Theme: The cross-God’s solutions for man’s problem.

“Years I spent in vanity and pride
Caring not my Lord was crucified
Knowing not it was for me He died
On Calvary.

Mercy there was great and grace was free
Pardon there was multiplied to me
There my burdened soul found liberty
At Calvary.”

The congregation had risen to its feet and hundreds of voices blended together in song, filling the sanctuary with the timeless story of Calvary, the cross, and the crucified Savior.

As I joined my voice with theirs, I thought of how many years ago it was when I first heard that story told to me. It had moved me deeply back then and even as I sang about it in that old hymn of the church, I was moved again in my spirit. It’s a simple story that even a child can grasp and yet it’s so profound that even the angels of heaven have not yet fathomed it’s depth of meaning.
(I Peter 1:10-12.) It has been called the Story of Stories, The Greatest Story Ever Told. It’s a story that never grows old and the repeated telling of it through the years has never diminished its truth in any way. It’s study has never been exhausted, for no human mind is big enough or broad enough to understand it in its entirety. It’s a story that stands unequaled in history. It’s the story of the cross.

Today, I want us to hear Matthews version of that precious old story again, as it is recorded in the gospel bearing his name. As we hear it told, it is my prayer that Calvary’s crucifixion scene will once again come alive to us, and that our hearts will be touched one more time by 

The Message of the Cross.

Text: Matthew 27:27-54, (NIV).
The Judgment Hall: verses 27 – 31,
“Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around Him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, And then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” They said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”

The Crucifixion: verses 32-44

“As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull), There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, He refused to drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots, And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe him. He trust in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.”

The Death of Jesus: verses 45-54

“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani?”–which means “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Point 1:

Let me begin this teaching by sharing some facts about crosses and crucifixions and pointing out an important biblical fact about the cross of Jesus.
A. Some facts about crosses and crucifixions:
Crucifixion was not a form of punishment introduced to the Jewish people by God. Therefore, it was never practiced by them. Crucifixion is believed to have first been devised by Semiramis, the wife of Nimrod mentioned in Genesis 10. Together they founded the idolatrous Babylonian religion that flourished following the flood of Genesis 6 –  8th chapters.

Later, crucifixion was also practiced by the Persians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans and ancient Germans. It was considered a most degrading and shameful form of punishment. Hebrews 12:2, alludes to this, when it states that “Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame.” Although the Romans administered execution by crucifixion as a death penalty, the cross was hated by them. Roman law would not allow a Roman citizen to die by crucifixion except for crimes against Caesar.

There were several types of crosses used in crucifixions. One cross used was two beams laid across each other to form an X. Another type had two unequal length beams, with the shorter beam placed on top of the longer one to form a T shaped cross. A third type had the shorter beam fastened a short distance down from the top of the longer beam. This seems to have been the one most widely used and is generally believed to have been the kind that Jesus was crucified on.

Crosses were generally not more than 10 or 12 feet in height, so when erected vertically, the feet of the sufferer was not far from the ground. The victim was either tied or nailed to the cross beams. If they were tied, no more was done to them or for them. They were simply left to die of thirst and starvation. If they were nailed, a potion was sometimes given to them to deaden the pain. In crucifixion, death rarely came before 36 hours had elapsed. In Mark 15:44, Pilate is recorded as being astonished when he had received word that Jesus was already dead after only a few hours on the cross. Death was sometimes hastened by breaking the legs so that the person hung in the position that made breathing very difficult. Men were crucified with their backs to the cross and women were crucified with their faces toward the cross (Yes, women were also crucified).

During the reign of Constantine, (the Roman Emperor to profess Christianity.) crucifiction was abolished. He considered it an insult to Christianity. But in Jesus day it was the way non Roman criminals were executed. It was reserved for those considered to be social misfits of the day. The Roman and Jewish leaders considered Jesus to be a social misfit and therefore worthy of death. Isaiah 53:12 states that Jesus “was numbered with the transgressors”.

B. A biblical fact about the cross of Jesus:
Did you know that God knew about the cross before the foundation of the world? It was in his eternal plan even before Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. How do I know this? Because the Bible tells me so. I Peter 1:18 – 20, (KJV) “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Jesus as a lamb without blemish and without spot, who was verily foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”

New Living Translation:
“For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors, and the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious life blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless lamb of God. God chose him for this purpose long before the world began, but now in these final days, He was sent to earth for all to see and he did this for you.”

Ephesians 1:4, (KJV) “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”
New Living Translation: “Long ago even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” Let me add verse 5. “His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ and this gives him great pleasure.”

When I read scriptures like these, I am thoroughly convinced that everything God has done from his first “Let there be” until now (including the cross) has been carried out according to a divine plan and purpose. It was all mapped out, thought out, and put together by the Godhead before it was ever put in motion. God is “working out” his “good pleasure” by blueprints of an heavenly origin.God is not “playing it by ear” hoping that somehow everything is going to turn out alright in the end. God doesn’t do things that way.

God is not “playing it by ear” hoping that somehow everything is going to turn out alright in the end. God doesn’t do things that way.

  • God already knew what He was going to do.
  • God already knew where was going to do it.
  • God already knew who He was going to do it to or with.
  • God already knew why He was going to do it.
  • God already knew the outcome from His doing it.

How do I know this? Because the Bible tells me so. Isaiah 46: 9 – 10 (KJV) “Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is none else. I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done. Saying my counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure.”

New Living Translation simply says, Only I can tell you what is going to happen even before it happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatsoever I wish.”

It is quite evident that the God who knows what is going to happen, even before it happens, knew that the man he would create would succumb to sin and need redemption. So before the foundation of the world, he prepared a lamb sacrifice whose shed blood would atone for that sin. He then purposed a cross for the lamb to be offered up on.

As the cross was planned, so Jesus death was also planned. Jesus knew he came to die. 
Matthew 20: 18 – 19, We are going to Jerusalem, the Son of Man will be turned over to the leading priests and the teachers of the law and they will say he must die. They will give the Son of Man to the non-Jewish people to laugh at him and beat him with whips and crucify him. But on the third day he will be raised to life again.” The cross was Jesus’ mission. The death of Jesus was voluntary on his part. He died on purpose. He laid his life down of his own accord. No one took his life.

John 10: 17 – 18, “Therefore doth my father love me because I lay down my life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”

Jesus marched purposely to his death. No hesitation, no faltering, no doubt but that he intended to go to the cross. In Gethsemane, Jesus discovered the will of God to be his death and then nothing could keep him from obeying that will. “Arise, he said to the sleeping disciples, “let us be going.”

Point 2:

Many of the visitors to the Holy Land find the historic site of Calvary to be a disappointment when they see it for the very first time. It’s not at all like they had pictured it to be. They come expecting to see a scene like that described in the gospels and instead they are greeted with a scene of the constant coming and going of tour buses loading and unloading a steady stream of tourists; exhaust fumes hanging heavy in the air; the sound of auto horns being honked by frustrated drivers trying to maneuver through the crowd; voices of venders and tour guides vying for attention.

Of course, when Jesus was crucified here, the scene was quite different than it is now. But, even then, the road passing along the base of Skull Hill was a much traveled thoroughfare. Golgotha (Skull Hill) is located just north of Herod’s gate. It’s a gate that was a much used entrance into and out of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day. Crowds of people continually were passing in and out of the gate daily. The bleating of sheep and the braying of donkeys, the bumping of wagons and carts, the sounds of shouting of cursing, of laughter, of greetings filled the air. All these sounds were heard every day on this road that passed beside Golgotha. And this was where Jesus died. Right in the middle of all this humanity, Jesus shed his life’s blood. 

Luke called that blood, “the blood of God.” Acts 20: 28, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers to feed the Church of God which he hath purchased with His Own blood.”

Peter called it, “the precious blood.” I Peter 1: 18a – 19, Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold……But with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

John called it, “the cleansing blood.” I John 1: 17, “But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

It was this blood that splattered into the dust by the side of that busy thoroughfare the day Christ died. Jesus the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, died in excruciating agony on a brutal rugged cross,  by the side of a road packed with bustling humanity. He was dying for them, but they didn’t care. The world didn’t care much about His death then,  nor does the world care much now. Isaiah,  the prophet,  prophesied about the crucifixion scene 700 years before it actually happened. This is how he described it.

Isaiah 53: 3 – 8, (TLB) “We despised and rejected Him, a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised and we didn’t care. Yet it was our grief he bore, our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and bruised for our sins. He was chastised that we might have peace, he was lashed and we were healed. We are the ones who strayed away like sheep! We who left God’s path to follow our own. Yet God laid on him the guilt and sins of everyone of us. He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he never said a word. He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before the ones condemning Him. From prison and trial they led him away to his death. But who among the people of that day realized it was their sins he was dying for; that he was suffering their punishment.”

Point 3:

The actual whereabouts of the cross that Jesus died upon is not known today. Crosses were not collectables in that day. Possibly it now lies buried under the rocks and sands of time. Perhaps it was later used as building materials, or maybe it was used over and over for others to be crucified on, or it might have eventually in time rotted away and the winds of time scattered its fragments. No one really knows. Now, while we don’t know what happened to the cross that Jesus died on, we do know what happened on that cross and that is what is most important. From the creation of Adam to the birth of Christ, God had displayed his love toward mankind in many ways. But never had it been revealed in such measure as it was on the cross of Calvary. It was not a love feeling expressed, but it was agape’ love displayed, agape’ love that was visibly demonstrated. I John 3:16, Hereby perceive we the love of God because he laid down his life for us.” God did not simply say “I love you” and then go on his way. No! God said “I love you–now let me show you how much.” The Scriptures teach us that God has always loved us. The Apostle Paul describes the depth of that love in the words of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Where did God give up his son for those he loved? We know the answer to that. It was on the cross. To those who have questioned God’s love for them–I simply point to the cross and to the one who died on it as an affirmation of that love to them. The cross of Calvary leaves no doubt as to the sincerity and the magnitude of God’s love for all of us.

Does God really love us? I say look to the crucified Jesus. Look to the old rugged cross.

God said,” I love you!”

  • By every hair of his beard plucked from his cheeks by cruel fingers. By every thorn that punctured His brow.
  • By every mark of the back lacerating scourge.
  • By every hair of His beard plucked from His cheeks by the cruel fingers.
  • By every bruise which heavy fists made upon His head.

God said “I love you”.

  • By every beat of His loving heart.
  • By all the spit that landed on His face
  • By every breath of pain which Jesus drew upon the cross.
  • By every drop of sinless blood that fell to the ground.

God said, I love you!”

The cross does not answer why God loves us, but it does answer the question of how much. I like the way the contemporary English version translates Romans 5: 8. In the KJV we read: 
But God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” In the Contemporary English Version it states, God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful.” God does not love us because Christ died for us, but Christ died for us because God so loved us. “God,” I ask, “How much do you love me?” God stretches wide his arms and says, “Bill, I love you this much.”

This is the kind of love that atheist Madelyn O’Hare wanted, but never found. Somewhere I read that the IRS auctioned off her diary to raise money for her taxes and creditors after she mysteriously disappeared. To everyone’s surprise, when the diary was opened, she had written in several places. “Somebody    – somewhere – love me.” Tragically, though desperately seeking to be loved, she turned her back on the one person who did love her in the way she wanted to be loved. That person was Jesus Christ.

Point 4:

What is the secret of the cross? What has so empowered it that enables you and I to find, at Calvary, what we cannot find anywhere else?

I think part of the answer is found in the sufferings of the one who died there. The pain of the sin offering that was offered on Golgotha’s cross is two-fold. It was both physical and spiritual in nature.

A. The Physical Suffering:
The gospels graphically describe the crucifixion scene so I won’t go into the details describing what Jesus suffered physically prior to and on the cross, except to say there are six varieties of wounds that a person can receive in their body.

  1. Abrasive wound – Where the skin is scraped off. This can result from stumbling or by carrying a rough object or by a glancing blow
  2. Confused wound – caused by a heavy blow.
  3. Incised wound – produced by a knife or spear or other sharp instrument.
  4. Lacerated wound – where the flesh is torn open leaving jagged edges.
  5. Penetrating wound – where the flesh is pierced right through.
  6. Punctured wound – made by a pointed or spiked instrument.

Jesus suffered all these wounds. Yes, Jesus suffered real physical pain. But what Jesus suffered physically by itself does not give the power to the cross. We must add with it the spiritual pain and suffering that Jesus endured on the cross. This is what made Jesus’ death on the cross different than any other.

B. The Spiritual Suffering:
Scripture witnesses to us that he who was the Son of God stripped himself of majestic glory and took upon himself a flesh body. John 1: 14 states, “And the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth. Then he humbled himself even further to embrace the cross and the bruising, crushing weight of the sin of the world placed on him as he was made sin for us.”

II Corinthians 5: 21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” The world’s sin was placed on Jesus at Calvary; past, present, and future. Jesus carried them all on the cross when he was nailed there. The Living Bible paraphrases II Corinthians 5: 21 this way; “For God took the sinless Christ and poured our sins into him.”

Jesus cry on the cross of “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” is one of the most haunting and agonizing sayings in the Bible. It revealed to those present that day,  and to us today who read the story, that when Jesus became sin for us the Father must turn his back on the Son. For the love of the world, God gave up his Son, his beloved Son. He had withdrawn heavens support and delivered Jesus to the cross to pay sin’s penalty. The Lamb of God had to die. It was sacrifice time.

I suggest to you that it was knowing that this was what awaited him on the cross (the loss of the Father’s presence) that prompted Jesus to ask the Father three times in Gethsemane’s  Garden “If it be possible, let this cup be taken from me.” I don’t believe Jesus feared the beatings that he would suffer. He wasn’t afraid of the scourging whip that would soon cut across his back. He wasn’t trying to avoid the pain of the nails that would pierce his hands and feet, nor the crown of thorns on his head. It was none of these things that caused Jesus to cry out to the Father. It was knowing that on the cross he would have to take our God forsakenness upon himself. The ultimate penalty is to be “God forsaken.” Jesus suffered this when he became the sin offering for the world. He suffered the most agonizing sorrow and pain anyone could ever suffer

Yes, the nails had caused excruciating pain. Those driven spikes had crushed the median nerves sending fiery pain throughout his limbs. Yes, the Roman scourging had been almost unendurable agony. Each time the arm of the inquisitor had brought back the whip it carried with it fragments of Jesus flesh. But those spikes and that scourging could not compare to the pain and torment caused by the loss of the Father’s presence that Jesus felt in his inner being as he hung on Calvary’s cross.

At this time, only Jesus knows what it is like to be forsaken by the Father. It happened to him on the cross where he was doing for us what we could not do for ourselves – paying our sin debt. Jesus, in his physical and spiritual sufferings, paid it all. He paid it in full.  

Jesus suffered all these wounds. Yes, Jesus suffered real physical pain. But what Jesus suffered physically by itself does not give the power to the cross. We must add with it the spiritual pain and suffering that Jesus endured on the cross. This is what made Jesus’ death on the cross different than any other.

Point 5:  What is the message of the cross? Simply this. God has taken care of the sin problem. It was the cross that God chose to be the battleground where satan and his kingdom was to be challenged. Was satan present at the cross? I don’t think for a minute that he would have missed it. Both satan and Jesus had an appointment at Calvary.

It was at the cross that Jesus took on the prince of the powers of the air. The visible eye beheld nothing of the conflict that was taking place. But in the spirit realm, a life and death struggle was going on. For three days and nights the devil was sure he was winning. But on the first day of the week, when the dust of battle had settled, there stood Jesus, hands raised in victory saying. “I am he that  liveth and was dead and am alive forevermore and have the keys of hell and of death.”

There are many people today who are still not aware of just exactly what the death of Jesus Christ on the cross did for them. They don’t understand that the tyrant, sin that held them captive and in bondage all their life,  has been defeated and dethroned. Because of the cross, God has promised pardon and forgiveness of sin to all who will accept it. It is offered as a free gift. Jesus paid for it with his own blood that was shed at Calvary.

Let me give you an example to what I’m saying by sharing with you a story that I recently read in one of the history books in my library. I read how on July 3l, 1838 on the Island of Jamaica,  a man named William Knibbs,  gathered  10,000 slaves for a great praise gathering. They were celebrating the New Emancipation Proclamation Act that would abolish slavery on the island. They had built an immense coffin and into it were placed whips, branding irons, chains, fetters of all kinds, slave garments and all the things that represented the terrible slavery system that was now coming to a welcome end. 

At the first stroke of the midnight bell, Knibbs shouted out, “The monster is dying.” At each stroke of the bell that followed this cry was repeated and the great crowd began to join in the cry. At the twelfth stoke 10,000 voices cried out, “The monster is dead, the monster is dead, let us bury him.” They then screwed the coffin lid down and lowered it into a huge grave and covered it up. That night, every heart rejoiced and 10,000 voices grew hoarse, shouting and crying with joy. Once they were in bondage to slavery, but now they were free.

There is a tragic side to this story. While many rejoiced in their new liberty and freedom, there were some slaves, that lived in remote areas of the island, that did not know they had legally been set free. Because they didn’t know, for many years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been made a law, they still continued to serve their slave masters. Their former masters successfully kept the news from them as long as they could. By law they had been declared free men and did not have to live as slaves any longer. However, ignorance of the truth kept them in bondage.

Now let me tell you an even sadder story. Today, if we’d hear a story of something like that happening, we’d be shocked, sympathetic and even angry. But the truth is, the same type of thing is happening in  our day. Jesus Christ, because of his victory against sin on the cross, has issued an Emancipation Proclamation of liberty and freedom from sin to everyone on this earth. But like some of the Jamaicans were, there are those today that just don’t understand that they no longer have to live as slaves to sin any longer, and the devil is trying to keep them in that mind set.

The message of the cross is this: Satan has been defeated and sin’s penalty has been paid. We no longer have to surrender to sin or be controlled by Satan. We can belong to Jesus and live to please God.


The church is being built living stones because of the preaching of the cross. The cross is central to the Christian message. No cross, no crown. When the preaching of the cross is removed from the pulpit of the church, then the church becomes powerless. Its teachings become a collection of empty dogmas, a hollow philosophy, a meaningless creed, a hopeless doctrine which is unable to extend and offer hope and unable to save and deliver people from their sins.

I am so happy to say to you, that after 2000 years there is still power in the preaching of the cross. Time has not diminished its effectiveness. People still kneel in surrender at the foot of the cross and discover instant forgiveness, pardon and mercy. Sin burdened and broken people turn their eyes toward Calvary’s cross and by faith look to the Christ who suffered there, and they find the extended hand of God reaching out to them with loving kindness and heavens provisions for their need.

I ask, have you surrendered yourself to the crucified,  resurrected,  Savior of the world? If not, I want you to know, there’s still room at the cross for you.

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