died like a philosopher; Jesus Christ died like a God.” - Jacques Rousseau.
death of Christ stirs the hearts of men. Mel Gibson made a movie based upon
this, and the politically correct were horrified that he would dare assert the
truth. Predictably, the film was not nominated for any awards. The modern
world would prefer the gentle Jesus cuddling children. It behooves us,
therefore, to examine the reactions of those nearby the Crucifixion. The
lessons they show are with us today. We shall see seven of these vignettes,
drawing lessons from them as we may.
they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the
country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. And following Him
was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting
Him. But Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of
Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. "For behold, the days are coming when they will say,
'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that
never nursed.' "Then they will begin TO SAY
TO THE MOUNTAINS, 'FALL ON US,' AND TO THE HILLS, 'COVER US.' "For if they do these things when the tree is green,
what will happen when it is dry?" Two others also, who were
criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him. When they came to
the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on
the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they
are doing." And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among
themselves. And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were
sneering at Him, saying, "He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is
the Christ of God, His Chosen One." The soldiers also mocked Him, coming
up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, "If You are the King of the
Jews, save Yourself!" Now there was also an inscription above Him,
"THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS." One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are
You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" But the other answered, and
rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same
sentence of condemnation? "And we indeed are
suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our
deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he was saying,
"Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" And He said to
him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with
Me in Paradise." It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell
over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured; and the
veil of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice,
said, "Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY
SPIRIT." Having said this, He breathed His last. Now when the
centurion saw what had happened, he began
praising God, saying, "Certainly this man was innocent." And all the
crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had
happened, began to return, beating their
breasts. And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things. And a man named Joseph, who was a
member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their
plan and action), a man from Arimathea,
a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God; this man went to
Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. And he took it down and wrapped it in a
linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever
lain. It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. Now the
women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how
His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on
the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
(Luk 23:26-56 NASB)
must understand the place of women in that society. Rare indeed was the woman
of influence and power. Most were like these women: spectators, feeling the
pain, but having no power to stop it. Does that sound like you? Feeling the
pain but unable to stop it?
then, what they did. They picked up the work assigned to the women. To touch
a dead body rendered them ceremonially unclean – and this at the time of the
Passover, the most sacred of Jewish feasts. They are examples to us in two
they have the servant heart. It is not theirs to change the world; it is
only theirs to serve in the world they have given.
this, Christ reminds them that, given the way he was treated, they could
hardly expect better.
prophecy was literally fulfilled about forty years later. At the end of the
siege of Jerusalem, thousands went into hiding in underground caves – which the
Romans sealed up, leaving them to die by starvation.
who are lordly in this world have always had a problem with Jesus, the Christ.
If you acknowledge who he is, then you acknowledge a lordship so high that it
cannot be overthrown. If you will not acknowledge him, then you must sneer at
him – for then his words must be foolishness. The sneer is with us today;
the joke is always presumed. Righteousness must be funny; mocking those who
attempt it is sophisticated fun. No one with half a brain could be a
Christian; therefore those who proclaim his name must be fools and simpletons –
or worse. After all, those weirdo right wing fundamentalists are a vast
response is simply to know that this will happen. He told us so. He also told
us what to do about it:
are to overcome evil with good; hatred with love. We are at war with the
world, and thus must not use the weapons of the world.
must always remember that the world will be watching our fidelity – if we
don’t have it, we’re just like they are.
people are a tough audience; we need to walk what we talk.
me if this interpretation does not match yours; I have been a soldier and know
is a life of discipline – by fear. Reward arrived seldom; punishment was
an everyday experience.
is a life of harshness. Soldiers are trained to kill; it is ordinary for
them. It is therefore not surprising that a calloused disdain for life is
is a life of pride – your station is so low that pride must often be your
result of all this? A heart so hardened that even the death of the innocent
man does not move them. They take what little pleasure they can from his
death; the Lamb of God is dying at their hands and they gamble for his
garments. They are hard soil; Christ told us we would encounter such.
wicked react to righteousness in two ways, just as these thieves did. These
men lived their lives as professional criminals. They knew the penalty and
took the risk. Here they pay the price. Two minds in pain; two minds
wondering about death; two minds dealing with their guilt.
reacts as many do yet today. His troubles are somebody else’s fault. It’s not
fair. To implement this thought requires someone to blame, or at least someone
as a target of your anger. The first thief thinks nothing of blaming Jesus for
this; after all, if he is who he claims to be, now would be a good time to show
it. This Jesus fellow is obviously not doing his part.
is something farcical in that; but I suspect that in the pain of crucifixion
the thief’s mind didn’t see it. Jesus, get me out of this mess, so I can go on
being who I am and what I want to be.
other thief portrays the more noble course. He is being crucified for his own
deeds; he recognizes his own guilt. Amazingly, he does not make the claim to
be a better man than the first thief. He makes no claim at all; he simply
begs. “Just as I am, without one plea.”
the lesson for us? Jesus opened the door of paradise for the second thief; we
should not bar it for the criminals of our day. Do we bar the door at which
Jesus would stand and knock?
centurion reminds of a cardinal fact: the world is not nearly as impressed by
what we say as by what we do. Our deeds give life to our words – if we have
the deeds to match. The centurion seems to say nothing until Christ dies; then
he acknowledges him.
centurion is an obedient man; he has his orders and – no matter how unpleasant
– he carries them out. It is a recognized point of international law that the
guilt for such actions does not lie with the underlings who followed orders, as
they are sworn to do. We should expect it. But we should also be aware that
lives may change by the way in which we die. You never know who’s coming to
your funeral; so be sure to give the preacher plenty of ammunition before you
– a figure of legend throughout the Middle Ages – is little known from the
Scriptures. We can see a few things about him:
is a man of courage. To beg the body for proper burial is to irritate the
powers that be. Joseph “screws his courage to the sticking point” and
does just that – boldly. It is a style to be admired.
is a man of charity. By his light there is no way Jesus could repay him
for this kindness. A great kindness it was, too, for Joseph made himself
ceremonially unclean so that this man might be properly buried.
is a man of patience, waiting for the kingdom of God.
is our lesson: as we wait patiently for our Lord’s return, let us fill our
days with simple charity, even if it requires great courage to do so.
reader will please note that I am indebted to C. H. Spurgeon for this section.)
know very little of Simon. He was picked out of the crowd to carry the Cross.
And he carried it. His sons were later noted as members of the church, but
with that little information we must be content. He carried the Cross; that is
lesson enough for all of us.
please, that it is His cross – not our own. The cross laid upon
you comes from our Lord; do not reject it but carry it with the hope of
carry the cross after He did. Whatever your cross might be, Jesus
carried it first. If he gives it to you, accept it as royal favor from
the King of Kings.
do not bear the cross alone but in partnership with Him. It will not be
more than the two of you can bear.
bear it but a little while – yet to great honor. The only thing we know
of Simon is his carrying the Cross – and that is honor enough for any
man. Do not fret; your burden will slip free some day.
you would follow the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, then you must – each day
– take up the cross he gives you. You must deny yourself, surrender to him and
carry the cross. Those who do will be given the crown of life when he comes.
Today the cross is our burden; tomorrow, it will be our glory.