Two Reactions to Christ – A Look at the Crucifixion

Passion Week – Jesus’ last week leading to His crucifixion and resurrection – the Passover meal or Last Supper –washing the disciple’s feet – the Mount of Olives – Judas’ kiss of betrayal – the mockery of a trial – the jeering crowd – the nails – the torn veil – the empty tomb. The images run through my mind as we approach Easter Sunday.

As we read the account of Jesus’ arrest and trial, I am struck by the stark differences between peoples’ responses to Jesus. It appears that everyone had one of two responses to Christ on that historic weekend. People either mocked, insulted, and attacked Jesus or they chose to follow Him.

It is like we are on the first row watching the climax between the battle of Good and evil, Life and death right before our eyes, and we are being asked to choose whose side we are on as Jesus is arrested, tried, and crucified. We have two responses open to us.

Hearts that were resistant to the Gospel before those moments seem to harden to stone resulting in the mocking, insults, and attacks on Jesus. First the Jewish guards mock and beat Him.

The guards in charge of Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and said, “Prophesy to us! Who hit you that time?” And they hurled all sorts of terrible insults at him. (Luke 22:63-65, NLT)

We see Pilate’s soldiers, the Roman soldiers, react similarly.

The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship. When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified. (Mark 15:16-20, NLT)

Then, at the cross, the people who were there did the same:

The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!”

The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus ridiculed him. (Mark 15:29-32, NLT)

In contrast, those who loved and followed Him, although they scattered out of fear and, as in Peter’s case, denied Him to others, were broken to their very core. They wept, prayed, and grieved. They were in shock and afraid at the events they were witnessing and broken-hearted at it all. (If we jump ahead to Acts when the Holy Spirit came upon them, we see these same fearful believers suddenly filled with power and courage to take the Gospel to the world in the face of horrible persecution – their fear of this weekend was changed to passionate service and faithful following. Peter’s denials are turned into fervent proclamations of hope and salvation).

When we see Jesus nailed to the cross between two criminals, we see the same responses: one mocks Him, and the other humbles himself before Jesus.

One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”

But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43, NLT)

As we come to this Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday, we are at the same crossroads of that moment in history.

Is our heart mocking and against the Gospel, or are we broken by our sin that nailed Christ to the cross?

If you haven’t made that commitment to follow Christ, repent of your sins, and receive His forgiveness, what is your response today? You are being given an opportunity to choose today whom you will serve.

As believers we are called to remember what Christ did for us in His crucifixion and resurrection. As followers of Christ, we remember Christ’s willingness to die even while we were still sinners in rebellion against Him, and we know that we are called not only to remember, but to offer our lives as living sacrifices following Him and dying to self.  

This story will either soften or harden our hearts. We will either be humbled before our loving God, or we will rise up–stubbornly resisting once again His free gift of forgiveness.

The crossroad

Of all history

is Christ’s cross

The cross – do we see a symbol of evil’s victory

Or realize it’s our road to relationship with God

Like the two criminals on Jesus’ sides at the cross

We mock

Or we pray

Want comfort

Or eternity

Are self-focused

Or a living sacrifice

Shout “crucify Him”

Or take up our cross

Choose today

Who you’ll serve?

Choose today

Humility or pride

Choose today

Life or death

But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15, NLT)

Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? …The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:3-4, 9, NLT)

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23, NLT)

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