Daily Devotional: The Scene of the Cross

Matthew 27:33-44

And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink. Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there. And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left. And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said,`I am the Son of God.'” Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.

Provocation: as we look at the scene of the cross, how can we not see a pattern emerging among those defaming our Lord?  As Jesus Christ died upon the cross, those who stood as his enemies began to seemingly echo the very same taunts.  Nearly everyone at the time of his death was mocking him or standing by overwhelmed with grief and silence. The disciples had all run except for John, who stayed on hand with Jesus’ mother Mary and Mary Magdalene (Jn. 19:27).  Every “luxury” given in this scenario is a mockery of Jesus, from crown to drink offered, public declaration (v. 37) to the company he kept on the crosses next to Him. It’s hard to believe that a man who is publicly dying on a cross has the strength and care to mock another, but it’s true.  Yet one of them would reach out for salvation even as he would soon die (Luke 23:40-43).  On that day, the very men who claimed to be religious leaders serving on behalf of God had put God exactly where He really stood in their hearts all along: on a cross.  In birth, there was no room for the Christ, and in death there was no room either.  God’s greatest gift was essentially marked, “Return to sender,” as sin erupted forth.

There is a nature to the consistency of what we see in this passage, and it ought not be lost on us: Jesus had the power to heal Himself.  If we go back to John 10:15-18, we see Jesus say this::

“As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

Jesus had the power to come down from the cross and to save Himself.  He had the power to destroy the people who stood against Him. He had the power to silence them.  He had the power to overthrow the entire Roman government if He so desired. Have you considered what Satan was up to while all of these people mocked Jesus?  We see everyone else, but what about him? I recently read an article based upon a sermon from Pastor John Piper years ago, and I’d like to put it here in relationship to the day of crucifixion, because you very will appreciate what he has to say:

“Didn’t he (Satan) know that if he seals the death of Jesus he is committing suicide? Doesn’t the devil know this? Because it is so clear that at the cross Christ disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to a public shame, triumphing over them in him. Didn’t the devil know this? Did he? Or did he not know this? Did he think “I am just going to get rid of this Jesus?” Did he not know if he dies for the sins of the world, ‘I will be undone’? I think he knew it. And let me tell you why I think he knew it, and then your second question is going to be “Well, why did he do it?”

Well, just follow the interaction between Satan and Jesus through his ministry. It begins in the wilderness, and what is he doing in the wilderness? He is saying, “Turn stones into bread. Jump off the temple, and worship me. All three of those temptations are designed to do one thing, keep Jesus off the Calvary road. Use your power. Pray it. Come on. You do the miracle kind of thing. You can get a big following here and they will make you king. Isn’t it amazing? Satan would have wanted that. Be king that way. Or jump off the temple. Angels bear you up. Whole world sees. Enthrone you. Do it. Or bow down and worship me. I will give you everything. You can have the world if you just worship me. I believe he meant it. So he knew he had to kick him off the Calvary road. “I have got to keep him off the cross. He can have kingship anyway he wants, but not that way.”

Or here is another illustration of that: Do you remember when Jesus predicted to the disciples the Son of Man is going up. He is going to be beaten and spit upon and rejected by the chief priests and the elders and killed? And Peter butts in. Remember? Peter butts in, in Matthew 16:22: “Lord, this shall never happen to you.” And what did Jesus say to him? “Get behind me, Satan.” You think that was just kind of an overreaction to enthusiastic love? It was enthusiastic love. I am on Peter’s side here, kind of. I am not going to let this happen to you. I love you. I will die for you. And Jesus says, “Satan, get out of my way.” What did that mean? It means Satan doesn’t want this to happen.” (By John Piper. © Desiring God Foundation. Source: desiringGod.org)

Piper’s words are very insightful regarding Satan’s angle on the Jesus dying on the cross.  Imagine that the cross may be viewed as a threat rather than an intention; Satan had nothing positive to gain from Jesus dying on the cross, for he also knew what the Scriptures said regarding Jesus and what this sacrifice would accomplish.  He had seen Jesus in heaven; he knew what this would do. When we piece together the times that Jesus interacts with Satan in the Gospels, it actually forms a different end than we might initially perceive: deviate Christ from the path to the cross. 

The value of the cross even in Jesus’ final moments, in this train of thought, is that perhaps He would finally have had enough, even as He was dying. No more mocking; no more humiliation; show them who’s boss.  If He could just abandon the plan of the cross and take charge…but this would be abandoning the Father’s will.  Every temptation Jesus faced seems to share the pattern of abandoning the boundaries of the moment: not something inherently bad, but something out of time (as in the wilderness temptations of Matthew 4). 

The voices in unison got louder and called to Him to prove Himself and if He wouldn’t save Himself, then clearly He couldn’t save Himself, right?  It was for such a fallacious line of logic that Paul would say: “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24) He wasn’t there to prove Himself but to give Himself, which is the reason He came. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

Notice that it’s Jesus who essentially presses “fast forward” on this week in raising Lazarus, riding into town on a donkey and sending a message of His kingship in so doing, going into the temple and confronting money-changers as well as the religious leaders; He did all of that.  Not only did He expedite His “final hours,” but when He was put on trial, He didn’t defend Himself: that’s the second large way Jesus marched Himself to the cross. “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. (Isaiah 53:7) No one was committed to the plan of the cross like Jesus Christ; it really did take His willingness not only to bring it to pass, but also to bring His death to fulfillment.  “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:18)

As we close, consider the verses of Acts 2:22-24 (NASB):

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know–this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. 

Marvel at just a few of those powerful words in relationship to the cross:  the predetermined plan of God; the foreknowledge of God; nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men; impossible…to be held in (death’s) power.  Satan is not greater than Jesus; the death blow was dealt on the cross and though we still see spiritual opposition in this world, the victory has already been secured. “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15) Death itself is not greater than Jesus.; it cannot keep Him, but only be a servant to Him.  There is not a thing that Jesus is not Lord over.  

I love the truths of Easter and I hope you do, too.  Blessings to you today!

Let’s close with this beautiful song: 

Prayer:  Let’s hear Jesus’ prayer from John 17:1-26:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

*All Scripture quoted is used from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.