Steven Furtick — At the Cross
We are in the middle of something and that's where God is. That really blesses me to know that, because, waiting for the finished product until I have joy, have peace, trust God, and be happy, that doesn't sound very promising to me. But if God is an ever-present help in trouble, in times of trouble, that's one thing the Bible says about God. If he'll walk up to me in the middle of a storm. If he'll be with me in the middle of the fire. If he'll split the sea so I can walk through it and drown my enemies behind me, I can keep moving forward with the faith that God has my back in every situation.
So I think the idea of process has really been challenging us and celebrating our progress rather than awaiting our perfection. It's revolutionizing, like, me and Autumn talk every week. She's been in our church 11 years and she's, like, I never have seen Jesus in the way that I've been seeing him in this series. And she grew up. She's such a church girl, y'all. I mean, seriously, she's got Leviticus memorized in Hebrew. And she's, like, it's just opening my eyes. And that's the revelation factor. Revelation.
Today I want to talk about revelation in the context of relationship. Please write this down. The greatest pain and pleasure that you will experience in your life will be in the context of relationship. I did you kind of dirty. I didn't give you a chance to get your pen out or get your thumbs warmed up. So I'm going to try to say it again. The greatest pain and greatest pleasure in your life will be experienced in the context of relationship. So one of the words that Jesus spoke from the cross is commonly called the word of relationship. We're going to deal with that today. But I've been using a flashback technique. I try to be creative in the way I present the word. I don't know if it makes sense to everybody else. But just ways that make it exciting for me because I figure I ought to like my own sermons if nobody else does. I'll subscribe the podcast.
But I've been looking at Luke 24. These two people, one is called, we call him Cleo. His full name is Cleopas. He has an unnamed traveling companion. They're going the wrong way to no named village called Emmaus. I mean, it has a name but you can't find it. If you go the Holy land today, they'll say, we think this is where Emmaus was. But they don't even really know where it was. It wasn't some metropolitan, major area where commerce happened. It was where the lived and they were going back from the scene of the cross where they had watched their hope extinguished. And they had watched the one that they thought might be the one die. And they were burying their dreams along the road when the one whose death they were mourning walked up right beside them and they didn't know it.
And so, they're, like, walking back the wrong way and there's this whole thing about why would Jesus follow people who are headed in the wrong direction. Why would he leave the 99 righteous to find the one? Why would he come for the sick and not stay with the well? And I think that's one thing that we misconstrue about God's presence in our lives is that he's going to be with us as long as we're doing what he told us to do and going where he told us to go. And yet, we're surprised by the grace of God just, like, busting up in the middle our conversations and our hopeless situations and chasing us down to the wrong destinations so he can turn us around. And when they got where they thought they were going, they saw who Jesus really was.
And I think they saw it in his scars when he broke the bread which is an every day event. You know, you eat every day. And God is often found in the common parts of our life. I'm teaching already if you didn't know. This is not a review. So seeing where he had been wounded and now seeing his scars which were the greatest demonstration of his strength that proved his resurrection. They had their eyes open and he was revealed and recognized by them in that moment.
One thing I didn't point out that I think is very important, and I'm going to read the text and I'm going to emphasize certain words and see if you can find the theme. The Bible say in verse 32, "That after they recognized Jesus.."., you know, you have these moments where you're, like, oh, yeah, that was God. Oh, yeah, that was God that had him break up with me. He was broke. God was looking out for me. But sometimes you don't see it on the road. You only realize it in reverse. You, like, see their picture ten years later and you're, like, oh, thank you. Mother Mary.
So they're, like, oh, that was him. That was the one we were crying over but he's not dead, he's risen. And look at this. I'm going to emphasize certain words. Verse 32. "They asked each other, were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the scriptures to us". Are you noticing anything? Okay. One more verse to make sure you get it. "They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. They found the 11 and those with them assembled together". The revelation of Jesus was completed, not in the context of their conversation with him but in the context of their conversation with each other.
This message is called complete the cross and it is meant to confront some of the things that we say in church that sound spiritual but really make no sense in real life. Thing like, you know, all I need is Jesus. As long as I've got Jesus. I don't need anybody else. And I understand the spirit of that, "that he is the most important and seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things be added onto you and my mother and father for saving me. Then the Lord would take me up". I know those Bible verses too but even Jesus needed a team. And it is significant, I think, maybe you don't think so, that he revealed himself to two people and they talked with each other and it was in talking with each other than they figured out who he was. Because for all of who think all we need is God and all we need is Jesus, they last time I checked the cross had two beams.
This one. That's the main one. Gotta get that right. But it's not a cross until it does like this. And sometimes the reason we like to say things like, all I need is Jesus and all I need is God is because as long as we keep the context of our relationship limited to an invisible God, we don't have to deal with people. And we can, kind of, manipulate our image of God into somebody who is comfortable for us to relate to. And then, you'll start saying things like, well, nobody else gets me but God does. And so, you're all this, all this and that's awesome and I love it.
But I want to talk a little bit about this. The relationship, that is a little bit harder. So to do it, I want to remember what happened on the cross. And I wonder when Cleopas and his unnamed companion are walking back, because the Bible says, they got up. They turned around. They thought it was the end. It was really the beginning. They had watched Jesus die on the cross, watching him die they thought this is it. But Heaven is watching and saying, no, when he said it is finished that was just the beginning... come on, I need somebody who will travel six hours or more to know that where you are right now is not the end of what shall be in your life. I feel like preaching to somebody whose got your head hung down. You've been in Emmaus long enough. Come on, you got a round-trip ticket. And they turned around and they went back.
And the Bible says that the road they walked was seven miles. So we've been using each of the seven miles to represent a different word that Jesus spoke from the cross. And there were seven of them. The word of forgiveness. "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do". Or the word of salvation, "Today you will be with me in paradise". And I wonder, were they having a flashback of what happened on the cross. And that's not a bad thing to do, by the way, to have a flashback every now and then to strengthen your faith. To remember what really happened on that cross. I mean, what really happened.
Beyond the crown of thorns that marked his brow. Beyond the sign that Pilate put above him in three different languages that said, "King of the Jews". The title that he used to mock him which was actually announcing him. Because the insults that people will say about you are the greatest the complement they can give you. I mean, beyond that. What really happened on the cross. What happened down in my soul when my shackles fell off, when my shame was nailed to those beams. When the chastisement that brought my peace was upon him on the cross. Somebody say, "on the cross". On the cross, that's where my sin is. On the cross, that's where my mistakes are. On the cross, that's where my second guessing and second giving, that's where all of my regrets are redeemed, on the cross. That's where I hung all my fears and all my doubts and my failures it happened, on the cross.
And I wonder did they reflect on the road on what happened on the cross. And I wonder now in the light of his resurrection, did they reflect on his death differently to know what had caused them to hang their heads and walk away was actually greatest proof of his love. When I need to know that God loves me, I don't look at what's happening in my life. I flashback to what happened on the cross. That's where it was settled. That's where it was nailed down forever. He's always good. And he does good. And he showed it to me on the cross.
On the cross. That's where that thing that the devil is tormenting you with, that's down deeper than anybody can see. That's where it should be hanging. It shouldn't be hanging around in your heart and in your soul. It should be on that cross. I feel, kind of, old timey today. I don't feel very modern today. I feel like going and putting my eyes on the middle man, the one who hung there because he loved me. The one who could have dispatched 12 legions of angels but hung there on that cross for me. It was his love that held him there on the cross.
So that's the first picture. I wonder do they remember what happened on the cross, because, they were actually at the cross. Maybe not actually in the general vicinity, but, they were at the cross. And you know, I've heard sermons, seen movies about what happened on the cross. Sometimes it makes you feel, kind of, sentimental. Sometimes it makes you feel, kind of, sick. What happened on the cross went far beyond what a film camera can present in 24. What happened on the cross is the release of the freedom that God wants to produce in my life. But I think there's something to be seen, not just what happened on the cross, but, who was at the cross. I mean, we know who was on the cross between two thieves but at the cross.
Now, to get a clear picture of this you, kind of, have to do a little bit of studying. Don't worry, I already did it for you. So I'm going to tell you. You don't have to look anything up. I looked it all up this week while you were doing your real job. It was interesting because I was putting together what Matthew said and what Mark said and what Luke said and what John said. And so, Matthew, who is one of the disciples, they're all telling the same story but from a different perspective and they're describing the cross.
And when it came to exactly what happened at the cross, Matthew didn't have a lot to say because he wasn't there. Okay? He was there for the fish and the loaves so he can tell you about that. He was there for that water walking thing where Peter got out of the boat because he's, kind of, crazy and isn't content to just sit in the boat. He has to do something special and spectacular. He was there when Peter almost drowned himself and Jesus gave him CPR. But when it came to the... isn't it funny how the cross will thin out a crowd? Because it was really loud on Sunday when Jesus came into Jerusalem.
I mean, deafening. They were crying something. They were saying, "Hosanna". It means save now, and that's what they wanted him to do, to save now. But when he died, it deferred their hope. And so, as he hung there at the cross the crowds that were there to be fed and taught by his hand were, kind of, quiet at the cross. Kind of, quiet where he died. Kind of, quiet where he suffered. It was real loud when he was teaching. Preach Jesus. Can you imagine Jesus' front row? "Blessed are the poor in spirit". Preach Jesus. I mean, if the word was preaching the word that would be, kind of, cool to witness.
It would probably be exciting, I'm just saying. You'd probably shout. You'd probably jump up. But when he came to his cross, the crowd wasn't so loud. Oh, by the way, something that Peter proves to us is that those who are the loudest are not always the most loyal. Because when it comes to the cross Matthew tells us something so disturbing. I imagine it must have hurt him to write this, you know, because Jesus had done so much for them. And they really believed in him. And I think they really wanted to follow him, but, they could only go so far. And then, he came to the cross. And the cross is confusing because it's not supposed to end like this. And the cross is confusing because if he really is who he says he is how can he be hung up there to die in this kind of humiliation.
And so, Matthew says that, "At the cross, everybody deserted him, all 12". Because remember, he had a team. A really big team. A really big team. Touch somebody and say, "A really big team". Until it came to the cross. And then, sometimes circumstances in your life will show you who was really with you because they loved you. And who was really with you because there was something that they got from you. And the moment they don't get from you... what they wanted from you. Now, that's really painful. That is a hard thing. Some people will be with you... what's the saying? They ride with you in the limo but they won't take the bus when the limo breaks down. I don't know who said that. I think that's from the book of Oprah. But Matthew says, it's a good one. But Matthew says, "They all left him".
Now, here's what's interesting. There's one disciple, his name is John and I love John because he gave himself a nickname. There's a lot to love about John because at the last supper when Jesus is telling the disciples, you're all going to leave. Peter is, like, not me. I got you bro. And John isn't saying much but John, he saw himself a little differently. Here's what he called himself, okay? How many of you have a nickname that your friends call you and stuff? How many of you gave yourself a nickname? Okay. John is so confident, he gave himself a nickname. And let me tell you what he calls himself when he writes about himself in the gospel according to John. He calls himself, how is this for a nickname? The one Jesus loved. So not, hey, I'm John. Hey, I'm his favorite. I love John. It's kind of confidence that he has that he doesn't need to say much with his lips to prove his loyalty. He's just there.
And so, when John write his gospel, he's, like, hey, wait a minute, Matthew. We didn't all run. And he describes for a moment who was at the cross and it's not who you would expect because you're looking for Peter at the cross but Peter isn't at the cross. He couldn't get past the courtyard. The moment it became scandalous to stand with Jesus and Jesus didn't do it like he thought it ought to be done, Peter started cussing people out. And maybe you're looking for Andrew at the cross because Andrew was Peter's brother. He's the one that came and got Peter and say, hey, you got to meet this man. He's amazing and he was amazing until it came to the cross and then, Andrew was absent.
And so, on the day that Jesus did what he came to do to begin with, he's calling the roll and no one is present. That's a bad day for the teacher when the whole class is gone. And the loneliness of hanging there all alone. No Bartholomew. No Nathaniel. Because when I read it, John tells us who was at the cross. Everybody say, "at the cross". There's soldiers gambling for his garments at the foot of the cross. Everybody grabbing what they can from him just like they did while he was living, just grabbing what they wanted from him. Just like, sometimes, we come to church and just grab what we want from God. Just grab a goose bump. Just grab a word. Oh, I came to get a word. But when it came time to... it was, kind of, quiet.
Nathaniel? Andrew? Simon the Zealot? James, son of thunder? John? I'm here. Don't you appreciate the people who are just there? Like, watch this. It's not who you expect. It's not even the loud ones. Look who's at the cross? Look, John tells us because he was there. Matthew can't quite tell us because he wasn't. Again, he can tell you how delicious he bread was. He can tell you how delicious the fish tasted. But John tells us who was at the cross. I'm going to give you something right now. God gave me something to give to you. You're about to be set free from some things that you didn't even know had locked you inside of yourself. You are about to get something from God that is going to release you to love like you haven't been able to love and enjoy the life he died to give you.
So John says, "That near the cross of Jesus... ", remember, he's on the cross. And now let's see who's at the cross. First of all, his mother. The one who carried him now had to watch him carry her cross that she deserved that he did not". And I think there's a whole message, maybe, I'll preach Mother's Day on this verse one time because it would be a great Mother's Day scripture. What kind of strength does it take for a mom to stand there and watch her son die completely unable to do anything about it, just standing there. And it says, "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother". It does not record one word that she spoke but she stood with him. She stood with him.
Sometimes the greatest testimony of your loyalty is not what you will say to someone but how you will stand with them. Because we've all got a cross. We've all got seasons that we will go into that will divide those who are loud from those who are really loyal. And who I see at the cross isn't who I expect to see at the cross. Here's Mary, the mother of Jesus. There is her sister. There's Mary, the wife of Cleopas. And there's Mary Magdalene. She had a rough life. Jesus really helped her. He cast some demons out of her that nobody else had been able to deal with and that created a, kind of, loyalty within her that she was, like, even if all I can do is stand here and cry, I'm not leaving.
I wonder, could you get there with God, that even if all I can do is stand here and wait to see what will become. You can't run me off. You've been too good to me and done too much for me, I'm not going anywhere. You have the words of eternal life.