Jump into the Cross this morning as we encounter 3 different people and how they reacted to it. The big question is, how will you react after seeing it clearly. Tune in to be challenged and encouraged. Help us advance the Kingdom, support our online ministry (harmonychurch.cc/give). Got kids? Check out Harmony Kids online (updated weekly) https://www.harmonychurch.cc/harmony-kids-online/!
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OPENING ILLUSTRATION:[have the cross towards front of the stage for the invitation time]The Cross in 3 Encounters
b Pontius Pilate: He had a penchant for cruelty to the Jews. Not just cruelty, but baiting the Jewish people into a position where he could then be cruel to them.
Once, he took money from the temple treasury – money that was not his. He used it to pay for an aqueduct. The Jews came together to protest. Pilate then, after intentionally getting the Jews upset, placed Roman soldiers dressed like Jewish people in the crowd. At his word, the soldiers drew out clubs and began to beat the Jewish people. Many died under this cruel act…
So, we come to the cross and Pilate seems like a different person… Instead of looking like someone who toys with the Jewish people at his pleasure, Pilate looks like someone who is afraid of them…B
You can see this easily in John 19… Pilate is talking with Jesus and he tries to get Jesus to answer questions, and Jesus is silent. Pilate says to him, “don’t you know I have the power to crucify or free you?” Jesus is stone tough in this moment and tells Pilate he has no power except what’s been given him from above… and this is the next scene John paints
John 19:12 12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
Pilate acts from this point on like his hands are tied… b To be honest, this doesn’t match up with who he was in outside historical records…b Except for one thing
Scholars think that Pilate was appointed under a man named Sejanus. Sejanus. Sejanus was the right hand man for the emperor of Rome – Tiberius. Who in 26AD retired to this remote island of Capri, leaving Sejanus in charge of the empire. Sejanus hated the Jewish people and wanted to destroy them – that’s why Pilate gets away with his cruelty…
Now listen, in 31AD, Tiberius found out that Sejanus had been plotting a revolt, if you are into history, this is some crazy stuff Sejanus was pulling. But suffice it to say, Tiberius got wind of it and came up with his own ingenious plan to deal with Sejanus. He has this letter read that makes Sejanus think he’s going to be given ultimate power, while the long letter is being read, the commander of the army went out and told all the people and soldiers that Sejanus had been plotting against the emperor. At the end of the letter, Tiberius calls Sejanus out and tells everyone what he had done. Sejanus is taken away that very day and put to death…
And Tiberius begins an investigation where he goes through Sejanus’ appointments and begins killing people who were not loyal… Literally dozens of people…
So, why does Pilate, who sees nothing wrong with Jesus allow the Jewish leaders to control him?
It’s all in their words…“If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
“Friend of Caesar” is actually a technical term for nobility who were loyal to the emperor.
They are saying, “don’t make us send word to Caesar that you are a turncoat…”
Pilate understands the threat for what it was… and he ultimately commands that Jesus be tortured, broken, and crucified…
Pilate put Jesus to death to hold onto his political position… Why sacrifice your life for one man.
The Thief on the cross: Jesus has been beaten mercilessly. They mock him by putting a purple robe on him, place a crown made of thorns on his head and beat it on with rods. He is forced to carry his cross to the hill called Golgotha and nailed to the wood, pierced. He is placed between two thieves. Common criminals. The crowd, yelling, mocking… If you are son of God, save yourself. He, silently endures. It’s the kind of scene you can’t bear to look at…
Then the thief to his side begins to join in, mocking him…I’ve heard that hurt people hurt people – but this is a low…He’s hanging, facing the same fate and he is adding his own blows…Luke 22:39-4139 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[d]”43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
It’s the last moment for this guy… he will be dead soon – actually, the soldiers will break his legs – so cruel and merciless – so that he will hang by his arms and die…But in the final moments, he turns to Jesus and Jesus turns toward him. b Pilate tried to save his life. The thief turned at the last moment of his life. b And was set free… b The Centurion Soldier: Can I read you this testimony from Matthew the Tax Collector
Matthew 27:45-54 45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and [c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people. 54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
He’s a tough man. He has become calloused to the images of death and violence he is regularly forced to be a part of.
Until this moment…Jesus died like no other person. He took it on the chin, suffered ridicule. Had asked for their forgiveness. b And now the earth and sky are protesting.
and the centurion says “Surely he was the Son of God!”
Do you know how big of a deal this is? Did you know that Roman Emperors claimed the title “Son of God?”
His statement is traitorous in his position. His statement is HUGE. The emperors claim was to be a God on earth.
He is saying, “this is God”…
This man risks everything to proclaim Jesus after witnessing the cross. b Pilate wasn’t willing to risk anything and because of it, his actions led to the cross.
CLOSING ILLUSTRATION: If you’ve never stood at the cross and wondered who you are in light of the sacrifice, maybe today is the day to do that.
During this next song, we are going to invite you to come up, remain distanced and all, but forget that there are others around you and stand in front of the cross.
Who are you going to be? Are you going to continue to try and hold onto your life and wash your hands of the blood that was shed? b Have you always thought it was too late for you? Maybe like the thief you need to just turn to Jesus and let him turn to you. b Maybe you will look at it and realize the enormity of it all and offer yourself to Him, no matter what it costs you.
This is your time, to come up here and engage with the sacrifice that was given for YOU…