At the Foot of the Cross
What would you say at the foot of the cross, as Jesus breathed his last? The air having left his lungs. The spear having pierced his side. What would you say when this nearly naked man was being drug down from the cross, his blood still drip, drip, dripping from the wood into a puddle by your feet?
What would you say?
What would you say at the foot of the cross? What would you say there after you watched this man who you had heard of as a great teacher of his people was arrested, betrayed by one of his own disciples? This Jesus, having being grabbed from a graveyard as he prayed, the residue of blood on his brow from him having sweat blood in prayer? What would you say?
What would you say as you watched the faithful followers of Jesus move away from him after his arrest? After you saw them run away, some of them, if you trust in the truth of Mark’s gospel, as I do, without their clothes. These disciples, that he had poured his life into, when he asked them to pray for him, they kept falling asleep. What would you say?
What would you remembering that Jesus was brought before the Jewish authorities, them seeking to undermine his ministry? What would you say as you observed all the obviously false accusations about him? What would you think when they asked him if he was the Messiah, the Son of God and he said, ““You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” And then they said they were going to kill him. The gave him the death sentence? What would you do?? What would you say?
What would you say at the foot of the cross having watched all of this happen as the blood drip, drip, dripped down in a puddle by your feet.
What would you say? What would you say as you watched the Jewish leaders bring Jesus before Pilate? As Jesus stood before Pilate, Pilate asks Jesus if he is King of the Jews. And Jesus says, “you have said so”. Pilate has reservations and gives the people a choice on who to crucify, a criminal named Barabbas or Jesus? And the crowd, under the influence of the religious leaders among them cries for Jesus to be crucified, and for Jesus to set free.
What would you say?
Pilate’s wife comes to Pilate. She begs and pleads with him not to kill Jesus. Not to send him to the cross. She has had a dream. The dream told her he is an innocent man.
What would you say, knowing all this, if you were that soldier at the foot of the cross? What would you say as the blood came drip, drip, dripping down from the wood of the cross into a puddle by your feet as the people are taking Jesus’ lifeless body off of that cross.
What would you say as they whipped Jesus on that whipping block with that cat of nine tails, with pieces of bone, and rock and metal embedded in that whip, pulling out pieces of flesh each time they whipped him. Whipping him 39 nine times because if they whipped him 40 times it was supposed to be fatal? What would you say if you were a soldier there, watching all of that?
What would you say if you saw him attempting to carry his cross, not complaining, as he went through the streets walking toward Golgotha, the place of the dead. And then as Simon, the Cyrene, was pulled out of the crowd, began to carry the cross for Jesus as he stumbled up to the top of that city? What would you say?
What would you say as the placed his battered, beaten, and whipped body upon that rough hewn piece of lumber, slivers embedding themselves in the scars and the sores, blood spurting out as they nailed, nailed, nailed him to the cross. His hands and feet pierced. And then they lifted him up into the air.
While he hung there he breathed heavy. Most people on the cross die of suffocation. Their bodies slide down the cross and compress their lungs, making them incapable of breathing. In order to survive, they must push themselves up the cross, scraping themselves against the wood, in order to catch a breathe. This is why the other men at the cross had their legs broken. Once their legs were broken they can no longer push themselves up, and they suffocate. By the time they get to Jesus, he was already dead.
What would you say if you were at the foot of the cross, the blood of Jesus drip, drip, dripping on the ground next to you, forming a puddle at your feet?
What would you say as you listened to Jesus at the foot of the cross?
What would you think as you watched him suffer and he said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” As they mocked him, spat at him, gambled for his clothes, and sentenced him to death. Perhaps he was even speaking to that soldier at the foot of the cross, stoicly doing his job, and perhaps he was even speaking to all of us as we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God? What would you say at the foot of the cross?
What would you think at the foot of the cross when you heard Jesus say to the thief crucified next to him that, “Today you will be with me in paradise?”
What would you say?
What would you say at the foot of the cross as Jesus told the disciple John and his mother Mary that they were now Mother and Son, seeking to take care of his mother and his friend as he hung up on the cross, hardly recognizable, barely able to sputter out the words he needed to say?
What would you say?
What would be going through your mind at the foot of the cross of Jesus when he cried out from Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Praying faithfully the prayer of the suffering he learned as a child.
What would you think when Jesus said that he was thirsty, there at the foot of the cross?
What would you say as Jesus proclaimed that he accomplished all that he wanted to do, as he looked up to heaven and said, “It is finished”?
What would you say as you heard Jesus say “Into your hand I commend my Spirit” as he was up there on the cross, and he had his last, wheezy death rattle and then froze stone cold dead on that cross?
And then, just when Jesus stopped breathing, the earth shook, the rocks began to split in two, the veil of the temple tore in two, and graves began to split open, and dead people began to start walking around, temporarily alive again. People that had been dead for a long time. Appearing to loved ones. Perhaps proclaiming Jesus as Lord.
What would you say if you were at the foot of the cross, with the dead body of Jesus hanging over you, and blood of Christ drip, drip, dripping down below you on the ground into a puddle by your feet.
Because, in a way, we are all today, at the foot of the cross. We are all observing Jesus’ death, even from several centuries distant from that moment. We all come to Christ through the cross, if we are to know him at all. We all must deal with what to say, what to do at the cross.
We all need to come to the cross, and take stock of our lives here, where Jesus died for our sins while we were still opposing him. And we need to ask ourselves, what really matters here.
Do our worldly accomplishments, how much money we have, how many trophies we have, how many titles we have really matter when we are standing at the cross? Is that really going to matter as Jesus is crying out, suffering to pay the price for our sins?
Take your petty arguments and grudges that you have had with your friends and family and neighbors. Take them to the foot of the cross. And as Jesus is wheezing and bleeding and a drop of his blood falls on your face, as he suffers and dies to give you new life and to teach you how to love God and your neighbor, take your arguments and grudges to the foot of the cross, and ask yourself, do they really matter there, as Jesus is dying for your sins and your transgressions, even as you turn away from him.
What would you say, as you stood at the foot of the cross, Jesus’s blood dripping down from the cross, forming a pool of blood at your feet?
I hope you would, and I hope I would, as I saw Jesus pay the price for the world’s sin, as he gave his life for a sacrifice for all of humanity who would believe, as he gave his blood to give you the free gift of salvation, I hope you would look up at this forgiving and suffering savior, who could have conquered the world but instead gave his life as a ransom for many, I hope you would say, I hope you will say with me and saints throughout the ages as we join our voices with the soldier at the cross, “Surely he was the Son of God”.