Six other preachers welcomed Christians gathered at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. It was a small crowd, much like the ones who remained throughout the crucifixion more than 2,000 years ago.
The Rev. Rodney Dunn spoke on Luke 23:34 in which Jesus asked to forgive the ones who crucified him because they had been blinded by Satan who saw the cross as a symbol of demonic victory.
“The same people who shouted ‘Hosanna!’ the week before were now shouting to crucify Jesus,” Dunn said. “You’ve got to be careful who you run with. I remember growing up you didn’t want to be around another kid who had the mumps. You didn’t want to be around him because you might get the mumps. Well, demons are the same way. You hang around with people influenced by demons and you might start acting like you’re a son of the devil yourself.
“They’re now saying, ‘Crucify him!’ and here’s Jesus hanging on the cross looking down on all the people he once fed, all the people he once sat with and taught, all he had healed, and now they’re calling him names and he said, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’”
The Rev. Edward Robinson Jr. followed with Jesus’ assurance in Luke 23:43 to the thief that he would join him today in paradise.
Who was Jesus talking to? Robinson asked.
“They named him as a thief,” the preacher said. “I know the focus is on what Jesus said, but I have to ask why he said this? Why did he give this man an immediate ticket to paradise?”
Robinson imagines the thief looking up into heaven and seeing what Jesus saw. He came to his senses and wanted only to be remembered, but Jesus offered him so much more.
“I believe that thief looked up into heaven and said, ‘I want to get my ticket. I want to go with him. I want to be on this train. I hear the horn blowing.’”
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. In John 19:26, when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
And instead of victory for the devil, the Rev. Mattie Benton said a new church and a new beginning started at the foot of the cross.
“The new mandate for us today is unconditional love,” she said. “We’ve got to have unconditional love for one another.”
She said instead of looking over someone’s faults, look beyond their faults, because “then you know what to pray for.”
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until 3 in the afternoon, and at 3 in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The Rev. Sam Hall asked the people to think a moment of Jesus hanging on the cross, alone, in full separation of God the Father’s fellowship, friendship, love and not even the angels coming to comfort him.
“At the ninth hour, he uttered these words because never had the father and the son been separated,” Hall said. “It was the ninth hour when Jesus needed his father. It was when Jesus bore the sins of the world that God turned away.”
At that point, Jesus had taken the place of sinners and was made a sin offering “and he died in our place on our account.”
Hall said Jesus felt alone and abandoned because “sin will produce loneliness and this is what Jesus felt as he was hanging on the cross.”
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said in John 19:28, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.
Bishop Winston Reid said it was not only important to read the scripture but hear and feel emotionally what the writer was attempting to paint.
“Think of this lesson as a lesson in personal suffering. Sometimes we suffer publicly. Sometimes we suffer secretly. The challenge for us today is how we deal with and cope with suffering,” he said.
He said Jesus could’ve have taken an easier way out and neither can people today take a shortcut through suffering by using drugs or finding other ways to deaden pain.
“Jesus is our example of suffering and endurance and we ought to look at him who is the author and finisher of our faith,” Reid said.
John 19: 29-30 says a jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
The Rev. Aubrey Ector said the most obvious connotation of those three simple words is the excruciatingly painful ordeal is over.
“There is much more to this statement than the end of an ordeal,” he said.
Ector said some people ask why an all powerful God stand by and watch his precious and only begotten son endure such a horrible death. “Rather than indicating anything else about the nature of God, the death of Jesus kept alive God’s love for mankind. You can’t explain it to save your life.”
Jesus was not a criminal being punished for crimes. He was a sacrificial lamb sacrificed for the sins of all mankind.
“That means that you and I and every other human being who ever lived or ever will live played a role in his death,” he said. “The ugliness of his death paints a picture of how ugly our sin is to a holy God and the punishment really did fit the crime.”
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until 3 in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last, according to Luke 23: 44-46.
“It is a Friday afternoon over 2,000 years ago. It has been a long day of torture and torment for this man known as Jesus of Nazareth,” Bishop Hill said. “Here he now hangs outside the city walls of Jerusalem, hanging on Golgatha hill, also known as the Hill of Skulls of Calvary. He has been scoured. He has been abused and he is now, at 3 p.m., barely clinging to life.”
By that time, the sermons had been preached and miracles performed. He took his last breath and his body hung lifeless on the cross and his spirit was given over to the father.
“Death has temporarily claimed him but he won’t stay in the grave,” Hill said. “Do not fear! Do not fear! It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming!”