Gods Promises from The Cross

Written for a member of Amblecote Christian Centre who wished to know what I saw in the Cross.

The Gifts of the Cross

We are at our best when giving. In fact I feel we are most like God when we are freely giving.

Have you ever wondered why God gives so much? We could survive on less and we wouldn’t have known the difference.If we give gifts to show our love, how much more would he? If we, spoilt and imperfect as we are, love to give gifts, how much more so does a pure and perfect God enjoy giving gifts?

Jesus asked in Matthew 7:11‘if you hardhearted, sinful men know how to give gifts to your children, won’t your father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask him for them?’

God’s gifts shed light on God’s good and generous heart. Every gift reveals God’s love… but no gift reveals his love more than the gifts of the cross.

They came not wrapped in paper, but in passion.

Not placed around a tree, but a cross.

Not covered in ribbons, but blood.

The gifts of the cross.Much is said about the gift of the cross, but what about his other gifts? What of the nails and the crown of thorns? Have you taken time to open these gifts?He didn’t have to give them you know. The only act, the only required act for our salvation was the spilling of blood. Yet he did so much more.

Search the scene of the cross and what do you find?A wine soaked sponge.A sign.Two other crosses besides Christ’s.These are divine gifts intended to stir that moment, that split second when your face will brighten, your eyes will widen, and God will hear you whisper ‘you did this for me?’

Let’s examine these gifts shall we and as we unwrap them, maybe for the first time, and as you touch them, pause and listen. Maybe you will hear him whisper.

I did it just for you

Gods Promise in the Soldiers spit

The soldiers. They wanted blood.So they scourged Jesus. The legionnaire’s whip consisted of leather straps with lead balls on each end. His goal was singular. Beat the accused within an inch of his death and then stop. Thirty nine lashes were allowed but seldom needed. No doubt Jesus was near death when his hands were untied from the post and he slipped to the ground.The whipping was the first deed of the soldiers. The crucifixion was the third. Though his back was ribboned with wounds the soldiers loaded the cross beam on Jesus’ shoulders and marched him to Golgotha and His execution. We cannot fault the soldiers for these two actions, after all they were following orders. But what’s hard to understand is what they did in between.

Matthew 27: 26-31 explains it.27Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Who would draw pleasure out of spitting on a half-dead man?. Spitting isn’t intended to hurt the body – it can’t. Spitting is intended to degrade the soul – and it does. The soldiers must have felt big by making Jesus look small.Have you ever done that/ Maybe you haven’t spit on someone but have you gossiped or slandered? Have you ever made someone feel bad so you feel good? That’s what the soldiers did to Jesus.

Matthew 25:40 says whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me

How we treat others is how we treat Jesus.You may disagree with me but try going 24 hours without gossiping. No? Then how about for an hour? Maybe not gossiping but how about anything determined sinful? Can’t do it. Neither can I.Then we have a problem Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death. Hebrews 12:14 says anyone who is not holy will not see the lord.

What can we do?

We can allow the spit to symbolise the filth in our hearts, and then observe what Jesus did with this filth. He carried it to the cross.Isaiah 50:6 is prophetic when it said ‘I did not hide my face from the mocking and spitting.’Christ could have wiped it away but he didn’t. The sinless one took on the face of a sinner, so we could take on the face of a saint.

Gods Promise in the Crown of Thorns

With a wave of His hand Christ could have sent the spit back at his accusers, but he didn’t. With an arch of his brow he could have paralysed the hands of the soldier braiding the crown of thorns, but he didn’t.

The message of the Thorns is sinlessness.Throughout scripture thorns have represented sin. Before the fall of Adam there were no thorns. Brambles on the earth are the product of sin in the heart. Therefore isn’t the thorny crown on Christ’s brow a picture of the fruit of our sin that pierced his heart.What is the fruit of sin? Shame, fear, disgrace, discouragement, anxiety. Haven’t our hearts felt these thorns?The heart of Jesus had not. What we experience daily he never knew……until he became sin for us. Isnt this the coolest thing about the One who gave up the crown of heaven for the crown of thorns?He did it for you, just for you.

Gods Promise in the Nails

When I inspect a building I have designed and built, I compile a list for the builder listing everything that is wrong. Looking at a recent list of mistakes caused me to think about God making a list of mine. After all hasn’t he taken up residence in our hearts?

Have you thought about a list He could compile?

The door hinges to the Prayer room have gone rusty from underuse.The stove called jealousy is overheating.The attic floor is weighted with too many regrets.The cellar is cluttered with too many secrets.What would you think if your list was posted high so everyone could see?

May I take you to the moment it was? Yes there is a list of your shortcomings. Christ has chronicled your failures. And, yes, that list has been made public. But you’ve never seen it, neither have I.

Come with me to the hill of Calvary and I’ll tell you why.Watch as the soldiers shove the Carpenter to the ground and stretch his arms against the beam. One presses a knee against a forearm and a spike against a hand. Jesus turns his face towards the nail just as the soldier lifts the hammer to strike it.Couldn’t Jesus have stopped him? He could have resisted. Is this not the same hand that stilled the sea? Cleansed the temple? Summoned the dead?Why didn’t Jesus resist?

Because he loved us we reply. That is true, wonderfully true, but only partially. There is more to his reason. He saw something that made him stay. As the soldier pressed his arm, Jesus rolled his head to the side, and with his cheek resting on the wood he saw:

A Hammer? Yes.

A Nail? Yes.

The soldiers hand? Yes

But he saw something else. He saw the hand of God, no common hand. These finger formed Adam out of clay and carved truth on the tablets.

With a wave, this hand toppled the tower of Babel and split the Red sea. The crowd at the cross concluded that the purpose of the pounding was to skewer the hand of Christ to the beam. But they were only half right. We can’t fault them for missing the other half. They couldn’t see it. But Jesus could, heaven could. And we can. But scripture tells us what Jesus saw but others missed.

having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

Between his hand and the wood was a list, the list of our sins. But this list God has made cannot be read as the words can’t be deciphered. The mistakes are covered and the sins hidden. The ones at the top are hidden by his hand, those down the list are covered by his blood. The sins are blotted out by Jesus.He knew the price for your sins would be your death, so he chose to receive the nails.By this act Jesus himself swung the hammer. The same hand that stilled the seas stills the seas stills your guilt. The same hand that cleansed the temple cleansed your heart. The same hand that opened for the nail, opens the doors of heaven for you.

Gods Promise through the sign.

Why is a sign placed over the head of Jesus? Why does its wording trouble the Jews? Why does Pilate refuse to change it? Why are the words written in three languages and why is the sign mentioned in all four gospels?Of all possible answers lets concentrate on one. Could it be that this piece of wood is a picture of God’s devotion? A symbol of his passion to tell the world about his son? I suggest that the sign reveals two truths about God’s desire to reach the world.

There is no person he will not use

And there is no language God will not speak

We cannot help but see that the sign bears immediate fruit. Remember the response of the criminal. In immense pain and close to death he turns to Jesus and says ‘Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom’. He doesn’t plead save me. His appeal is a servant to a king.

Pilate writes the first gospel and the thief is the first convert.

Countless other media have followed, but the sign, intended by Pilate to mock and ridicule, was dictation given by God, to convert. A thief is led to Christ by one who rejected Christ. There is no person God will not use. Since Jesus is the king for all people isn’t it right that the message proclaiming him king was in all languages. There is no language He will not speak. What language is he speaking to you? And aren’t you glad he is speaking? Aren’t you grateful he cares enough to talk?

Gods Promise through the Two Crosses.

Throughout our life God has given us choices. Let’s call it free will.

Abel and Cain, both sons of Adam.

Abel chose God, Cain chose murder. And God lets him.

David and Saul, both kings of Israel. David chooses God and Saul chooses power. And God lets him.

Peter and Judas, both deny their Lord. Peter seeks mercy whilst Judas seeks death. And God lets him.

Throughout Scripture God allows us to make our own choices. Isn’t all this a reminder of the Trio on Calvary. Ever wonder why there were two crosses next to Christ. No more or less. Isn’t this a symbol of Gods great gift? A gift of choice. Both criminals were guilty, both were suffering the same for their crimes. Both taunted Christ.

But one changed.

He chose.

And God let him.

You’ve made bad choices in your life but you can make one good one.When one criminal prayed, Jesus loved enough to save him.When the other mocked, Jesus loved him enough to let him.He allowed him the choice.He does the same for you.

Gods Promise in the Path

The most notorious road in the world is the Via Dolorosa – the way of sorrows. The exact route is no longer known as Jerusalem was rebuilt in 70AD and again in 135AD. But let me tell you where it started.The path began, not in the court of Pilate but in the halls of heaven. The path began when our father left his home in his search for us. He came looking. His desire was to bring His children home. The Bible calls it reconciliation.The path to the cross tells us exactly how far God will go to call us back. However Pride and shame keep us from our Father. Pride says ‘you’re too good for him’Shame says ‘you’re too bad for him’Pride drives you away.Shame keeps you away.Our pride comes before a fall but our shame keeps us from getting up after one.

Gods Promise in the Garment

I once went to a restaurant for a meal, however I couldn’t get in. I had no jacket. No Jacket, no admission.The maitre d’ went into the cloakroom and came out with a jacket. It was too small, due to my size, and the sleeves were too short. But I was given admission.The man was too kind to turn me away, but too loyal to drop the standards. The one who required a jacket gave me a jacket. I was shown to my table. Isn’t this what happened at the cross? Seats at Gods table aren’t open to the sloppy. But aren’t we all. Unkempt morality, untidy with truth, and careless with people? God offered us a seamless robe. One worn by Christ. Now we are clothed in Christ.Christ was stripped on the cross and we changed clothes. We wore his and he ours. The clothing of Christ on the cross?. Yours and mine. The sins of humanity.He did that just for you.

Gods Promise through the Torn Flesh

Something happened in the death of Christ that opened the door for you and me to enter Gods presence. Hebrews 10:19-20 tells us that the access came through the open curtain which is Christ’s body.The curtain then equals Jesus, so whatever happens to his body happens to the curtain. What happened to his flesh? It was torn. Torn by the whips, Torn by the thorns. Torn by the weight of the cross and the nails. But in all the horror of his torn flesh we find the joy of the open door. For the Jews the curtain being torn meant no more obstacles between them and God. No more sacrifices to atone for sin.And for us? What does the torn curtain signify?We are able to enter the presence of God at any time any day. The barrier is down.But don’t we have the tendency to put the barrier back up. We erect a curtain in our heart. Sometimes this is our guilty conscience.Can I point out that god is not angry with you. He has already dealt with your mistake. Don’t trust your conscience. Trust the cross. The blood has been spilt and the veil torn.

Gods Promise in the Wine Soaked Sponge.

Before the first nail was pounded Christ was offered a drink. Mark says the drink was laced with myrrh and Mark says gall. Whichever it was they are both sedatives that numb the senses. But Jesus refused them. He refused to be stupefied with drugs. He was open to feel the full force of his suffering.Why? Why did he endure all these feelings? Because he knew you would feel it too.He knew that you would be weary, disturbed and angry. He knew that you’d be sleepy, grief stricken and hungry. He knew you’d face pain. If not the pain of the body, the pain of the soul…pain too sharp for any drug.He knew you would face thirst. If not a thirst for water, at least a thirst for truth, and the truth we glean from the image of a thirsty Christ is – he understands.And because he understands – we can come to him.

Gods Promise in the Blood and Water.

God’s work for us and God’s work in us. Neglect the first, and you grow fearful. Neglect the second, and you grow lazy. Both are essential, and both are seen in the moistened dirt at the base of the cross of Christ. Let’s examine each of these more carefully.

God’s work for us

After Christ’s sacrifice there would be no more need to shed blood. The son of God became the Lamb of God. The cross became the alter, and we were made holy through the sacrifice.What needed to be paid was paid. What had to be done was done. Innocent blood was offered, once and for all time.If his work for us is seen in the blood, what might the water represent? You got it.

His work in us.

Remember the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman? ‘ The water I give will become a spring of water gushing up inside that person, giving eternal life.’ Jesus offers not a singular drink of water, but a perpetual artesian well. The holy spirit of God in your heart.The blood is God’s sacrifice for us.The water is God’s spirit in us.And we need both.Some of us accept the blood yet forget the water. We want to be saved but don’t want the change.Others accept the water but forget the blood. They are busy for Christ but not at peace in Christ.What about you? Do you tend to lean one way or the other?Do you feel so saved that you never serve? Or do you serve for fear of not being saved?

Gods Promise in The Cross

The Cross. Can you turn any direction without seeing one? On a church. On a gravestone. In a ring or suspended from a chain. The Cross is the universal symbol of Christianity. A symbol of torture being a symbol of hope.Why is the cross the symbol of our faith? To find the answer look no further than the cross itself. Its design couldn’t be simpler. One beam horizontal – the other vertical. One reaches out – like God’s love, and oh how wide is his love. The other reaches up – as does God’s holiness. One represents the width of his love; the other reflects the height of his holiness. The cross is the intersection. The cross is where God forgave his children without lowering his standards.God put our sins on his son and punished it there.The sin is punished and you are safe……safe in the shadow of the cross.

Gods Promise in the Burial Clothing

No one like grave clothes and no one likes to discuss the subject. But read John and you will see the burial clothes as a symbol of triumph. On the first Easter Sunday God took clothing of death and made them a symbol of life.The Bible says ‘in everything God works for the good of those who love him.’ I suggest you remove the word everything and replace it with the symbol of your tragedy.In burial clothes God works for the good.In Hospital stays God works for the good.Could it be through tragedy God could change your life for the good?

What will You leave at The Cross?

The hill is quiet now. For the first time all day there is no noise. One by one the onlookers turned and began their descent.That is all the onlookers except You and me. We do not leave. We came to learn. So we lingered and we listened. Did any of you hear his scream?Jesus body is removed from the cross and taken away.And we are left with these relics of his death.Three nails.Three cross shaped shadows.A braided crown with scarlet tips. These players and props were heaven picked and God ordained, and we have been asked to respond to it. In order for the cross of Christ to be the cross of your life, you and I need to bring something to the hill.We have seen the gifts he brought.Now we are asked what will we bring?Let’s start with our bad moments. Our binges and bigotries. Every flop and failure. He wants every one.Why?Because he knows we can’t live with them.If you leave all your bad moments at the cross. All you will have are good ones.

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