Tag Archives: crucifixion

Saving Jesus

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

A few years ago, I played the part of Pilate for a church’s Easter drama. As I rehearsed my lines and got into character, it dawned on me that I was the one sentencing Jesus to death. My first thought was, “I don’t know that I want to play this part.” Of all the characters in the drama, I’m the one who has the power to save Him and keep Him from being crucified. Even though I find no fault in Him, I still have to release Him to the mob to be killed. I have to give in to the mob rather than stand up for the truth. I have to disregard my wife’s warning and set a guilty man free instead.

As I struggled with playing that character, it hit me that it wasn’t Pilate who sentenced Jesus to death. It was me. Me! Chris Hendrix. It was my sin that condemned Him. It was my faults that nailed Him to the cross. These are things that I’ve known my whole life, but as I began to play the part of Pilate, I realized I’ve not really fully accepted that blame. I’ve been shifting it to those who actually crucified Him. It’s easier to point fingers and wash our hands of the guilt, but the truth is that water doesn’t take away the blame.

Each of us in our own way condemned Him to death. Even though I thought that as Pilate I had the power to save Him, I really didn’t. His ultimate plan was to die on the cross. If He hadn’t been crucified, we would still be in our sins and without hope. He kept that in mind as they hurled their accusations at Him. He loved them enough to stay silent in the face of their lies. He loved them enough to not perform a miracle for Herod. He loved you enough that He willingly died so He could pay the price for your sin. The real power was in His hands, not Pilate’s, and He used it for us. He took our “guilty” verdict on Himself to make us “innocent”. This Easter weekend, if you haven’t thanked Him for that, let me encourage you to. If you’ve never accepted Him for who He was and is, it’s time to recognize Him as the Son of God and invite Him to be Lord of your life. He died for you. Will you live for Him?

Photo by Jose A.Thompson on Unsplash

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A Painful Promise

I’ve always wanted to know more about the two criminals that were crucified on either side of Jesus. The Bible introduces us to them, we hear briefly from them and then they’re gone. In Luke 23:39 we hear one say, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” Then the other one says, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom” (NLT).

Both of these men are in agony as well. They have nails in their hands and feet, and they are suspended above the crowd. You can hear the bitterness in the first man’s words. He’s facing certain death, and he’s angry instead of being repentant for the wrongs he’s done. The other man understands that he’s being given what he deserves, yet it leads him to seek forgiveness. Jesus responds to him, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” I think it’s incredible that when we are in pain, it either makes us bitter or drives us closer to God.

There’s not one of us who won’t have to deal with pain or consequences in our lives. The pain may be physical or emotional, but we are all going to experience it. When we are experiencing it, we can choose to let it make us bitter or better. God uses pain to get our attention because sometimes that’s the only way we will listen. He will do whatever it takes to get our attention to keep us from spending eternity without Him. He sent His only Son to die on the cross to show us He loves us. He forgave the criminal beside Him who had committed a crime worthy of death. He can forgive you too. If you’re in pain today, don’t let it push you away from God. Let it make you more dependent on Him than ever.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

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Lessons From Simon

Have you ever been at the wrong place at the wrong time? That’s what happened to a man named Simon. He was traveling to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. As he was heading into the city, a large crowd was coming out. They were shouting and yelling at a man who was badly beaten. He was struggling to walk under the heavy load of the cross He was carrying. As he watched, the man must have fallen right in front of him, and it was clear He couldn’t go any further.

Matthew 27:32 says, “Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross” (NLT). The word “forced” catches my attention here. Jesus asked us to voluntarily take up our cross daily, but Simon was forced to do it. I believe that he stuck around to watch the crucifixion and later learned to take up his dross daily on his own.

If you think about it, He was also turned around. He was headed into the city, and because he carried the cross, he had to make an about face to head the other direction. When we accept Jesus as our savior, we are to repent of our sins. That word “repent” means to turn away and go the other direction. As Simon watched Jesus forgive those who crucified Him, he too repented of the sins he had committed and began to live different.

You and I have to learn to take up our cross daily, crucify our fleshly desires to it and turn away from those desires daily. When God’s spirit resides in us, there is a constant battle between His spirit and our flesh. If we’re willing to crucify our sinful nature and obey God’s voice, our lives will be forever changed. It’s up to each one of us to learn the lessons from Simon’s brief mention in the Bible. He is a picture of what God wants to do in each of our lives.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

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The Via Dolorosa


As we walked down the Via Dolorosa, we visited many of the stations of the cross which are adhered to by Catholics. If you’re unfamiliar with this road or “stations of the cross”, it’s the route that Jesus was led down from Pilate’s court to Golgotha. As we walked this path, I kept thinking how hard it was for someone who wasn’t injured, much less a man who had been beaten within an inch of His life and awake all night.

As we got to station five, our guide, told us how archeological evidence shows that Jesus didn’t carry the cross over one shoulder like we’ve always imagined. The cross beam was tied to their hands with their arms outstretched. She said that in every case of remains that have been found of those crucified, their nose was broken as well as other facial bones. Because their hands were tied, they couldn’t protect their face from the fall. When she said that, my wife immediately reminded me that Scriptures say, not a single bone in His body would be broken.

At Station Five, we remember Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross for Jesus. I’ve always been shown that Jesus fell and Simon was told to carry it for Him. As I read through every Gospel account of the crucifixion, no where is it mentioned that He fell. They all say what Luke 23:26 says, “The soldiers led Jesus away, and as they were going, they met a man from Cyrene named Simon who was coming into the city from the country. They seized him, put the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus” (GNT). 

If Jesus had fallen, a bone would be broken. To fulfill Psalm 34:20, Simon was seized to carry the cross. As I thought about that, I thought of Jesus’ words in Luke 9:23. “And he said to them all, “If you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, take up your cross every day, and follow me.” If you and I are going to carry the cross of Christ, it’s not going to be an easy path. We may even fall and be broken. The true way of following Jesus is down the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering. It long, difficult, and heavy at times, but we have the promise that His grace will be sufficient in those times. 

 

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Holy Week: Day 2 & 3

On day 2 of Jesus’ final week before the crucifixion, Mark 11:12 tells us that Jesus was hungry. He looked up, saw a fig tree with leaves on it and went to it because fruit typically appears at the same time as leaves. There were no figs on it yet because the season hadn’t yet come. Jesus cursed the fig tree and moved on. Jesus expects us, as much as that fig tree, to produce fruit. He’s hungry for us as believers to tell His story and to show them the way to forgiveness that can only be found at the cross.

Jesus went to the temple for the second day in a row. He found that nothing had changed since He overturned the tables the day before. A holy anger came over Him and He began flipping the tables over again. He saw people using the temple as a shortcut and stopped them. They would walk through it instead of around it. I see in this that we need to be repeatedly cleansed by Jesus. We need Him to come into our temple daily and to cleanse it. We all have sin that seems to come back often. We need to be vigilant against it and keep turning over the tables on it. Church is not a shortcut to getting past the problem. Prayer is how we break the cycle.

The next day, Jesus came back to Jerusalem. As they passed the fig tree, Peter noticed it was withered to the root. Surprised about it, he shouted out for everyone to notice it. Jesus was matter of fact in verses 22-25. He said, “Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it and nothing will be too much for you.” He then told them that if they would include everything in their prayers, they’d get everything. Too many times we don’t fully embrace the faith we profess. We embrace the parts of it that we want and try to do the rest on our own. We don’t get everything we ask for because we haven’t yet trusted God for everything.

He also says in this teaching that when we “assume the posture of prayer, remember that it’s not all asking. If you have anything against someone, forgive – only then will your Heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.” I spent a lot of my life making my prayer time nothing but requests. I’ve learned that the relationship God wants to have with us is not for us to use and abuse Him. He’s not a genie sitting there waiting to grant our wishes. He wants us to know Him personally. He wants us to become more like Him. He wants us to forgive others the way He forgives us. He wants us to let go of people’s past the way He let go of ours. When we get this, we’ll experience all He has for us.

Finally on day 3, Jesus went back to the temple. This time the priests were waiting on Him. I wonder if the money changers were sitting there and started packing up their stuff. The priests asked Jesus what authority did He have to come in and wreck the temple each day. Jesus responded with a question of His own, “Who gave John the Baptist his authority?” They were trapped and refused to answer. He then told several parables to them and they continued to try to trap Him with questions throughout the day. His message to them and to us is that He will not be tricked into doing what we want. He wants us to be in obedience to what His will is and then we will receive the blessings that follow obedience. Life is not about us, it’s about Him. To whom does your life point?

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The Push for Paradise

One of my favorite stories in the Bible that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention happened on mount Calvary. As Jesus was being executed on a cross, there were two other men who had committed crimes worthy of being crucified beside Him. As people came by to look at the crucifixion of Jesus, they yelled at Him and insulted Him. They called Him names. Even the two men who were being crucified with Him began to taunt Him.

As the day went on, one of them noticed that Jesus was different. After a while he went from scoffer to protector. He yelled back at the other criminal, “Don’t you fear God even when you’ve been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” He knew he had lived a life that was worthy of dying on a cross. He wasn’t denying that he deserved to be there.

Instead of using his pain to lash out at Jesus and take the spotlight off of himself, he took another road. Facing death, and in earshot of the people who were mocking Jesus, he decided to reach out for forgiveness for his sins. He looked over at Jesus and said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus looked over at the man who had earlier mocked Him and said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

I’m sitting in front of a hospital right now. I have a friend inside who sent me a text last night. She has surgery this morning and told me last night she wasn’t sure she’d survive it. She told me she knows she hadn’t been a good person. That’s ok. God doesn’t let “good” people into Paradise. He lets those who call on His name and believe in their heart that He died for their sins in. If “good” was a requirement, we’d all fail the test.

Jesus isn’t looking for good people to save. He’s looking for anyone who will believe. He doesn’t care if you’re a child or if you’re about to die. What He cares about is if you believed in Him and asked for forgiveness of your sins. I knew someone once that said, “That’s not fair. Why should someone who lived a terrible life be allowed to convert before they die and go to heaven when I’ve lived right my whole life?” I replied, “How is it fair that Jesus had to pay for your sins?”

In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, Jesus told of a man who hired workers early in the morning to work all day. He told them what he’d pay them at the end of the day. All through the day he continued to hire workers offering them the same pay as the early ones. Even at an hour before quitting time, he hired more for the same price. The early ones were mad when they got paid. They felt they deserved more, but He reminded them that they agreed to the price and that it was his money to do with what he wanted.

Whether you accepted Christ early in life or late in life, the reward is the same. You get to go to Paradise. God doesn’t want anyone to die without accepting His son. He allows us to accept Him no matter how bad we’ve been or at how late in our lives it is. His offer to you is salvation even if you’ve mocked Him or other Christians. You may not feel like you can forgive yourself for things you’ve done, but you aren’t the one holding the keys to Paradise, He is. He’ll forgive you no matter what. I’m walking into the hospital this morning with Him to give a final push for Paradise for my friend.

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Driven by Love

I watched several episodes of “The Bible” on the History channel. I know they took some dramatic liberty in some areas and they admitted it. As I watched the final episode on Easter, one of the things that stood out to me was when Simon dropped the cross on Golgotha and they forced him away, they beat Jesus as he crawled to the cross. That’s one of those things that I don’t know if it happened that way, but I’m glad they portrayed it like that.

Think for a second if you were innocent and about to be killed for something you didn’t do. Would you willingly get on the cross? No. You’d be kicking and screaming and they’d have to get an army of people to drag you onto it and then to hold you down while they nailed you to it. You’d be acting like a crazy person even if you were guilty I think. That’s why I loved what they did.

Jesus left Heaven willingly to come here. His sole purpose was to die for your sins. He knew what He was going to endure and did it anyway. I loved that they had Him crawl willingly on the cross. Against what you or I would do, He was driven by love to endure the beating, the shame and the nails for you. In John 10:18, Jesus said, “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily.” We often think that it was the religious leaders or Pilate who had Jesus killed, but that’s not the case.

He not only voluntarily laid His life down, He even called out to God on behalf of those who killed Him. Jesus cried out from the cross in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” He was willing to forgive them while He was still in pain. While He was still hanging on the cross. To their faces. I don’t know about you, but I know I couldn’t have done that. Most of the time we don’t forgive others who have betrayed us at all or we wait years until the bulk of the pain is gone.

Jesus wasn’t like that. His desire was that not one person would perish, but that all would have everlasting life. Even those who killed Him. None of us deserve it really. Each of us have done something, or in my case, many things to offend God. We are not perfect, nor can we be. That’s why God’s love and grace are so amazing. He knows we can’t do it on our own so He shed His own blood to cover our sins. All we have to do is accept that act of love to cover our sins. The lyrics to “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” say it all: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

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