Tag Archives: the cross of Christ

Through the Cross

The following is a sermon I preached three years ago on Palm Sunday. it came to mind this morning as I was walking and praying. I trust it will bless you this Easter!

In the 5th century BC, the Greeks started some games at Mount Olympus.  An olive branch was twisted as a crown, and onlookers waved palms for the victor.  Palm branches were a symbol of victory. Olympic medals still have palms on them today!

There was excitement in the city.  Jesus was coming.  They had heard of his miracles, of people healed, of demons cast out, of his run-ins with the Pharisees.  The discussion about the coin with Caesars image on it and whether we should pay taxes or not.  The story of the Good Samaritan and the prodigal son.  Lazarus had been raised from the dead just days prior.  And now he was coming to Jerusalem!

He was really coming.  He was the King, the Messiah, in their minds.  They believed he was coming as a victor to bring His kingdom to reality.  They saw victory over the Romans coming to pass so they gave Him a victor’s welcome.  They waved the palm branches and laid them down at His feet in victory.  They even laid their overcoats down in homage to Him.  They praised the one who came riding in on a donkey, just as the prophecies said He would. Of course, the religious leaders were aghast!  They derided Him for accepting the praise of the people.  But He told them the rocks would cry out if the people did not.  They were incredulous, I am sure

Then he walked into the temple and saw the money changers there, cheating the people and lying to them.   They would take a lamb from one family, saying it was not clean enough, and they would sell that same family a lamb that had been taken from another family, supposedly because it was not clean enough.  There weights were not accurate and they cheated the people one after another.  Jesus came in, and as He had done before, he started dumping the tables over, causing a huge commotion in the entry of the temple.  Once again, the religious leaders were furious and said this man has got to go.

The next two days he spent time in Jerusalem, teaching the people with stories about ten virgins and ten talents.  He pronounced woes on the Pharisees in a tone none had seen from Him before.  He told of the end times, and what they would be seeing at the end of the age.  He talked about the value of a widow’s mite, and His feet were anointed with very costly oil by Mary. He told Peter he would betray Him three times.  A lot happened on those two days that we rarely read about.

But then Thursday came.  He sent His disciples into the city to prepare for the Passover, telling them to take someone’s donkey and tell them the Master had need of it.  The disciples went and prepared the feast, and as soon as they were all there, Jesus washed their feet.  The Master washing His followers’ feet – quite a sign of servanthood.  He told them one of them would betray Him, and sent Judas away on His mission.  He told them the bread was His broken body, and the cup was His blood spilled for them.  They were trying to figure out what he was talking about.  I am sure the atmosphere was solemn and sobering.  Not a typical Passover fest, which were usually joyous and celebratory.

Around midnight, they took a walk to the Garden of Gethsemane.  He told them he was going to prepare a place for them, that he was giving them His peace and would send the comforter to teach them.  He told them he was the vine and they were the branches, and they were to be fruitful.  He said the Holy Spirit would convict people of sin, righteousness and judgment.  He told them to pray in His name, and he pronounced a blessing on the disciples, all during that short walk.  Those words can be talked about forever.

When they got to the Garden, He took Peter, James and John a little further in and asked them to pray with Him as he went aside.  But they fell asleep, not once, not twice, but three times.  He told His Father that he was ready to do the Fathers will, and not His own.  He would face the cross.  Judas came and betrayed Him with a kiss and the soldiers took Him away in the middle of the night.  A mock court awaited Him. It didn’t take long for them to convict Him as peter was outside betraying Him.  Pilate listened to the case and washed His hands of the whole thing after the crowd cried crucify Him.  He was beaten, bruised, spit on, scourged, given a crown of thorns and made to carry His cross.  He fell under the weight, weakened by the loss of blood.  A man helped Him carry the cross the rest of the way.  They laid Him on it and put the nails through His hands and feet.  Then they raised the cross and dropped it in the hole with a thud.  The pain in His body must have been immense, the sight of Him almost grotesque. 

Then He asked the Father to forgive them, for they did not know what they were doing.  He put John in His place to care for His mother.  He asked for a drink and got vinegar.  Then he cried it is finished and His life left Him at three in the afternoon.  He gave it up, they did not take it.  All of a sudden there was an earthquake.  The veil of the temple ripped from top to bottom.  People came up out of their graves and walked in the streets of Jerusalem.  It was an incredible series of events.  They took His body down and laid it in a borrowed tomb, wrapped in a cloth.  They out a huge stone at the entry of the tomb, sealed it with a Roman seal and placed a guard at the door so no one would steal the body.

Saturday was quiet.  The people mourned His death.  They seemed hopeless because they had such high hopes.  Now He was gone, and their dreams of a Messiah were gone with them.  The disciples were in hiding, afraid of the Romans, who thought they might steal the body so they could claim he rose again as He said He would.  I can’t imagine the tears that were shed that day.

Then Sunday came.  Mary came to the tomb to anoint the body, but when she got there the Roman guard was asleep and the stone was rolled away!  She went into the tomb and Jesus was gone.  She wondered where he was, and Jesus appeared to her, telling her He had risen just like He said He would.  Se ran to tell the disciples. Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves.  They were amazed, and suddenly Jesus came into the room and talked with them.  The victory had been won.

You see, the cross was necessary.  Jesus had to win the victory by going through the cross.  And we win the victory by going through the cross as well.  We don’t ant to stay on the front side of the cross, and see the agone and defeat that is there.  We need to get to the back side of the cross and see the victory that Christ won for us.

On the front of the cross is agony on the back of the cross is peace

On the front of the cross is sorrow on the back of the cross is joy

On  the front of the cross is weakness on the back of the cross is strength

On the front of the cross is doubt on the back of the cross is faith

On the front of the cross is pain on the back of the cross is healing

On the front of the cross is deceit on the back of the cross is honesty

On the front of the cross are lies on the back of the cross is truth

On the front of the cross is bondage on the back of the cross is freedom

On the front of the cross is darkness on the back of the cross is light

On the back of the cross we are lost on the back of the cross we find the way

On the front of the cross is sin on the back of the cross is forgiveness

On the front of the cross we are stained with sin

on the back of the cross we are white as snow

On the front of the cross is defeat on the back of the cross is victory

On the front of the cross is death on the back of the cross is eternal life

If we stay on the front of the cross, hell will be our destination

When we go through the cross, and come to the back, our destination is heaven

All is only achieved if we go through the cross.  Have you seen Him on the front of the cross, blood stained, nailed, in agony? Have you accepted Him as your sacrifice for your sin? If you have, then come through the Cross for victory.  Come to the back of the cross and realize all God has for you.

Be a Good Minister

1 Timothy 4:6

6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

We have an awesome responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Christ. That responsibility is reminding them what God has said. We cannot take for granted that they know what God has said. Paul has asked us here to put the brethren in remembrance of these things. God knows we are flawed human beings and that our flesh wants to gravitate toward the things and ways of this world. Because of this, He has commissioned us to be ministers of the Gospel and the ministers of His doctrine. Not the doctrine of this world, but His doctrine.

What things do we have to remind our brothers about? I would go back to chapter three and everything from there on is what we need constant reminding about. Chapter three deals with the qualifications of our church leadership. I would dare say that some churches and denominations have lost sight of many of these qualifications. The first and foremost is choosing bishops and deacons who are seasoned in the word. These men and women have the daunting task of keeping the church on course in their pursuit of Christ. If they are not seeking out the truth in scripture and applying it on a day to day basis, they can easily slip away from that truth. When that happens, they can erode the fabric of a church if false doctrine should creep in. You may remember our discussion on seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. Just as in Paul’s day, these are rampant in the church today. Our leaders must be aware of what the Word says and where these false teaching miss the mark.

Then there is the mystery of the gospel, spoken of in 1 Timothy 3:16. It is imperative that we continually remind ourselves of the birth, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the foundation of the church and of our lives. The great salvation He purchased for us must be renewed in us on a continual basis. This is the reason we have set aside holidays to celebrate these events – so we will never forget. That Christ came down from heaven to be born of a virgin is nothing short of miraculous mercy and grace. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords gave up His throne in heaven to come and die for me. He did not come with much fanfare, but in a lowly stable to a couple who were poor. No royalty met Him when He arrived, but shepherds that had heard of Him while watching their flocks at night. God chose them, the meek and lowly, to first witness His Son. He grew up unknown and wise, at one time questioning the temple leaders as if He had the wisdom of God. Until He was in His early 30’s, no one followed Him.

But then John the Baptist recognized who He was. Many heard the voice from heaven speak and say “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ Many saw the dove fly down from heaven and land on His shoulder. Many heard John say “I must decrease and He must increase.” It was a changing of the guard and the people started following Jesus. His teaching angered the religious leaders but brought comfort and joy to the common folk. He healed everyone who came to Him, cast out devils, fed the masses and raised the dead. More and more people followed Him through the next three years. He chose 12 disciples to become His closest friends and He taught about the Kingdom of God. He talked in parables which confounded the wise but spoke to the simple. Thousands followed Him wherever He went.

Then He came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey just before the Passover. The crowd spread palm branches before Him and cried “Hosanna, hosanna. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” The Pharisees were outraged, but He told them if the people did not praise Him, the very rocks would cry out. The next day He walked into the marketplace and overturned the tables of the crooked moneychangers. Over the next two days He taught in more parables, spoke of the end times and cried out woes to the Pharisees and Scribes, calling them hypocrites and whitewashed sepulchers. They were furious and started plotting His death. They convinced a disciple named Judas to betray Him. His disciples found a place to have the Passover meal by following what Jesus had told them. Their fourth day in town they sat down to share the meal.

But this was no ordinary meal. At the beginning, Jesus got up and washed all of their feet, much to the protests of Peter. He told them if they wanted to be great, they must become servants to all. Then He told them one would betray Him, knowing what was to come. He broke the bread and passed the cup, saying this was His body and His blood. They did as He said, but did not understand what was happening. He told Peter that he would deny Him three times before morning light. As they walked to the Garden to pray that night, He told them He was going away to prepare mansions for them and they could not come with Him, but they would see Him later. He told them He was the Way, the Truth and the Life. He told them He was the vine and they were the branches, and that they must abide in Him. He told them He would send the comforter to help them to remember the words He had spoken and He left His peace with them. He told them so many things that they did not understand at the time. Then He prayed for them that the Father would keep them safe.

Once at the Garden, He asked Peter, James and John to pray with Him for an hour. He knew His death was soon. He knew the one who betrayed Him would be coming. He knew he would be beaten, scourged, spit upon, crowned with thorns and crucified. He knew the pain He would have to endure. He knew the disciples would not be able to bear the test that was about to come, and wanted them to pray not only for Him, but for themselves. Then He bowed to the Fathers will. Two times He went back to find the three disciples, His closest friends, asleep while He was praying. The third time, Judas came and betrayed Him with a kiss. Peter tried to fend off the soldiers, but Jesus told them if He wanted to be freed He could call ten thousand angels to come right now.

The guards took Him into the judgment hall where they slapped Him, jeered at Him, spit on Him and called false witnesses against Him. They took Him to Pilate who said He found no fault in Him but had Him scourged anyway. A wicked whipping with a bone laced whip that dug deep into His back. Pilate sent Him back to Herod, but soon He was right back before Pilate, this time with a crown of thorns the soldiers had placed on His head. Pilate still found no fault in Him but decided to give the people a choice between Him and a zealot named Barabbas. They chose Barabbas and cried crucify Jesus. Pilate found himself in a no win situation, so He told them to take Him and crucify Him and washed His hands of Jesus, saying His blood was on the Jews. He had to carry His own cross, falling under the weight of it and requiring help to finish the long walk. Once at the top of Golgotha, they nailed His feet and hands to that cross and dropped it in the ground. The gambled for His robe, gave Him vinegar to drink, and challenged Him to come down off the cross. But He was there willingly. He was there for you and me. He was there to set us free. Isaiah 53:5 puts it so beautifully “He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. Surely the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and by His stripes we are healed.” He spoke “It is finished” signifying the completion of the plan of our redemption from sin. Then He gave up the ghost. They pierced His side to make sure He was dead.

They took Him down from the cross and placed Him in a borrowed tomb. The Pharisees had heard that He said He would rise on the third day so they asked Pilate to put a guard on the tomb and seal it tight. He did so, and all thought it was over. There was no more hope for a new kingdom to be set up. Roman rule would continue. But on the third day, the women came to anoint the body with spices and they saw the stone rolled away. They saw an angel sitting where Jesus body should have been. They saw His grave clothes neatly folded. The angel told them He was alive! The women ran back to the disciples with Mary lagging behind. Jesus appeared to her and told her He was alive. He is still alive today, to be our friend and our provider, to walk with us and talk with us, to heal us and to comfort us. The cross made a way for our redemption. We cannot stay on the front side of the cross. We must go through the cross to the back of the cross because:

On the front of the cross is agony on the back of the cross is peace
On the front of the cross is sorrow on the back of the cross is joy
On the front of the cross is pain on the back of the cross is healing
On the front of the cross is bondage on the back of the cross is freedom
On the front of the cross is sin on the back of the cross is forgiveness
On the front of the cross we are stained with sin
on the back of the cross we are white as snow
On the front of the cross is defeat on the back of the cross is victory
On the front of the cross is death on the back of the cross is eternal life
If we stay on the front of the cross, hell will be our destination
When we go through the cross, and come to the back, our destination is heaven

All is only achieved if we go through the cross. Where are you standing? Are you still seeing Jesus from the front of the cross, or have you accepted that sacrifice as your own. Have you identified with His death and come to the other side of yourself? Is Christ alive in you today?

This Easter season, let us put everyone in remembrance of these things. Let us make sure we tell all those around us of the saving power of Jesus Christ. When, we do, we are sure to be called good ministers of Jesus Christ.