A Cross or a Stone?
Everything could’ve been different—horribly tragically different—if God hadn’t intervened.
One of the first lessons we learn in church is that Jesus came to set us free from sin and He accomplished it through His death on the cross.
But did you know God chose the time, place and manner of Jesus’ death before the foundations of the world?
And that man tried to change it with some stones?
For years, I never stopped to think about all the complex orchestration and maneuvering Christ’s crucifixion required.
As man moved, God moved because He required a cross, not a stone, and Jesus came to set us free, not to be set free.
Let’s consider just a few of the main events God had to coordinate.
But first, for your listening pleasure, hit the play button on Michael W. Smith’s song “Freedom” from his Freedom album. It could be the soundtrack to Jesus’ life.
A short time before the week leading up to the cross, Christ enraged the Jewish leaders.
He claimed equality with God.
Them’s fightin’ words by Jewish law. Stoning words, to be exact.
“anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them…”
~ Leviticus 24:16a
The Jewish leaders declared utmost loyalty to the Law of Moses. Moses was The Man to them.
But even with their devotion to God’s laws passed down to Moses, the hardness of their hearts blinded them to the truth standing before them.
They refused to see Jesus, the Christ, for who He really is—God in the flesh. Messiah, come to save them from sin.
Thus, those loyal leaders faced Jesus and bowed low to the ground—but not to worship—to pick up stones.
“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
~ John 10:33
But God Required a Cross, Not a Stone
God had already predetermined that Jesus would be crucified on the cross, even before Roman crucifixion was a thing. Even before being Roman was a thing.
Long ago, through their hero Moses, God had pointed to Christ on the cross.
“The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”
~ Numbers 21:8
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;”
~ John 3:14
Through the prophet Zechariah, God had revealed how Christ would die.
“…they will look on Me whom they have pierced…”
~ Zechariah 12:10
The leaders picked up stones and set out to kill Jesus, but fortunately, God is not hindered by man’s plans.
“…they tried to seize Him, but He escaped their grasp.”
~ John 10:39
Not even a crowd can hold onto one man if that one man is the Son of Man.
No one could lay a hand on Jesus at that time because God required a cross, not a stone.
Jesus Came to Set Us Free, Not Be Set Free
The Jewish leaders had tried to kill Jesus before His hour had come.
The Roman Governor, Pilate, tried to do the opposite. He tried to set Jesus free.
So Pilate said to Him [Jesus], “You do not speak to me?
Do You not know that I have authority to release You,
and I have authority to crucify You?”
Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me,
unless it had been given you from above . . .”
As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him . . .
~ John 19:10-12a
Jesus’ words transformed Pilate from speaking with boldness and arrogance about his great authority to quaking in his Roman sandals.
Pilate had set out to put Jesus in His place. Jesus showed Pilate that His place is above all earthly rulers.
It seems Pilate grasped this truth enough to make “efforts to release Him.”
When you’re one of the heads of the government in Jerusalem, that shouldn’t be too difficult, unless the Head over All intervenes.
God moved because Jesus came to set us free, not to be set free.
Christ Had an Appointment With The Cross He Couldn’t Miss
God wouldn’t allow Pilate to cancel Jesus’ appointment with the cross even though Pilate was right. Jesus wasn’t guilty of any wrong.
Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.”
~ Luke 23:4
And Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him.
~ Luke 23:14
And he [Pilate] said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.”
~ Luke 23:22
All through the last week of Christ’s life, God moved each of the players into place so our relationship with Him could be restored.
If Jesus had been killed before the appointed time, place, or manner, or if He’d been set free and not crucified, we’d be lost today.
Everything would be different.
We’d be without our Savior, and we’d have a God who wasn’t able to save us.
We’d be without hope.
But God is able, and we do have a Savior—a crucified and risen Savior.
We’ve been set free because Jesus wasn’t.
“for truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place.”
~ Acts 4:27-28
If God Can Orchestrate Christ’s Life, He Can Orchestrate Yours
At times, it looked like God’s plan was falling apart. But He never lost control.
God worked all things out perfectly for our good and His glory.
But sometimes even God’s perfect plan involves pain and heartache for a good purpose that we, unfortunately, don’t always get to understand this side of heaven.
Let’s not lose heart when we feel like the plan for our life must be falling apart.
Pray and trust God to work in His time.
Look to Him for your next step.
God never fails.
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