The Way Of The Cross

THE WAY TO THE CROSS:

The Death Of The Savior

Alas for Pilate! Had he but known who it was, and all that he gave up in thus delivering Jesus to be crucified.

John 19:16 “Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus and led him away. 17. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:”

The act of Pilate delivering the Lamb of God into the hands of those who were to carry out the sacrificial act at Calvary meant the end of the law and its sacrificial acts. The old priesthood came to an end, the sons of Aaron can close the doors of the temple, the types and shadows have done their duty, now that the real Lamb has appeared. Annas lay aside your robe, the miter from your head, and the breastplate, and all ye ministers of the sanctuary your duties are at a close, another has taken your place.

According to the Roman custom, all who were condemned to the punishment of the cross were compelled to carry that instrument of their death to the place of execution, and even the divine sufferer is not spared this disgrace and toil. Without mercy they lay on His wounded back the instrument of torture; and, after having given Him for His escort two grievous criminals, similarly burdened and condemned to the same death, they open the gate of the courtyard toward the street in order at length to satisfy the people who had been impatiently awaiting the cruel spectacle.

Had He shrunk back from this fatal path, His road to suffering would have represented to us that on which, when dying, we should have left the world? Instead of soldiers, the emissaries of Satan would have escorted us; instead of the accursed tree, the curse of the law itself; instead of letters, the bands of eternal wrath would have encircled us and despair have lashed us with its fiery scourge.

Now, on the contrary, angels of peace sent by Eternal Love will at length bear us on a path of light, illumined by heavenly promises, to Abraham’s bosom.

We silently join this procession in spirit, singing the wonderful old hymn.

“Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free?

No, there is a cross for every one, and there is a cross for me.”

SIMON OF CYREN BECAME THE FIRST TO BEAR HIS CROSS:

The cross is the tree of life, “the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations.”

Mark 15:21 “And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.”

We left the Saviour on the road to the fatal hill. JESUS is carrying His cross. When did He ever show so plainly in His outward circumstances that He bore the curse, as now? If the voice of GOD had sounded directly down from heaven, and said, “This Just One is now enduring the sentence pronounced upon you,” it could not have afforded us more certainty than by this living figure now bearing the cross.

The cross is the scaffold where, according to Romans 3:25, GOD resolved to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of GOD. It is the Moriah where for the benefit of a sinful world the curse pronounced in paradise is endured in the sacred humanity of the great Surety.

It is the altar of burnt-offering on which the Lamb of GOD submitted to the sum total of that punishment which ought in justice to have fallen upon me; and the dying bed, where death is permitted to seize upon and slay another, in order that it might forever lose his claim upon me. Such is the mysterious cross which we see borne toward Calvary.

We find the Holy Sufferer outside the gates of Jerusalem. “Wherefore, Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.” Here CHRIST is represented as the true antitype of the Old Testament sin offerings.

Now a new figure presents itself to our view – the sinner with the cross of Jesus. This was Simon, born at Cyrene in Africa. He was stopped and compelled to bear the Lord’s material cross. Later his two son’s Alexander and Rufus bore the spiritual cross.

In a spiritual sense, we become like Simon of Cyrene. We enter into the most vital, fervent, and blissful fellowship with the cross of Christ. We are everywhere and continually occupied with this cross, and it becomes the sign by which we are known. Finally, however, we become reconciled to the wondrous burden, and finally, bear it with delight.

THE

MOST HOLY PLACE

–GOLGOTHA:

Once a year the High Priest entered the

Most Holy Place
with the sacrificial blood in his hands, approached the Throne of Grace, and sprinkled the atoning blood. Now Jesus Himself approaches the altar of sacrifice bearing His own blood.

Mark 15:22 “And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. 25. And it was the third hour (9:00 A.M.), and they crucified him.”

Jesus of whom the whole Old Testament priesthood, according to the divine intention, was only a typical shadow, conceals Himself behind the thick veil of an increasing humiliation and agony; that bearing in His hands His own blood, He may

mediate for us with God His Father. He realizes and accomplishes all that Moses included in the figurative service of the tabernacle.

The precise manner in which this was accomplished we shall never entirely understand with our intellectual powers, but it is certain that He then finally procured our eternal redemption.

The executioners then take the Lamb of God between them and begin their horrid occupation by tearing, with rude hands, the clothes from off His body. After having unclothed the Lord, and left Him, by divine direction, only His crown of thorns, they lay Him down on the wood on which He is to bleed; see Him lie. His holy arms forcibly stretched out upon the cross-beam; His feet lay upon each other and bound with cords.

Thus Isaac once lay on the wood on Mount Moriah. But the voice that then called out of heaven, saying, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad!” is silent on Calvary. The executioners seize the hammer and nails. But who can bear to look upon what further occurs? The horrible nails from the forge of hell, yet foreseen in the sanctuary of eternity, are placed on the hands and feet of the righteous Jesus, and the heavy strokes of the hammer fall.

They have pierced the hand-writing that was against us, and have nailed it to the tree; and by wounding the Just One, have penetrated through the head of the old serpent. Those pierced hands bless more powerfully than while they moved freely and unfettered. And believe me, there is no help or salvation, save in these hands; and these bleeding feet.

The moment the cross is elevated to its height, a crimson stream falls from the wounds of the crucified Jesus. We sprinkle it upon the door-posts of our hearts and are secure against destroyers and avenging angels.

FORSAKEN BY GOD:

Without God removing His presence the human body could not die. Jesus suffered a real death by God temporarily removing Himself from the temple of flesh.

Mark 15:34 “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Luther, when he plunged himself into a profound meditation on this most puzzling and affecting part of the whole of our Savior’s sufferings. He continued for a long time without food, and sat wide awake but as motionless as a corpse, in the same position, on his chair. And when at length he rose up from the depth of his meditation, as from the shaft of a mysterious mine, he broke into a cry of amazement, and exclaimed, “GOD forsaken of GOD! Who can understand it? Yes, who is there that is able?”

At the sixth hour (12:00 noon) darkness settled over Golgotha’s hill and continued until the ninth hour (3:00 PM) (Luke 23:44). The Lord withdrew Himself from the eyes of men behind the black curtain of appalling night, as behind the thick veil of the temple. He hung there full three hours on the cross, His thorn-crowned head drooping on His breast, involved in that darkness. He is in the

Most Holy Place
. He stands at the altar of the Lord. He performs His sacrificial functions. He is the true Aaron and at the same time the Lamb.

We know that the grave of our sins was then dug; the handwriting that was against us taken out of the way; the curse which hung over us blotted out; and the wall which separated us from our GOD removed.

“My God, My God, why hast Thou has forsaken me?” But His heavenly Father did not suffer the cry of His Son to remain without His response. He immediately dispelled the darkness, and restored to the sun its full mid-day splendor. The being thus forsaken essentially belonged to the cup which our great High Priest was obliged to empty for us.

Hence there can be no idea that those who are united to Christ by the bonds of a living faith can be really forsaken by GOD. Even as for us no somber cloud any longer darkens heaven, and as we at all times behold the face of GOD unveiled, and every moment may enjoy free access to His throne of grace, so GOD will never more depart from us, whatever else may forsake us.

THE WOUND OF THE SPEAR:

Through the waters of Baptism, the blood of Jesus Christ washes away our sins.

John 19:34 “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.”

How deeply significant does the scene on Calvary appear which we are now

contemplating! The persons who are acting there do not indeed know what they are doing. But this does not prevent them from being led by the hand of Divine Providence. They, therefore, proceed to Pilate, and request him to cause the legs of the three criminals to be broken, as was customary, then to be taken down, and afterward buried.

The governor does not hesitate to grant their request, and sends, at the same time, another guard to the place of execution to break the legs of the malefactors and to convince themselves of their being really dead.

They begin with the two malefactors, but when they came to the Lord Jesus, every sign of His being already dead was so apparent, that the breaking of His legs was thought needless, especially as one of the spearmen pierced His side with his spear, which alone would have sufficed to have caused His death, had the divine Sufferer been still alive.

In the abstract, this occurrence appears of trifling importance; but the Evangelist John who so expressly states it regarded it with other eyes as to the fulfilling of scripture.

In the twofold fact of the Savior’s limbs not being broken, and of His side being pierced by the spear, he recognizes a divine interposition by which two ancient prophecies were fulfilled. “For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced” (John 19:36-37).

How highly the evangelist estimates them as a means of strengthening our faith, he proves very impressively by the words, “And he that saw it, bare record, and his record is true, and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe” (John 19:35).

In the water and the blood he sees represented the essential blessings of salvation for which the world is indebted to Christ. But water alone would not have saved us. It took the shed blood of Jesus Christ to wash away our sins.

HE IS BURIED BY JOSEPH AND NICODEMUS:

Almighty God arraigned a funeral to be given to His Son.

John 19:38. “And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came, therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

39. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight. 40. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. 41. Now in the place where he was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden, a new sepulcher wherein was never man yet laid. 42. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulcher was nigh at hand.”

After the great High Priest’s atoning sacrifice had been offered up, He was not to be subjected to any further ignominy. Two honorable men – honorable not only in the eyes of men but also before GOD – are entrusted with the interment of Immanuel’s corpse, and a company of tried female disciples is to be joined with them.

John 19:38 tells us Joseph was a secret disciple for fear of the Jews. He and Nicodemus worked together to bury the body of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here was a wealthy and prominent man whose heart was afraid; but when push came to shove, he mustered his courage, trusted in God, and did what was right.

Joseph proceeded directly to the governor to ask his permission to take down the Saviour from the cross, and honorably inter Him in his own family sepulcher. He arrives at the Roman palace, and after having been announced, he appears in the presence of Pilate, and says with firmness and in plain terms, “I am come to beg of the one thing – that thou wouldst give me the body of JESUS that I may prepare an honorable grave for Him as He deserves.”

Joseph and Nicodemus begin, tenderly and gently, to draw out the nails from His hands and feet. That precious corpse reclines upon their shoulders, and after they have wrapped it in fine linen, they gently let it down from the cross to the ground and laid it in Joseph’s new tomb.

It’s often hard to stand for what’s right, but it helps to remember the example of Joseph of Arimathea. He craved the body of Jesus. This made him unclean for the Passover.

JESUS’ RESURRECTION IS THE ANCHOR OF THE GOSPEL:

The resurrection of Jesus was undoubtedly the greatest event in human history.

1 Corinthians 15:17. “And if Christ is not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ have perished.”

The authenticity of the Resurrection of Jesus, the witnesses of the Resurrection, and the importance of the resurrection, is declared by Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 15. The Apostle wrote, “What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve…to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time…to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

In this battle, Jesus died, was buried, was raised on the third day, and was alive again, all witnessed by hundreds. Accounts were written and preserved. We have accounts by Matthew, by Mark, by Luke, by John, and by Paul.

If Christ was not raised…his preaching was useless and he was a false witness about God. If Christ was not raised…all faith in Him has been futile and those who have died believing in Him have done so in vain and are lost forever. If Christ was not raised…we are to be pitied more than all others because we have believed a lie (1 Corinthians 15:14-19).

Paul used the word kenos, meaning empty, to describe a void where there is absolutely nothing. So if Jesus was not raised, Paul says all his effort, our faith…even our lives…have been for nothing.

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About the author

James Thornton

I am a retired pastor currently living in the Nashville, TN area. We attend First Church, Bro. Ron Becton pastor. We've been putting our sermons and Bible studies online for more than five years in an effort to continue our ministry.