Note: My in-laws, George and Joy Jensen, are moving back to Tanzania to continue their work after an eight year stint in the states. Hours before beginning their trek to Tanzania, George preached to the saints in Marlow, Oklahoma. He spoke on the cross. I’d like to share some of his thoughts, as I remember them, with you.
Details can be helpful, but often the most powerful stories are the succinct ones. We often try to expand upon the descriptions of events in scripture, to our detriment. The Holy Spirit is perfect, and the words he used to communicate with us are wholly sufficient.
Note this simple phrase in all four gospel accounts: “crucified him” (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:33; John 19:18). While Deity chose to give us many details of what mankind did to our Savior leading up to and after the crucifixion, the silence here is striking. The next time you read the accounts of the cross, linger on those two words. The next time you speak about the cross, allow those two words to hang in the air for a moment. They (we) “crucified him.”
Speaking figuratively of the punishment to befall the nation of Israel, the prophet Isaiah says, “Your nakedness shall be uncovered, and your disgrace shall be seen” (Isaiah 47:3). The Lord implores the church in Laodicea to buy from him white garments, “so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen” (Revelation 3:18).
“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.’ This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.’ So the soldiers did these things” (John 19:23, 24).
When the soldiers take Jesus’ clothing, see not only the fulfillment of David’s prophecy in Psalm 22, but also the simple shame that our Lord was left hanging upon the cross without clothes. The cross was not just a physically painful event. It was a shameful one as well (see Hebrews 12:2).
Paul summarized the gospel he delivered as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). While we understand that the gospel is broader than those three events (see Mark 1:1), we also acknowledge that the foremost moment, the pivotal point, in the history of man is the cross.
It is through the cross that God reconciles us to himself (Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20). It is the power of Jesus upon the cross that takes the debt of our sin and sets it aside (Colossians 2:14). It is by the cross that the world is crucified to us, and we to the world. It should not surprise us then that Paul says he would not boast in anything except in “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
Each Lord’s day, we gather as one body, to remember the death of our Lord.
The Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11:20) is the central portion of our worship to God. It is the reason the disciples gathered together (Acts 20:7). As we eat the bread we remember his body hanging upon the tree. As we drink the cup we remember the blood that freely flowed for all mankind (1 Corinthians 11:24, 25). And as we eat the bread and drink the cup, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
“But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering…Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:9-10, 14-15).
Praise God for the simplicity, the shame, and the centrality of the cross!