What if while Jesus was being crucified he would’ve gotten angry at the people who tortured him? Imagine if he would’ve said things like, “Father, zap those soldiers with lighting!… Cause an earthquake to swallow up those Pharisees!… Look at these people who are mocking me even though I give my life to them in love – send them to hell!”
Probably most people would respond in anger if they received the brutal torture that Jesus did. Perhaps you or I would be resentful or complaining. But Jesus blessed those that cursed him. He was loving to everyone — even his enemies who crucified him.
Did Jesus Have to Go to the Cross?
We might think that Jesus was trying to get out of the cross in the Garden of Gethsemane and finally accepted his fate because he had to. No! Jesus was trying to make it to the cross. Jesus seized the cross. Recall that he set out resolutely for Jerusalem the last time (Mark 10;32). And he proclaimed, “What shall I say, ‘Father save me from this hour [of the cross]?’ No it was for this reason that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:26-27)
Going to the cross to bring us God’s forgiveness for our sins and eternal life was Jesus’ Passion. He loves us that much!
The Way Jesus Died
The way Jesus died is just as important as the fact that he died. The way Jesus died shows us what God is like. If Jesus would’ve died spiteful at his enemies, complaining about the injustice, or in a sinkhole of despair no one would’ve believed he was the true Savior.
The way Jesus died is what drew people to him. Not only his friends, but many of his enemies, were won over by his demonstrations of love. Even one of the soldiers who tortured Jesus came to believe he was the Son of God and made him his Lord (Matthew 27:54).
Consider the way Jesus died…
When his best friends and disciples fell asleep on him in his time of travail in the garden Jesus prayed for them.
When Judas betrayed him Jesus called him, “Friend.”
When Pilate condemned him on false charges Jesus didn’t defend himself, but quietly submitted to him.
When the women wept for him as he carried his cross he showed concern for them, saying in effect, “Don’t feel sorry for me. Seek God’s mercy for yourselves and your children.”
When the thieves being crucified next to him hurled insults on him Jesus offered them God’s forgiveness and eternal life.
When his dear mother and the disciple he loved were weeping at the foot of the cross Jesus blessed them.
For the Jewish leaders who condemned him to death, for the crowds of people who yelled, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”, for the bystanders who mocked him, for the Roman soldiers who tortured him, for his disciples who deserted him, and for all of us sinners who caused him to suffocate and bleed to death, Jesus, while hanging on the cross, looked with mercy on us and prayed, “Father, forgive them!”
We need to just pause and take in the mercy of Christ for us…
Then we need to ask, how did Jesus do that? How did he show such amazing grace when he was in such terrible pain?
Don’t say, “Because he was the Son of God.” That’s true, of course, but it’s not a good answer to the question. Hebrews 12:2 gives us the answer: “For the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross.”
The Joy of the Cross
The Joy set before Jesus was not just in heaven waiting for him — it was also within him as he suffered. It’s possible to experience a measure of joy undergirding you at the same time that you’re experiencing pain or heavy sorrow. Joy is not a fickle, fleeting emotion; it’s a pervasive sense of well-being. Feelings of joy come and go but a demeanor of joy, with related thoughts, choices, and attitudes, remains when we participate in God’s kingdom (Romans 14:17).
Jesus had already learned how to experience joy even while suffering by training himself always to participate in God’s kingdom. This is why throughout the pages of the Gospels we see that he was able to love his enemies easily and routinely. If we rely on the Holy Spirit as we train ourselves to be godly (1 Timothy 4:7) then we can learn to bless those that curse us and love our enemies as Jesus taught us (Luke 6:27-28).
To help you appreciate the joy of the cross we’d like to share the audio recording of my recent message, “The Cross and the Kingdom.”
The Ultimate Expression of God’s Love For You!
Look to Jesus as his carries his cross to Calvary Hill and as he’s crucified to forgive us of our sins and reconcile us to God, our loving Father. This is the perfect, unfailing love that we long for! In Jesus and through his death and resurrection the heavens are truly opened to us!
Repeatedly I’ve deepened my appreciation for God’s love by going to the cross of Christ. I do this with you in my booklet of Gospel stories, meditations, and prayers: Unforsaken: With Jesus on the Stations of the Cross. This is great for personal devotions, small groups, or retreats.