The cross is the most recognizable symbol of Christianity. It tells the story of Jesus in one simple, easy to understand picture. The cross represents God’s love, mercy and grace. It reminds us of Jesus’ vicarious sacrifice. And it prompts us to remember our personal need for salvation.
We celebrate the cross. We glamorize it. We even romanticize it. We all know what it means. Yet the cross was used by the Romans as a cruel means of capital punishment. It was a shameful death. A humiliating death. A painful death.
It is also good to remember that on the Friday Jesus was crucified to become our Redeemer there were two other crosses occupied by robbers.
(1) The first robber died on the cross of rebellion. The man nailed to it deserved to die. He was a criminal. A sinner. A rebel against society. A law-breaker. He said to Jesus, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us” (Lk. 23:39). He obviously didn’t believe. Luke says he “blasphemed” Jesus. He was only concerned with saving his own skin. The man on that cross died in sin.
(2) The second robber died on the cross of repentance. This man also was an outlaw. A thief. A sinner who deserved to die. But he rebuked his fellow felon saying,
“Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” This thief admitted his sin.
Then he did something amazing. He turned to Jesus and called him “Lord.” And said, “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom” (Lk 23:40-42). How did he know about Jesus? Maybe he heard Him preach. Possibly he witnessed one of the miracles. Could he have even been one the sinners with whom Jesus mingled? We don’t know. But we know he believed. And Jesus saved him. He said, “Today you shall be with me in Paradise.” The man on that cross died to sin.
(3) But the third cross was occupied by My Redeemer. It was a cross of redemption. Jesus died for both thieves. He did for the Jews who cried, “Crucify Him!” He died for religious leaders who enviously conspired to convict Him. He died for fearful Pilate. Hedonistic Herod. Cowardly Peter. Betraying Judas. And for a sinful man named Ken Weliever. And for you! The man on this cross died for sin.
That was Friday. Three men died on three crosses.
On Sunday. One man suffered in torment. The other man basked in the bosom of Abraham. And the third man returned to life. He arose from the grave. His victory was one over death. Sin. Satan. What a day Sunday was!
I’ve had “Friday’s” where I was the law-breaker. The rebel. The blasphemer.
I’ve also had “Friday’s” of contrition. Of repentance. Of atonement. Those days are made possible because of the man who died for sin. And because on Sunday the grave was empty.
When I arrive to worship this Sunday, may I remember who I am. Where I’ve come from. What I received from that man called Jesus. He gives me hope. And offers the invitation to be with Him in Paradise.
Thanks be to God for my Redeemer. For the cross of redemption. For the cross of reconciliation. For Him who died for sin. For that unforgettable Friday. And For Sunday’s victory!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman