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A Cross - Snapshots of the Cross

Snapshots of the Cross

John 19:17-24

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The thunderheads had piled high on the Judean horizon outside of Jerusalem that day. Silhouetted on the hillside stood three grim crosses, depicting mankind at his worst and God at His best. John the Beloved gave us three brief snapshots of the events that took place on the day Christ died.

Our focus is on the scenes surrounding the middle cross that held the body of the One who called Himself the Christ. It was here that the history of the world and the fate of mankind changed forever. These snapshots were Above the Cross, On the Cross, and Beneath the Cross.

  1. Snapshot One—Above The Cross

    Nailed to the cross and blowing in the breeze was a piece of parchment carefully worded by Pontius Pilate that simply said, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (John 19:19). This declaration was written in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin so everyone that passed by would know who was hanging from the cross.

    Later the chief priests of the Jews denied these claims and demanded Pilate edit his choice of words to indicate that Jesus “claimed” to be King of the Jews. Pilate refused and was determined to leave the message as it was, perhaps to anger and ridicule the Jewish people. Little did Pilate know that God was using him to be heaven’s secretary, proclaiming to the world that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. The picture of the parchment said it all.

  2. Snapshot Two—On the Cross

    The body on the center cross was hardly recognizable at a distance. Christ had been subjected to several civil and ecclesiastical trials where he was brutally beaten and humiliated. It was not a pretty sight. By drawing closer one could hear the final words of this One who had given His life to healing and helping, never harming.

    Christ uttered, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Earlier in the week the crowd had cried out “Hosanna.” They made Him a makeshift highway of palm branches as He entered the city of Jerusalem. They misunderstood the meaning of His kingdom and were angry and disappointed that He did not deliver them from Roman rule. They expected him to restore Israel to its days of glory. Their eyes were blinded to the truth because of their self-righteousness and pride. Nothing but Jewish restoration and domination could appease the crowd.

    John 19:30 records these words: “It is finished.” Perhaps the Jewish rulers rejoiced that they were now done with this man who had disturbed their religious system. Oh, how wrong they were!! He never said, “I am finished.” Earlier Jesus told the disciples in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The door to salvation was thrown open wide to all nations. The thoroughfare to God’s presence and God’s heaven was completed.

  3. Snapshot Three—Beneath the Cross

    The Roman soldiers parted his garments and cast lots so that the Scripture in Psalm 22:18 might be fulfilled (Matt. 27:35). In carrying out their orders the soldiers were unaware they were players in the plan of God.

    Some might judge harshly the soldiers for their actions, but they were acting as usual at a crucifixion. Taking the personal belongings of the crucified was partial payment for such a distasteful job. The four soldiers, therefore, divided his outer garment into four equal parts. The inner garment or tunic was woven without a seam and quite valuable, so the decision was made to cast lots for it.

    This last snapshot is full of irony. The soldiers did not need the clothes of Jesus. They needed Him. They were so close to salvation and yet so far away. They could never believe that what they needed could be found in the One who hung above them. Yet, they were so busy making a living they missed an opportunity to embrace real life. So many today repeat this scene over and over. They desire the blessings of Christ but not His salvation. Many have heard the story over and over but are content in making a living and keep putting off “The Way of Life.”

Conclusion: On the canvas of time God painted the greatest picture of love mankind would ever see. These three brief snapshots reveal His message of universal salvation. They give us great insight into the very heart of God and also the darkened heart of a fallen race. The words of Jesus in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son,” became crystal clear, and that picture has never faded. God’s love was sprinkled down until the whole world was covered with that love like a blanket of snow.

John Masefield’s play, “The Trial of Jesus,” contains a legendary dialogue between the Centurion and Lady Procula, the wife of Pilate. Procula asks Longina, the Centurion, “Centurion, were you at the killing of that teacher today?” Longina: “Yes, my lady.” She proceeds to ask details about the suffering and comments and then asked, “What do you believe the man believed, Centurion?” Longina: “He believed he was God, they say.” Procula: “Do you believe it?” Longina: “We saw a fine young fellow my lady, not past middle age. And he was alone, and he defied all the Jews and all the Romans, and when we had done with him, he was a poor broken-down thing, dead on the cross.” Procula: “Do you think he is dead?” Longina: “No, my lady, I do not.” Procula: “Then where is he?” Longina: “He is let loose in the world, my lady, where neither Roman nor Jew can stop his truth.”

Jesus’ truth began a thunderous march on that day that can still be heard and felt today. It is a call for every Jew and every Gentile to look up from beneath the cross and accept Him as “The way, the truth, and the life.”

Jimmy Porter

Executive Director, Christian Action Commission, MBCB