Jesus was the most influential person of his time. In fact, he was the most influential person in history. When he rode into Jerusalem his final time for the Passover Ceremony, he was given the welcome of the Messiah. The same people who, a few days later would demand his crucifixion, were praising him and shouting “Hosanna”. Jesus was put to death to atone for all of our sins. He suffered a death more brutal than anything ever seen in all of existence. God turned his face from his own son. That day when shadow covered the earth and all hope had fled from the world, despair found its way in the hearts of all men. The hope of man was dead. Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, was killed by the hands of men. On the dawn of Friday, there was no hope for men.
I think that allot of times, we forget the true despair of the cross. There are so many songs, and books, and sermons written about the “beauty of the cross”. I can’t say that it is entirely untrue. There is an element of beauty in the cross, but today we don’t know where to find it. Once again, we look for things in the wrong places. For Jesus’s followers at Golgotha, there was nothing beautiful about the cross. It was a time filled with absolute despair and doubt. I am sure that as Mary looked at the dead body of Christ, she must have wondered if this was actually the Messiah. How could the Messiah die like this? How could God let his own son be murdered by the people he sought to redeem? The disciples had all abandoned Jesus. Only John remained at his side as he suffered on the cross. Surely he must have doubted as to whether or not this man he saw dying before him, was the prophesied son of God. Could we even imagine this feeling? This was absolute despair. How would we feel if we were to watch Christ die before our eyes? Indeed, there was no beauty in the cross.This is the great shame of humanity. Even after Jesus came to redeem us from our first great sin, we would not listen, and instead, murdered our only salvation. The pharisees then turned their attention to the followers of Jesus. The apostles were now criminals. Not only was their leader dead, but they were being pursued by the religious authority. It is important for us to understand this. This is the reality of the cross.
But then, the curtain lifted and the next and final act began. Dawn had come! No one remembered Jesus’s words that he uttered concerning his death: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”. The earth quaked and shook with each new ray of sunlight that struck the stone tomb in which the body of the pierced Jesus lay. And as the new light fully rose and defeated the shadow that had covered the earth, Jesus, with all the glory and power of the King of the Ages, fulfilled the final prophesy and conquered death. His followers would later come and search for his dead body, but to no avail. I can even see the Angels smirk as they tell them that their Jesus is not here. The man who once dwelled in this gloomy hall of death has risen! Why would you search for the living among the dead? Indeed, why do we search for the living among the dead. Why do we, so often, keep Jesus buried in the grave? Why would we do that? This is the greatest news of history! Jesus, our savior and redeemer, has defeated darkness and death. So, to return to the the statement I made in the beginning, There is a particular beauty in the cross. The glory of the resurrection, makes the cross beautiful. Without it, the cross is nothing more than the scourge and folly of man.
So, remember today that we serve a God who has both succumbed to and defeated death. Our God is risen. He is worthy of our eternal love and praise. As John Mark McMillan penned, “Glory to one, / God’s murdered son, / Who paid for my resurrection.”
Have a blessed Easter Sunday!