This is the third part of the encounter that we have been looking at from Peter’s denial. The trial is over. Jesus has been condemned. He wasn’t declared innocent, but still resigned to be crucified on the Roman cross. Pilate has washed his hands thinking that that water can wash his sins and make him clean, not realizing that the One standing before him is the only One that has the ability to make his hands and his heart pure and spotless.
What happened during the moments leading up to Jesus being nailed to the cross and just before His death? What did He go through that is so important for us to understand today?
Well, God tells us to take up our cross and follow Him.
- Matthew 16:24
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
- God does not expect us to carry the same cross that Jesus carried. We are not able to carry that cross. The whole world combined is not able to carry that cross. Only Christ lived a spotless and perfect life, and He was the only One able to bear our sins on that shameful cross.
- But yet God tells us to pick up our cross and follow Him.What Christ went through, we will go through as well. We will pass through similar experiences. Of course not to the same degree that He went through, but we shouldn’t expect anything less.
- As we look at the cross experience, let us remember this so that we can prepare ourselves.
There was rejection by the disciples. They had already fled the scene even before the trial. Only John the beloved was brave enough to stand there right by the cross. But John was helpless to comfort Christ.
Let’s look at the different people that Jesus encountered surrounding His cross experience.
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. 28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. 29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! 30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
- The soldiers.
- They were the first to mock Christ. They were the first to poke fun at Him, pretending that He was an earthly king. Putting a reed in His right hand and a crown made of thorns on His head, and bowing down to Him. They then spit on Him and hit Him across the head!
- There was their spit running down His face and His beard, the majesty of heaven – able to call upon the heavenly host in an instant to destroy these wicked men from existence, but yet He bore it all patiently. This wouldn’t be the last time that they make fun of Christ.
- Luke 23:36-37
36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, 37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.
- Even while Jesus was hanging on the cross, they would come and mock Him. If you are the king of the Jews, come down off the cross and save yourself!
- The Bible reminds us for this important lesson in the book of Peter.
- 1 Peter 2:20
For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
- If we can suffer patiently when it isn’t our fault, that is acceptable to God. But we better take it patiently if we are in the wrong! However Christ, He wasn’t in the wrong. He didn’t do anything to deserve the treatment that He received from these soldiers. Yet He remained silent. He suffered silently. He suffered patiently.
- But this was just the beginning.
39 And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, 40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
- Those that passed by.
- They probably were just coming for the feast of the Passover and unleavened bread. They had probably heard of Christ – He was famous after all! But just as they are walking by, they are mocking Him. They hear about His claims.You said you can destroy the temple and rebuild it in 3 days! Scoffing at Him. Come down from the cross and save yourself!
- Even in that time of excruciating pain, Christ wasn’t being comforted. Satan was trying to make the last moments of His life unbearable! He was doing all that he could to get Jesus to react to all these people that had no idea what they were doing and who they were doing it to!
- If Jesus would just for a moment flash His glory, all these people that He had committed Himself to bear their sins, would be wiped from the universe in an instant. No hope left for these miserable comforters!
- Matthew 27:41-43
41 — Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, 42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. 43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.
- Who is mocking now? The chief priests and the scribes and elders. After all, we would be surprised if they were not part of the group mocking as they were the principal people involved in convincing the crowd to cry out – “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”
- I guess when people see religious leaders making a mockery they become more brave. If they do it, it must be OK for us to do it as well! Their influence went far and wide to affect all those around them.
So there were the soldiers, and those that passed by, and the chief priests and scribes and elders.
And lastly, who do we see?!
- Matthew 27:44
The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.
- Luke 23:39
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
- Even those that were in the same boat with Christ hanging on the cross – the thieves. One would have the sense not to do it, but the other would mock Him. If you are really the Son of God, why don’t you save yourself and save us as well?!
- He didn’t realise that hanging there next to Him was someone so unlike himself. He himself was guilty. He was hanging on a Roman cross because he was a criminal. But Jesus was innocent. He hadn’t done anything to deserve hanging there.
- But even then, Christ remained silent. How hard it must be for an innocent person to not say anything back to false accusers and those that mock you. Especially when you have the power to revenge or to answer. It must have been so difficult for Christ to hold back.
- This is why we need the faith of Jesus. We need His patience in times of trouble and persecution to not react and lash out and fight back! Especially when you haven’t done anything wrong!
All that Christ faced is written to remind us that any time we want to follow Jesus, we will face such mocking and persecution as well.
- John 15:20
Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
- If they mocked Christ, just remember that you will be mocked as well. The choice to follow Jesus and to live for Him is not an easy choice to make. Starting with our own choice and desire to follow Him. Just to deny ourselves is already such a tough choice. To surrender our will to Jesus and tell Him that He knows better than we do is so difficult! One of the hardest battles that we will ever have to fight.
- But even after that, when you have made that decision, Satan will push people to come and discourage you, to make fun of you, to question you. Cause you to doubt, to try and make you give up.
- There is a cross to carry! But Christ has been through it all and He can help you to remain faithful to Him as well – no matter the situation, no matter the problem. We can still rejoice in all things and still have the joy and peace of heaven in our hearts.
However, let’s look at what Christ did on the way and whilst He was on the cross. Amidst all this mocking, how did He react? What were some of the other encounters?
27 And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. 28 But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. 29 For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. 30 Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. 31 For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?
- As Christ was walking to Golgotha, there were women that were standing by weeping and wailing for Him. They felt pity for Him as they knew what was going to happen to Him. They knew His innocence, and so their humanity cried out in lamentation for Him.
- But Jesus, seeing them, He paused and spoke a word of comfort for them. Words that would echo out in prophecy for them. He said that there would be a day coming, where people would be blessed to not have children to worry about. There was going to come a persecution on the city of Jerusalem which would make people tremble. And having to flee for their lives, little infants and babies would only weight them down. It would be so bad to the point where one stone would not even be left on top of another.
- Even as Christ was walking on the way to the place of His execution, He would pause to give a word of comfort and prophetic warning.
Then we come to Calvary. They lay that cross down and Christ willingly, not like the other thieves who are probably struggling and screaming away, Christ willingly lays down and stretches out His arms and legs into the right position so that the soldiers can fasten Him down with nails to the cross. And while they are nailing through His palms, what does He say?
- Luke 23:34
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
- Even in the midst of His agony and pain, as the nails rip through his flesh and tendons, He offers up a prayer to His Father for those that are doing the cruel work of nailing Him to the cross. Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing! He’s praying a prayer of intercession for the ignorant soldiers. Maybe, just maybe, they have an opportunity to still be saved. So Christ in His agony, He takes time to pray. Not a prayer for Himself, but a prayer for the salvation of others!
- Isn’t that amazing?!
39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
- Both the thieves that were hanging on crosses next to Jesus at the beginning were mocking Him. But as time passed by, one of them beheld His innocence and righteousness as Christ was hanging there. The dignity with which He held Himself, and His reaction (or lack of it) to all those that were mocking Him.
- And so that thief, he became convicted and converted right there in the presence of Jesus. And he cries out to Christ to remember him when Christ came into His kingdom. He confesses the divinity of Christ and accepts Him as his Saviour. And right away, Christ replies – I will remember you! You will be with me in paradise one day!
- Even as he was mocking Christ just a moment before, Jesus does not hold that against him, but now gives him the assurance of his salvation. Even in Christ’s agony, He took the time to save just one more soul! Even as He was hanging there, Christ was ministering to others.
25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
- Lastly, just before Jesus would breathe His last breath, there before Him was His earthly mother who had raised Him on her knee, who had taught Him the scriptures from birth, who had prayed ceaselessly for Him as a mother would do. To see her son hanging there on a cross would have been a burden too much for anyone to carry. Yet Christ did not forget even His earthly mother in this time of pain and suffering. Though His tie to heaven and to the Father in heaven was closer and stronger, He did not forget His family on earth.
- And so turning to Mary, He says – behold your son – speaking of John the beloved. And to John, He says – behold your mother. And John, understanding the high privilege, he takes her in as his own mother to honour the dying request of his beloved Saviour.
- Even in the midst of all His suffering, Jesus did not forget His family. He did not forget His mother.
I want you to take a step back and look at all that Christ did, even when He was in His dying moments.
- He took time to comfort the women that were weeping and utter to them prophetic words of warning.
- He took the time to pray for the soldiers and their salvation.
- He took the time to minister to a dying thief and give him words of hope and assurance that his sins were forgiven and that he would be in heaven one day with Christ.
- And then lastly, Jesus took time to take care of family, His mother. To make sure that she would be provided for even after His death.
As people were hurling insults, and mockery at Him, Christ did not allow that to change Him or to deter Him from His mission. He was still ministering, even in His agony and pain. He absorbed all the insults, all the mockery, all the pain. And all that came out was just blessing.
As Christian’s, there will be unpleasant experiences that we go through. There will be cross bearing experiences. There will be trials and difficulties. It is in these times that we must reflect on the cross of Christ and the example that He has set for us. We must ever remember to still minister to others. We must ever remember to still love others and still have a burden and passion for others. We must remember, that even in the midst of the pain and suffering that we go through, God’s grace is sufficient to carry us and help us still to be a blessing to the world.
We can’t get caught up with our own selves and our own lives, self-pity or a downcast, morose attitude. We must remember to still be a blessing to the world no matter what we go through. But this is impossible with human effort. When a person absorbs pain, mockery and insult, what comes back out is revenge, hatred, anger and bitterness. But with Christ in the soul, He recycles all of that. He takes all the hatred of the world, he takes all the bad things that people throw at you, and as He abides in the heart, as it all comes into our heart, it gets recycled, it is changed.
The Christian, with Christ in the heart, is not deterred from their purpose and their calling no matter what happens to them. They don’t allow circumstances to shape them, but rather they rise above it and master the circumstance to shape the situation in the way that Christ would want them to. They don’t react in a negative way, but rather they turn it all around for a blessing.
So many times I’ve allowed the hurtful words of someone to change the way that I look at them, or treat them or speak back to them. So many times I’ve been affected by how people have treated me. So I write them off and stay far away from them. So many times I’ve been through difficulty, even in the home, and I leave my post of duty and become irresponsible – thinking only of myself and not others.
But as I’ve looked at the cross of Christ, I realise that He had every reason to call on His Father and say – I’ve had enough! And God would have come with His host of angels to take His Son home to heaven and then destroy this thankless world. But Jesus did not even entertain that thought for a moment.
Christ even had a chance to numb His pain and cloud His mind so that He would not react in a negative way!
- Matthew 27:34
They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.
- This drink was given especially to help those that were suffering the agony of the cross. It had the effect of intoxicating liquor. But Christ would not accept such an offering from the world. It would only cloud His senses to make Him forget. It was only a temporary fix.
- How many of us, we turn to temporary things that the world has to offer to make us forget the pain instead of allowing Christ to help us. And so we have our entertainment. Just a temporary fix. But after that has died down, we need to go back for more because the problem is still there – we haven’t dealt with it.
- But friends, with Christ abiding in our hearts today, He can turn everything into a blessing. We can rejoice through every tribulation. We can be a blessing in every situation. And Christ, He wants to do that for you today.
I don’t know what situation you may be facing right now. But I know that with Christ by your side, He can help you, He can heal you, He can strengthen you and turn every negative situation into a blessing. We can rise up above the darkness of this world and be a light in every circumstance! Maybe He’s allowing you to go through this painful experience today so that you can be a comfort to others who face the same thing as well. But regardless, God wants us to be the lights of the world today. And He doesn’t expect that from us only when life is going well and smooth. He wants you right now to turn from self, allow Christ to dwell in your heart. And then through Christ, we can be that blessing in every situation.
We can only carry the cross that Christ wants us to carry if He is dwelling in our hearts today. Anything more than that will crush us. May God give each of us the strength today to follow in our Saviour’s footsteps. That no matter where we go, no matter what circumstance we face, no matter the situation, that we can still be a blessing to all those around us. May God help us to that end!