What does it mean to you to be closer to the cross? We often think about that question in terms of our relationship with Christ, and that’s a great way to think about it. But what about the people who were close to the cross at the crucifixion? Think of it this way: if you had been there two thousand years ago, why would you have been there? How would witnessing the events of the cross have affected you, and how should it affect all of us who wear the name of Christ?
Prepared for the Cross
We know that Jesus was prepared for the cross, and He tried to prepare His followers as well. He prepared through doing the work of the Father. He kept the end of His journey forefront in Him mind. In the hours leading up to the crucifixion, our Savior was sleep-deprived and distraught, but He knew what had to be done to overcome. He was determined.
As we now look at the accounts of the cross, think about where you are spiritually and where you might have been when Jesus was on the cross. Would you have been a mere onlooker, or might you have been there as a follower? If you had been there as a follower, would you have been prepared? How would these events have affected you if you were as faithful then as you are today?
Luke 23:32 – 49
Two others — criminals — were also led away to be executed with Him. When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided His clothes and cast lots.
The people stood watching, and even the leaders kept scoffing: “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked Him. They came offering Him sour wine and said, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”
An inscription was above Him: This is the King of the Jews.
Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at Him: “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!”
But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”
And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”
John 19:23 – 37
When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took His clothes and divided them into four parts, a part for each soldier. They also took the tunic, which was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it, to see who gets it.” They did this to fulfill the Scripture that says: They divided My clothes among themselves, and they cast lots for My clothing. And this is what the soldiers did.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing there, He said to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
After this, when Jesus knew that everything was now accomplished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He said, “I’m thirsty!” A jar full of sour wine was sitting there; so they fixed a sponge full of sour wine on hyssop and held it up to His mouth.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
Since it was the preparation day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a special day). They requested that Pilate have the men’s legs broken and that their bodies be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other one who had been crucified with Him. When they came to Jesus, they did not break His legs since they saw that He was already dead. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows he is telling the truth. For these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: Not one of His bones will be broken. Also, another Scripture says: They will look at the One they pierced.
Our Response to the Cross
Time and again, the Bible writers entreat us to draw closer to God. Hebrews 4:16 calls on us to confidently approach the throne of grace, and James 4:8 says God will draw closer to us when we draw closer to Him. This relationship is deeper than words, however. Isaiah 29:13 warns us that we cannot simply draw near to God with our lips while keeping Him out of our hearts. Drawing closer to our God and Savior should deeply affect and change us.
Drawing closer to the cross also helps us better understand His love for us. It gives new depth to John 3:16, which tells us that Christ went to the cross because of God’s love for us. We are precious to Him. The love He demonstrates toward me is self-sacrificial. It is complete, and it is deep. It is a love I should seek out and hold to while imitating it in my own life.
When we have a deep encounter with cross, it will increase our commitment to Christ. When we have a deeper understanding of what the cross means to us, we will want to do more for Him. Proverbs 3:3-4 tells us we should God’s wear God’s words on our heart, and doing so makes it a refuge in times of trouble. This is a commitment built upon love and derived from a sincere appreciation for His death on the cross.
Closeness to the cross will also increase our sense of responsibility. Romans 6:12-14 speaks of responsibility when Paul says that we should crucify self to be closer to Him. Greater commitment leads to a greater sense of responsibility. It helps us understand that we are different from the world, and this sense of responsibility becomes a fire in our hearts. It drives us to want to share the cross and what it means to us with others.
All of this will finally increase the grace we have toward others. When I understand His love more deeply, and I grow more committed and more responsible to imitating my Savior and sharing His love and teachings, then I will be more graceful in how I interact with others. This will, in turn, hopefully lead them to see Christ’s love in me. As Paul writes in Philippians 2:3-4, let us always look after the needs of others and count others as more important than ourselves.
Your Response Today
How will you allow the cross to affect your life? Where is your commitment, responsibility, grace, and understanding of God’s love? Are these greater today than yesterday? Put yourself in the shoes of those who stood and watched Jesus die for our sins, and let it touch your heart. Witness that love, and let it change you for the better. Then take that love and let it compel you to share it with others.
lesson by Donn Koonce