Category Archives: Journey To the Cross

Journey To The Cross: Snapshot 5


Years ago, a man from our church recounted to Doug and me about the first time he had met his friend Jimmy. He had been  attending a conference at a local church. As he walked past the sanctuary during a break, he heard the sound of sobbing. Curious, he quietly opened the door and peered inside.

A wooden cross stood imposingly in the center of the altar. There, at the bottom of the cross, lay Jimmy. He was clinging to that cross with both arms and he was sobbing. Deep, heaving sobs.

As our friend would later discover, Jimmy was desperate for God. And he knew the place to find Him was at the foot of the Cross.

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It is finished.”

Such powerful words.

They are among the last words that Jesus spoke before He died and the  glorious offer of redemption was made to all.

He had endured betrayal, mockery, beatings so severe that He did not even look like a human being, searing pain, shame, ridicule, brutal savagery… and the worst punishment of all: separation from the Father for the very first time as He endured divine wrath on our behalf.

“What happened at the cross was not primarily about nails being thrust into Jesus’ hands and feet but about the wrath due your sin and my sin being thrust upon His soul. In that holy moment, all the righteous wrath and justice of God due us came rushing down like a torrent on Christ Himself. Some say, ‘God looked down and could not bear to see the suffering that the soldiers were inflicting on Jesus, so He turned away.’ But that is not true. God turned away because He could not bear to see your sin and my sin on His Son.

One preacher described it as if you and I were standing a short hundred yards away from a dam of water ten thousand miles high and ten thousand miles wide. All of a sudden that dam was breached and a torrential flood of water came crashing toward us. Right before it reached our feet, the ground in front of us opened up and swallowed it all. At the Cross, Christ drank the full cup of the wrath of God and when he had downed the last drop, He turned the cup over and cried out, “It is finished.” –David Platt, Radical, p. 35-36)

Jesus took my place.

Jesus took your place.

Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering…He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds, we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53: 4-6

The cross is a horrifying instrument of torture…but it is  the most beautiful sight in the world to the sinner who realizes their complete and utter bankruptcy before a holy God.

I never want to get over the sheer miracle of what Jesus did for me on the Cross.

If He never does another thing for me, He has saved me from the penalty of my sin! And that means everything!

I am free!

I am forgiven!

I have been redeemed!

Because of the cross:

*I have passed from death to life (John 5:24).

*I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

*His peace and joy flood my soul (John 14:27; John 16:11)

*I live in Light, not in darkness (Ephesians 5:8)

* my future is secure (Jeremiah 29:11).

*my wounds are being healed by The Healer (Isaiah 53:5)

*all of Heaven has been opened to me (John 14:1-3).

*I need never live in fear (Joshua 1:9).

*I am out of  the enemy’s reach forever (James 4:7).

*I am held safe in His arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).

*I will never be alone (Matthew 28:20).

Because of the cross, I will see His face (Revelation 22:4).

And that is what I live for…the moment that faith becomes sight and I finally look upon the beautiful face of the One who loved me enough to die rather than be without me.

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“The cross is the lightning rod of grace that short-circuits God’s wrath to Christ so that only the light of His love remains for believers.”–A.W. Tozer. 

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“It is finished; the battle is over

It is finished; there’ll be no more war

It is finished; the end of the conflict

It is finished and Jesus is Lord.” —Bill Gaither

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Journey To The Cross: Snapshot 4


Jesus and His disciples had just left the Upper Room, where they shared their Last Supper together. They walked to the Mount of Olives, which was a familiar place to them.

“When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not fall into temptation.”

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will but Yours be done.”

And there appeared to Him an angel from Heaven, strengthening Him in spirit.

And being in agony of mind, He prayed all the more earnestly and intently, and His sweat became like great clots of blood dropping down upon the ground.” —Luke 22:38-44 

I must admit that  for years, I thought that Jesus’ main agony in the Garden was the crucifixion that awaited Him.

Crucifixion was an absolutely ghastly, gruesome, humiliating and shockingly excruciating way to die.

However, it wasn’t until I read David Platt’s book Radical that I realized what was truly going on:

“Why was He trembling in that garden, weeping and full of anguish? We can rest assured that He was not a coward about to face Roman soldiers. Instead, He was a Savior about to endure divine wrath. Listen to His words: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me.’ The cup is not a reference to a wooden cross; it is a reference to divine judgment. It is the cup of God’s wrath. This is what Jesus is recoiling from in the garden. All God’s holy wrath and hatred toward sin and sinners, stored up since the beginning of the world, is about to be poured out on Him, and He is sweating blood at the thought of it.  (pp. 35-36).

It is not politically correct to talk about the subject of God’s wrath.

We prefer to focus on His love, kindness, and mercy.

All those things are unspeakably wonderful…but we ignore His hatred of sin to our eternal peril.

Did you ever wonder why Jesus had to come to earth at all?  Why He had to die?

When people say they are “saved” what does that mean? Saved from what? Or…Whom?

We all like to think that we are good people.

But that’s not what the Bible says.

The Bible says that there is no one who is good (Romans 3:10-18).

The Bible says that we are born physically alive but spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1).

The human heart is described as “desperately wicked and deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9).

As a result of the fall (Genesis 3), each of us is born as an enemy of God and object of His wrath (Ephesians 2:3).  

Since God is perfect in holiness, His standard is perfection.

Do you know anyone who has perfectly kept the Ten Commandments? Of course not.

We are utterly without hope because the penalty for sin (any sin)  is death (Romans 6:23).

Unless…

God would come to earth in human form, live a perfect life, and agree to take the terrifying punishment that we deserve.

And that is exactly what He did.

His Name is Jesus.

You broke God’s perfect Law…and when Jesus finally got up off of His knees in that Garden after a time of agonizing prayer, He was ready to pay your fine and face God’s righteous and divine anger… so that you would never have to.

The matter was forever and gloriously settled.

The darkest moment in all of human history was soon to take place…and our Savior, in all His glorious strength and powerful love was ready to carry out the plan that had been formed by the Trinity before time began.

Our rescue was about to begin…

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Journey To The Cross: Snapshot 3


On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as He taught them, He said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?’ But you have made it a den of robbers.” 

The chief priests and teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill Him, for they feared Him, because the whole crowd was amazed at His teaching. —Mark 11:15-18

So much for the ‘Jesus- meek-and-mild’ caricature.

It is safe to assume that given the type of work Jesus did as a carpenter, He would have been quite muscular and strong. It is highly doutbtful that Jesus would have been the rather wan-looking, pale, skinny man so often represented in some of the Jesus movies of recent years. His hands would have been calloused and strong, His skin darkened by the sun.

We are told that several times that He spoke with great authority. His very presence must have radiated strength and resolute purpose.

Clearly, this was a stunningly bold act.

Why did He do it?

God was being grossly dishonored and the people who had come to the temple to worship Him were being exploited and oppressed.

In his book The Jesus You Can’t Ignore, John MacArthur explains:

“Jerusalem was jammed with pilgrims, not only from all over the land of  Israel, but also from Jewish communities throughout the Roman world…Of course, merchants throughout the city profited immensely from the revenue that came in from pilgrims during the holidays. The temple priests even had their own extremely profitable franchise set up right there on the temple grounds.

A portion of the massive outer court (known as the court of the Gentiles) had been turned into a bustling bazaar, filled with animal merchants and money changers. With multitudes coming to celebrate Passover…it was impossible for some of them to bring their own oxen, lambs, or doves for sacrifice.

Furthermore…sacrificial animals had to be flawless. Priests would therefore carefully inspect every animal…and if they found a defect, they would pronounce the animal unsuitable….So, the temple merchants sold preapproved animals—but at a very dear premium.

“The money changers’ tables were likewise supposed to be a service for pilgrims and worshipers, because offerings to the temple had to be made with Jewish coins…they charged an exorbitant interest rate for their services…under Old Testament law, Jews were not permitted to charge interest to their own countrymen…so the fact that this was being done with the offerings of worshipers, on the temple grounds, under the temple authorities’ oversight and with their encouragement, was positively evil…the temple authorities were exploiting the very people they should have been ministering to.”

(In addition)…”it’s not hard to imagine what all this activity did to the ambience of the temple grounds…it was a hive of noise, dissonance, filth, and pandemonium. It was certainly no atmosphere for worship.” (pp. 34-36)

This is what greeted Jesus when He walked into the temple.

These people didn’t even set up their crooked schemes in front of the temple grounds…they chose to set everything up inside the temple doors! They did not care anything about God. Profit was their bottom line and they were shameless in their pursuit of it.

The temple was to be a place of refuge, safety, and beauty where one could freely worship God…and that day, it was none of those things. Those in authority were making it very difficult for the people to get to their God and that was inexcusable. There was a total lack of disregard for both God and His people.

Jesus would carefully and methodically have made a whip of small cords that was a harmless tool used for driving large animals. Such a whip did not inflict pain; it was a mild means of driving them from one place to another. There is no mention that He inflicted any physical injury on anyone. Jesus must have driven the animals out of the courtyard, which meant their owners were also forced to leave the area to chase after them.

Jesus’ decisiveness and power were impressive and must have been incredibly intimidating. His anger is evident; His zeal is grand and imposing; and the force of divine authority in His words is unmistakable…There must have been great tumult all around, but in the midst of it, Jesus appears unruffled–fierce in His anger, perhaps, but resolute, single-minded, stoic, and wholly composed. He is the very picture of self-control. This is truly righteous indignation, not a violent temper  that has gotten out of hand…(His) is a zealous fury that is not the selfish pique of someone who has suffered a personal insult. Instead, it is a deep outrage that comes from the realization that GOD is being dishonored…Jesus was moved by righteous indignation—springing from the purest motives of a chaste and virtuous heart.” (pp.38-38).

When one reads through the Gospels, an unmistakable fact emerges: Jesus made Himself available to anyone who was truly seeking Him. He is a God of relationship and His arms and heart were open to all.

So, when He saw that people were being hindered from coming to their God by the very people that should have been helping them, something had to be done.

His passion and zeal are breathtaking.

It is not…and never has been…difficult to get to Jesus.

Humbling? Yes…incredibly so.

Simple? Yes…beautifully so.

Costly? Oh yes…within days, it would cost Jesus absolutely everything to open the door to His Presence eternally for all who would choose to come.

That momentous moment was fast approaching…


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Journey To The Cross: Snapshot 2


In today’s snapshot, we are given a glimpse right into the very heart of Jesus.

Jesus has left the safety and comfort of the home in Bethany and has made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. (John 12:12-13)

However, as He approached Jerusalem, we are told, “He wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”  (Luke 19:41-44).

In the original language, the word for “wept” here is a very strong word. It means: “to weep audibly, to give verbal expression to grief, to lament.” This was not just a few stray tears slipping down the face of Christ. He was sobbing

Why?

One commentary put it very succinctly: “Messiah had come and Israel has said no.”  (InterVarsity Press New Testament Commentary).

Have you ever known rejection?

Jesus has.

He came to His own people…God in the flesh walking on this earth; the literal embodiment and fulfillment  of over 300 Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament.

Did you know that the chances of one person fulfilling a mere of those prophecies are 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000?

For one person to fulfill even 48 of those prophecies are 1 chance in 10-to-the-157th power? (www.christianity.com).

Jesus perfectly fulfilled over 300…and they said no.

His own brothers did not believe Him (although they did come to faith eventually). The people in His hometown rejected Him (Matthew 12:53-58). and at one point, actually sought to kill Him (Luke 4:16-30). The religious elite hated Him. The very people who welcomed Him into the city with such enthusiasm on Palm Sunday would soon line the streets, viciously calling for His blood.

Jesus had shed tears over Jerusalem at another time as well: “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who continue to kill the prophets and to stone those who are sent to you! How often I have desired and yearned to gather your children together around Me as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you would not!” –(Luke 13:34).

Beth Moore asks, “What could more tenderly portray the nurturing, protecting, love of Christ? Yes, God’s righteous right hand must bring judgement and justice. Sin demands it. But His tender loving heart longs to hold us in his arms and protect us from eternal harm.” —Jesus The One and Only, p. 162.

Yet, He is a Gentleman. He will not force us into a relationship with Him. The choice is ours.

Jerusalem had made their choice.  The Messiah they had been awaiting for thousands of years had walked among them, full of grace and truth…and they rejected Him.

By 70 A.D., the Romans completely destroyed Jerusalem  and it was left totally desolate, just as Jesus had said. The Jewish people were then scattered all over the world for the next 1900 years.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). It is not His will that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9) . His offer of salvation is free to anyone who calls upon His Name…the only Name by which we are saved (John 1:12; Acts 4:12).

Jesus eventually dried His tears and entered Jerusalem. There was still work to be done. And what He would do next would shock everyone…

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Journey To The Cross: Snapshot 1


I know that I alluded to a continuation of Saturday’s post for Monday, but I am going to put that on hold until next week.

Since next week is Easter Sunday, I felt led to do a short series on the last week of Jesus’ life before He willingly went to the Cross. Each day, I will focus on one moment in time from each day.

At the beginning of His last week on earth, we are told that Jesus “steadfastly and determinedly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51).

In the original language, the word “set” means: “to make firm, to stand ready, prepared, one who does not hesitate, does not waiver, strong, immovable, establish.” In other words, nothing and no one would deter Jesus from marching straight into His appointed destiny.

Jesus knew exactly what awaited Him in Jerusalem at the end of that week. Michael Card writes: “More than anyone else, He knew that the script for His life had already been written across the pages of the Old Testament. As He made His way toward Golgotha, with every step He knew—detail for detail, agony by agony—how it would end and what it would cost…

He will be rejected by His own people (Is. 53:3).

He will be betrayed by a friend (Ps. 41:9).

He will be sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12).

He will be accused by false witnesses (Ps. 35:11).

He will be scorned and mocked. (Ps. 22:7).

He will be spat upon (Is. 50:6).

He will be crucified with criminals. (Is. 53:12). —Michael Card, A Violent Grace, pp.20-21

It is precisely because Jesus knew the horror that awaited Him that makes today’s snapshot so touching and precious.

The scene opens in the family home of sisters Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus, who were close and treasured friends of Jesus. It is six days before the Passover and Jesus and His disciples have come for dinner.

This home must have represented a refuge for Jesus. The Gospels indicate that He spent a considerable amount of time there. Although He was fully God, He was also fully human. Consider the joy that your closest friendships have brought to your heart: the laughter, love, kindness, goodwill, happy memories.

Jesus, too, knew the deep joy of earthly friendships and these people were among His closest friends. How He must have treasured this time among those who truly loved Him, knowing that in a short while, He would be surrounded by angry mobs of people who would be intent on seeking His brutal death.

After dinner, Mary did an extraordinary thing.

“Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” —John 12:3

This all sounds very strange to our current culture, but everyone present that evening would have automatically grasped the incredible significance of Mary’s lavish gesture.

First of all, this perfume represented one year’s wages. It may have been Mary’s entire life savings.

The perfume would have been kept inside an alabaster jar with a long neck. She would have broken the neck of the jar, ensuring that it would never again be used for anyone else.

This was an act of extreme devotion.

In her fascinating  book, Sitting At The Feet of Rabbi Jesus, Ann Spangler shares insight into the culture of  the first century:  ” By anointing Him with expensive fragrances, Mary may well have been making a statement about who she believed Jesus was, proclaiming Him as Messiah…the Hebrew word for Messiah literally means “The Anointed One.” 

“The word “Messiah” alludes to the ceremony used to set apart someone chosen by God, like a king or a priest. Instead of being crowned during a coronation, Hebrew kings were anointed with sacred oil perfumed with extremely expensive spices….the sacred anointing oil would have been more valuable than diamonds. The marvelous scent that is left behind acted like an invisible ‘crown,’ conferring an aura of holiness on its recipients. Everything and everyone with that unique fragrance was recognized as belonging to God in a special way.

In the ancient Middle East, the majesty of a king was expressed not only by what he wore—his jewelry and robes—but by his royal ‘aroma.’…he would perfume his robes with precious oils for special occasions…during the royal processions, the fragrance of expensive oils would inform the crowds that a king was passing by…it seems likely that the smell of the perfume with which Mary anointed Jesus would have lingered for days. God may have used Mary’s act of devotion to telegraph a subtle but powerful message. Everywhere Jesus went during the final days of His life He had the fragrance of royalty. Jesus smelled like a King.”

Jewish women in that culture rarely were seen in public with their hair unbound, so the fact that Mary wiped Jesus’ feet with her long hair was also stunning.  This was an act of  intense devotion and reverence.

And in the eyes of Jesus, this was a beautiful thing. It was one of the last acts of kindness that He experienced.

If you are not familiar with this story, you may wonder why Mary was so devoted to Jesus that she gave all she had to give.

Mary lived in the midst of a culture that was often hostile to women. Women could be divorced and discarded for such menial things as burning dinner. They were not allowed to own property. Their testimony alone was not considered valid in a court of law.  The men of Jesus’ day believed women to be intellectually inferior and incapable of any great spiritual insight. Some were vocal about preferring to burn the words of the law rather than share them with  a woman. No rabbi would have permitted a lowly woman to sit under his teaching.

In contrast, Jesus held women in high honor and esteem and treated them with great dignity and respect.

So, imagine her joy and elation when Jesus allowed her to sit at His feet the way the other disciples did and learn from Him, the very Word of God made flesh! (Luke 10:38-41).

Mary did not treat her privilege as a student of Jesus lightly. It is clear by her grand, heartfelt gesture that she listened and understood that His mission would end in a violent death. (unlike the male disciples, who didn’t clearly grasp His pointed references to the fact that His death was imminent).

I imagine that Mary’s tears mingled with the perfume that evening, as she contemplated saying goodbye (temporarily) to this gentle yet strong Man who had graced her life with  His dynamic, miraculous, loving, and utterly transforming Presence.

Her world…as well as the world of all those who lived in close friendship to Jesus…was about to go terribly, horribly dark in just a few short days.

But Sunday was coming….

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