CHRIST'S COMMITMENT TO THE CROSS
Although it has been as many as perhaps two thousand times that The Day of Resurrection has been remembered on the earth, let us commit to do all we can, and pray the help of God, to enable us to see The Day of Resurrection with fresh vision. Let us, though we have witnessed many Easter Sundays, remember this day with great depth of joy and overflowing appreciation. The Day of Resurrection announces the victory of Christ over sin, death, and the grave. The Day of Resurrection is the anchor of the Christian's steadfast hope.
On that Friday, some two thousand years ago when Christ died on the cross, men manifested their worst natures. There was no restraint to their cruelty. The soldiers violently struck His cheeks. They spat in His face. They scourged His unshielded body. The flesh of His back was torn by the lashes of the soldier's whip until Christ was almost unrecognizable. But Jesus would not surrender His life before the appointed time. He was committed to go all the way to the cross. He had come from glory to the earth, down through the generations, that He might go all the way to the cross and experience, there, the full punishment for man's sin.
The awful physical pain and distress the Savior endured was made worse by the taunting, and jeering, and ridiculing of the crowds. The gospel according to Matthew (27:39-44) describes that people who were passing by the scene of the crucifixion reviled Jesus. They dismissively wagged their heads shouting, "You that claimed you would tear down the temple, and build it in three days, save yourself." It was in their minds that Jesus had made great claims of supernatural power but now here He is hanging on the cross, weak and helpless. Surely, no one could believe that the true Messiah would suffer such an ordeal. If He is the Son of God, as He claimed, He must surely have the power to deliver Himself. "Come down from the cross" they called. Christ is demeaned and belittled by THE CRITICAL PEOPLE.
Further, Christ is mocked by the chief priests with the scribes and elders. THE CORRUPTED CLERGY hurl insults upon the suffering Savior. With disdain they charge, How ironic that this man who saved others cannot save Himself. He is pathetic. They reason within themselves, If He is truly the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross. Such a miraculous deliverance from the cross would prove His claims. They put forth this proposition; If He came down from the cross they would then believe His claims. They did not understand that Christ was committed to the cross. He would not escape from the cross. THE CORRUPTED CLERGY ridiculed the faithful trust of the Son in the heavenly Father. Their mean-spirited taunts supposed that God had forsaken this false pretender. They remembered that Jesus had owned Himself to be the Son of God. They doubted that even God would have Him.
The voices of THE CONVICTED CRIMINALS are also added to the antagonistic and evil challenges. These two men who were also hanging from their crosses were paying the price for their crimes. They were hanging, one on the left side, and the other on the right side of Christ. They were also caught up in the tide of casting blasphemy against the Savior. Other gospel writers record that they also challenged the Lord to save Himself, and to save them also. However, Luke records that one thief later repented of his taunts against the Savior, and instead saw Jesus as the coming King. He desperately pleaded only to be remembered (Luke 23:42).
These groups of persons called for Christ to come down from the cross and save Himself. They reasoned that if He were really the Son of God He would have the power to come down from the cross. But they had no thought that Christ was fully committed to the cross and to go all the way. He could have, at any moment, come down from the cross. He had the power to do so. But if He had come down, He would not have fully paid our sin debt.
Let us celebrate that Christ committed Himself to the cross, and that He resisted the thought to come down before He could shout "It is finished!" The question is, are we, as believers, and followers of Christ so committed?
Let us sing and give praises unto the Lord for the victory of the Resurrection with renewed joy for what He has done. Let the preachers preach the cross with renewed dedication to the Resurrection message. He died on Friday, but early Sunday morning He arose from the dead!
Rev. A. W. Anthony Mays
Senior Pastor, Mount Sinai Baptist Church, Austin, Texas
Dean of Congress of Christian Education and Discipleship, National Baptist Convention of America International, Inc.