“His Hurt for Our Healing – Hurt by the Cross”
(Mark 15:21-28; Luke 23:34, 39-43 – Midweek Lent 6 – April 10, 2019)
Mark 15:21-28 – Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross. And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it. And when they crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting lots for them to determine what every man should take. Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. And the inscription of His accusation was written above: THE KING OF THE JEWS. With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.”
Luke 23:34, 39-43 – Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”… Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Dear Redeemed in the name of Jesus Christ, who was hurt for our healing:
There was nothing honorable about a Roman cross. When a person was crucified, he was held up before the world as the worst kind of criminal, condemned to suffer and die the most shameful and excruciating death the Romans could think of. No one in the Empire wanted to get too close to a cross. No one wanted to be identified too closely with that repulsive instrument of death.
But Jesus did. He had come a long way to get here, to be identified most closely with His cross. The Son of God came all the way from heaven, conceived and born in our flesh for this purpose. “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). Why? It was necessary that He suffer and die the most shameful and excruciating death, not only that man could conceive of, but that God Himself would impose. For this was the only way to take away the sins of the world, your sins and mine.
Therefore as we continue to consider our theme, “His Hurt for Our Healing,” today we see how Jesus was “Hurt by the Cross” to bring us His healing forgiveness and eternal life.
We meet a man named Simon. When Simon woke up that morning, he had no idea just how close up and personally he would identify with that repulsive instrument of death. Simon was from Cyrene, a part of modern Libya that had a large Jewish population. Most likely, this man of God was at Jerusalem like many other devout pilgrims to celebrate the Passover. Now as he came in from the country, he entered the Holy City with great anticipation. It was almost 9:00 in the morning – the time of the temple service, the hour of prayer.
But what a sight he saw! Here came Jesus, beaten and bloody, reeling and stumbling under His cross, bloody sweat dripping from His face under a thorny crown. Right there in front of Simon, the Condemned One fell in a heap under His heavy wooden cross. No amount of cursing and kicking by the Roman soldiers could move the exhausted Son of Man. One of the soldiers spotted Simon: “You, come here!” he ordered. So it happened that Simon found himself making his way back out of the Holy City, away from the blessed house of worship, bearing that God-awful, blood-spattered cross along the Via Dolorosa. Surrounded by onlookers – some mocking, some weeping – Simon took his place after Jesus. Along with two criminals, they paced slowly all the way out to Golgotha, the skull-shaped mount of execution. I wonder, when the soldiers finally let Simon go, did he stick around as they pounded those large nails through Jesus’ hands and feet? Or did he just hear the sharp echoes of the hammer and cries of pain across the valley, as he rushed back toward the city? Was Simon there to hear the first words out of Jesus’ mouth: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do”?
What a remarkable scene it was: God in our flesh hung on a Roman cross, held up before the world as the worst kind of criminal, condemned to suffer and die the most shameful and excruciating death. The innocent Son of God did not deserve to be “numbered with the transgressors.” But He who had come to bring healing to a world so deeply hurt by sin, had to feel deepest hurt Himself. As Isaiah had prophesied: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4). Chief among those griefs and sorrows is the hurt of the cross, that repulsive instrument of death by which the world would be rid of Him.
Jesus has felt the deeply fallen nature of this sinful world, which would crucify even its Maker. He understands what it is like for us to follow Him through this world. He said: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
Jesus knows that when we follow Him in faith, and we abide in His Word as true disciples, we identify ourselves with the repulsiveness of His cross. And the world that is hostile to Christ will not make it easy for us. How often, Christians have suffered a cross of persecution for the sake of Christ and His truth. The majority of the apostles would sign their testimony to Christ with their blood. According to tradition, Peter would be crucified upside down, as he felt unworthy to be crucified like Jesus. The apostle Paul, for his faithful testimony, would lose his head to a Roman sword.
To this day, Christians around the world bear a cross after Christ. When they share their faith, they are shunned by family and friends, their business suffers, they are made outcasts by society, they are arrested and imprisoned. We hear of martyrs who are beheaded, shot, or otherwise killed for the faith.
Have you been hurt by a cross? Have you been laughed at as a fool when you stuck up for the truth of Christ? Have you lost relations with family, friends, or others because you shared the true faith? Simon was involuntarily drafted into bearing a cross after Jesus. How much more, as we willingly identify ourselves with Christ, we will bear our own cross. We do not have to go looking for it; the cross will come to us. After all, we live in a world under the spell of Satan, the sworn enemy of Christ. Is it any wonder if we feel the hatred Jesus felt, when we faithfully share His Gospel in this world?
But not only do Satan and the world make it difficult to follow Jesus. Our inborn sinful nature wants to ally itself with evil. How often have we caved in to temptation and pressure, desiring to fit in and be loved by the world? How often have we stood there like Peter during Jesus’ trial, denying association with our Lord and Maker to save our own skin? How often have we been ashamed to identify too closely with that repulsive cross of Christ?
Are there ways we have caused a cross of hurt to others? How often have we have laid a kind of cross on another’s back by our unloving and hurtful words or deeds. Perhaps it was a sin of omission, when we were not there to support a brother or sister in Christ in their time of cross and suffering. We remained silent rather than speaking up, encouraging, and strengthening them by Christ’s Gospel.
When they nailed Jesus to the cross, we must see that it was for our own sins that He hung there. Every sin of ours in thought, word, and deed is another pound of the hammer that drove those nails through His hands and feet. For on the cross, “the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). On the cross, God the Father punished His own Son for all our sin and guilt. On that repulsive instrument of death, God held up before all the world His own Son as the worst kind of sinner. For He “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Therefore, God imposed on His own Son the most shameful and excruciating death He could conceive of.
The physical suffering alone was extreme. Who can imagine hanging from nerve-severing nails for hours, awaiting death that could not come soon enough? As blood drained through wounds, the heart and lungs slowly failed. The weight of the body pulling down on the arms made breathing difficult. Once the legs gave out, all weight was transferred to the arms, gradually dragging the shoulders from their sockets, followed by the elbows and wrists. In this position, the victim struggled to breathe as liquid filled his lungs, leading to suffocation. In crucifying Jesus: “They gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it.” That might have served as a painkiller; but Jesus must suffer in full to remove our sin. So we see the fulfillment of Psalm 22:14-17 “I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death… They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones.”
But the physical suffering was not the worst. As Jesus hung there as our Substitute, every sin we have committed in thought, word, or deed, and every bit of guilt we have brought on ourselves, became another burning pang of conscience piercing His soul. As God made Jesus the representative Sinner on the cross, He had no mercy. God the Father turned against His Son all His fiery wrath and judgment against all the sin of the world. Until Jesus cried out in deepest agony of His soul: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” As He suffered the punishment our sins deserved, He felt the God forsaken despair of the damned. Because that is the hellish hurt our sins caused Him.
But with His hurt comes our healing. Already in our text, as our Savior hung on the cross, from those nails so freshly pounded through His hands and feet, He spoke healing words: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” His words were meant, not only for those present that day, but for the world of sinners for whom He died. Today, Jesus speaks those healing words over us: “Father, forgive them.” And for Jesus’ sake, God does forgive us. For Jesus’ sake, God the Father looks upon us, not with fiery wrath and judgment, but with pardoning mercy and love.
Therefore, taking up our cross and following Jesus means dying to ourselves and living to Christ. It means repenting of our sins, and crucifying the sinful flesh with its desires. But in dying to sin, we live in Christ. In losing our life for Christ’s sake we gain it. For whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
This is the good news that another man learned that day, as he came in touch with the cross of Jesus. Next to Jesus hung two criminals. At first, the accounts indicate that both men had reviled Jesus (Mark 15:30). But now by the grace of God, through the forgiving Word spoken by Jesus, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, this man’s heart was changed. He now looked to Jesus in repentance and faith. This condemned criminal confessed that he was receiving the just reward of his own sinful deeds. But as he looked to the cross of the innocent Son of God, he said: “this Man has done nothing wrong.” This guilty man looked to Him who alone is the sinner’s “Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1); trusting His divine Word of forgiveness even for him. This dying man looked to Him who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6); and he prayed: “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus answered: “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” That man was healed at once by the forgiving word of Jesus. And that very day, he was healed forever as his soul was transported to live with Jesus in the perfect sinlessness of heaven.
Just like that man, we know that it is not any cross of suffering we bear that saves us. As guilty sinners, we look only to the cross of Christ and that innocent suffering of the Son of God for us. As we anticipate the moment when our own soul shall pass from this world into eternity, we plead nothing before God except the blood that ran from the body of His Son on the cross for us. For by that holy, precious blood, He has taken away our sin and guilt, once for all. By the grace of God, by the faith worked in our heart by His Spirit, we identify ourselves most closely with that cross of Christ.
And in Christ crucified, we live. For not only did He die for us, but He rose again to share His victory with us. At the very throne of heaven, right now, Jesus speaks those healing words over us: “Father, forgive them.” And He applies His healing balm to our souls through His Word of absolution, through His Baptismal cleansing, through His Body and Blood given and shed for the remission of all our sins. Today, He who was hurt for us heals our souls. And one day, He will transport us to Paradise to live with Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
That morning as Simon approached Jerusalem, he never dreamed of being so closely identified with the cross. Yet there is evidence that later he willingly embraced that cross. Mark identifies Simon as “the father of Alexander and Rufus.” Apparently, these men were known on a first name basis among believers in the early church. After Simon took up the cross of Christ that morning, did the holy blood of Jesus’ cross that touched his body also touch his soul through faith? Did Simon then share the saving Gospel of Christ crucified with his sons, so that by the work of the Holy Spirit they too shared in Christ’s healing forgiveness and eternal life? We do not have all the details there.
But this we know: now by the grace of God, through faith in Christ, you and I have been healed. We gladly identify ourselves most closely with His cross of shame, which has become the instrument of our salvation. And we are privileged to share His healing message of forgiveness and eternal life with our family, friends, and neighbors. Let us boldly declare to all the world God’s message of healing in Christ crucified. For “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” Amen.