Apr 17, 2014

The Humiliation of the Cross

Matthew 27:40
“If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross”

As the soldiers, chief priests, Pharisees, Sadducees, and on lookers glared upon the man being nailed to the cross they demanded that he prove himself, that he validate everything he said he was.

“Let him come down from the cross and we will believe,” is what they said.  “But if you will not, then you are not who you say you are,” is what they thought.

But Jesus resisted the opportunity...the night before he had done the same.  As Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's servant, Jesus scolded him saying, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?”

Where are the angels now?  Where is the heroism?  Where is the great king and mighty warrior?  Have we nothing but a humiliated, defenseless man who can do nothing to save himself?  The conclusion of the matter for those there that watched his death:  this is not God and this is not the Son of Man.

His death was seen as a failure, a flop.  The kindest and most forgiving onlooker would have graciously thought of him, at best, as nothing more than a martyr who died serving his cause, but even they would have doubted his sincerity as he spoke not a word in his defense of all the accusations.  He did nothing to even defend, prove, or validate himself at that moment.  Most would have looked upon the dying man as a phony, fraud, and fake.  A liar who deceived the hearts and minds of thousands.  Now receiving his due justice for his lies.  They would have considered John the Baptist who had been beheaded partly due to loyalty to His cause.  They would have thought of the cowardice of his most devoted followers, most of whom were nowhere to be found at this moment.

There he was.   Alone, naked, shamed, struggling to draw breath.  If he was God, if he was the Messiah, if he was the “I AM,” could not he do better than this?  This was the death of a criminal not a warrior, not God, not a mercenary, not a king.  Covered in blood and spit...it was a shameful, awful scene...a humiliating scene.  The lowest of low.

That is exactly where his mission was to take him.  To the depths of human rejection.  Despised and derided by the world.  He would not meet their demands and he would not give them what they wanted.  For had he given them what they wanted, had he stood up to the humiliation he was facing...he would not have been able to give them what they needed...what we needed.

But this was but a cake walk compared to what he faced next.

Matthew 27:46  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Man had turned his back upon him, but that was nothing compared to what he felt and faced when His own Father turned his back as well.  The one who had sent him on the mission in first place.  The one to who he had devoted every step he took.   He had said himself that every word spoke came from his Father. 

John records in John 16:32, that just a day before he had claimed to his own disciples “behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.  Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.”

But here in this moment, on this cross, the father had left him...alone.

And why?  Why forsake your son?  Why turn your back when the sinful world wrongly murdered him?  Because when Jesus took up the cross, he took up something the Father could have nothing to do with...something that would separate Jesus from the Father.  It would have been a contradiction to his character and person had his Father done any different.  For when Jesus took up the cross...He had become sin.  Paul tells us 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin.”  The weight of the cross was much heavier than what can be measured in pounds or kilograms.  Bearing the cross meant bearing something Jesus had never carried before...the guilt and shame of sin.  But not his sin...our sin, the sin of all mankind from Adam to you.  That is why he cried.  That is why he sweated blood.  That is why he agonized over this moment.  In lifting the cross, in the hanging upon the cross, he carried something that we could not.  The weight of sin and the wrath of God.  A dark moment, the darkest.  A lonely moment, the loneliest.  The pain of the nails in his wrists were at this moment a mere pinch compared to the pain in his spirit and soul at this abandonment.

The wrath of God, the abandonment of God...His body could no longer handle it, his lungs could no longer breath it.  So with all that he had left, in a loud voice he cried, “It is finished.”  And so it was, he breathed his last.

It is finished, it is finished, it is finished...sin, guilt, shame, condemnation, hell, Satan...finished.

His humiliation meant our acceptance, our forgiveness, our righteousness. 

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

At the cross it is finished and that finishing is our new beginning.

Friday they demanded that he prove himself; that he validate himself. 

Sunday...He did.