By Charles D. Earl
Former Director of Missions, Holston Valley Baptist Assoc., Rogersville
We come today to the 12th of 13 lessons that Matthew gives us in the life of our Lord. We have tried to look at many experiences in the life of Jesus, and we come now to that central prophetic event for which He came and toward which He has been marching since the day He was born in Bethlehem. It is that signal act when and where and how He would do for us what we could not do for ourselves. I speak, of course, of that event in His life that began when He and His apostles observed the Passover. He then went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, followed by the betrayal by Judas, the arrest, and the cruel ordeal of the trial at the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. Jesus then endured the Roman scourging and the mockery of a trial in the courtroom of Pontius Pilate. Then we watched as our Lord made that long, lonely, laborious trek from Pilate’s courtroom to Golgotha.
It was a torture that is almost impossible to describe without tears streaming down our faces. We watch the slow, plodding steps of Jesus as He is burdened down with the weight of the cross, plus the sins of the world. We see Him in His weakened state from the loss of blood during the scourging He has endured. He stumbles and falls in the street. He has a look of despair on His face. It was not despair for Himself, but the anguish He feels for the people who do not understand what they are doing. Simon of Cyrene is called to help Him bear the weight of the cross the remainder of the way to Calvary.
When they arrive at the site of crucifixion the cross was laid on the ground and Jesus laid Himself thereon. His arms stretched outward, waiting for the hammer blows that were to follow. The soldier feels for the exact spot where the spike is to be driven and then places the tip of the spike at the chosen location and begins the slow, methodical blows piercing the hands and feet of the Son of God. The nails are now driven, assuring Christ is securely affixed to the wooden instrument of death. The strong, muscular soldiers raise the cross to a vertical position and drop it with a loud thud into the hole that has been prepared for it.
Then the mocking, the taunting, the jeering, the cries of blasphemy of the crowd begins. The scribes and elders shouted at Him saying, “Ah, He saved others, now save yourself! If you are who you say you are, come down from the cross!” But they are asking Christ to do something that even He cannot do! If He saves himself He cannot save them … or us. To save us He must stay on the cross!
During this intense suffering Jesus utters what we call “The Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross.” Among those sayings is the one when He looks over at the penitent thief and promises he will be with Him in paradise. He also utters, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? and the one proclaiming our salvation has been secured when He says “It is finished!” He wasn’t talking about His life being finished, or the ordeal of the cross being over. Praise His holy name, He was saying our salvation is now provided if we believe! Have you accepted that offer? Have you accepted Christ? If you have not accepted His offer of salvation, why not do that today — right now — this minute!