Ephesians 5:19




MATTHEW 27:45-53


Please look at the cross that hangs behind me.  I have always loved that cross.  I am grateful to whomever decided upon that cross to be positioned above the baptistery.


It is not made of gold.  There is nothing fancy about it.  It is simple.  It reminds me of “The Old Rugged Cross” upon which Jesus died.


As we continue looking at some of the hymns of the faith, today we come to “The Old Rugged Cross.”  The author and composer of this hymn was an evangelist by the name of George Bennard.


At one point in his life, Bennard returned to his home in Albion, Michigan.  He was going through a particularly trying experience in his life; one that caused him to seriously reflect upon the significance of the cross and what the apostle Paul meant when he spoke of entering into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.


George Bennard began to spend long hours in study, prayer, and meditation until one day he said: “I saw the Christ of the cross as if I were seeing John 3:16 leave the printed page, take form, and act out the meaning of redemption.  The more I contemplated these truths the more convinced I became that the cross was far more than just a religious symbol but rather the very heart of the gospel.


During those days of spiritual struggle, the theme for “The Old Rugged Cross” began to formulate itself in Bennard’s mind.  George Bennard wrote “The Old Rugged Cross” from the first-person perspective.  He expressed what he saw when he looked at “The Old Rugged Cross” with fresh eyes of faith.


I hope that today we can see, like George Bennard did, the cross with fresh eyes of faith.  In order to help us with this, we’re going to look at Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death.


Read Matthew 27:45-53




This morning we will look at 3 things in regards to the death of Jesus on “The Old Rugged Cross.”  First…..




Jesus’ death was mapped out by God before the world began.  Rev. 13:8 declares that Jesus is….


“…the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” –Revelation 13:8


Even before he created the world, God knew that Adam & Eve would sin.  God knew that he would need a plan of redemption to save mankind.  So, God’s plan of salvation existed even before the world did.  Before the beginning of time, God planned for Jesus to come into the world to die on the cross for our sins.


To further illustrate that Jesus’ death was planned out ahead of time, the OT prophet Isaiah predicted Jesus’ death some 700 years before Jesus’ birth.  And here are some of the words that Isaiah used in chapter 53 to describe the suffering that our Savior would go through:  despised…rejected, sorrows, pierced, crushed, punished, wounds, oppressed, afflicted & slaughtered.


Even at his birth, one of the gifts brought by the Wise Men indicated that Jesus was born to die for us.  The Wise Men brought gifts of gold, frankincense & myrrh.  Gold was a gift for a king.  Frankincense was used by a priest in worship of God.  But myrrh was used to prepare a body for burial.  Another prediction that the pathway from the manger would end at the cross.


Jesus Himself foretold his death to his disciples.  He did so time and again to prepare them for this. 


 There was nothing accidental about the death of Jesus.  It was intentional.  It was deliberate.


That’s why I cringe every time I hear someone say that Jesus SPILLED his blood for our sins.  I don’t like the term, SPILLED, because it implies that Jesus’ death was an accident.


When you spill something, it’s an accident isn’t it?  When you spill a glass of milk or a cup of coffee, you didn’t mean to do it.


Jesus’ blood was not spilled by accident my friends.  Jesus blood was poured out.  Jesus shed his blood deliberately with both forethought and purpose.  Jesus wrestled with the decision about whether or not to go the cross in the Garden of Gethsemane.  But he submitted to God’s pre-ordained plan.  And when the soldiers came to arrest him, Jesus went willingly.


When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword to defend Jesus. But Jesus told his swashbuckling servant to put his sword away.  Jesus said that all he had to do was to call upon his Heavenly Father & God would dispatch an army of angels to rescue Jesus and stop the crucifixion. 


John 10:17-18


Please understand that no one took Jesus’ life from him.  He gave it willingly, freely.  This was God’s plan from before time began and the world came into existence.  Jesus willingly submitted to God’s plan to save us. 


The death of Jesus was a deliberate, intentional act of God to save us.  Jesus’ death was planned…..




Could it be that we have heard the phrase, “Jesus died for us” so many times that we have lost the sense of just how a painful a death he suffered?  Let’s look at the pain that Jesus went through.


The pain began before he was hung on the cross.  The pain began with emotional pain.  The emotional pain stemmed from the betrayal of Judas, the denials of Peter and the desertion of all the disciples.  If you have ever been betrayed by a friend, you know how much that hurts.


Then there was the physical pain.  And this pain also started before the cross.  The Roman soldiers were experts when it came to inflicting pain. 


They whipped Jesus.  They beat him beyond recognition.  Legend has it that when Mary, the mother of Jesus, stood where Jesus and the 2 thieves were crucified, that she had to ask, “which one is my son?”  Jesus was so bruised and beaten at the hands of the Roman soldiers that his own mother may not have recognized him.


The soldiers forced a crown of thorns, with 4-6 inch thorns into Jesus’ skull.  6-8 inch spikes were driven into the base of his hands and his feet to fasten him to the cross.


If you ever saw the movie, The Passion of the Christ, you witnessed a very realistic demonstration of the type of cruel physical punishment Jesus endured.  The movie was not an exaggeration or overkill.


The crucifixion itself was extremely painful.  Today, with lethal injection, we are concerned that the person receiving the death penalty, does not unduly suffer.

There was no such concern in Jesus’ day.  Crucifixion has been documented to be the most cruel and inhumane form of execution ever invented by man.


Years ago, Dr. C. Truman Davis, wrote an article entitled, “A Physician Analyzes the Crucifixion”.  It is a medical explanation of what Jesus endured on the day he died.  Here is what Dr. Davis wrote:


As Jesus slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain.  The nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerve, large nerve trunks which traverse the mid-wrist and hand.


“As he pushed himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he placed his full weight on the nail through his feet.  Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of his feet.


“At this point, another phenomenon occurred.  As the arms fatigued, great waves of cramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain.  With these cramps came the inability to push himself upward. 


“Hanging by the arms, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzed and the intercostal muscles, the small muscles between the ribs, were unable to act.  Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled.”


The end result is that a victim of crucifixion was pinned to the cross just waiting to die.  Eventually, victims would die either from dehydration, heart failure, or in many cases suffocation as breathing became extremely difficult.


An early historian by the name of Tacitus said that crucifixion was a despicable way to die.


But as devastating as the emotional pain had to be and as excruciating as the physical pain surely was, combined they were nothing compared to the spiritual pain that Jesus felt.  Jesus expressed his spiritual agony when, out of the darkness he cried- “My  God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”


Jesus knew the spiritual pain of being separated from God.  Why?  How did this happen?  It was because on the cross, God was piling on Jesus the sins of all mankind.  Isaiah prophesied this:


“….the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” –Isaiah 53:6


Sin separates us from God.  We see that in the Garden of Eden.  After their sin, Adam & Eve hid from God. 


Jesus, who knew no sin, on the cross became sin for us.  He became guilty of all sin for all time. 


Loaded down with every sin that had been and would be committed, Jesus was separated, from his Heavenly Father.  Out of that spiritual abyss, Jesus cried out from a place of spiritual despair deep within his spirit, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”


This was painful but necessary.  Ever since the sin of Adam & Eve there had been a spiritual divide between God and man.  The only way for our relationship with God to be restored was for Jesus to be alienated from God. 


So during the darkness of the cross, Jesus experienced hell for us.  He was alienated from God.   He was forsaken by God so that we could be forgiven by God.


Jesus’ death was planned….it was extremely painful but most importantly of all….




Jesus made this declaration on the cross:“…It is finished.”


Jesus didn’t say that he was finished.  No way.  He would rise from the dead on the 3rd day.  No, Jesus said it is finished.  What was finished?  God’s plan of salvation was complete.  The cross had a 4-fold purpose.


First, Jesus’ death brought about the forgiveness of our sins.  This is demonstrated when he forgave the thief on the cross who reached out to him in faith and pleaded, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom”.  To that penitent thief Jesus promised, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”


  The cross was an instrument of death.  But out of death came life.  For the cross was God’s instrument of redemption & salvation. Eph. 1:7 says this about Jesus’ death:


“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace…”-Ephesians 1:7


As a believer, every sin you have ever committed and every sin that you will commit have been forgiven by God.  Jesus died on the cross for them.


The 2nd thing that Jesus’ death does for us is that it alleviates our guilt.  Look at what these verses say about what the blood of Jesus does for our guilty conscience:


“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus….


“let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience….” –Hebrews 10:19 & 22


You don’t have to live with the burden of a guilty conscience.  Not only does Jesus’ death take away our sins; it also removes the guilt of our sin.


The 3rd purpose of the cross is to restore our relationship with God.  Peter wrote:


“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” -1 Peter 3:18


We were once alienated from God.  But Jesus’ death brought about peace with God.  And now, as the Hebrew writer wrote, we can draw near to God.  We can enter the Most Holy Place with confidence.


The Most Holy Place was where the presence of God was in the temple.  Only the high priest could go into the Most Holy Place.  And he could only go once a year, on the Day of Atonement, to offer up a sacrifice for sin.


But a most miraculous thing happened when Jesus died.  The curtain that separated the Most Holy Place was torn in two.  It was torn from top to bottom, something that only God could have done.


So now, because of the death of Jesus, every believer has direct access to God.  And the Hebrew writer said that we can approach God’s presence with confidence. 


We don’t have to cower w/fear like Dorothy and her friends did when they entered the throne room of the Wizard of Oz.  We don’t have to approach God with fear and trepidation; fearful of condemnation. 


We can enter God’s presence with the utmost confidence; not because of who we are and what we have done.  Our confidence comes from what Jesus did for us on the cross.  We can have confidence because our sins have been forgiven.


The fourth purpose of the cross is that it gives us a preview of the resurrection & eternal life. Let’s look at another miraculous event that occurred when Jesus’ died.  MATTHEW 27:52-53


Can you begin to picture that?  You hear a knock on the door and there standing before you is your grandmother who had died 30 years ago. She says, “Just wanted to stop by and say “hi!  I’ll see you in heaven!”


This miracle was done to show us that Christ’s death was not the final act in God’s Story.  The resurrection of Jesus was just around the corner.  And his resurrection  gives us the hope of conquering the grave, of passing from death into life.


 The apostle Paul likens the burial of the physical body into a grave to a seed planted in the ground that one day springs forth with life:


“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.  The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory;


“it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” – 1 Corinthians 15:42-44


The death of Jesus means that our sins are not fatal and his resurrection means that our death is not final.


On October 16, 1987, Northwest Airlines flight 225 crashed on take-off in Detroit, Michigan, killing 155 passengers.  Only four-year-old Cecilia survived.  She was found walking among the wreckage totally unhurt.


Just prior to the crash, Cecilia’s mother, Paula, had unbuckled her seat belt, knelt in front of Cecilia and wrapped her arms around her daughter.  Paula died saving the daughter that she loved.


2000 years ago, Jesus wrapped his arms around you and me.  Jesus died so that he could save those he loved-you and me.


Today, your story can be wrapped up in the story of the cross.  Will you receive God’s love in Christ for you?


Contact Us

Lebanon Christian Church

409 Yorktown Road


Newport News (Lee Hall), VA 23603


Phone: 757 887-5536



CCS #8003


Graded Classes
Nursery - High School
Sunday 9:30 AM
Adult Bible Fellowships Sunday 9:30 AM
Morning Worship Service Sunday 10:45 AM

Children’s and teen Bible School will resume in September.

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