It was always on His mind. Before the first star was ever hung on nothing, before the first snowflake ever fell, before the first pair were placed in the Garden, it was on His mind. When the cunning serpent hissed his poisonous lies to the guileless couple, it was on His mind. When they ate the fruit and lost the glory, it was on His mind. When He killed the innocent animal to cover their shame, it was on His mind.
It was on His mind when Abraham raised the knife to slay his son, and the ram was provided as a substitute. It was on His mind when Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave. When every Israeli home in Egypt had blood on the doorposts and the death angel passed over, it was on His mind. It was on His mind when the children of Israel offered a sacrifice in the desert, and fire from heaven consumed the sacrifice, demonstrating that the sacrifice was accepted by heaven.
It was on His mind when Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, and everyone who looked lived. It was on His mind when Rahab hung the crimson thread in the window of Jericho, and faith saved a scarlet woman. When Boaz played the part of kinsman-redeemer and lifted Ruth to Judah’s tribe, it was on His mind.
It was on His mind when the shepherd boy slung the stone that killed the giant, and when that same boy-king failed, still it was on His mind. When the prophet proclaimed that one day a virgin would conceive and bear a Son, it was on His mind; but when that same prophet spoke of another day when that same servant would be “wounded for our transgressions,” those inspired words rolled forth from His own heart, for it was on His mind.
It was on His mind when Israel’s sin divided their kingdom and then sent them into captivity, and as well when they returned to rebuild their demolished temple.
When Malachi, the last of the prophets spoke of the Sun rising with healing in His wings, it was on His mind. During the four hundred silent years, as Israel yearned for the coming One, it was on His mind.
It was on His mind when a virgin girl conceived in a once-for-all miracle, and when an older carpenter heard the name he was to give this boy. “You will call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
On that glorious night when angels announced to shepherds that a Savior had been born, when He entered the arena of human history not as a king but as any other ordinary Jewish kid, born not in a home but in a stable in David’s town, it was on His mind. Even as He entered this globe, took on this flesh, He said, “Behold I come–in the volume of the book it is written of Me–to do Your will, O God.”
It was on His mind when His parents dedicated Him in the temple, and Simeon held Him to speak of the day of Israel’s redemption. It was on His mind when His parents took Him to Egypt for protection and prophecy. It was on His mind as He returned again to Galilee to grow up in the carpenter’s shop, working with wood.
It was on His mind at the age of twelve, when He tarried in Jerusalem after the feast, answering His mother’s anxious enquiry, “Did you not know that I would be about My Father’s business?”
As He worked in the carpenter’s shop, the artist Holman Hunt has painted a picture of Him at the end of a hard day, the setting sun sending His shadow against the back wall in the eerie picture of a cross, for it was on His mind.
It was on His mind as He went to hear His cousin John preach, and stepped into the waters of baptism to identify with sinners. It was on His mind as He went into the wilderness to face the foe, the enemy of our souls–all alone–to wrestle in the spirit with the deceiver and cling to the sword of the Lord–“it is written!”
It was on His mind as He returned in the power of the Spirit to proclaim in the town of Nazareth where He grew up, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).
It was on His mind as He proceeded to give sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf; indeed, it was much on His mind every time He confronted the powers of evil and cast the demons out.
It was on His mind as His disciples awakened Him in a ship already swamped with water under the eye of a deadly storm. It was on His mind when virtue–power–life–went out of Him as the woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of His garment. It was on His mind.
It was on His mind as preached and taught, telling the crowd and His followers about the kingdom of God and calling them to take up their cross and follow Him.
When He entered the city of Jerusalem as the hosannas echoed down the dusty streets, it was on His mind. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and even the Romans sought to outwit Him, but at every turn, His answers proved both appropriate and infuriating, because it was on His mind.
He sent His disciples to prepare the Passover meal, and as they ate that night, that which was always on His mind surfaced and He talked to His friends of His soon sufferings–but they could not hear, for what was on His mind was not on theirs.
It was on His mind when He led them to the Garden where He was used to praying, and as they slept, He prayed–the fear and shame despising–so that He would fulfill that for which He came. He prayed in agony, seeking strength for the day, seeking a way out but refusing at the next breath to take it, and finally relenting in trust. It was on His mind.
It was on His mind when the soldiers came–led by one of His own who actually kissed Him to identify Him as a friend–and led Him off to the cross. As He watched one betray, another deny, and all depart, it was on His mind.
It was brought to the forefront of His thinking as He was tried illegally by His own people, under the cover of night, and charged with crimes He did not commit. It was on His mind as He was delivered to the Romans, brought before the governor, and condemned to die.
It was on His mind as the crown of thorns was driven into His head, as the soldiers tore the beard from His cheeks, as they beat Him with rods, whips and cat-o-nine-tails until His body was in rags and the very muscles themselves showed through where the flesh was torn off. Though He belonged in the ICU, instead He was forced to carry the cross of His execution up to Golgotha hill to be crucified as an evildoer. Finally falling, they forced an African man, Simon of Cyrene, to carry that cross.
Now the soldiers threw Him down on the ground and bound His hands and feet. Then they nailed Him to that cross, stood it up in the air, and dropped it in the 3-foot hole in the ground that held it up.
It was on His mind as the thieves crucified alongside of Him mocked, but when one repented, He promised Him paradise–that very day. It was on His mind as He remembered care for His mother to the disciple He loved, and as He listened to the insults of the soldiers, the Jews, and the crowd. The pain was excruciating, but the horror ahead He knew held no limits.
Suspended between heaven and earth, between time and eternity, He watched the midday sun grow black as it refused to shine, felt the silence of the crowd as this unusual solar event quieted them, and then came the great pain–as He cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” The sin of all humankind, the holiness of the Father, and the love of redemption coalesced at that fateful juncture as the Man of Sorrows bore it all–all alone.
As the day waned, so did His life. In order to finish well, He cried out, “I thirst,” being barely able to speak because His life was draining out–literally. The soldier who thrust the sour wine to his lips permitted Him to utter the final cry–the cry of triumph, the cry that laid to rest what had been on His mind all the days of His flesh–“It is finished.”
The head that bore the thorny crown bowed low, the chin rested on the chest where soon the heart that beat inside would cease and be pierced by a soldier’s spear, ending any speculation that He did not die, and He who had come to make wrong right and to redeem mankind–He who knew no sin and did no wrong–died.
The earth shook, the graves were opened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom–no longer needed, no longer separated. Jesus was dead. Sin had done its worst, the devil had slain the last Adam, the grave was about to receive the second Man.
Joseph of Arimethea took the body, wrapped it in burial cloths, and because the Sabbath was so close, laid that body in a tomb hewn out of stone where no one had yet had been buried. Now He lies silent and still, death’s pallor resting on His cheek. The body has been beaten beyond recognition, torn by human hands, and murdered by executioners whose only job was to make sure that He was dead.
Still fearful, however, the Jews asked Pilate for a guard, and a Roman quaternion, 16 soldiers in 4 groups of 4, stood constant watch at the tomb to satisfy the governor’s annoying religious co-rulers.
On the seventh day, God rested. As did the Jews. As did the disciples. As did He.
But on the first day, the re-creation began. The Father, who started all things by a word in the first creation, spoke to the dead body of the God-man, and He arose. He passed through the burial cloths, rose in triumph, and defeated death, hell, and the grave. As the day dawned, the earth quaked, the guards were startled by men whose brightness and majesty drove terror into their hearts, and in fear they fled, while one of them rolled away the stone from the door–not to let the One inside out, but to let the world in to see an empty tomb. The women who came to anoint the body found no body to anoint, but rather came face to face with the One who had died and now lived again. He is alive. The cross was on His mind from the time He came into the world to redeem sinners–He lived for that day so that we could be free.
Is the cross on your mind today? Are you truly free? Do you have such a compelling reason to live?