Were You There?
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Were you there?
Did you see him crucified?
Your sins were there. Every one of them. They caused it. You caused it. Every time you put you first, and God second, you caused it. Every time you lusted. Every time you wanted to hurt someone, or to get even. Every sin. Think of them. You have taken that which was not yours. You have grieved and dishonored your parents. You have hated and been angry without cause. You have dreamed of taking things and time for yourself and pleasuring yourself and yourself alone.
You have said that religion is a personal thing, and treated God like some desperate little child, so eager for your attention that He will endure your little games, your sports, your parties, and your vacations all taking His place — His time, His devotion, the love and attention you owe Him — in your life. You have judged your neighbor and gossiped. You have griped and complained about your neighbor, your pastor, your church. You have coveted the things other have. And you have dealt with God as though He were not real.
But He died for you on the cross. He died because you couldn't keep the Ten Commandments, and worse, you couldn't even want to without His help. Your sins were there. Were you there, when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they whipped Him with the cat-o-nine tails? They tied little bits of metal and sharp stones in those lashes so that they would bruise and tear the flesh when they whipped Him. They gave Him 39 lashes. They believed that 40 lashes would kill a man, although many died before 39. But they didn't want to kill Him with a whip. They wanted to make Him suffer greater pains than that!
Then they pressed a crown of thorns into His scalp. Some of the thorns broke against the bones in His skull. And they covered His face with a rag and punched Him. They stuck Him on the head with a stick. Were you there?
They didn't let Him sleep for over 24 hours. Then they made Him carry His cross. They laid that thing on Him. It must have been as heavy as a railroad tie. They laid it on the tortured flesh of His back. It was no wonder He needed help. How could He carry it after all that He had been through? So they made Simon of Cyrene help Him, carrying the cross behind Jesus. Were you there?
Were you there when they drove the nails into His hands? They put the disk in His hand, and drove the nail through the hole in the center. The nail cut through the nerve in His hands so that they clenched in an involuntary "charlie-horse". He couldn't let go, and His muscles screamed with pain. But He did not cry out like the others.
Not even when they crossed His feet and drove the nail through the instep. They bent His knees so that He could push up on that nail when He needed air. He was bleeding - bleeding from His back, bleeding from his hands, bleeding from His scalp and the cuts on His face where they had hit Him, and bleeding from His feet. Then they raised the cross up and dropped it into the hole prepared for it. It landed with a sickening thud, and jarred those nail-holes. Were you there?
They mocked Him. The taunted and jeered Him as He writhed up there in agony! They called Him names. Good, godly people, they called themselves. They made fun of Him and of His teachings. They watched with satisfaction as the muscles cramped and infection set it, and His fever rose. When He was thirsty, they would offer Him warm, sour wine, already turned into vinegar.
And slowly, you could watch it happen, the weight on those arms pulled them out of their sockets. And weight on the chest muscles pulled the chest wider and wider until He could no longer exhale. Until the terror and pressure of suffocation forced Him to stand on that nail through His tender feet. You could see the pain in His face! Were you there?
Were you there to hear Him forgive those who had murdered Him? He said they didn't know what they were doing. They seemed to know. They seemed quite skilled. But they didn't understand who it was they were killing, or what that death would accomplish.
Even those who hung on either side mocked Him. No, one man scolded the other and prayed to Jesus. And Jesus promised him a place in paradise.
Were you there? Did you hear the awful, hellish torment in His voice when He cried out, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?" Can you imagine the agonies He suffered?
On our worst day, when pain wracks our bodies and we are gloomy and depressed, even then God is with us, blessing us. We live and move and have out being in Him. We have never been away from His love and His blessing. But Jesus hung there utterly abandoned by God, enduring the wrath of God. suffering the pains of Hell. He who is God in Himself, was forsaken by God! Were you there̓?
Did you see Him give His own mother away? How that must have hurt! Only a few of those who had vowed to die rather than desert Him could bring themselves to be there, then. He called for a drink. He said "It is finished." And with a loud cry He gave His soul up to His heavenly Father.
Crucifixion often took days. Jesus died in just a few a hours. But, oh . . . , the agony! They made sure He was dead, amazed that He had died so soon, They stabbed Him with a spear. The red blood cells had already separated from the plasma. You could see that as it leaked out of His body. Those who saw it said water and blood came pouring out. Were you there?
Of course, you were there! He was dying in your place! He had done nothing to deserve this. You did! Your ego. Every time you decided to place yourself first and goodness or morality second, you were there. Your jealousies and your insisting on having it your way — yes, you were there. Rudeness on the road, speeding, even those times you just forgot to pray. They hung him there. If you weren't there, you were well represented.
Jesus died for your sins. He died not only for the big ones that make you ashamed, He also died for those little ones, the ones you said, "Who knows? Who is this going to hurt?"
Your answer hung on the cross. He knows. It hurt Him. He died for you. And your sins have been forgiven. But it seems that we have trouble remembering what a deadly and awful thing Sin is, So now and again we need to look at the price God required Jesus to pay — for you.
Were you there? I was, with all of my sins. He died for all of us.
Isaiah says: Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, but we esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed.
Were you there? Behold how great the love of God is for you.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
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