1. Those Absent From The Cross


We’re going to focus our attention on those who were absent when Christ was on the cross and the first person we’re going to look at is someone who could have been there but because he was already dead, wasn’t.


Remember when the disciples sat around the table at the Lord’s Supper and Jesus says.

‘I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.’ John 13:21

The disciples were at loss as to who would betray Jesus but Jesus plainly tells Judas it was him who would betray Jesus, Matthew 26:25.

And I believe Jesus was making a special appeal to Judas’ heart. He was holding that piece of bread there and He was looking right into his eyes.

Jesus was knocking at the door of his heart and Judas threw open the door and told Jesus to stay outside and he invited Satan in. And at that moment Jesus knew that He had lost him.

So He gave a command.

“What you are about to do, do quickly.” John 13:27

By the way, it’s the only time in the Bible that God and Satan gave a man the same command.

And do you know what John says? John says, “When I look back on it, what I remember is how dark it was when he left, the last thing I ever remember of Judas is walking out in the darkness”. John 13:30. Because it’s always dark when you sell out Jesus.

Over the centuries, Judas has been so despised that we can’t relate to him but the disciples could. The question they asked when Jesus said, “One of you is going to betray me” is “Is it I? Could it be me?”

I think that’s the question we’re supposed to ask because I think if we look deep into our hearts we will admit that there have been times in our lives when we have made some hard bargains for Jesus.

Judas sold out Jesus for 30 pitiful pieces of silver but do you know something, I’ve sold Jesus out for less than that, haven’t you?

Judas spent three years with Jesus, he drove out demons and taught about the good news along with the other apostles, but yet he still fell, Matthew 27:3-5.

As Christians, we too can spend many years preaching the good news and doing good deeds, but our heart isn’t really in it and if we’re not careful we too can easily fall away.

I believe if Judas had shown godly repentance, 2 Corinthians 7:10, Jesus would have forgiven Him. If he had done that, then he may have been at the cross of Christ.

The Other Apostles

The Bible tells us that other apostles weren’t at the cross because they fled, Matthew 26:56. Just like Judas, the apostles spent three years with Jesus and He told them three times what was going to happen to Him, Matthew 16:21, but still, they fled.

It wasn’t that long ago when Peter declared that he wouldn’t be the one to deny Christ or leave His side, Mark 14:29. But when the moment of truth came, not even Peter was bold enough to stay with Jesus, He too fled from the scene.

What about John Mark? Mark never identifies himself by name in his Gospel and many people believe the young man who fled naked was Mark, Mark 14:51-52.

Why did the apostles flee? They were overcome with fear when they saw Jesus being arrested. They were filled with fear and that fear led them to forget the promises they made to Jesus that they would never forsake Him.

Mary, Martha, And Lazarus

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus aren’t mentioned as being at the cross, at the tomb, or in the upper room. These were the people with whom Jesus spent His final days and we know that He loved them dearly, John 11:5.

We would think that after declaring that He was the resurrection and Life, John 11:25, they would have followed Jesus wherever He went. We would think that all three, especially after raising Lazarus from the dead, that would have followed Jesus wherever He went.

They lived in Bethany which was only two miles away from Jerusalem, but why weren’t they there? Well, we don’t know why, I guess they may have already suffered enough with Lazarus dying and being raised again. It’s also possible that they thought that their lives would be in danger because of their association with Jesus.

Jesus’ Brothers And Sisters

Where were Jesus’ brothers and sisters? Matthew 13:55-56. We would think that His own physical family would have been there supporting Him in His last hours of life.

We would think that would have at least been there to support their grieving mother. James, Joseph, Simon and Judas are named as Jesus’ brothers, but Jesus’ sisters aren’t named and we know nothing else about them.

I believe one of the reasons His brothers weren’t at the cross is because they still didn’t believe in Jesus, John 7:5. Think about this for a moment, they had lived with Jesus for thirty years but they still didn’t know Him. Not one of Jesus’ brothers is mentioned as a disciple before He was crucified.

It’s only after Jesus’ resurrection do we read of them being present in the upper room, Acts 1:13-14. What’s going on here? What would cause His brothers from going from not believing to believing?

Well, the answer is simple, it was the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus appeared to His brother James, 1 Corinthians 15:6-8, and it’s possible that Jesus appeared to His other brothers too after He rose from the grave.

Now, this should give us some encouragement, because many of us have family members who aren’t Christians yet. It took thirty years for Jesus’ brothers to go from unbelieving to believing. So don’t give up on your family members.

Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe at first but they went on to do great things for the Lord. Although we don’t know what Joseph and Simon went on to do, we do know that James and Jude went on to write books within the New Testament.

James went on to become a great leader within the church in Jerusalem. The point is, don’t give up on your family members, God may have big plans for them within His church.


The final person who wasn’t at the cross but I think should have been was Barabbas, the terrorist and murderer, Luke 23:18-19. We would think that he would have been at the cross, especially because Jesus more or less bought his freedom from condemnation.

Even Pilate was shocked that the Jews chose to release him rather than Jesus, Matthew 27:15-17. It was customary for the governor to release a prisoner during the Passover Feast.

When Pilate asked the Jews who he should release between Barabbas and Jesus, they said they wanted Barabbas. And so, the guilty man was released instead of the righteous One.

Maybe Barabbas wasn’t at the cross because he believed it was the Jews he owed his life. We don’t know what happened to Barabbas after his release, but we would have thought that he would have gone to see the very man who took his place on the cross.

Jesus died in our place, Romans 5:7-8, as surely as He died in Barabbas’ place. Each of us deserves the death penalty but Jesus died to release us from our sins and the penalty of death.

Now I’ve highlighted a few people who weren’t at the cross but I believe should have been. But what about the many people Jesus had healed and had witnessed His miracles? Where were they? We may never know why many of the people we’ve looked at weren’t at the cross of Christ.

You And I

Remember the song, ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ Yes, I was there and so were you and not just as a spectator either, but as a participant! We will never understand the cross as something done for us until we see it as something done by us.

In his painting the “Elevation of Christ”, Rembrandt depicts the cross being raised by men full of spite, malice and hate. But down in the left-hand corner in the dark shadows, you can make out the face of Rembrandt himself.

Rembrandt understood that in a very real way, he was there too and his sins were as much responsible for the cross as the men who were there that day.

Our fingerprints are all over the cross and the day that hits our hearts is the day when we’ll get serious about discipleship!

After the first Gospel sermon, Peter finished by saying to the people that ‘they had crucified Jesus’. They already knew that in their heads, but that day, it says they were cut to the heart, Acts 2:37.

You will never own your cross until you own up to His. The Old Rugged Cross must become your rugged cross if you’re going to follow Jesus. You and I will never carry our crosses until we are broken by the truth that our sins sent Jesus to his.

It must get out of the heads, out of our Bibles and into our hearts where we are changed, broken and undone. And until that happens, the cross will be still just a story we read and not the centre of who we are.