By admin | March 24, 2011
The Old Rugged Cross
Three men, who were guilty of robbery and, perhaps, other crimes, were scheduled to die on this hillside high above the city, and near the road to Damascus. It was a very public place where the Romans made examples of those who broke their laws. Yet, one of those men will not die; Barabbas was set free. Jesus not only took his place, but also became his substitute.
All three men were given wine mingled with myrrh to drink. The drug would serve as a sedative, and dull the mind and the pain. Jesus refused to drink the mixture because he wanted to stay in control. He would suffer the excruciating pain with dignity and honor. He would keep a clear mind as He suffered for you and me. The prophet Isaiah wrote, about 700 years before, these prophetic words, “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” (Isa. 53:7).
About nine in the morning, they stripped Him of His clothes, and nailed Him to the cross. He was placed between two criminals, and was raised up so that all could see and mock Him. He hung there on public display in agony, naked, humiliated and embarrassed. Let us not forget that Jesus was as human as we are – He was both God and man. What a price He is paying for our sins!
Most of us picture Jesus on the cross with a cloth around Him. However; Scripture does not support this. All four Gospel writers say that the soldiers parted His garments among them – casting lots for one of the garments. It was the intent of the Romans to completely humiliate those being crucified so that they might be an example to others. After they had placed Him on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34b).
It was the custom of the Romans to write the charges against a person, and to place a list of those charges over the prison door. When the sentence was carried out, they wrote, “paid in full” over the charges. Let’s look at John’s comments on the charges listed against Jesus. “Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.” Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’”(John 19:19-22).
Now let us continue with Luke’s narrative, “And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, ‘He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.’ The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, and saying, ‘If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself’” (Luke 23:35-37)!
After listening to the response of the crowd, one of the men hanging next to Jesus began to take part in the jeering. Let us listen to the conversation. “Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.’ But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’” (Luke 23:39-43).
Many people believe that Jesus was punished in hell for three days after His death, but Jesus is saying that today He would be in Paradise. Where was Paradise? Jesus explained this in the story of Lazarus, and the rich man as recorded in Luke chapter 16. Both men died; Lazarus went to a place called Abraham’s Bosom (Paradise), and the rich man went to a place of torment. There was a great gulf that separated the two areas. Jesus said that Abraham’s Bosom was a place of comfort and companionship. It was a temporary place where the righteous, who died before Jesus shed His blood for the sins of the world, rested from their labors, and awaited ultimate release; after their sins had been washed away by Jesus’ shed blood. After Jesus was resurrected, He took those who were in Abraham’s Bosom to Heaven. We will discuss this later.
On this day, one of the criminals was going with Jesus to Abraham’s Bosom. Both malefactors probably committed the same crimes, and both were found guilty. What is the difference? The man going to Paradise with Jesus accepted the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice for his sins. The other man did not accept the gift, and went to the place of torment where the rich man had gone.
We will now return to John’s Gospel where we continue with the sequence of events. “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:25-27, NKJV). John was the disciple to whom Jesus was speaking. Before Jesus lost his ability to communicate, He committed the care of His earthly mother to John. Tradition has it, that John took her home with him and cared for her the rest of her life.
As the noon hour approached, the hot sun, and the suffering of His contorted body began to sap all of His strength. He began to sag under His weight as His muscles convulsed from the excruciating pain. As the body sagged with the arms uplifted, the lungs began to fill with fluid, and slowly He began to suffocate. He would drift into unconsciousness, and the waves of agonizing pain would revive Him.
The Psalmist writing a thousand years earlier, in the first person, recorded Jesus’ passion. “They gape at Me with their mouths, like a raging and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots” (Psalms 22:13-18).
A veil of Darkness
At noon God the Father turned out the lights. The Bible says that a great darkness came over all the area from noon until three in the afternoon. The hour had come for the Father to do business with the Son. This is private business, and the sneering crowd will not be allowed to watch, as the cross becomes an altar before the Father. The Lamb of God is to become the sacrifice.
We recall that Pilate placed a sign over the cross with the inscription, “Jesus The Nazarene, The King of the Jews”. God prepared another sign that listed the real reason for Jesus’ death. The apostle Paul writing to the Colossians said that God the Father took all the ordinances against us, and nailed them to the cross (Col. 2:13). All our sins were nailed to the cross.
The Father took the cup, the bitter cup, which Jesus agonized over in the Garden of Gethsemane, and turned it up for Jesus to drink. In that cup were the dregs of the cesspools of man’s heart; rebellion against The Sovereign and Holy God, idolatry, sorcery, pride, murder, abuse, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, envying, lying, cheating, hatred, strife, jealousy, greed, wrath, and all the other evils of the world. “the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6b), and has imputed all our sins to His account. He was, “Smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isa. 53:4b).
Every cell in Jesus’ body became sin as He was charged with breaking every law in God’s book. He had become the worst sinner who ever lived, and was at that moment the archcriminal of the universe. As he became sin for us, He became an abomination before the Holy character of the Father, and the Father turned His back upon His Beloved Son. What terror Jesus must have felt as the Father and Son were separated – the Father abandoning Him and the Holy Spirit withdrawing from Him. Rejected by man, and abandoned by God, He was alone and lonely. He had been cast into darkness – both physically and spiritually. Perhaps the physical darkness symbolizes His spiritual separation from God. But the worst is yet to come, for now He must suffer the curse of the Holy Father.
God the Father, a loving compassionate God full of grace and mercy, is also a just God. His justice demands punishment for sin; therefore, He has no choice, but to turn the full blast of His fury and wrath upon His only begotten Son. Scripture does not tell us the form of this fury and wrath; we cannot imagine the horror of this experience. Perhaps a study of Revelation would give us more insight. We must keep in mind that the focus of that terrible fury and wrath should have been upon us.
The prophet Isaiah said: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isa. 53:4). “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.” (Isa. 53:10-11).
Perhaps, there is another phase of the suffering of Jesus that most of us have overlooked. As Jesus hung in the darkness, rejected, abandoned, and alone; Satan and his demons moved in. For the first time, Satan had a claim on Jesus, and he lost little time in making that claim. No longer did Jesus have the power to resist him. I am convinced that Satan took the mind of Jesus to the pit of hell, and, there, He suffered unimaginable terror at the hands of all the powers of darkness. The very heavenly creatures, who rebelled, and tried to preempt the throne of God, surrounded Jesus. In the war of good and evil, Jesus had been captured by the enemy, and was subjected to all the anguish of their cruel torture.
We will recall in Genesis’s chapter three that God said to the serpent: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Gen 3:15). Satan (the serpent) was bruising the heel of Jesus, but his window of opportunity was very short as Jesus soon regained victory over him. When Jesus died the wages of sin were fully paid, Satan was defeated, and Jesus was released from his bondage. Yet, Satan has remained free to torture mankind since Jesus’ death on the cross.
Matthew and Mark tell us that about three o’clock in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice saying: “‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me’” (Matt 27:46b, NKJV)? The Psalmist says it this way. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning. O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; and in the night season, and am not silent. But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in You; they trusted, and You delivered them, they cried to You, and were delivered; they trusted in You, and were not ashamed. But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people” (Ps. 22:1-6).
Now we come to the final moments before he died, and we look to John’s narrative for His final words. “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’ Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:28-30).
It is finished, paid in full! Jesus had paid the wages for sin, and God had reconciled all mankind to Himself. No doubt all the angels of heaven must have been celebrating, singing, and praising the Beloved Son. Matthew tells us that God the Father, in a mighty display of power, shook the city with an earthquake. The veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom, and some of the graves were opened. The rending of the temple veil symbolized that fellowship had been restored between God and man. No longer was there a need for the Holy of Holies in the temple, which had separated God from man.
L. T. Pearson, in his book “Where is Calvary”, gives us some fascinating facts about this earthquake. He says, “experts say that the force of that quake did a most unusual thing. Instead of only causing cracks along the weakness of the rock, following the natural seams, a fierce crack had taken place from the top to the bottom.” The open graves are also interesting, and we will discuss them later. There is little doubt that God got the attention of some of those watching the crucifixion. “So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, ‘Truly this was the Son of God’” (Matt 27:54)! Nicodemus also may have watched what was going on. We recall that Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, approached Jesus at night with questions about the Kingdom of God. Jesus confounded him by telling him that He must be born again. Jesus also told him that the Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses had lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, and that whoever believed in Him would have everlasting life (John 3:14). Most people believe that Nicodemus’ experience at the foot of the cross changed his life forever. Some believe that a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, was also standing nearby. Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus because He feared the Jews. After his experience at the foot of the cross, he went public with his witness.
2 Responses to “The Crucifixion”
L. T. Pearson, in his book “Where is Calvary”, gives us some fascinating facts about this earthquake. He says, “experts say that the force of that quake did a most unusual thing. Instead of only causing cracks along the weakness of the rock, following the natural seams, a fierce crack had taken place from the top to the bottom.” The open graves are also interesting, and we will discuss them later.
There is little doubt that God got the attention of some of those watching the crucifixion. “So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, ‘Truly this was the Son of God’” (Matt 27:54)!
Nicodemus also may have watched what was going on. We recall that Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, approached Jesus at night with questions about the Kingdom of God. Jesus confounded him by telling him that He must be born again. Jesus also told him that the Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses had lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, and that whoever believed in Him would have everlasting life (John 3:14). Most people believe that Nicodemus’ experience at the foot of the cross changed his life forever.
Some believe that a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, was also standing nearby. Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus because He feared the Jews. After his experience at the foot of the cross, he went public with his witness.