2015-11-08 At The Cross

LUKE 23:26-43                                                                                NOVEMBER 8, 2015


I came across a disturbing article claiming that Jesus was a victim of police brutality. The article laid out their twisted reasoning to declare that Jesus was a victim like many of the young black victims in Missouri and New York City. Was Jesus a victim of circumstances? Wikipedia defined the term “victim mentality” as an acquired (learned) personality trait in which a person tends to regard himself as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to think, speak and act as if that were the case-even in the absence of clear evidence. One mental health site defined a victim mentality as one where you blame everyone else for what happens in your world. A victim is one who “feels” powerless. Was Jesus only a victim of the corrupt Jewish and Roman authorities? Of course not!

It is very clear in reading Luke’s account of Jesus going to the cross, that Jesus was not a victim. Instead, Jesus was the one who still controlled the situation, using the opportunity to speak to others and warning them of the consequences of rejecting him. We will also see Jesus using the occasion to minister to one of his fellow condemned prisoners. Jesus was not a victim! He is the LORD GOD who willing chose to go to the cross. Luke provides us many different viewpoints in which to observe the events surrounding Jesus going to the cross.

Luke 23:26 (NIV) 26 As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.” Only Luke provides us with this information about Simon from Cyrene being forced to assist Jesus in carrying the cross beam for the execution. Jesus had been without sleep for over 24 hours and after suffering the whipping and beating from the different soldiers, he would have had little strength to carry the heavy cross beam of the cross. Like so many people Simon shares in this journey with Jesus.

There was a huge crowd of people following Jesus. Some were sympathetic while others were hostile or simply along for the show. Luke 23:27 (NIV) 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.” In this host of people there was a group of women who were wailing in mourning. They were distraught at what was happening to Jesus. Yet Jesus had a different reaction than what would be expected.

Luke 23:28-31 (NIV) 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”‘ 31 For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Jesus was not concerned with what was happening to him but he addressed the women of Jerusalem.

Jesus words would have shocked the women. Being barren and unable to have children was considered a curse, a source of shame. Yet Jesus prophesies that a time is coming when God will judge the inhabitants of Jerusalem for rejecting Jesus as the Messiah. When the time for judgment arrives the women who are barren will consider themselves blessed as they will not have to endure watching their children die of starvation and being murdered.  Like the prophet of Hosea who prophesied that all would wish for the mountains to crush them instead of the suffering that is coming. Jesus compares himself to green wood that is to be burned, but the burning will be so much worse when the wood is dry. It takes time for wood to dry and so the time of judgment will take place at a later time. When the Romans captured Jerusalem they crucified so many that they ran out of wood for crosses and places to put them.

Jesus was not alone in being crucified. Luke 23:32-33 (NIV) 32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left.” The location of the crucifixion was a place called the skull. In Aramaic, the name is Golgotha, and in Latin the word is Calvary. (NIV Application Commentary on Luke) How does Jesus respond to being hung on a cross?

He did not respond with either cursing or weeping for his life? Luke 23:34 (NIV) 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Jesus was not a victim He revealed himself as being God, the One who was in control. Jesus prayed to his Father. Jesus set a pattern for us to follow. Luke 6:27-28, 31 (NIV) 27 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  Jesus asked for his Father to forgive them.

The soldiers and the crowd mocked Jesus. Luke 23:35-37 (NIV) 35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” What is ironic is that what they said about Jesus was true. He is the Holy One of God, the Chosen One, the Messiah and he came to save others, but not himself. It is not surprising that people rejected Jesus and made fun of him and of his suffering and imminent death. People still reject him and make fun of anyone who follows Jesus.

It was foretold how the Messiah would be treated in Psalm 22. Psalm 22:7-8 (NIV) 7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 8 “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” The soldiers then put up a sign declaring his crime. Luke 23:38 (NIV) 38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” It was meant to mock Jesus, but it was true.

Luke 23:39-43 (NIV) 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

One of the criminals joined in with those mocking Jesus. However, one of the criminals saw Jesus for who He is. “40 But the other criminal rebuked him.”Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” The thief recognized his own guilt and saw in Jesus one who could help him in the life to come. He asked in faith for Jesus to help him and to remember him when his kingdom arrived.

We are all sinners saved by grace. The thief on the cross was the first one to respond affirmatively to what Jesus was doing on the cross. Even as he hung on the cross Jesus made a royal declaration. “43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” As Jesus went to the cross he made it clear that the real tragedy is to reject him. We must embrace the cross on which our Savior died for our sins. 1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV) 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Jesus was not a victim but the victor!

Let us pray.