Luke 23:32-48 two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 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. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 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.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
I was reading this passage and some other passages. I also watched parts of the movie “The Passion of Christ” because this is the week when we remember that Jesus Christ gave his own life for us. It really caught my attention the huge crowd that the crucifixion attracted, and how many different reactions people had while watching Jesus being crucified. I, then, started thinking about the many traditions we have in Easter Week. Many people watch Jesus Christ movies and watch his crucifixion. Others watch plays, and others watch processions that, through an image, show Jesus Christ’s death. All of this could be nothing but entertainment if we don’t adopt the correct reaction before Jesus´ cross.
I want you to go back in time and position yourself right in front of the cross. I want you to see Jesus being crucified in between the two criminals. Not far from there, the roman soldiers fighting over Jesus´ garments, and on the other hand, the Pharisees mocking the whole scenario, while one of the criminals was telling Jesus «aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and save us!” While the other criminal was saying «we are punished justly, Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom ». Five different types of people; the same types of people we find before the cross even today. Some react like the roman soldiers, they come before the cross only to see if they can steal someone’s garments, only to find some kind of benefit for themselves. It really strikes me how the roman soldiers were standing before their savior and all they could think was about Jesus´ garments. I guess my question to you is: What do you think as you’re standing before Jesus´ cross?
Some people even use the cross for manipulation and say “If you’re a Christian, you should behave differently.” Some other people think of God as a billing institution and say “Lord please, make this person pay the money he owes me”. Not only you are standing before the cross where all your debts were paid off, but you’re still asking Jesus to collect debts for you?
And then there are the people who just mock; they may watch a miracle crusade but think it’s all a lie and that people have been paid for some kind of acting pretending they received a miracle. Others may come to church because they are attracted by the music, the worship songs, lights, the feeling. Others may take the place of the criminal who was crucified by Jesus who said: If you’re really the son of God, save yourself and save us. Those people are no different and claim: if you’re the son of God prosper me, so that everybody may know you’re really who you say you are.
But some of you are really standing by Jesus´ side. Some of you really understand that we are beholding greatness that can change our lives. Some of you have the freedom to claim “Lord, I am sinner who deserves death, but by your mercy I can be forgiven and be with you one day in heaven; Lord, I believe and I commit myself to you.”
I want to ask you one more question: why are you a Christian? Why are you a son of God? Some people came to Jesus Christ because they were in great need, so He could fill that void inside. Some of you because it’s in, some of you are Christians because it’s a family tradition, but I know that you are Christians because you have accepted that you are sinners and that Jesus Christ came to save human kind. Those are the people who have really had a close encounter with the cross of Jesus Christ’s, people who have contemplated the cross face to face, and who have walked with Jesus all the way to the Calvary believing that only walking along Jesus´ side will change their lives; people who come out of darkness and walk into the light of eternity; people who decided to bury their past behind them and are truly new children; people who have contemplated the cross and have really understood the greatness of the crucifixion. Those are true Christians.
Things that happened at the cross and you should now understand:
Colossians 2:13-15 when you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive With Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away nailing it to the cross.
There was a code working against us. As a lawyer, I understand that if you have something against someone, you file a lawsuit describing crimes committed and proof of those crimes. The devil was your accuser; he brought you before God saying “I accuse this person of these sins, and my proof is…”, he even brought witnesses against you. I’m sure if you had stood trial before God, you would have been indicted, the devil knew that if we committed sins, we had to die. At that moment God thought that He needed a defense lawyer and He found the best of all and told him: you have to remove this lawsuit from the middle, and the only way, is nailing it to the cross with you. Now, I want you to understand that Jesus canceled this code, carried it with the cross, and nailed it there, removing in that way the lawsuit that was bringing us apart from God.
Colossians 1:19-20 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Many ask: how can I have the peace of God? And the only way to have the peace of God is to be in peace with God. This is the kind of peace that goes beyond all understanding from mind and heart. You may be going through rough times, a personal storm, great suffering; you may feel burdened and are desperately seeking the peace of God. This peace was worth Jesus´ life, and God wants you to have it so badly, that he sent his only son to die on the cross. When dying on the cross Jesus said «I want you to have peace in your mind and heart». The kind of peace that is within you as you wake up, as you goes to sleep, as you go to work. That is God’s will, and he exercised His will at the cross. If you feel burdened just turn your eyes towards Christ’s cross, but don’t just stand there as a witness, contemplate the cross as someone who wants to benefit from it, someone who wants the kind of peace that will guard your every step, your every thought, and your every action. That is God’s will for your life.
Hebrews 2:14-15 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death –that is, the devil- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
When Jesus died on the cross, He defeated the devil and freed you from the fear of death. In our cultures we’re taught to fear death, we associate death with an irreparable loss, and Jesus, wanting to free you from that fear, destroyed the one who held power of death, that’s why Paul said “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” How can anyone say dying is gain if dying is loss? The apostle sees the cross and says: «the way I saw death was changed on the cross at the Calvary; now, death for me is nothing more than a path that will take me to the place I long to be.” You may have relatives who died being believers, if they could now come out of their graves and come back to you, they would surely tell you to stop worrying about them, that they’re fine, that they are in the best place ever, happy, peaceful. They would ask you not to cry for them, but rejoice because they finally got to the place where everyone would like to be. That’s why the Bible says that God changes mourning into joy, the joy that makes us say that in Jesus Christ we behold salvation, our ticket to heaven and eternal life.
Maybe you are familiar with the story of the first space tourist who paid twenty-five million dollars to the space program in Russia so he could fly to the moon. He never landed; he just flew to the spatial station and was there for a week, so I guess we could say that an air ticket to Miami is US$500, an air ticket to Europe is $1,200, a ticket to the moon is $25 million, a ticket to heaven ……. priceless; Jesus gave it to you for free.
Easter is the time to celebrate that Jesus is alive. We can look back and tell stories or legends like the King Arthur, Robin Hood, Tecún Umán; they’re all dead now, if they ever existed. We can also name men who conquered such as George Washington, Simón Bolívar, who became heroes of their countries; people who led inspiring lives such as Peter, Paul, Saint Agustín, who people consider saints. We can also name men who started a religious movement and are now considered the head of a religion such as Mahomet, Buda, Confucius, they’re all dead, but Jesus Christ is alive and we can celebrate not only his life, but also his resurrection, he lives and will live forever.
We’re waiting for our Lord to come back, which could happen any day, because just as he promised that he would rise again, he promised he would come back again. And when he is back, it won’t be because of sin, it will be to restore his kingdom. The scriptures say that on the day of his return we’ll hear the voice of an archangel, we will hear a trumpet, he will come triumphantly on the clouds, and in a matter of seconds, your mortal body will be transformed into a celestial body such as Jesus Christ’s, a body that won’t get sick, won’t get hungry, a body that won’t have space limitations, that won’t know about pain or weakness, a body that won’t know about wounds. In a matter of seconds, as you become a celestial body, you’ll be sitting up in the clouds in front of our Lord Jesus, giving Him glory with the angels and all of those who have died in Christ, and that’s where we will stay forever. The Bible says that every eye will behold Him, and that the mere brilliance of his coming will defeat the antichrist. He will reward you for all the good you’ve done here on Earth, and He will tell you: “Well done, good and faithful servant!! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” At that moment a new kingdom will come to be, where the lion and the lamb both are pastured together; there won’t be poverty o suffering, there won’t be crying nor darkness, for the Lord will shine like a bright light; and that’s the hope that holds us up, and just as one day you turned to the cross and said “Lord am a sinner, have mercy on me”, today you can turn your head to the heavens and say “Lord, I am your child, and am waiting for you to take me home.”