The Folly of the Cross

1 Corinthians 118 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Corinthians 1:18–25 (ESV)

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Understanding and Applying the Word

There really is no middle road when it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ. A person will either laugh at the foolishness of the message. After all, how does a man come back from the dead? Or a person will see the glorious hand of God and the power of God working through the events of the cross to bring salvation to all who will believe.

The message of the gospel is Jesus Christ crucified. The perfect, sinless Son of God was hung on a cross until he died. He was buried in a tomb. And later, he rose from the dead alive again. That is the message and it is through these events that God is saving mankind. This is the message that Christians are called to proclaim and it is the only message that can give life to a dying world. Many will laugh and consider it nonsense, but for those who believe, their is forgiveness and eternal life.

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The Crucifixion

Wondrous Cross Quote

Reading the Word

John 19:16–30 (ESV)

16 …So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

“They divided my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things, 25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Understanding and Applying the Word

All four Gospel writers record the crucifixion of Jesus. I would encourage you to read the account of each of the four books. It is truly incredible to read what Jesus Christ endured and suffered as he was hung on a cross to die.

When we come to these passages, we must reflect on the seriousness of the matter. It is a reminder of the ugliness of our sin for it is for this reason that Jesus had to die. He went to the cross as a sacrifice for us so that we could be saved. It took the infinite worth of the blood of Christ to pay our debt. We should never treat sin as a small matter.

Christ’s death at Calvary also reminds us of how great our God loves us, despite our sin. He has gone to the greatest lengths to rescue us. The Father gave his Son for us. That is incredible to think about. Why would the Father do that? Love.

As we spend this Good Friday thinking about Jesus’ death at the cross, let it serve as a reminder of the serious nature of sin and let it also remind us of God’s great love for us.

If you are wondering why Jesus had to die, know that the Bible teaches us that all people are sinful and deserving of condemnation. There is nothing that we can offer to make up for our sin. We cannot buy forgiveness or do religious rituals or do enough good deeds. But God has done something for us. He gave his Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the debt for us by going to the cross and dying as a sacrifice for us. If we repent of (turn away from) our sin and trust in what Christ has done for us (and not trust in our own merits), God promises to forgive us and give us new life. Would you do that as you think about why Jesus had to die?

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With His Wounds We Are Healed

Isaiah 535 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Isaiah 53:1–6 (ESV)

1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Son of God came into the world to save mankind from our sin. Who would have imagined the way such a salvation would come? The King of kings and Lord of lords came as a humble servant to serve us. He gave up his high position and glory to become nothing for us. And as he came to show such great love for us, we rejected him and nailed him to a cross to crucify him.

When we look at the cross, we must never lose our sense of awe over what our Savior did for us. Such an amazing act of love! Jesus Christ gave his body to be beaten and torn until he died an agonizing death. As he hung on that cross, he bore our sins and took the punishment each one of us deserve. Through his suffering and death, those who repent and call out to him in faith, receive the healing we desperately need: freedom from sin and the gift of eternal life. So, as we look to the cross, let us celebrate our salvation, but let us not forget the great sacrifice that our salvation required.

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That Scripture Might Be Fulfilled

Isaiah Quote

Reading the Word

John 19:31–37 (ESV)

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus was crucified on a Friday, which meant the Sabbath was at hand. That particular Sabbath was considered especially important (a “high day”) because it followed the Passover. In order not to defile the Sabbath, the people requested that the bodies of the crucified be taken down and buried. This request was in accord with Deuteronomy 21:22-23.

It was usual for Romans to leave bodies hanging and decaying for days, but they also tried to accommodate religious observances at times. In this case, they did not wish to offend the Jewish people so they decided to make sure the three would die quickly by breaking their legs. This would make it impossible to use the legs to push up and take a breath. Surprisingly, Jesus’ legs were not broken because he had already died. This fulfilled a prophecy found in Psalm 34:20 that said that none of his bones would be broken, which also applied to the Passover lambs during the Exodus (cf. Exodus 12:46).

Instead of breaking Jesus’ legs, a Roman soldier plunged a spear into his side to ensure he was truly dead. This too fulfilled a prophecy found in Zechariah 12:10.

It is an amazing thing to think about how many prophecies written hundreds of years prior that Jesus fulfilled. Many argue that he simply set out to fulfill them, but this does not account for the ones he had no ability to fulfill on his own. The events surrounding his birth and his death were completely out of his control to manufacture. Go back and re-read the Gospel accounts and make note of how many times that we are told that Jesus fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy. Go back and read those prophecies in the Old Testament. Then marvel at how Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures.

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It Is Finished

Cross in Red

Reading the Word

John 19:28–30 (ESV)

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus hung on the cross for about six hours. It is no surprise that he became thirsty, but we are told that his statement “I thirst” was in fulfillment of Scripture. This fulfillment likely points us back to Psalm 69:21, which reads, “and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” After receiving the sour wine (different from the wine mixed with myrrh in Mark 15:23), Jesus said, “It is finished” and died.

The mission that Jesus had come to fulfill was now complete. He had come as the promised Messiah, lived a sinless life, proclaimed repentance and the forgiveness of sins, performed miracles, confronted the hypocritical religious leaders, and now given his life as a substitute for those who would trust in him. Jesus had come to redeem mankind and show the way to the Father and his mission was finished. He had accomplished all that he had come to do.

Jesus’ death was a part of the plans and purposes of God. He died to bring salvation to many. And when he dealt with our sin, it was once and for all. It was finished.

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Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Orange Cross Title

Reading the Word

Matthew 27:45–50 (ESV)

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Each of the four Gospels give us different details about Jesus’ last moments on the cross. We will look at each over the next few days. Matthew tells us that Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is a direct quote from Psalm 22:1 Many misunderstood Jesus’ words and thought he was calling out for Elijah (the words in Aramaic sound similar). The crowd continued to mock Jesus by saying “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” After crying out again, we read that Jesus died.

What was it like for Jesus? We get a sense as he quotes from Psalm 22:1. He felt abandoned and forgotten by God. He was innocent, but he was suffering as if he were guilty. How could God allow such a thing? Psalm 22 was written by David who, on at a certain level, felt the same. God had abandoned him to his enemies. As we read on in Psalm 22, we also see that David continued to trust in God for his deliverance. As Jesus quoted from David’s psalm, we should take the time to read it all, knowing that Jesus was also trusting in the Father even in the midst of his suffering.

Psalm 22:1–31 (ESV)

1  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
2  O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.

3  Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4  In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
5  To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

6  But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7  All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8  “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

9  Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10  On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11  Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.

12  Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13  they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

14  I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
15  my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

16  For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17  I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18  they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

19  But you, O LORD, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20  Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
21  Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22  I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23  You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24  For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.

25  From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26  The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the LORD!
May your hearts live forever!

27  All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
28  For kingship belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.

29  All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30  Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31  they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.

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He Cannot Save Himself

banner-header-easter-cross-161188.jpeg

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Reading the Word

Matthew 27:33–44 (ESV)

33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Parallel Texts: Mark 15:22-32; Luke 23:33-38

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus hung on the cross, the mocking and verbal abuse continued. The religious leaders were offended that Pilate had placed a sign above Jesus that read “King of the Jews.” However, Pilate would not remove or change it. Instead, many made fun of Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah by telling him to “come down from the cross” with a promise to believe if he did so.

The religious leaders mocked because they did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah or the Son of God. But they were wrong. Jesus was who he claimed to be. He could not come down from the cross because his death was needed to bring salvation to the world. However, in just a couple of days, he was going to do something greater than coming down from the cross. Jesus was going to rise from the grave. Yet, even with the miracle of the resurrection, many would refuse to believe.

Jesus made many grand claims while he was on this earth. He claimed to be the Messiah and the Son of God. Such claims are difficult to believe, but the resurrection is the evidence of the truth of his claims. However, even with this evidence, many continue to reject Jesus. Why? Because if he is who he claimed to be, then our lives can never be the same. Our sin must be dealt with. We must repent and turn to Jesus for forgiveness.

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Father, Forgive Them

1 John 19 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 23:32–34 (ESV)

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 27:38; Mark 15:27; John 19:18

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus was crucified as a criminal though he was innocent of any crime. An innocent man hung on a cross between two men who were truly criminals. But this was the plan and purpose of God. Jesus knew this. He knew he had to die as a sacrifice for our sins. So, when he looked out from the cross at those who were responsible for his suffering, he did not seek vengeance. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus sought forgiveness for the guilty, which was his mission from the very beginning.

Today, Jesus seeks the same for you and me. We too have sinned against God and are guilty. We deserve the wrath of God. However, Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins to pay the penalty that we cannot. When we repent of our sins and turn to him in faith, Jesus says, “Father, forgive them.” And the Father does. What a wonderful and merciful Savior!

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Take Up Your Cross

brown wooden cross

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Reading the Word

Mark 15:20–21 (ESV)

20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 27:31-32; Luke 23:26

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus had been flogged multiple times in the previous hours. Those beatings left him battered and too weak to carry his cross to the execution site. Therefore, the Roman soldiers drafted a man named Simon to carry Christ’s cross for him. We really know nothing more of Simon other than this incident. Some speculate that Simon’s son, Rufus, may be the same Rufus that Paul mentions in Romans 16:13. If so, perhaps this encounter had a profound impact on him. However, there is no way to be sure.

Jesus calls on all of his followers to take up their cross and follow him (Matthew 16:24-26). We are called to not simply be spectators of Christ’s pain and suffering, but we are called to live out Jesus’ teachings and to expect the same kinds of rejection and suffering that Jesus received. It is a small price to pay to belong to Christ and it is a great honor to follow in his steps.

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A Crown of Thorns

crown of thorns

Reading the Word

Matthew 27:27–31 (ESV)

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

Parallel Texts: Mark 15:16-20; John 19:2-3

Understanding and Applying the Word

The soldiers mocked Jesus. The dressed him in makeshift attire to present him as a ridiculous and pathetic king. They put a crown made from thorns on his head. They put a reed as a scepter in his hand. They put a scarlet robe on him. And they bowed down before him, not to worship, but to laugh at and make fun of Jesus. They called out “Hail, King of the Jews” and then spit on him and hit him with the reed. When they were finished with their fun, the soldiers stripped him of his scarlet robe and put him back in his regular clothes before leading him off to be crucified.

This event fulfilled what Jesus had told his disciples in Matthew 20:19. None of this came as a surprise to Jesus. He knew that he would be rejected by all people, both Jew and Gentile. Jesus, the Messiah and Creator, visited mankind, but was rejected, mocked, and murdered. Little did the people realize what would soon take place. Jesus would rise victorious from the dead in a demonstration of his power and authority. And one day he will return as promised to this world and every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. There will be no mocking on that day, only recognition of who Jesus is: the King of kings and Lord of lords.

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