This is a picture of the cross I wear. I was drawn to it because it reminds me that Jesus was not crucified alone. Three men were crucified on Golgotha; and, all three men made decisions that day. Decisions that would have far ranging consequences for them; and, in the case of Jesus, for all mankind.
C.S. Lewis (or maybe it was A.W. Tozer) said, “…we are eternal souls with temporary bodies.” A profound observation; and, extremely important to every single person on Planet Earth. Think about it…. You are (already) an eternal being!
Think also, about this. Jesus did have a choice. He truly could have called an Army of Angels to his side, stepped off that cross and… what? I don’t know. I just know He could have decided we weren’t worth it. Remember, He can see the state of mankind through all the ages. And, I’m thinking it wouldn’t have been a pretty picture. Jesus, however, is a reflection of God. And God’s Love for His Creation (mankind) was reflected that day – through His Son. Jesus took the mocking, He took the crown of thorns, and He took the flogging. He took the burden of the cross, He took the nails, and the agonizingly painful slow suffocation. He took this because of His unconditional love for all mankind, for all ages. That includes me …and you. His incredible sacrifice opened a pathway for us that leads to Eternity with God. God accepts anyone who believes in Jesus as the Son of God and the Redeemer of their sins. (I’ll come back to this; but first, let’s look at the other choices made that day).
We know that two others were crucified with Jesus. All we are told is that they were criminals. Roman law for crucifixion, at that time would suggest that they were major offenders – quite possibly murderers. And, this is why Governor Pilate – who answered to Rome – stated (about Jesus) that he found no basis in the charges levied by the Jewish Priests, and that Jesus had, “…done nothing to deserve death.” Yet, in the end, Pilate who was a true politician and wanted to avoid civil unrest, ultimately acquiesced to the crowd, released a murderer, and allowed Jesus to be crucified.
So, now we find ourselves at Golgotha – the site of the crucifixion. Three naked men hanging on crosses. Jesus is in the middle, a criminal on each side. Two more decisions are about to be made.
One of the men crucified with Jesus decided to mock Jesus. Real bad choice. Oh, he wasn’t doing anything that most of the people present weren’t also doing; but for him, it would have severe consequences – in his immediate future. Remembering that we are eternal beings, this man is spending Eternity in the complete absence of God. We call it Hell. A place created by God to punish Satan and the Angels who followed him in rebellion against God. What I know about Hell is that, in the complete absence of God, what is left is total evil and complete hopelessness… for Eternity. Like I said, “Real bad choice”.
The other man crucified with Jesus chose to accept Jesus for who he claimed to be. He actually rebuked the mocker saying, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” And then, to Jesus he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Jesus responded, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise.” This man also made his choice. Both choices had eternal consequences; one in Heaven, one in Hell.
This scene illustrates an essential truth. As eternal beings we are going to live forever. (No, I can’t get my mind around that). But, that part of it is already decided. The question is: Where? There are only two options; Heaven or Hell. There is no doubt in my mind where I want to spend Eternity. And, make no mistake about it, I know it will be with God, in Heaven.
Now, backing up for a moment. My cross also reminds me of the choice I made; and, the decision that all men (and women) will make. God calls to you. You will feel the stirrings, the questions forming, the longing for “something more”. When you ask yourself, “What must I do to be saved?” the answer is this: You must surrender to Jesus; get to know God personally; and, grow to be more like Him.
This is what some will do – I did it, and am still doing it. If you do it, you will become a ‘work in progress’ for the rest of your days on Earth. It won’t be easy. But, it will be as close as you can come to “Heaven on Earth”. A note of caution, do not get hung-up on religion. Christianity is not about religion. (I personally think religion – a creation of man – has turned more people away from God than it has brought to God.) Christianity is simply about loving God (that’s the ‘surrender to Jesus’ and ‘getting to know God personally’ parts); and, loving your fellowman (the ‘growing to be more like Him’ part).
Note: I’m not saying, “…don’t go to church”. You will need to get connected with other Christians. So, select your church with care. I prefer non-denominational churches. But, that’s a personal choice.