I went up on the mountain today. To be perfectly honest is wasn’t really a mountain but rather a steep hill. So apart from a bit of a climb and making sure I jumped into the verge when vehicles passed the challenge of reaching the mountaintop wasn’t too significant. But it was most certainly worth the climb and the increased heart rate.
Ten members of the family started out in the valley. As we left the valley there were quite a few distractions. The two grandchildren wanted to play ball, and one wanted to be carried. Folk stopped to talk to the cows and the sheep, despite the language difficulties, while a ladder leading into a field crossed by a public footpath raised considerable interest and provided a great photo opportunity.
All I wanted to do was keep climbing in the hope of finding that there was no mist higher up, and that the view would be worth the climb. We had driven the same road the previous day when the mist obscured virtually everything from view. Fortunately, my daughter-in-law who was driving is sort of a local and knows the roads across the moors quite well.
I turned back a few times to see if the others were still following, but once I could see them I turned again and continued the climb. Finally I reached the cattle grid that signified the change from verdant valley to the somewhat sparse but still beautiful moorland. Turning again I saw James (no.3 son and husband to the local daughter-in-law) approaching to tell me that everyone else had turned back. I was in no mood for turning back and persuaded James to accompany me a little further until we reached a Celtic cross that had been erected by villagers to commemorate the Millennium.
So on the top of what was a mountain to me I found a cross the purpose of which was to remember the passing of 2,000 years since the birth of Jesus Christ. It was there that I remembered reading these words from the Simon Ponsonby book More just yesterday: ‘The Spirit-filled Christian will constantly be drawn to the cross.’ I realised I could have been any of the people present at the cross nearly 2,000 years ago. I could have been a mocker, a crucified thief, a hammer wielding Roman soldier, a disillusioned disciple, a mourner, or just a casual onlooker.
It wouldn’t have mattered whether I was the crucified thief forgiven at the point of death or one of the soldiers responsible for driving the nails into the hands and feet of Jesus, because without Jesus the same fate would have beckoned to me. But with Jesus everything changes because Jesus changes everything. For the first time in history there was no need for a curtain in the temple to separate man from God. The crucified thief was the first to recognise it when he asked Jesus to remember him. And as Jesus breathed his last the Roman centurion suddenly realised that he had just crucified the Son of God. I wonder how he felt about that?
If you had been at the cross who might you have been and how would you have responded? How will you respond today?
Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.
The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”
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 23:32-43 NLT)