The Background: Jesus uttered seven powerful statements while hanging on The Cross. Each week leading up to Easter, we’ll look at each statement. We’ll look at them individually and then collectively to see what He was telling us. We’ll see God's plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. The intent is to learn how we can change our lives to look more like Christ.
It is important to remember that Jesus was (1) beaten, (2) scourged and (3) forced to carry His vessel of torture - the tree or crucifix. The cross was not some lacquered and beautifully even cut of prime wood. It they were more like scrap wood. The criminals would get their cross and lug it through the streets to their “death station.” It is equally important to know the Romans made the criminals walk through the market place while carrying their crosses. This provided the onlookers, mostly Jews, with two things. First, it instilled fear into all who witnessed the event. The onlookers had no doubt in their mind what it meant to carry a cross. As 21st century Christians, the meaning may be a little lost on us. However, for those first century listeners and viewers, they knew what Jesus meant. It meant, “Dead man walking.” Jesus challenged us to take up our cross. I think it’s important for us as a modern day Western Christian to keep in mind what it means. For us, we need to bear the cross of Christianity. We must bear the weight it carries with us. It means we might not be popular any longer. It means we should be distinguishable from the world, the casual onlooker who aren’t believers. That’s our cross. Second, it showed the Jews and everyone else that no one defied the Roman government. The iron heel of the Roman Empire was on the neck of the oppressed Israelites. Little did they know that it was all a part of the plan. In our contemporary time, we are not oppressed. However, issues like gay marriages are forcing some of us to forget the cross. We accommodate, or show tolerance for unGodly things.
Jesus’ sacrifice provided us equal access to the Father. His death, burial and resurrection provided us with eternal salvation. We must be reminded to reflect on His sacrifices. We also must walk the faith. I can almost picture us walking with our figurative crosses through the street. The streets are our everyday walk. Our cross is our Christian lifestyle. I can see those who want to be with the world (Romans) speaking bad about us. However, “be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Cor 16:13 NASB).
Take time each week and think on what our Lord has done for us. As you read the Scripture, put yourself inside the story. “What were these people thinking? How would I have reacted?” I also encourage you to reflect on what does the words of this 1st century Jewish teacher, prophet and carpenter (more so a construction worker) mean to me?
I pray your understanding grows exponentially.
Statement 1: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (see Luke 23:34).
Nails in the foot of a crucified person
Jesus was falsely imprisoned; lied on by His people and the religious institution; mocked by the Roman court, spat on; beaten by the Romans and abandoned by His friends (the Apostles) and disciples. What would you do in that situation? You’ve been treated worse than anyone should be treated. Your closest friends left you. You’re defenseless. You’ve been whipped with a tool of death. Each lash on your back takes pieces of your flesh from your body. You’re humiliated. Then you are forced to carry a tree for some distance. Now your torturers are cast lots to see who will get your garments!
Golgotha and Calvary at the top (March 2011
Ok, you’ve had enough time to think about what you’d do? Jesus did the opposite of what we would do. He asked God to forgive them. Forgive them? What? He didn’t ask God to help Him. He did not ask God to send down a legion of angels. No, Jesus was saving people from themselves even as He hung from the cross. He asked for their forgiveness! Only Jesus, our sinless sacrificial Savior, would do that.
Look at the cross and the nails in that man’s feet. This is a picture of what our Lord went through. Well, not exactly since Scriptures says His bones weren’t broken. The picture is a good illustration nonetheless. Jesus asked for forgiveness of His torturers. This week, see who you can forgive. Or, see who you need forgiveness from. Perhaps you can speak on forgiveness to someone.