Beneath the Shadow of the Cross

Beneath the Shadow of the cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beneath the Shadow of the Cross

Texts: Mt. 27:33-44 & Lk. 23:39-43

 

I want to read to you from two accounts of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. One from the Gospel of Matthew and the other from the Gospel of Luke.

 

“And when they had come to a place called Golgatha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink. Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: ‘They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.’ Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there. And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left. And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ Likewise the chief priests, also mocking with the scribes and elders, said, ‘He saved others, Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.” (Matthew 27:33-44 NKJV).

 

“Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.’ But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this Man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’” (Luke 23:39-43).   

 

Matthew who wrote the Gospel which bears his name became one of the twelve disciples. He was an educated man, for he was a tax collector by trade. One day as Matthew was busy at work, the shadow of Jesus fell across his tax table (Lk. 5:27). On that day Matthew’s life changed. He would never again be the same. When Jesus cast His shadow across your path you will never be the same. You will either yield your life to Him or you will walk away from Him. Everywhere that Jesus went lives were affected in one way or another. Even in the moment of our Lord’s death people responded differently beneath His shadow, beneath the shadow of the cross.  Even so, it is true today that people respond differently beneath the shadow of the cross. Consider with me four ways that people respond beneath the shadow of the cross. You will respond in one of these ways while standing beneath the shadow of the cross.

 

  1. Some of you will gamble your life away.
  2. Some of you will follow the crowd.

III.             Some of you will respond rejecting & mocking the one sent to save you.

  1. Some of you will believe in its’ suffering savior.

 

In the first place, some people will gamble their life away even while standing beneath the shadow of the cross. In Matthew 27:35-36 we read, “Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: ‘They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.’ Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there.” (NKJV). Could these men plead ignorance to the facts about the death of Jesus? No, for there they were beneath the very shadow of the cross. For them it was just another boring event. They had crucified so many men. What was the death of one more? It didn’t seem to phase them that the one dying upon that cross was dying for their sins as well as the sins of the world. The only interest that they could find in the death of Jesus was what they might gain materially from it. So as His blood flowed down; they took His clothes and were gambling for them while they were standing beneath the shadow of the cross. They were gambling away something eternal to gain something of temporary value. And all the while they were standing beneath the shadow of the cross. The text tells us that “Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there.” He was nothing more than a spectacle to behold. The saddest part of the story is this, some of you today are still gambling away eternity for something that is temporary. And all the while you are standing beneath the shadow of the cross.

 

The story of Calvary’s cross has been told and retold countless times. And every time you hear that story of love so tender you are brought beneath the shadow of the old rugged cross. Some of you have heard it so many times that to them it is just another story. For the Roman soldiers it was just another crucifixion and yet the savior of the world was just an arms length away. They could have reached out and touched the liquid love flowing down. How many times have you stood or sat beneath the anointed preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? And as you did you could feel the liquid love flowing all around you as we stood beneath the shadow of the cross. Perhaps like the soldiers you have sat down to stare and it’s just another spectacle to you.  How many times have you got up and walked away untouched and unchanged, determined you would never give in to this man called Jesus? You were determined that the shadow of the cross would have no affect on your life. You have hardened yourself to it just like the Roman soldiers have done. Do you not see its shadow cast across your path? What will you do with the blood that flowed on Golgatha’s hill? What excuse will you have on judgment day for you have stood beneath the shadow of the cross? The soldiers wanted to gain something materialistic. What is it in this material world that you will not let go of so that you may gain eternal life? Will you close your ears as did the Roman soldiers when Jesus cried, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”? Hear Him asking the Father in heaven to forgive you while you gamble your life away standing beneath the shadow of the cross. I plead with you, Do not walk away from Him. Do not tell Him no again.

 

A second way that people respond while standing beneath the shadow of the cross is to follow the crowd. Matthew 27:39-40 reads “And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’” (NKJV). The Greek word translated ‘passed by’ here in Matthew’s account is translated ‘passed through’ in Mark 9:30. It is describing someone who was not there when the events happened. This group of people were simply passing through. They had not seen the events. Someone had to relate them to them. They heard about the crucifixion of Jesus second hand. They heard others ridicule and taunt Him. But what they heard and saw others do, they began to do the same. They began to follow the crowd. They were so busy being influenced by the crowd that they forgot to find out for themselves the meaning of the shadow of the cross. Oh yes, they were standing beneath the shadow of the cross for a time but what good did it do them? They were just passing through. What a sad commentary that is on the condition of the soul of many people today.

 

You come beneath the shadow of the cross but you’re just passing through. You have no time to consider the claims of the Savior upon your life.  You simply believe the reports of others. Some of you will join the crowd in the mocking of the Savior. These people who were passing through even saw the religious leaders of the community doing the same thing. What a poor example these leaders were. There are church leaders today who bringing shame to the name of Jesus in the name of Christianity. Sometimes a passer through will come into a meeting of supposed Christians and wonder what makes them any different. The passer through will hear gossip about another member of the church or a member of the community. The passer through came beneath the shadow of the cross but went away lost without Christ. Oh my dear friend, do not be one who is just passing by. Do not be one who will not pause and ponder the meaning of the blood stained brow. Tune out the gossip of those around you. Tune out the mindless echo of the crowd. Listen intently to the thief who cried to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Let Jesus response sink deep into your soul, “This day shall you be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43). Oh this precious promise is for you as well. Don’t follow the crowd, they will lead you straight to Hell.

 

A third way in which people respond beneath the shadow of the Cross is to mock & reject the ONE sent to save them. In Matthew 27:41-43 we read, “Likewise the chief priests, also mocking with the scribes and elders, said, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (NKJV). There are three groups listed here as mocking Jesus. It was the chief priests, the scribes and the elders. These are the leaders of the nation. These should have been those leading the nation in the ways of God. But they were mocking. They weren’t just mocking. You can almost hear the sarcastic glee in their tone. The Greek word here for mocking means to make fun of, to jest. Do you find it strange that these three groups were the elite of the culture? They were the educated, the rulers, the judges, the lawyers, the teach. Why so gleeful about this man’s demise? Because what they were looking at on the cross was the fulfillment of their own schemes to get rid of Him. Jesus had foretold this very thing in the parable of the talents. Jesus speaks of the citizens of a country sending a delegation after a king that had left to receive His kingdom. The citizens of His country sent the delegation to tell Him “We will not have this man to reign over us.” (Luke 19:14).  In essence they said ‘We don’t want you!’ The prophet Isaiah foretold His coming almost 700 years earlier. He prophesied that God would “lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation”. (Isaiah 28:16).

 

The purpose of a cornerstone is to line up the entire foundation of a building. So that the building may rise into the air properly. God had foretold that He was going to send to Israel someone that was going to be a cornerstone for building the nation upon. All of the nation, the entre society if lined up on Him would be a nation that was honoring to God. God fulfilled His word. He sent Jesus. How did this group of leaders respond? The Psalmist almost 1000 years earlier prophesied how they would respond: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” (Psalm 118:22). ‘The builders’, that’s this group that is now standing beneath the shadow of the cross mocking. The stone which the builders would reject was Jesus. They were saying we don’t want to build our society, our culture upon Him. They felt like they knew better how to build a great society. They rejected Him as the cornerstone. What would the end result be of their rejection? The society, the nation, the culture they wanted to build on something other than Christ would come crashing down. Jesus prophesied that outcome before His arrest. In Mathew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate…” In Matthew 24 Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple, the very heart of their culture. This group, the elite was going to reject God’s building block and build it their own way, not God’s. Jesus prophecy was fulfilled 34 years after he foretold them. Israel was overrun by the Roman army under Titus in 70 AD and the Temple was torn down stone by stone. The nation of Israel passed out of existence for nearly 1900 years.

 

I submit to you that many of our leaders, many of the builders of our society are making the same mistake today.  Like the builders of Jesus day they are saying “We will not have this man to rule over us.” We will build our society our own way. We don’t want the Bible’s way. We don’t want Jesus’ way. In order for a building to arise every stone must be perfectly lined up on the cornerstone. Many of our builders are saying ‘We don’t’ want life. Kill babies in the womb!” My friends that is not choice, that is MURDER!!! They are boldly saying “We don’t want Jesus and we don’t want to line up society with Him.” Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:16). God said to the prophet Jeremiah “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; and ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5). It’s a good thing Jeremiah wasn’t in his mother’s womb in our day. He might have been aborted. In regards to marriage, many of the builders of our society are saying we will determine what marriage is. The Scriptures are clear what marriage is in the sight of God.  One day the Pharisees wanted to try and trap Jesus, so they came to ask a question about divorce. They asked “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason? And He answered and said, to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said ‘For this reason a MAN shall leave HIS father and mother and be joined to HIS wife, and the two (that’s male and female) shall become one flesh?”

 

Oh, but don’t bother me with what Jesus said. Many of our builders, our educators and even some of our religious leaders are saying “We don’t want to build our society upon God’s cornerstone. And all the while you are standing beneath the shadow of the cross mocking the very man who said these things. He is The Cornerstone that God gave. The TEN COMMANDMENTS, WE DON’T WANT THEM ANYMORE EITHER. We don’t want God’s building blocks in our schools. We don’t want God’s building blocks in our courtrooms. We don’t want them in our society. We want our own.  You are not surprising God. He knew we would do this.  And His verdict is the same. You continue the fulfillment of the prophecy spoken of in the Psalms which asks the question “Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth (and the presidents, and prime ministers and governors) set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and HIS Anointed (THE CHRIST), saying, Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us.” In other words, we don’t want any ties with the God of the Bible and His Christ. We don’t want them to have control over us. What is God’s verdict of this choice? “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh.” And again through the Prophet Isaiah God said “Just as they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations, so will I choose their delusions, and bring their fears on them; because when I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not hear; but they did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight.” (Isaiah 66:3-4).

 

Someone may say but God was talking to ancient Israel. I agree with you! But there is a principle in Scripture that we must not ignore. God makes it clear that the judgments He has brought on cultures of the past for their wickedness is meant to warn future generations. Hear the words of Paul to the Church at Corinth “But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’ Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor murmur, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the age have come.” (1 Corinthians 10:5-11). Make no mistake about it every society that throws off God will eventually crumble into the dust. Every nation that mocks Him will eventually see the verdict of God on their nation “Weighed, weighed in the balances and found wanting.” And so we as a nation are doing. And all the while we are standing beneath the shadow of the cross.

 

Finally, there are those who respond by repenting and believing the Gospel. In Luke 23: 39-43 is the story about the thief on the cross who sought the Lord’s forgiveness. This thief wasn’t trying to run the show. He realized his own sin and unworthiness. When the other criminal kept mocking Jesus, this thief responded “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40-41).  I wonder: Did the chief priests and elders hear this thief’s question? “Don’t you fear God?” This thief realized that he deserved to die. As he hung within the shadow of the cross, he was reminded of his own sins. He realized that Jesus didn’t deserve to die. He realized that Jesus was innocent. The penitent thief said of Jesus, “this Man has done nothing wrong.  I believe that this thief realized that Jesus was the Son of God. This thief realized that death was not the end of it all. For this thief hanging on the cross said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” He knew that death could not contain Jesus. He believed that Jesus would forgive him. This dying thief as he was hanging in the shadow of the cross was trusting in Jesus at the moment of his death. Jesus responded, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Not tomorrow, not a thousand years from now, but this day. Oh my dear friend, anyone who will repent and believe the Gospel has the promise of eternal life this very day. Confess your own sin and unworthiness. Confess that Jesus did not deserve to die. He died for you and paid for your sins with His precious blood. Confess that His death was not the end but that He rose triumphant o’er the grave. Confess that He has forgiven your transgressions. Confess Him as Lord and Savior of your life. Confess that the promise of Paradise is yours today. Believe it in your heart and confess it with your mouth and it is so, “For the heart, one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confessions is made to salvation.” (Romans 10:10).

 

What will be your response as you stand beneath the shadow of the cross?

1.)    Will you be one those who gambles your life away while standing beneath the shadow of the cross?

2.)    Will you be one of those who follow the crowd and join in the mocking of Jesus?

3.)    Will you be like the builders who are removing Jesus as the cornerstone of society in order to build society their way?

4.)    Or will you surrender your life to the one who died and rose from the grave not only to forgive you but to transform you?

 

WHAT WILL YOU DO AS YOU STAND BENEATH THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS?

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