By Bobby Conner
Vision: CALVARY’S CROSS
The warm sunlight was softly spilling through the window into my office as I forced my attention away from the sweet spring day. Sitting in my chair, I brought my focus back to my opened Bible and an all-too-clean notepad which were resting on the deep, rich polished desk. I was in the process of preparing preaching notes on the subject of the cross of Christ. I had spoken on this subject many times before, but now I deeply desired something much fresher. I was not prepared for what was about to happen. My tranquil setting was abut to change in a radical way. Pushing my chair forward, getting closer to the Scripture and my note paper, I began to pray, asking the Spirit of God to make the message of the cross real. I did not want to use just a bunch of words. I wanted the cross to be more than a mere message. I longed for people to hear the Words of Life. I wanted it to be something powerful that would transform our lives. So I began my prayer from a hungry heart.
Suddenly without warning, faster than the speed of light, I was no longer sitting comfortably at my study. I was being carried by the Spirit of God through time and space. As Paul stated in the Scriptures, if I was in the body or out of the body I do not know. Soon, I was set down in the busy streets of Jerusalem. I could hear the sounds of a mob of people, I could feel an evil excitement in the air that made my spirit very uncomfortable. I was standing in a great crowd of people. Looking into their faces, I noted that some were filled with sincere sadness and others with an evil grin. The next thing I knew I was shoved aside by a big Roman solider, who cursed at me and yelled “get out of the way!” Then I looked and saw what the crowd had been waiting for…Jesus bearing His cross. I could not believe my eyes. Never had I seen such a terrible sight. His entire face was covered with clotted, dried blood from wounds caused by a crown of thorns, which looked more like razor-sharp spikes driven into His head. Each time His heart would beat, fresh dark blue-re blood would spurt between the spikes and thorns, running down His forehead and into His eyes, dripping to His chest and onto the dusty street. My mind was whirling. I thought “this can’t be happening, this happened years before.” At that moment our eyes met, however, and I knew without a doubt, it was real. Somehow, I had been carried to the crucifixion!
It was no dream; I was there.
Stunned, I staggered alongside the crowd, too shocked to speak, watching as Jesus was stumbling under the weight of the heavy cross. The hot winds blowing dust from the street blew open the tears in His bloodstained clothes and I caught a glimpse of the wounds on His back and shoulders, deep…flesh-torn…gaping..open. For a long time we made our way up the steep path outside the city wall. At long last we came to the top of the Hill of the Skull. The mob stirred with excitement when the Lord was thrown down hard to the ground. Without a struggle He stretched out His arms.
The air itself was so thick with the oppressing demon spirits it was hard to breathe. The smell of blood and body fluids was so strong that I was choking; and I could smell the strong stinking aroma of some type of liquor, or cheap ale, coming from the soldiers. I heard the heavy thud of the hammer as it struck the spikes going into His hands and feet. The cross was lifted up very roughly and dropped in the hole. I heard a deep groan coming from the Lord’s throat, as the entire weight of His body came against the spikes. I will never forget the sounds, sights, and smells of this moment. It seemed as if time had stopped. I don’t know how long I was there; it seemed as if it was hours.
This was a place of no mercy! Yet the most merciful act was being accomplished. I will never forget the paradox of feelings. The Sinless and Guiltless dying as one guilty. The Perfect being spoiled by the spear and ravaged by the cross. The Righteous dying for the rebellious. As I lifted my eyes to behold Christ on the cross, the pain upon His face was more than my heart could bear; all the strength left my legs, and I felt my body thud against the ground. I struggled to get to my knees. Lifting my eyes, I again forced myself to behold the Lamb. I know now the meaning of the prophet’s words, “And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:2). I can testify that His face was more disfigured than any I have ever seen. The pain that Jesus went through was much more than the cross. It was beyond any human words to describe. His flesh was a pale blue as He hung suspended between heaven and earth making atonement for sinners such as I. At that moment I cannot begin to describe how horrible a sinner I knew I was. The words of the song came flooding into my heart. “When I survey the wondrous Cross on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gains I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride.”
I could see the Lord as He struggled beneath the pain of the cross, and as He lifted His weight and breathed in to speak these words, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Later, I heard the most horrible cry come form the parched, swollen, bleeding lips of our Lord…this cry still rings in my ears to this very hour: “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). This question came from the very soul of the Son of God. For the very first time in all of eternity, the Son and the Father are separated. This is the very first time Christ has ever referred to God other than Father. Why? Because now Christ has become what we are, He has taken upon Himself our sins. The Scripture states that God is of a purer eye than to look upon sin, so Father God turns His back to His Son, and Christ is forsaken of His Father. This is the pain that He had asked to be removed in the garden when He prayed “let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39). He could not bear to think of Himself being abandoned by His Father. At this moment Christ is not dying as a Son, but rather as a sinner. As this happened, His heart was crushed. As the Psalmist prophesied: “My heart is like wax, it has melted within Me” (Psalm 22:14).
Then with a loud cry Christ Jesus said ” Father into Your hands I commit My Spirit” (Luke 23:46), and His lifeless head falls limp upon His chest. The entire earth is spinning and shaking; there is this terrible darkness everywhere. I hear screams coming from the darkness, and suddenly I am aware that the cry is coming from my own lips. I am no longer at the foot of the cross, I am back in my office; but the cry and scream still echoes in my ears. My entire body is shaking and trembling.
(The Vision Ends)
RITUAL OR RELATIONSHIP
I am not able to share all that I saw and experienced at this time, but I can tell you I will never be the same. And I am more sure now than ever before, the preaching of the cross is the power of God unto salvation. The Scripture states: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect” (1 Corinthians1:17).
The Cross of Christ is not a trite trinket or some sentimental ceremonial jewelry, to be worn about our neck; but rather the cross is the very essence of the loving heart of Father God reaching out to fallen mankind. Mankind’s only hope of deliverance from the grasp and guilt of sin is the finished work of Christ upon the cross. God is not requesting man to embrace a mere ritual, but rather to enter into a lasting relationship. This can only be accomplished through the cross of Christ.
THE CROSS WAS BY DIVINE DESIGN
The Gospel is that “Christ Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried; and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Notice the term “according to the Scripture.” The sacrifice of Christ for our sin upon the cross was by divine design. The death of Christ upon the cross was neither accidental nor arbitrary. Jesus declared “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world” (John 18:37). The gospels tell us that the Lord Jesus spoke of the cross before His death (see Matthew 10:38;Mark 10:21; Luke 14:27).
The sacrifice of Christ upon the cross for sinful mankind is the greatest example of God’s love. The Scriptures declare “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend” (John 15:13). That is exactly what Jesus did for us. He willingly came into this world to give His life a ransom to redeem fallen man. Paul says: “Christ died for the ungodly…He demonstrates His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-7). We are the guilty and deserve the judgment of God, but God so loved us that He was willing to let His Son become sin for us, so that we, by accepting Him as our personal Lord and Savior, can be freed from sin’s punishment.
None can fail to see that in the teaching of the New Testament, Christ is set forth as taking the place of the sinner in His death. The death of Jesus upon Calvary’s cross was vicarious, which means Christ took our place of death and punishment. Every blessing of salvation is imputed to the believer by the substitutionary death of Christ. “Him who knew no sin was made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The cross, and the preaching of the cross, is the very core, and center of Christianity. Jesus said, “….and if I be lifted up I will draw all men unto Me” (John 12:32). May God help us to boldly proclaim the transforming message of the cross of Christ.