Three crosses at Calvary have become the symbol by which Christians have remembered the day Jesus of Nazareth died. To those who crucified Him, He was actually being executed for claiming to be the “King of the Jews”, a threat seen by the Roman government as one who would insight insurrection. To the Jews, He was committing blasphemy and they just wanted Him dead. What we fail to remember, however, or even learn, is that the death Jesus died was a very common death for the worst of the worst criminals of His day. Murderers, pirates, those who were threats to the Roman government, all were hung on crosses to die a horrible death that would in many cases run the course of three to four agonizing days before the suffering criminal’s own body drown in its own fluids or he died of exhaustion. Few people even know that the crosses were generally placed in odd numbers, with the worst criminal hung in the center. How fitting this is for Jesus, who, in His death, carried the weight of every sin ever committed by all mankind.
No fewer than three times, Jesus had told His followers that He would die and rise again. In hindsight, we may ask why, after all they saw Him do, did they still doubt Him? Would we have been any better?
One such example of this happening can be found in Mark 8:31-33, “And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” (emphasis mine). Notice how, although just one verse prior, Peter had declared that Jesus was the Christ, he now denied that He, (Jesus) knew what He was talking about when He predicted His own death!
The disciples and others had seen Jesus perform many miracles in His ministry. Perhaps the one that would be considered by many to be the most remarkable was raising Lazarus from the dead. If these men and other witnesses had seen this miracle of a man who had been in the tomb four days walk out when commanded to, why could they not accept it when Jesus said that He would do the same Himself?
One thing we know is this. There were witnesses to the raising of Lazarus. Nobody saw Jesus leave the grave. Sure, stories and theories about conspiracies abounded and continue to even today. But what about the countless sightings of Him in the days that followed?
All of this, however, must be set aside and can be examined later. At this time when we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, let us never think that He died because he was murdered. Let us never think that He was taken against His will. Jesus was living in glory in heaven in perfect harmony with the Father. He willingly came to Earth in the form of an innocent baby, humble and helpless and needing the care of His mother, to grow up and be not a king who would be served, but a servant King. He served us, those who deserve nothing, by giving His life that we may live eternally.
This sacrifice was a gift. And like any gift, it must be accepted. It must be picked up and recognized for what it is. It must be applied and embraced. If you have done this already then I am overjoyed that you have accepted the gift of Jesus and His forgiveness and sacrifice. By the same token, if you have not, let this be the day that you do. If you wish to discuss this with a member of our ministry or have any questions, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Serving Him through Serving Others,
James M. Dakis, D. Min.