We Believe Jesus Died

Bible Book: 1 Thessalonians  4 : 14
Subject: Cross; Crucifixion; Jesus, The Death of
Series: Ready to Live - Ready to Leave

Out west during the days when America was experimenting with atomic bombs, an American Indian was in the process of sending a message of love to his girlfriend. He built a fire, got a blanket and started to send smoke signals of love. Just then one of those atomic bombs went off in the desert. The Indian watched as the giant plumb of smoke rose toward the heavens. He took a look at his little smoke signals, looked back at the smoke from the bomb and said, "I wish I had said that."

Nothing in history has ever said 'I love you' like the cross of Christ. Today we are going to look once again at the old rugged cross and seek to learn from it some lessons of love. Our message is entitled, We Believe Jesus Died. Those words are found in 1 Thessalonians 4:14. Though our portion of Scripture today is only made up of 4 words, they are profound and pulse with meaning. I want you think of our belief in the death of Jesus on the Cross and note four important truths.

I. The Cross is a Place of Death

It is easy for us to forget the true nature of the Cross. Paul reminded to the Thessalonians that 'we believe Jesus died' – really died!

The cross has become a symbol worn by rock stars on stage, refined people at symphony concerts and even children who could hardly know what it means. Even Christians can be confused about the reality of what the death of Jesus was really like. Do we really believe that Jesus died? Jesus did not swoon between two candlesticks in a carpeted church on a Communion Table, he died between two thieves on a rugged hillside outside Jerusalem.

A. The Horror of His Death

1. The Sin Agony of Christ

The death of Jesus was horrible. There was the horror of the sin which he took upon Himself. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that "God made Him, Jesus, to be made sin for us even though He knew no sin, had committed no sin of His own."

2. The Physical Agony of Christ

Secondly, there was the horror of physical agony. (Describe)

3. The Divine Agony of Christ

Third, there was the horror of having His Father turn away from Him, to desert Him. We read that Jesus quoted Psalm 22 and asked, "My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?" On the Cross, Jesus died while the Father would not hear Him, would clear Him, and would not come near Him! That is what we are told in Psalm 22 about His divine agony on the Cross.

4. The Lonely Agony of Christ

Fourth, there was the horror of His rejection. He came to bring life and salvation, on the cross He was being rejected.

5. The Betrayal Agony of Christ

Fifth there was the horror of His betrayal by one who had been with Him for three years. Have friends ever let you down? Has someone you trusted broken your heart? It is a terrible pain to bear.

6. The Desertion Agony of Christ

Sixth, there was the horror of being deserted by His other disciples. Even Peter denied knowing Him - not once, but three times!

7. The Death Agony of Christ

Seventh, there was the horror dying in sin. He experienced something I will never experience. He died in my sin so I can live in His righteousness.

Seven terrible horrors that day at Calvary. We must never forget that Jesus died, and He died a horrible death.

B. The Holiness of His Death

Jesus knew no sin, did no sin, had no sin of His own. He took our sins upon Him. His death was a horrible death, but it was a holy death.

1. He died in holy submission to the Father’s will.

2. He died in holy service to the purpose of salvation.

3. He died in holy sovereignty! For no one took His life, He gave it! His death was a holy death.

II. The Cross is a Place of Decision

When one looks upon the Cross, he comes to a place of decision. Paul said, We believe. Do you believe? The Cross calls for an answer. In the Old Testament God had said, "Come now, let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." At the cross a person must decide to remain in sin or come to Christ in faith and have the stain of his sin removed and the purity more pure than driven snow in his soul.

A. A Decision of Identity

First, the decision at the cross is a decision of identity. You identify with Jesus. You claim Him as your Lord. You are willing to bear His shame. You are ready to go with Him all the way. You identify with His followers. Paul said, "We believe," not just, "I believe." There are those who would love have a bloodless Christianity, a Cross-less Christ, but that is impossible. We believe Jesus died.

B. A Decision of Eternity

The decision at the cross fixes your eternity. As the birth of Christ separates time, the Cross of Christ separates eternity.

III. The Cross is a Place of Division

A. Nicodemus

The religious leaders of Jesus day called for His death. But not all religious leaders agreed. You see, the Cross is a place of division. Nicodemus had come to Jesus by night. He believed that he must be born again. Later Scripture tells us that he believed. At the cross, Nicodemus was separated from the other religious leaders.

B. The Centurion

The soldiers crucified Jesus. They had done this many times before as others were crucified. They gambled for His garment, but one soldier, a Centurion, believed. He was divided (separated) from the others. They were looking down, rolling dice for a worldly possession, but he was looking up and said, "Surely, this was the Son of God."

C. The Thief

A thief died on Jesus right side and another on His left side. The one on the left cursed and was filled with hatred. The one of the right believed. He put His faith in Jesus and said, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus said to him, "Today you will be with me in paradise." The dividing line of eternity is at the Cross. Which side are you on? Have you believed? Your choice will seal your eternal fate. Just think of it, the believing thief was outside Christ that morning, in Christ by noontime, and with Christ in paradise by nightfall! What a Savior we have!

IV. The Cross is a Place of Devotion

A. The Devotion of Christ

It is true, the greatest love in the world is seen at the Cross. Christ was so devoted to us that He would not call angels to release Him from the Cross. He died the ignominious death of the Cross willingly. They did not take His life from Him, He laid it down.

B. The Devotion of the Christian

But here we ought to see the devotion of the Christian. The songwriter penned,

"Jesus keep me near the cross, there a precious fountain,

Free to all a healing stream flows from Calvary’s mountain." (Fanny Crosby, 1869)

We need to stay near the Cross. When our hearts are touched with the sacrifice of our Lord, our lives will be filled with devotion to the Lord. The songwriter wrote,

"Down at the Cross where my Savior died,

Down where for cleansing from sin I cried,

There to my heart was the blood applied,

Glory to His name." (Down At The Cross, Elisha Hoffman, 1878)

And, we will give glory to His name when our hearts are set on Calvary. Paul wrote in Galatians 6:14, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."


Pastor Leith Anderson tells about the time he was in Niamey, Niger, and bought a brass souvenir called a Taureg cross. He writes, "The flat cross is diamond-shaped in the middle with four projections coming from each point. The trinket is not shaped like a typical cross, but it is a cross nonetheless.

Amazingly, this cross is the symbol of the nomadic Taureg people of the Sahara Desert. It is amazing because the Taureg are not Christian, but Muslim. Historians and anthropologists are not sure where the Taureg cross came from or why it is so important to these people. The meaning has been lost."

Anderson asks, "Is it possible for Christians to forget the meaning of the cross? Could the cross ever become merely a part of our culture?" [Moody, Apr 1993. Page 13.]

The meaning of the Cross can be forgotten. But when we remember the Cross, it should bring out devotion in us, for there we see the great devotion of Christ toward us. Spurgeon used to say, "Morality can keep you out of hell, but only Jesus can keep you out of hell." Indeed, that is why He died, to keep us out of hell, and to give us an abundant meaningful life where we are.

Dwight L. Moody used to tell of a man who went out to seek his fortune and then sent for his wife and son. The wife and son got on a ship and sailed toward California. On the way, the ship caught on fire. There were not enough life boats and people were fighting to get into the ones that existed. The woman begged for a place on one of the boats and a man agreed to let her in the boat. Instead, she tossed her son into the boat at the last moment and remained on the ship to die. As the lifeboat drifted away, people heard her shouting to her son, "Tell your daddy I died in your place; tell your daddy I died in your place!"

That is what Jesus did for you and for me. He died in our place. The Cross shouts the message, 'Jesus died in your place.'

Have you accepted Him? If not, do it today. If you have accepted Him, look at your devotion and ask yourself if you are living near enough to the cross.