90 Days with Jesus, Day 84: John 19:17-27: The Cross of Jesus

John 19:17-27 (90 Days with Jesus Day 84)

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” So this is what the soldiers did. Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

“If man’s main problem is ignorance, then we would expect Christ’s main work to be the revelation of saving knowledge. If our problem is some form of spiritual weakness, then Christ’s main work must be to provide us with corresponding spiritual power. Almost all of the world’s religions and philosophies do indeed interpret man’s predicament in one of these two ways…Jesus came to resolve our problems of guilt and depravity through his death and resurrection” (Jack Cottrell, The Faith Once For All, 259)

The cross is the one aspect of the Christian faith that no one can just dismiss. The cross is real; it happened. No one can explain it away. No one can write it off as an insignificant ‘just another day’ event. No one can trivialize its historicity. No one can easily laugh at its history changing nature. The cross changed everything and continues to change history each day it is lived and proclaimed by His people. The cross is what defines the people of God as the people of God. It is the content of our preaching, it is hope we cling to, and under its shadow do we conduct every aspect of our lives in Christ. Without the cross, there is no Christianity. Without the cross, there is no resurrection. Without the cross, we are still quite deluged by our guilt, drowning in our depravity.

I’d like to make three rather obvious observations concerning this chunk of text I have chosen for today and, to be sure, I am necessarily not commenting on every aspect of the text. This is Day 84 in the 90 Days with Jesus series of posts I have been making.

The first observation is this: There were some that day who did not want to live under the banner of a king who was crucified. They said, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” But notice that Pilate was firm in his conviction: “What I have written, I have written.” I sense that what Pilate is saying here is this: “This is the only kind of King you can expect to have.” I know that the traditional understanding of his statement is that he was mocking the Jews and Jesus. I grant that. But I also see in this the more concrete: “This is the only king you will have.” Perhaps he might also be saying something like, “What else do you expect me to say about this man?” Perhaps Pilate had listened to what Jesus said. Remember this exchange:

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. They said ‘we have no king but Caesar.’

Pilate reminded them, however back-handedly, ‘the only king you have is this man.’ Can any of us have any other king besides Jesus Christ crucified? Isn’t that the whole point? Of course Pilate was mocking them, and Jesus, but in his mocking we cannot fail to hear the ironic element of truth that we do indeed have none other than a crucified King. It cannot be any other way.

The second observation I’d like to make is this: Notice that soldiers gambled for the clothing of Jesus, below the foot of the cross, while he suffered. Isn’t that ironic also? You know what I mean, right? There is a simple fact that while there are a lot of people who do not want a crucified King, there are many others who really don’t care one way or another. These men, hardened as they were by the sight of crucifixion, ignored Jesus altogether except for one thing: How can they profit from it! They gambled for his clothing right at the foot of the cross where he suffered.

The truth is, there are many who do the same thing today: Jesus’ death is nothing more than a mere money making adventure for them. They are oblivious to his suffering for them. They are oblivious to the pain and humiliation that their sin caused him. I suppose that people who read this in the Scripture overlooked it too: They were clueless that people could be so oblivious to what was going on in the world literally right above their heads. Too many people even today are clueless to the work of Christ. They go on living each day as if there is nothing wrong at all in the world. They go on not paying a minute’s worth of attention to the fact that their sin was paid for, that Christ suffered for them. These words by the band Casting Crowns sums up this point perfectly:

Oh, Bethlehem, what have you missed while you were sleeping/For God became a man/And stepped into your world today/Oh Bethlehem will you go down in history/As a city with no room for its King/While you were sleeping/While you were sleeping

America, what will we miss while we are sleeping/Will Jesus come again/And leave us slumbering where we lay/America will we go down in history/As a nation with no room for its King/ Will we be sleeping/Will we be sleeping? (From the Lifesong CD, words and music by Mark Hall)

Finally, the last observation I would like to make is this: The typical view of the story of Jesus’ mother and the disciple who took her into his home is that Jesus was such a wonderful person that he even thought to take care of his mother while he died. I’m not doubting there is something to be said about this, but I think there is a better view also. Not only did Jesus say to the woman, “Here is your son,” but he also said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” I have a different take on this: In His Cross work, Jesus tore apart one family and created a new one.

Perhaps it sounds like a stretch, a mere allegorizing of the text, but I don’t think so. The cross has done a lot of things in this world and, ironically, tearing apart families is one of the things it has done. But positively, it has also forged new families. The cross is not only a revelation but a revolution: Who would think that God would redeem us from an empty way of life in such an ironic fashion? Who thinks of defeat as the way to victory? Who thinks of dying as the way of defeating death? And if those things are true, then why is it impossible to think that the cross also tore apart one family and created a new one? Why is it impossible to think that in the cross a new family dynamic was forged, and strengthened with bonds that could not be torn apart by anything ever again?

Doesn’t this scene demonstrate that even in the life of the Son of Man life is not going to be simple after the fact of the cross? And if the Son of God had his family torn apart by the cross, will it be any different for those who follow hard after Him? On the other hand, doesn’t this scene demonstrate that in the lives of those whose lives are turned upside down the bond of family love will be rebuilt in the same cross? In this sense, it was Jesus who put this family back together.

So, there are many who don’t want a bloody, crucified King. There are others who are indifferent to God’s visit to the earth and couldn’t care less if he did or did not die so long as their lives go on now without interruption. And there are others whose lives will be turned inside out because of the cross. Jesus looks down on one group and laughs (Psalm 2:6), weeps over another group (Luke 13:34), and puts back together the third group (Psalm 147:3).

Soli Deo Gloria!

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