By Bob Hiller –
A cross is no place for a king. A cross is no place for a Savior. A cross is a place for a criminal. So, anyone who makes a claim to be King and Savior and ends up on a cross must be out of His mind. He must be delusional. Frankly, that person is a joke. Someone to be mocked, laughed at, and put down. So, it makes a great deal of sense today that we find Jesus being scoffed at and derided from every direction! His claims to be the Savior, even the Son of God, look to be utter nonsense at this point. After all, a cross is no place for the Son of God. A cross is a place for sinners. So, if He really is all He claims to be, why doesn’t He just come down? “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”
How true we see the words of St. Paul today, Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom and Americans look for success. But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles and a waste of time for Americans. This is hardly a miracle, this is hardly wise, and this is hardly success. This is defeat. This is death. This is a cross. A crucified Savior is no savior but a failure, right? God would not send His one and only Son to die, would He? Of course not.
If God were to send His Son to come down, we would know. He would come down in power and glory, with pomp and circumstance! Beauty and success would mark His reign! We know God as powerful and glorious! But this Jesus, well, we are appalled at Him! His appearance is far from beautiful, in fact, it is so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form is marred beyond human likeness! A Savior will be celebrated, but this man is despised and rejected! We won’t esteem Him; we don’t even want to look at Him. If He really wants us to believe that He is the Christ, He will come down.
We who know the story will look with disdain upon those who put Jesus on the cross. And we should, for what they did was despicable. Yet, they are not alone guilty for this crucifixion. Their sins are not the only sins that nailed Jesus to the tree. These sinners are not the only sinners that pinned Jesus to the wooden curse. Your sins put Jesus on that cross too. When you look upon Christ, you see your guilt, your shame, your death. I am His death, I am His judgment, I am His sin, I am His condemnation.
But, you say, I would never do that to my Jesus! I love Him so much! I would never betray Him. I would never despise Him. I mean look at me! I am a good Christian! I do everything He asks me to do, as best I can. I treat my family well. I support missionaries and give to good causes. I pray and read my Bible every day. I am not the sort of sinner that puts Jesus on the cross. I love God too much.
We always think that we are doing some good works for God and that these are great accomplishments, proving our holiness, showing what great Christians we are. But, we find that we focus so much on ourselves and our righteousness, that even the best things we do are simply and purely our pride. We need to come down off our high-horses, for it is our pride that mocks Christ, who dies in humility. How we can look upon the cross and boast of anything is beyond me. But, even here, I think I am making a great point! Ha, ha! What a marvelous insight. The Lord must be proud to have me as a preacher. I myself am certainly proud to be one! Look at me! And Christ receives another insult, another blow, from my hand and from my mouth. We bring nothing to Jesus but our sin.
But, Christ takes it! They cry out, come down if you are the savior! Come down! But, Jesus is doing the very thing He has come down from heaven to do: die for sinners, as one of us, for all of us! This is what it means for Jesus to be the King and the Savior, to suffer and die for sinners! Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities…
The very mission of Christ, the very purpose of His coming, was to die this death: to die this death for sinners. What is most terrifying in this moment is the darkness. It is not the mocking of the sinner, but the silence of God. Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, by God! The darkness throughout the Bible represents God’s absence, or, worse, God’s wrath. Darkness is the last plague in Egypt before the death of the firstborn son for the people’s sins. Darkness is promised by the prophets on the Day of Judgment. And this is that day! The darkness falls. The firstborn Son is killed for the sins of the people. He is judged guilty for sinners. The prophecy is fulfilled as Christ suffers God’s darkness for you and for me. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
And yet, it is in His dying, in His crucified exaltation, in His losing that Jesus shows Himself to be God’s Son, the Messiah, the Savior! Yes, we look for God in the miraculous, the wise, and the successful! But God is most fully known up on the cross, in suffering, mocked and scourged and abandoned. In fact, it is only after Christ dies that any person in the whole Gospel of Mark gets who this man truly is. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” Not during the miracles, not during the preaching, not during the successes, but in the death of Christ is God truly known.
So, He will not come down! He will not stop until the sacrifice is complete! Here the cross is an altar, and Jesus is the Lamb offered up for our sins! See Christ hanging between heaven and earth for you! There are your sins, there is your judgment, and there is your death. They have been taken from you by Jesus and hung on the cross. They are no longer yours. Your judgment is complete, and you are found innocent. Your death has been died and you are found alive. Your sins have been punished and you are declared righteous. He will not come down because He is raising you up!
The cross is no place for a king, not a mere king anyways. It is the throne of our God! Come down? He saved others, let Him save Himself. But, you see, Jesus is not here to save Himself, but others: you and me. It is not about coming down, but hanging on a cross. Well, and being raised up. But being raised up…well…that’s a story for another day.
What Thou, my Lord, has suffered
Was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
‘Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor,
And grant to me Thy grace.
-O Sacred Head, Now Wounded