? Paul
said, "All I know is Christ crucified." Then he said "All I
preach is Christ crucified." (1 Corinthians 1:23) "All I
boast about is the cross of Christ, Jesus crucified."
(Galatians 6:14) "For me to live is Christ, and to die
would be gain" because he was crucified. (Philippians
Folks, you go through the Bible, the New Testament, every
sermon preached by Paul or Peter you will see, every one of
them focused on the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.
So whether the Old Testament, the New Testament or the
whole Bible, the cross is central.
Years ago in the British Royal Navy in their great sailing
vessels would weave a blue thread right through the center
of the rope that would be used to hoist the main sail
because they wanted that rope to be distinguishable. If
they needed to hoist it in an emergency, to flee an enemy
or to avoid a storm, they looked for the rope with the blue
thread right through the middle of it. The cross should be
like that. It's always visible and always accessible. It's
the main thing, not just in this book, but in life itself.
It should be at the very center of everything that we do;
the center of our lifestyle, the center of our home life,
the center of our work life and our school life. If we ever
take Jesus and his cross out of the center, we lose
Have you ever seen signs on posts that stated, "Power Cable
Buried Here?" That's what the sayings of the cross are. You
come to one of those sayings, you dig down and there is
power there-a whole source of power in our lives if we will
just take time to understand it. Jesus' final words were
"It is finished." (John 19:30) What's finished? The divine
plan for redeeming all of humankind is finished. Man's fear
of death is finished. The power of guilt is finished. The
uncertainty of tomorrow is finished.
The following lessons in this series will focus on seven
incredible statements that the Son of God made while in
human form. I don't know about you, but to me, nothing was
more amazing in the whole spectrum of that divine drama
that we call the cross than those seven sayings Jesus made.
What would you say if you were on your way to be executed?
If it were going to be a slow torturous punishment like
Jesus received, what would you dare say while you were
hanging on the cross?
Jesus carefully chose the words that he would utter on that
cross. They were not random phrases just uttered by some
pained martyr. They were intentional statements from God
himself to let us have some clues about the unfathomable
depth of meaning of that cross on which he hung.
forgive themfor they know not what
they do. (Luke 23:34) Those are the words of
forgiveness. To that immediate audience, but extended
far beyond them.
you shall be with me in paradise. (Luke
23:42, 43) Jesus turned to the thief and said words of
acceptance to a common criminal, the last person in the
world you would think ought to be in paradise that day.
A person, who unlike Jesus, was there for crimes he had
woman, here is your son, and to the disciple
(John), Here is your mother. (John 19:25)
Words of comfort, even amidst his agony, the beautiful
words of comfort.
4. My God, my
God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)
What do those words mean? Words of separation, a
horrible separation but a separation that had to occur
if we are going to live forever.
5. I thirst
(John 19:28) The words of humanity showing us that
Jesus was not some type of freak, he was just like you
and me. He hurt, he thirsted, he hungered and he
understood our pain.
6. It is
finished. (John 19:30) The words of victory. The
greatest words ever uttered.
7. Into thy hands
I commit My spirit ( Luke 42:36) The great words of
The cross is at the heart of our faith. It is the
central part of what we stand for. It is the only reason
that we can gather as a community of faith.
I ran across a modern parable this week that I'm afraid
reveals the status of too many individuals, and for that
matter, too many churches. The parable talks about a church
that erected a brand new building. They made it awfully
nice and behind the pulpit area they erected a sign that
said, "We preach Christ crucified." Then down in the lower
corner they put a small potted plant, one of these creeping
vines that would kind of go up the wall for decoration. As
time passed, the vine began to grow and as it grew the
congregation began to mellow. After a while it covered that
last word "crucified." The readable part of the sign
displayed only, "We preach Christ" sure enough not so much
the cross just the nice socially-oriented Jesus who showed
compassion on all needs. But the vine kept growing and the
congregation kept mellowing and after a while, only the
words, "We preach," showed. Eventually they had just
forgotten about Christ. The whole idea was a human gospel,
a human religion responding to human needs, searching for
any answer, but not a cross. Finally the vine continued to
grow until all that was left was the word, "We." I pray to
God that in our life, we still proclaim Christ
If you're wondering how much the cross is at the center of
your very being, answer these three questions in your heart
1. Does the cross bring you to your knees in
thankfulness? Do you fall prostrate before that and
thank God for the very fact that the gates of heaven
are open because of it?
2. Does the
cross free you from guilt? Or are you carrying
around a sack load of it; not laying that guilt at the
cross to do the work that it was designed to do?
3. Does the
cross cause you to surrender daily to God?-Are
you dying on your own cross and letting Christ live in
If you can't answer those three questions today as
well as you would like to, I hope and pray that by the time
we finish this series, your life has changed. Lesson #1250 - February 18,