This Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, and because of the resurrection we have hope, peace, joy, and life.
However, without the death of Jesus there is no resurrection of Jesus. Without the cross there is no empty tomb!
Jesus hung on a very real cross and experienced a very real death.
Our modern-day perception of the cross is somewhat skewed. It’s easy to view the cross as an interior decoration or a pretty piece of jewelry. For us, the cross is clean, shiny, sparkly, and decorative. It’s a symbol of love and deliverance.
Imagine for a second you jumped in your secret time machine and traveled back 2,000 years. The cross’s reputation has a much different look and feel. The cross was bloody, cruel, embarrassing, deadly, and a curse. Read Colossians 3:13.
The cross represented pain and agony, and it was reserved as the cruelest punishment for the worst of offenders. It was meant to be so excruciating that onlookers would vomit. Often a criminal hanging on a cross was barely recognizable after having endured violent lashings.
The cross meant death. In fact, the place where Jesus was crucified was called Golgotha — “the place of the skull.”
But Jesus wasn’t the only one hanging on a cross that day. There were three crosses, and each cross had a significant meaning.
The Cross of Rebellion.
On one side of Jesus was a criminal deserving of death. This criminal mocked Jesus saying, “Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39).
Even as his battered, beaten body hung on the cross this man rejected Christ. His words, actions, and heart displayed nothing but total rebellion.
Rebellion is simply open resistance. This criminal was in need of a Savior, and foolishly rejected the One who could save him.
The Cross of Repentance
On the other side of Jesus hung another criminal deserving of death. His actions that brought him to the cross were similar to the other criminal, but his heart in this moment was quite the opposite.
He was repentant.
He recognized in the moment who Jesus was, and he pleaded with the other criminal, “Don’t you fear God?” (Luke 23:40).
This sinner feared God, as evident by his repentant heart. This wasn’t a last-ditch-effort-what-have-I-got-to-lose moment for the man. This was surrender.
He recognized his wrong, understood his guilt, and surrendered it all to Jesus.
The Cross of Redemption
The cross in the middle, in the center of it all, is the cross we all desperately need.
With his final breath, Jesus whispered, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
What was finished? The payment for our sins was paid in full. Jesus’ death on the cross is the great exchange God makes for us. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The cross of redemption was Jesus taking on our sin and offering us His righteousness. What a trade!
Which criminal do you identify with? Which cross do you carry — the cross of rebellion or the cross of repentance?
Only Jesus can carry the cross of redemption. And He’s waiting for you to surrender completely.
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