Onlookers at the Cross

three crosses

When we started these studies about the cross, we talked about the increase to our commitment, our responsibility, our understanding of God’s love, and our grace toward others that come out of us living closer to the cross. Then we continued our studies by looking at Mary and John’s reactions to the cross, how they seemed to understand what was coming, and how they supported each other when the moment of Jesus’ death came. Both left changed by the experience. Today, we’re going to look at some others close to the cross.

The Emboldened Mob

Some of these individuals may have been present at Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem a week before this event, but now they are caught up in the moment. In Matthew 27:15, Pilate gives the crowd a choice between freeing Jesus or a more well-known criminal named Barabbas, and they choose Barabbas, even calling for Jesus’ blood to be on them and their children. This is like the covenant made by their ancestors in Exodus 24 when Moses sprinkled blood on the people.

They got what they wanted. The fact is, Jesus’ blood was shed upon them and their children, but it is not a curse. Instead, that blood brings forgiveness and mercy. Hebrews 9:18 speaks of covenants being sealed by blood, and Jesus’ blood is the sealing of the New Covenant between God and His Creation. His blood is the blood of forgiveness. During the crucifixion, many would continue to mock Jesus and revile Him, but He offered nothing back but forgiveness.

The Humbled Individuals

In Mark 15:33-41, the events following Christ’s crucifixion make a lasting impact on a centurion, who states that Jesus must have in fact been a man of God. Luke 23:48 records that these events also shake the mob, and they go their ways grieved for what they had done. In His death, Jesus affected even those who would have hurt and belittled Him. From those who should have known better to those who had no knowledge of God, Jesus touched their hearts in His death. The cross changed them.

This effect was so strong that many remembered those feelings in Acts 2, when Peter preaches to those gathered around him. He preaches Christ’s divinity to them, and, when he reminds them of their own culpability in His death, the people cry out, “What must we do to be saved?” At that moment, everything comes together, and thousands come to Christ for forgiveness of sins. And Peter, instead of placing a curse on them and their children in the death of Christ, tells them that sacrifice brings hope to them and the generations to come. Jesus’ death turns a curse into life.

Coming to the Cross

The same promise is available to us. We and our children have that same hope. Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. Let the cross increase our responsibility and commitment. Let it grow our understanding and appreciation of his love, and let that cross guide us in sharing God’s grace with others. Those early Christians did these things, and the church grew, and it will grow today if we live near the cross and allow it to affect us the same way. Let’s allow the cross to humble us, bring us to Jesus’ grace, and encourage us to live for Him.

lesson by Donn Koonce