Imagine if we had been there and seen Jesus on the cross – to which group of people would we belong? – Many saw it and yet did not have the right view. Do we understand what the Lord wants to say to us from the cross today?
Palm Sunday reminds us of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. It was a day of jubilation and joy for the disciples and the many pilgrims since they believed that Jesus would establish an earthy kingdom. For Jesus, however, it was a day that would lead Him straight to the cross. Quietly and contemplatively, He entered the city, knowing what He would encounter in the next few days. There were a few events that brought Him joy during this week. But in the background, the council was meeting to plan His execution. In the background of all events stood the cross, and Jesus could see it.
He saw the noisy and yet blind people around Him. He thought of the traitor among His disciples. He saw the stubbornness and rejection of the city of Jerusalem and was deeply saddened by it all. Nevertheless, He was able to walk courageously towards Good Friday and the cross, without guilt or self-accusation. His past was pure, a path full of light, a work almost completed, and a fulfilled life! What a truly royal state! With His innocence, His purity of soul, He approached Gethsemane, the cross, and death!
Good Friday draws the Christian-minded community to the cross. Therefore, in spirit, we want to approach the cross of Jesus and remain reverently there for a while. The main character of Good Friday is and remains Jesus, because it is all about the crucified Christ!
In Luke 23:47-49, Luke tells us about three groups of people who stood under the cross of Jesus or in the immediate vicinity. And everyone is said to have seen or watched.
First, there was the centurion (and those who were with him). When he “saw what had happened, he glorified God and said: ‘Certainly this was a righteous Man!’” (verse 47)
Then there was a crowd who came together to that sight. “Seeing what had been done, [they] beat their breasts and returned” (verse 48).
The third group was Jesus’ acquaintances and the women who had followed Him from Galilee. They “stood at a distance, watching these things” (verse 49). But they saw more than everyone else.
The Roman centurion gained some valuable knowledge. The people watched and yet saw nothing, just as Jesus had said in Matthew 13:13 and 15: “seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand…for the hearts of this people have grown dull.” The followers of Jesus saw everything, and their hearts were filled with sadness.
In our spiritual lives it is crucial to have a spirit-filled attitude and clear insight and discernment.
In the seven words Jesus uttered on the cross, we can see the essence of His character. His mind and His heart become profoundly visible. Let us think about His intercessory request: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Even amidst His agonizing suffering, He was interceding for the people as a priest in the Old Testament did.
On the cross, Jesus reveals to us His way of thinking, His benevolence, His innocence, His vicarious suffering, and His deep, incredible love! If Jesus’ exemplary and holy behavior during His suffering and death fails to impact our hearts, then we are lacking true spiritual insight. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:18: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Thank God!
The “Holy Week” wants to draw our attention to Jesus, His last days of activity in Jerusalem, His prayer struggle in Gethsemane, His trial and ill-treatment in Jerusalem, His humiliating walk to Golgotha, His crucifixion, His last words, and His horrible, innocent death. There was so much to think about and see! However, it is very important that we see correctly, understand rightly, and have the necessary insight. Or do we want to be like those who look but don’t see, who beat against their chests and guiltily walk away? Maybe we have not recognized or really seen what happened on the cross because we paid too much attention to the cross and not enough to Him who was crucified?
What Jesus shows, says, and teaches us from the cross is truly phenomenal. It is as if He wants to tell us more through His death than through His life. We want to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us to the cross and help us recognize anew what we have never seen or have possibly lost. May the picture of His suffering grip our souls again and place before us the wonderful fact that He died for us! A quiet contemplation will profit each of us. Friedrich von Bodelschwingh once said: “The cross is the great document of the eternal mercy and love of God…The opposition towards God ends when one earnestly stands beneath the cross of Christ.”
May the Lord deeply touch your heart as you also stand beneath the Cross!