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Were You There!

2 Cor 5:14-15

If we are to understand the meaning of the cross, then, we have to ask how we are affected
by what happened on Good Friday.
To believe that Jesus died for us is not only to have a radical new understanding of God,
but also to have a radical new understanding of ourselves.
The cross tells us about ourselves, and what the cross does to us and for us.

The cross convicts us as sinners.

"Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my lord?

Yes, we were there!
What they did then, we still do.
The cross of 2000 years ago exposes what kind of people we are.

We were there with Judas who betrayed Jesus.
He sold out.
Probably, he sold out because Jesus refused to serve his military and political goals.
If it comes to a choice between Christ and our nation's political and military interest,
it is clear which we must choose.

We were there with the disciples who deserted Him and fled when they discovered
that loyalty to Him meant being rejected by the political and religious authorities,
put in jail, and perhaps, killed.

Why be a Christian if it does not pay off?
Who wants to follow a loser, especially One who gets in trouble with the authorities.

We were there with the pious leaders of the Jews who were out to get Him
because He did not act as they thought the one sent from God ought to act.
He criticized good religious people and made friends with sinners.
He considered people human beings more important than moral and religious rules and conventions.
Who can tolerate such a threat to our way of life?

We were there with Peter when he denied Him.
When it is safe and the words are cheap, we, too, confess,
"Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

But when we are among outsiders, we are afraid to be different.
Better to be silent, and, if necessary, deny Him, than to get into trouble by having convictions,
standards, and attitudes different from everyone else.

We were there with Pilate when he made the decision to let the mob have Him,
although he knew that Jesus was innocent.
Better to sacrifice Jesus than to go against the will of the people.
What can we do when the choice is between justice, which upsets the prejudices of the people,
stirs up riots, and causes you to lose your popularity and your security.

We were there with the soldiers who played games while Jesus died.
While we enjoy all the pleasures of American affluence, within a few blocks of most of us,
people are in desperate need, and "strangers" are excluded from our friendships.
Sometimes, church members snub them, sick people are unattended,
and prisoners sit alone in the darkness.

Jesus said when they suffer He also suffers.
When we neglect to meet their needs, we are also neglecting Jesus.

We were there!
The cross of Jesus exposes not only their sin, but also our sin.
When we reject Jesus, we are rejecting God.

Whoever is willing to let himself be told this will not even think of going on with moralistic,
defensive questions and arguments about whether he or she is as bad as some other people
or so bad that the atoning death of Christ was really necessary.

He or she can only ask,
"How can I be changed from the person I am to a new person in Christ?"
Only the death of what I am can make that possible.

The cross enables us to live as forgiven sinners.

Because of Christ everything has been stamped "paid."
Christ took our place and paid the price of our sins.
His amazing grace and love has forgiven all our sins.
The cross says to us, "Your debts are forgiven."

We have been forgiven.
God has forgiven us.
No longer do we have to spend our life with tormented consciences, desperately trying
to work off our guilt, or desperately trying to convince ourselves that we are not so bad after all.

To be forgiven means we are free to put behind us what we have been and what we have done.
It means we have a new beginning with God and our fellow men.
If God has forgiven us, without demanding that we "pay up," then we can forgive ourselves.
We can forget what lies behind and press forward to what lies ahead.

The cross means the death of sinners.

We were there on Good Friday with all the people around the cross
because we do the same things they did.

The New Testament teaches that we were there also in another sense.
We were there on the cross.
What happened to Christ has also happened to us.
When He died for us sinners, we were put to death with Him.

We are told this in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15:
"For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge,
that if one die for all, then all were dead: and that he died for all,
that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves,
but unto him which died for them, and rose again

Galatians 2: 20: "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live;
yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh
I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me

Romans 6:1-14:
Verse 6: "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him,
and that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin
Verse 7: "For he that is dead is freed from sin."
Verse 8: "Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him."

In these verses, we encounter a way of thinking that was familiar to the ancient Semitic mind,
but is very strange to us.
In our time, only those with the very deepest Christian faith and experience can understand this,
and even they, cannot explain it to those who have not shared the experience.

What can it mean to say, "one has died, therefore all have died, "
or more intimately, "I have been crucified with Christ"?

The ancient Jews believed that one person could represent or "stand for" other people,
so completely, that what happened to him actually happened to them also.
It did not happen to him instead of to them.
Rather, his experience was their experience.

Perhaps, we can get a vague idea of this complete identity in some of our own experiences.

More superficially, some people can be so involved with athletic teams who represent them
on the field that defeat or victory of the team is a bitter loss or a triumphant gain for them personally.

Something like this losing and finding one's own existence in someone or something
outside himself is meant by the Jewish concept or representation,
which is expressed in Paul's statement about dying with Christ.

The death of Jesus was not just something that happens to Him instead of me,
but it was something that happens also to me.

On that Good Friday so long ago was revealed the truth about all men in all times, including me.
As I believe in Jesus who died on that cross, what He was and did and what happened to Him
determines my own life and destiny.

I can testify that, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live,
but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh
I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me
." (Galatians 2:20)

The Christian way is not the way of escape; it is the way of death.

The cross changes our relationship with other people.

If the cross really enables us to understand and live by the Good News
that our debts are forgiven, and if it means that our old selves are killed,
then we will be reconciled not only with God, but also with our fellow men.

The New Testament makes this unmistakably clear.
There is no such thing as reconciliation with God without reconciliation with our fellow men.
Hostility toward others always means hostility toward God.
Peace with God always means peace with others.

The way God reconciles us with Himself determines how reconciliation with other people happens.
The offended takes the initiative -- not just with words -- but also with action to go to the side of the other. There is such a thing as legitimate anger at offenses to us, and at injustice to others.
Such anger is the honest acknowledgment of the hostility, alienation and wrong that, in fact, do exist.

But legitimate anger (i.e. anger which reflects the wrath of God) will not express itself
in a concern to "get even" or to beat down the "enemy."
It will express itself as a concern to heal broken relationships and injustice for the good of everyone.

"God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself."

This means that we seek to learn how we can reflect God's way of freely initiating reconciliation
in all of our human relationships in which we live: parents and children, husbands and wives,
rich and poor, Christians and non-Christians.

The cross makes a difference in every dimension of our lives.

"Were you there when He rose up from the tomb?
Were you there when He rose up from the tomb?
Sometimes, it causes me to tremble.

Yes, I was there when they nailed Him to the cross!
Yes, you were there when they nailed Him to the cross!

Yes, I was there when He rose us from the tomb!

Were you there?

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at