They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of the Skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side and Jesus in between. John 19:17-18.
Easter is a time we remember the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross at Golgotha. It is a time when many folks get to hear the real Gospel story. Pastors focus anointed messages on the reason for, and blessings of, Christ’s death on the cross. It is a happy time. A time for celebrating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
But it’s also a time of reflection for us. Jesus knew exactly when and how He would submit to the ultimate Sacrifice for our sins. He also taught us that we were created for a life of sacrifice. Christ said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:34-35.
In Jesus’ time criminals were often forced to carry their own crosses to the place of execution. The crosses, said to be made of dogwood, were heavy and cumbersome. Add to their weight the drag of the cross on the ground and the trip to the place of execution was tortuous, almost unbearable.
Have you thought of your own cross this week? What load are you bearing? Whose load are you bearing? As we reflect on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we need to understand that He challenged us to do the same–to sacrifice our lives for the benefit of others and to honor God. Bearing our own crosses creates sacrificial living for us.
Besides understanding Jesus sacrifice and living the same, we need to understand the signs that fulfilled His purpose as our Savior. Pilate hung a sign above Jesus’ head proclaiming, “Behold, the King of the Jews.” Pilate didn’t have a clue what he was doing. When he called Jesus the King of the Jews, The Jewish rulers protested because they rejected Jesus as King. He was a threat to their livelihood and their religious stranglehold on the people. The Jewish rulers wanted Pilate to change the sign to claim Jesus “said” He was King of the Jews, which would make the statement hearsay and they could dismiss it and Jesus.
But God had a purpose for Pilate as well. Pilate thought he was mocking Jesus, but God used Pilate’s intentions to proclaim Jesus’ purpose for living and dying.
Jesus even used the Roman soldiers attending the crucifixion that day to fulfill the final prophesy of Jesus earthly ministry. Psalm 22:18 prophesies, “They divide my garments among them and for my clothing they cast lots.” The soldiers were at work. It was their job to be there. They had crucifixion duty that day. They didn’t have a clue their gambling for the robe of a condemned man meant anything to anyone.
In addition to Jesus’ sacrifice that day we need to understand that God’s purpose will be fulfilled. His purpose is never thwarted. He will use even the ungodly to achieve His purpose for Jesus and for us.
If we’re to understand the cross of Christ we need to realize that even in the agonizing throws of unparalleled agony and suffering He showed compassion for His mother and John. Looking down from that cross Jesus made sure His mother was cared for. Even in the anguishing last moments of life, Jesus reached out to serve.
Probably the most important thing for us to understand about Jesus’ death on the cross is his proclamation of His completed work. In his letter to the Philippians Paul tells us Jesus “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond servant, and being made in the likeness of men, being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.” Philippians 2:7-8. He had done everything God sent Him to earth to do.
His last words before He took His last breath and gave up His spirit were, “It is finished.” Following three years of ministry, following His profound teaching about the Kingdom of God, following His selection of 12 men to carry on and establish His church on earth Jesus’ earthly mission was completed.
As we think about Jesus this Holy Week, ask yourself: How heavy is my cross? Have I taken up my cross like Jesus said for me to do? Am I living a sacrificial life? Do I give of my time and resources for the good of others? And most importantly, do I understand the magnitude and the glory of Jesus crucifixion on the cross?