I remember talking once with a fellow actor about the challenge of performing the part of Jesus in a production. He said that preparing the character the first time changed his life forever. He came to see the world through much different eyes, and grew much deeper in his own relationship with Christ, as he learned to see things as Jesus saw them. I was thinking about that last night. I found myself wondering what it was like for Jesus to hang on a Roman cross and look out on His disciples, His family, and His countrymen. What did Jesus see from His unique vantage point on the cross?
Physically speaking, Jesus had a good view of the crowd that had gathered at Golgotha. They were a strange and unusual mix of people, a diverse crowd that, through Jesus’ eyes, wasn’t really a crowd at all, but rather a collection of individuals, each with their own background and viewpoint. Roman soldiers were rolling the dice just beneath Him, dividing His clothing among them. A group of women were weeping, mourning the death of the one that they had loved and followed. Jewish elders were hurling insults at Him, challenging Him to prove His claim to be the Christ: “He saved others, but he cannot save himself.” Jesus’ disciples were there, as was His mother. Just as in today’s church, there was a sea of spectators, the same fickle crowd that hailed Him as King of the Jews just a week before this dark day of Jesus’ death.
The eyes of Jesus’ soul saw all these people with a much different perspective. As He looked at His mother Mary, Jesus felt her pain at watching her son dying such a slow, miserable death. He compassionately commissioned the disciple John to care for Mary after the crucifixion, calling him to care for her as his own mother. The mob of bloodthirsty onlookers must have caused an ache in Jesus’ tender heart. They didn’t even begin to understand what was unfolding before them. As Jesus looked down at them, rather than anger and bitterness, He felt compassion. He prayed for them, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” Jesus’ disciples—the men with whom He had traveled and lived with for three years—had no more insight than the ignorant mob. He looked down at them, seeing the confusion and ache of their hearts, knowing that He was the only one on the hilltop who truly understood what was taking place. He knew that their tears would, in time, be turned into shouts of joy, and that fact wasn’t dependent upon their understanding, but upon God’s faithfulness.
In the eyes of His Spirit, Jesus’ viewpoint was one that He alone could really comprehend. For the first time in all eternity, Jesus experienced the sensation of being isolated from the Father. He saw the demons dancing with delight, celebrating their supposed victory—but He also could look forward and see the view just three days later, when those same demons would cower in the darkness. He saw an eternal bridge that was about to be commissioned, a bridge that would allow mankind the same sort of intimate, personal relationship with God that Adam and Eve had enjoyed in Eden, before the fall.
As the dying Messiah looked beyond the pain of the moment, He saw 3000 people receiving His salvation on the day of Pentecost, as cowardly Peter, who had denied Him three times, boldly preached under the empowerment of the Holy Spirit for the first time. He saw Saul of Tarsus, vicious enemy of the Gospel, accepting the free gift of grace that Jesus’ sacrifice would make possible. He saw an Ethiopian eunuch being baptized by Phillip in a pool beside a roadway. He saw countless generations of mankind, for whom His sacrifice would make possible salvation by grace through faith, for those who would only receive that free gift. He saw Al Capone, D.L. Moody, Adolf Hitler, and Billy Graham, each making their own, personal, eternal choices. And, as He hung there on that cross, close to death, He saw you, and He knew your name.
And then, although He still had the authority to call a legion of angels to set Him free, He cried out, “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.” Then, He bowed His head—and He died.
Because He thought you were worth it.