Perspective is everything. Where one person sees a half-empty glass of water, another sees it half-full. When I think of the crucifixion of Christ, I tend to think of it in one way predominantly (i.e., as if I was standing nearby watching it all transpire). But, there were many people involved in Jesus’ crucifixion; there were many different perspectives or viewpoints. In this series, I would like for us to consider their perspectives and also make some applications for us today.
Let’s begin with the first character who helped make the cross a reality:
1. JUDAS ISCARIOT: The Perspective of Silver
Matthew 26:14-16 reads – “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?’ And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.”
Can you imagine working closely with someone for over three years as Judas and the other apostles did with Jesus? They ate together, traveled together, and experienced life together as His followers. Judas heard Jesus’ great teachings and witnessed His amazing miracles, but he still betrayed Him! Judas cared more about money than he did doing what was right. That was his perspective on things.
Sadly, there are many people like that today. They, like Judas, have the perspective of silver. Money is more important to them than Jesus. Their financial goals are more important to them than serving the Lord with their utmost. Their desire for more things drives them away from righteousness and the church. They will betray our Lord for mammon if the opportunity presents itself (cf. Matt. 6:24). What about you, friends?
2. PONTIUS PILATE: The Perspective of Self-Preservation
Luke 23:4 records – “So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no fault in this Man.'” Pilate had spoken to Jesus quite a bit. He knew Jesus was innocent and that He had been turned over to him because of envy. Yet Pilate first allowed Jesus to be scourged; it seemed to be his effort at appeasing the crowd without having to kill Jesus. This was wrong, and it didn’t work. Jesus was beaten to a bloody pulp. He didn’t deserve the beating any more than the cross they would soon hang Him on since He was innocent. The crowd kept clamoring for Jesus to be crucified and Pilate eventually permitted it and gave in to them. But why? Because Pilate was a coward!
We learn from John 19:12 – “From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, ‘If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.'” This gives us insight into Pilate’s perspective (i.e., the perspective of self-preservation). Pilate knew what was right but had Jesus killed to protect himself and his job. Sadly, there are many Pilates today in our world. They’ll do what is right if it doesn’t cost them anything. But, if they will have to suffer harm or embarrassment or even a little discomfort, don’t count on them to do the right thing for someone else. Ultimately, they really only care about themselves. What about you, friends?
3. ROMAN SOLDIERS: The Perspective of Sport
Let’s consider Matthew 27:27-31,35:
“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified…Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: ‘They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.'”
This was just another day on the job for these soldiers. They didn’t care if Jesus was innocent; they were more interested in what they could get from Him physically–his few possessions! I can almost hear them say after they nailed the Creator of the universe to a cross: “Wow, a seamless garment! I want that! Let’s play a game of chance and the winner gets to keep it!”
These men had the perspective of sport toward Jesus. They were so desensitized to killings like these. It was a job for them and they felt no pity. They may have even enjoyed torturing with the scourge and nailing those spikes through their victims. It was great fun for some soldiers, no doubt! Sadly, some today have a similar perspective. Christianity to them is like a sport. They’re not happy unless they’re attacking someone else verbally and showing their own “supremacy.” They entertain themselves by causing problems for other Christians. Paul called them “false brethren” and we still have them around today, sadly. Tragically, there are also so-called “pastors” today who don’t teach the truth of God’s word and don’t really care for the people they claim to be shepherding. No, they’re only there to fleece the flock and take whatever they can from them (they want more than Jesus’ clothes today; they want money and power). Our perspective on Christianity should not be like this. What about you, friends?
4. THE APOSTLES: The Perspective of Silence
At the betrayal, the apostles all ran away and forsook Jesus (except John and Peter). And Peter didn’t stick around too long after people kept identifying him as one of Jesus’ disciples. Jesus predicted this would happen in Matthew 26:31-35:
“Then Jesus said to them, ‘All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: “I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.’ Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’ And so said all the disciples.”
The apostles had the perspective of silence at the cross because they simply weren’t there! Too many who claim to follow Christ have this same perspective. When they have an opportunity to stand up for Christ and the truth, they don’t. They are too embarrassed or afraid to rebuke sin. So they sit by and let others blaspheme the Bible and God’s Son. Other Christians are silent in a different way. They forsake the assembly of Christians to their own detriment. They are silent when other Christians assemble for worship and encouragement because they simply are not present. What a shame! What about you, friends?
5. GOD THE FATHER: The Perspective of Substitution
How did Almighty God view the cross? It’s hard for us to fully understand His perspective, but we can try to comprehend what has been revealed. Hebrews 2:9 states – “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” Romans 5:8 says – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Also, let’s read a lengthy section about the Messiah from Isaiah 53:4-12:
“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked–but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
All three of these passages speak clearly of Jesus as a substitute. The perspective of substitution is certainly one way in which the Father viewed the cross. Praise Him that He was willing to send Jesus! Praise Jesus that He was willing to humble Himself and come.
We as humans can relate in some ways to this perspective. Jesus once said:”Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). The way in which we live as Christians should be sacrificially. We should be willing to give for each other whatever is needed if we really love (i.e., our time, energy, and resources). That’s what true love does, and God has shown us how! What about you, friends?
6. JESUS THE SON: The Perspective of Submission
What was Jesus’ view of the cross? Matthew 26:39 reveals – “He went a little further and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.'” Hebrews 5:7-9 speaks of this agonizing time for Jesus – “Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” John 8:29 is also helpful here, where Jesus said – “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”
Jesus had the perspective of submission. There is a lot we could develop on this point alone. Jesus looked at the cross as the ultimate act of submission to His Heavenly Father. He did not want to go to Calvary; He did not want to suffer the agony. But He did! He submitted because of His great love. Today, we must submit to one another for the glory of God’s church (cf. Eph. 5:21); we must not selfishly seek our own way. We must seek God’s way and submit to it. What about you, friends?
7. CHRISTIANS: The Perspective of Salvation
I Peter 1:18-21 speaks about the viewpoint of Christians:
“Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”
Also consider Ephesians 1:7,8 – “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence.”
The perspective of salvation is a viewpoint of the cross that we must maintain as Christians. Our salvation is by grace through faith and it is a wonderful blessing indeed. We cannot earn our deliverance, but if we’ve been saved, we need to live like it! Our attitude, speech, and actions must show it. Although no one living on Earth today witnessed the scene at Calvary, all today should embrace this perspective. What about you, friends? What is your perspective of the cross?