Snippet: And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God (Mark 15:37-39)
After Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane late Thursday night, the sheer speed that things progressed was a downright mistreatment of justice. From arrest, to indictment, sentencing and execution, it all spanned a time period of just 12 hours. The middle of the night hearing with the Sanhedrin was a kangaroo court where they were tripping over themselves to get an accusation to stick. Jesus, knowing this was the eternal plan of the Father, was the one who “clinched” the case for the chief priests when he simply, but powerfully, answered “I am” when directly asked if he was the Christ. This was the first public affirmation of his identity in the Gospel of Mark, and it happened while staring in the face of the high priest. This blasphemy moved things forward to Pilate, who knew Jesus was innocent but cared more about keeping the peace and making himself look good than he did in carrying out righteous justice.
With the crowds’ chants for crucifixion drowning out everything else, Pilate washed his hands of it all and sent Jesus to be beaten, flogged, and ultimately crucified on a Roman cross. This led to the moment that the entire Bible has been pointing to, the Messiah laying his life down on behalf of others, the perfect Christ taking the sin of the world upon himself out the deep love and grace of the Father. The cross is the sacred ground where divine wrath and divine love meet, and where the payment for sins was made. You cannot overestimate the importance of the cross.
From there, a council member built up the courage to ask Pilate for the body, and Jesus was buried in a tomb cut out of the rock, and a large stone was rolled in front of the entrance. Darkness descended upon Jerusalem at midday, and all hope seemed lost for Jesus’ followers.
Remember the word meekness from earlier in the week? It has been on display all throughout, but the meaning of power under control hits its climax on this day. Jesus never lost control for a millisecond during his earthly ministry, and all that happened was to fulfill the Scriptures. Rather, he harnessed his divinity in such a way that he allowed the sinful schemes of man to lead him to the cross where he would break the power and back of sin once for all. The cross remains the most powerful symbol in the world today, and you can study it your entire life and still not reach the depths of its purpose and meaning.
The cross simultaneously confronts us and assures us. It tells us that our sin is more serious than we could ever imagine, for it cost the Son of God his life, and at the same time the cross tells us that we are more loved by God than we could ever fathom, because he didn’t even spare his own Son in order to give us new life.
Questions to consider:
Why do we need to be exposed to the ugliness of our sin before we can see the cross as a moment of glory?
The cross proved to be the breakthrough where salvation was offered to all people through faith in Jesus Christ, regardless of race, gender, or any other worldly identity. Who is someone you are currently sharing this good news with and praying for?
Father, we thank you for the cross. We thank you for what was once a symbol of punishment and transforming it to a symbol of restoration for all who believe. We pray that we would never allow the sacrifice of your Son to seem normal to us, but that we would allow our minds to be renewed day by day. Give us the strength to live in light of your sacrifice, and to embrace the freedom you have freed us into.