Text: Romans 4:25
He was delivered over to death for our sins.
They nailed him to a cross. We say that sentence so easily. They nailed him to a cross. It’s at the core of our faith in Jesus our Saviour and those words slide off our tongue so smoothly. He died on a cross. Those words are powerful and comforting but it’s easy to forget what lies behind those words.
The cross was anything but easy and nice. It was much more than an instrument of death. Roman historians who were accustomed to seeing people crucified describe crucifixion as the worst kind of pain and suffering that any human could endure as life slowly, ever so slowly, dripped from the body and every breath was extreme agony. The crucified was totally humiliated, stripped naked and often endured other inhumane bodily tortures by the Romans and onlookers depending on the crime.
What had this man from Nazareth done to deserve such a torturous and horrible punishment?
What had he done to deserve the humiliation of such a public execution, and the sneering and the mockery of those who stood around to watch his suffering?
Two men were executed with him – we can understand why they were nailed to crosses. They were criminals but why was the man in the middle nailed to wooden beams?
He had been the most kind and compassionate person that anyone would ever want to meet.
He had helped so many people,
he had talked about the love and forgiveness of God,
he had made friends with lepers and tax collectors – people everyone else tried to avoid.
He was the love of God in human form and did no-one any harm.
What had Jesus done to deserve this terrible excruciating and torturous way to die?
The answer is simple – nothing. Jesus was the most innocent person you would ever find. It wasn’t what he had done that caused him to suffer like this –
it is what we have done
and every person who has ever existed in the past
and every person who will be born into our world in the future.
It’s true that it was a Roman soldier who held the hammer that drove the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet. But we are the ones responsible for those nails – we are responsible for his agony and death. He suffered on the cross because of our sin.
St Paul simply says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins” (Romans 4:25). And there is no greater truth than this – it was my sin and your sin that nailed Jesus to the cross.
Jesus’ suffering and death was horrible, brutal, cruel, bloody, sickening – enough to make us turn our eyes away from the man whose love for us is so persistent, so warm and so sincere.
Yet today we are drawn to the cross; we focus on images of Jesus on the cross. We know that the cross is a symbol of suffering and pain but today we are drawn to the cross because of what it means to each of us.
Come to the cross and bring your sin.
I don’t know why we do it, but far too often we carry our sin around with us and let it eat away at us. The bad feelings, the guilt, the shame, the feeling sorry for ourselves, the broken relationships – it is just for these that Jesus was nailed to a cross. He carried our sin on his shoulders on the cross.
Trust him to take that burden from us.
Trust him to renew and refresh your life.
Come to the cross, bring your sin and receive forgiveness.
Come to the cross and bring everything that frightens you and everything that weighs you down.
If your own death or that of a loved one fills you with grief or fear;
if sickness and surgery cause you to worry;
if you are confused and unsure about the future;
look to the cross.
There you will see love in all its brilliance – God’s love for you. He knows the burdens you are carrying. He promises, “Come to me all of you who are tried from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). The love shown on the cross is a clear sign that Jesus is prepared to help you with anything, absolutely anything that life might throw at you.
So bring to the cross whatever heavy load you are carrying.
Come to the cross and bring your thankfulness. As you remember what Jesus went through for you, how he has taken your place, given you forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life, do so with gratitude. Without those nails and that cross we would be in serious trouble. Without Jesus, God’s judgement on our sin would be a terrifying thing. The cross is the only way to be forgiven. Thank God for the cross.
Come to the cross and stand beneath its shadow and be assured when the day comes for us to leave this life, our sin will no longer condemn us because Jesus died in our place and has given us eternal life. Jesus died for everyone –for you and me!
The man who was crucified next to Jesus saw his past, present and future in a different light when he looked at the Son of God dying next to him. As guilty as he was, he appealed to the grace and mercy of Jesus asking, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom”.
As we reflect on the cross and the reason for it, we do the same.
Without any excuse and without any pretence of somehow being better than we are and acknowledging our own weakness and vulnerability, we also appeal to God’s mercy and grace and ask,
“Jesus remember me”,
“Jesus, do not hold my sin against me”,
“Jesus, have mercy on me”.
We gladly make this appeal because Jesus has done it all for us. He has given us complete pardon for all our sin and new life and hope for the future.
© Pastor Vince Gerhardy