When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Gospel of Luke  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  40:59
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Introduction: The year was 1707. Sir Isaac Watts published his first book of hymns. This was a bold move, because just about every Church of England congregation only sang out of Psalms. Watts felt like this practice limited the church from singing about all Christ had accomplished in the New Testament. He is credited with writing over 750 hymns. One of my personal favorites is the hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”
Here are just a few of the words:
When I survey the wondrous cross, On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God! All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down! Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
[His dying crimson, like a robe, Spreads o’er His body on the tree; Then I am dead to all the globe, And all the globe is dead to me.]
Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Scripture Introduction: Today as we turn our attention once again to Luke 23 I would like to share with you what I see when “I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” Although this is the darkest day in human history, it is one of the greatest days in human history! It is the day that our forgiveness was purchased and hope was born! As we take this journey together my prayer and hope is that we will all realize how wondrous and amazing the cross really is.
As we learned last week, Pilate finally gives in to the pressure from the Jews and hands Jesus over to be crucified. The Jewish people had chosen Barabbas, who had been guilty of murder, to be released and demanded Jesus to be crucified. The guilty was set free and the innocent would be beaten, bloodied, bruised and marched up Golgotha’s hill to be crucified.
As Jesus begins to walk up this hill, after his tortuous night, the soldiers demand a man named Simon, a man from Cyrene, to assist Jesus in taking His crossbeam. As they approach Golgotha, also known as “the place of the skull” we find there are two criminals who will be crucified along with Jesus that day. Let’s begin our reading in Luke 23:33-37.
As I read this passage and survey the wondrous cross . . .

I See Forgiveness

Explanation (vv. 33-37)
Imagine everything Jesus has been through up to this point. He has been up all night. He has agonized in prayer, to the extent that His sweat has become like great drops of blood. He has been hit repeatedly in the face. He has been mocked. He has been whipped with a “cat of 9 tails.” He has had a crown of thorns placed on His head and driven down into His scalp. He was walked uphill, with the crossbeam on his back part of the way. He has had spikes driven through His wrists and His feet. He has been raised up on the cross, and his bones have probably come out of joint as the cross dropped into the hole with a thud. Now the linen garment that has been stripped from His body is being gambled over by maybe the very soldiers that have nailed Him to a cross . . . and what does He say? He doesn’t curse them, but He cries out to His Heavenly Father and says, “Father, FORGIVE THEM for they know not what they do.”
Charles Swindoll notes in his book, “The Darkness and the Dawn”, the phrase “Father forgive them,” conveyed the idea of continued past action. In other words He did not just pray it one time, but rather prayed this prayer repeatedly throughout the ordeal. He prayed it over and over again.
Let me quote from his book:
“Perhaps when they drove the nails into His hands, He was praying, ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.’ When they nailed His feet to the beam and lifted that timber high and dropped it in the hole, with a jolt that tore His flesh, He was praying, ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”
The very first words that Jesus uttered from the cross, were the words of forgiveness. These words were directed toward the men who were guilty of literally picking up the hammer and the spikes and driving them through His flesh and raising that cross up to be suspended between Heaven and earth while the Son of God was left to die in the most agonizing manner ever invented! Yet He proclaimed, “Father forgive them.”
But I do not believe those words were just directed to the Roman soldiers doing their job that day. I believe those words were directed to you and I that day as well. Because we are just as guilty of Jesus’ death as they were. Jesus wasn’t just dying on the cross that day because of Pilate’s decision, He was dying on the cross that day because of the Father’s decision to pour out His wrath on Him instead of YOU and I! Look down in your hands today, and if you look hard enough you will see that it was your hands and mine that gripped the hammer and drove the spikes into His body.
Note Romans 5:6-10
Romans 5:6–10 ESV
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Colossians 2:13–14 ESV
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
Forgiveness is made possible, not because of what we do, but because of what Christ has already done! We must simply trust what He has done on our behalf, and we can be reconciled to God through faith and receive the forgiveness of our sins!
I found a story this week that I think illustrates this forgiveness well. The story is told about the first missionaries who came to Alberta, Canada. They were savagely opposed by a young chief of the Cree Indians named Maskepetoon. But he responded to the Gospel and accepted Christ.
Shortly after his conversion, a member of the Blackfoot tribe killed his father. Maskepetoon rode into the village where the murderer lived and demanded that he be brought before him. Confronting the guilty man, he said, "You have killed my father, so now you must be my father. You shall ride my best horse and wear my best clothes." In utter amazement and remorse his enemy exclaimed, "My son, now you have killed me!" He meant, of course, that the hate in his own heart had been completely erased by the forgiveness and kindness of the Indian chief.
When I read this story I am reminded of the fact that I am guilty of killing God’s only Son. My sin is what brought God’s judgement upon Him. My sin brought His death. My rebellion, my lust, my guilt was placed upon Jesus and although He knew no sin, He became sin for me so that I might have His righteousness and His forgiveness! O what a glorious thought, when I survey the wondrous cross!
And then to think, God the Father comes to me and says, “Now YOU can be MY son! Now YOU can wear the robes of righteousness that belong to Christ who died in your place.” The home that my Son is preparing can now be yours.
O the forgiveness of God Almighty, what a wonderful thing it is, but what a HIGH cost it was for me to have it!
If God can forgive me for what my sins put Christ through, then who am I not to forgive others who have put me through far less? We have been forgiven of MUCH, therefore we must learn to forgive MUCH! That is one of the most important evidences of being a true Christ follower.
Not only do I see forgiveness when I survey the wondrous cross, but . . .

I See Hope

Explanation (vv. 38-43)
While hanging on the cross a conversation begins between Jesus and the two criminals that has been crucified on either side of them. It is obvious they had both heard of Jesus and had heard stories about who He claimed to be. We are not sure how they learned about Him, or even if what they had heard was even accurate. Some of the Gospel writers reveal that at the beginning both of the criminals had mocked Jesus, but it is obvious that one of them had been touched by the Holy Spirit through something he had seen Jesus do, or perhaps he had heard Jesus say, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Regardless of what transpired, these two criminals ended up with very different responses to the Christ they were dying beside. One wanted Jesus to set him free from his pain and agony by delivering him off the cross and the other wanted to be free by becoming a part of Christ’s kingdom. He comes to the realization of WHO Jesus is and simply requests for Jesus to remember him when He enters into His kingdom. He understands that Jesus is the Messiah and he understands that he truly is the King and he wants to be a part of Jesus’ kingdom.
While Jesus is dying for the sins of the world, he is also dying for the sins of this man—a guilty criminal. A man who knew he was guilty. A man who knew he was getting what he deserved. A man who did not have time to preform any good works. A man who did not have time to go to the temple and put in an offering. A man who did not have time to get baptized. He had wasted his life, he had hurt people, he had stolen from people . . . could there be, would there be any HOPE for him?
O yes, dear friend! There was HOPE for him and PLENTY of it! In simple faith, He called out to Jesus to remember him and Jesus made him this promise, “TODAY, you will be WITH ME in paradise!” There was no hesitation, they was no “maybe so” or “I’ll see what I can do.” No, Jesus said, “Today YOU WILL BE with me in paradise!”
This is a wonderful reminder that we are not rescued from the penalty of sin by what we have done, or haven’t done, by what we can do or cannot do, we are rescued from the penalty and power of sin, by what Jesus did and by what He purchased for us when He gave His life for us on the cross!
A man approached a little league baseball game one afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy responded, "Eighteen to nothing--we're behind." 
"Boy," said the spectator, "I'll bet you're discouraged." 
"Why should I be discouraged?" replied the little boy. "We haven't even gotten up to bat yet!"
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross I am filled with HOPE! Sometimes in this life I get discouraged and feel defeated, but I can have HOPE because I already know that we WIN the game, Christ has already hit the Grand Slam and He is going to bring EVERY believer safely home!
That dying man had HOPE that day because He trusted in the ONLY one who could give him real, lasting hope!
When I survey the wondrous cross . . .

I See His Concern for Others

Explanation See John 19:25-27
John 19:25–27 ESV
but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
We can only imagine the excruciating physical pain Christ and others went through as they suffered upon the cross. Some have observed that the only thing most of those suffering wanted at this point was death. They knew it was inevitable and they hoped it would come quickly. We can probably assume that most of the individuals dying this way only thought of themselves and the agony they were in. However, this was not true of Jesus.
John reveals to us some, among the crowd, that were standing near by watching the Son of God give His life for the sins of the world. Jesus’ mother Mary was there, His aunt was there, and two other Mary’s were there. It is assumed, by this point, that Mary’s husband Joseph has already passed away, and as Jesus is dying He thinks about His mother. He thinks about her wellbeing and He thinks about her future. As He watches her and as He sees his faithful disciple John standing nearby He says to Mary, “Woman, behold, your son!” and He says to John, “Behold, your mother!” We find John’s response was to bring Mary into his home and take upon himself the responsibility to care for her until her dying day.
Even while Jesus was dying and excruciating death He had others on His mind. He was concerned for others. But this should come as no surprise, because all throughout His ministry and in His death, He lived and died for others!
Sometime between the years of 1890 and 1902 Charles Meigs wrote the words to the poem entitled “Others.” The last stanza says this:
Others, Lord, yes others Let this my motto be Help me to live for others That I may live like Thee.
If we are going to become more like Jesus we are going to have to focus on the wellbeing of others. Even while He was dying He was thinking about others. However, this should not take us by surprise, because His entire life was about others. To follow in His steps means that others will always be near and dear to our heart.

Take Time to Demonstrate Legitimate Concern for the Needs of Others by Doing Something About It!

Jesus set the example for us by going to the cross and by what He said and did while on the cross. We had a need. We desperately needed to be reconciled to God, but there was nothing we could do to make that happen. We couldn’t offer enough sacrifices because the blood of animals can never take away sin. We could never do enough good deeds, because by the deeds of the law no one will be justified. No amount of good deeds, gifts to charity or accomplishments could ever take away one sin. But there was something God could do, and He did. God became a man—the Lord Jesus robed Himself in human flesh and did something about our desperate, lost condition. Now we can be reconciled to the Father and have life and have it more abundantly!
Even while He was dying for the greatest need of humanity, He also thought about His mother and made sure she would be taken care of. He expressed concern for her and did something about it.
We cannot take people’s sins away, but we do have the capacity, at times, to do something about the needs God reveals to us. We are Christlike when we see a need and we take our GOD-GIVEN RESOURCES to try to meet that need.
It may be cooking a meal for a sick or needy family, or giving someone a gift card, or giving someone a ride to church or Bible study, or cutting someone’s grass, or cleaning someone’s home, or visiting someone at the nursing home, or writing someone a note of encouragement.


Understand Regardless of What You Have Done, You Can Trust Christ for Forgiveness TODAY and Have the Hope of Reconciliation & Heaven

The message of the cross is all about Christ making a way for our greatest need to be met. He did not leave Heaven and come to earth to lay down His life in vain. He did it to make a way for YOU and I to be reconciled to Father and have the hope of Heaven just like this thief on the cross.
The old hymn says:
Kneel at the cross, Christ will meet you there;
Come while He waits for you.
Listen to His voice, leave with Him your cares
And begin life anew
Kneel at the cross, leave every care,
And Jesus will meet you there!
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