Sunday, August 2, 2009

August 2 -- Crucifixion

John 19

In this passage, we see the savagery of what those few hours held for Christ.

1. Jesus was humiliated

Everything that was done to Christ during the crucifixion was done to belittle Him. He called himself a king, so the soldiers mocked him with a purple robe and a crown of thorns. They spit at him. They blindfolded him and took turns hitting at him. I've never seen an execution today, but from what we hear, it's taken seriously and solemnly. There aren't any mind games played with the condemned.

We also get a somewhat sanitized version of the crucifixion. Jesus, who was pure and holy, was probably placed naked on the cross in full view of men, women and children. Fortunately, artists over the generations have seen fit to give Him a tattered loincloth. Satan didn't. Satan wanted to try to break and humiliate Jesus to the point that He'd give in.

The final humiliation was sin. Jesus was the only man who ever lived that knew no sin. However, in those last few moments all the weight of all the shame of all the sin in the world -- past, present and future -- all came on this one man. In asking His Father why He was forsaken, we know that Jesus felt that shame.

2. Jesus was tortured.

This is fairly obvious, especially if you went to Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" movie. Crucifixion doesn't kill by pain or loss of blood or trauma. Crucifixion puts the body in a position that the lungs can't fill with air and the victim suffocates. Slowly. The only way the body can get air is to try to raise up from that position by standing taller or lifting themselves up by the arms. Those tricky little Romans made that more difficult by driving nails through the hands and feet so that the subject faced the choice of intense pain in the hands and feet or the inability to get air. The idea was that finally the loss of air would make the person too weak to raise up any more and they'd eventually die.

That wasn't all Jesus went through. There were the whips, the weight of the cross, and so forth. I don't usually like to dwell on the barbarity of the event, but it cannot be overlooked.

3. Jesus died.

Of course He did. However, that shouldn't be overlooked either. Jesus, who just a few years before this had been living through eternity as God and came to Earth as a man, now died as a man. I can't comprehend all of what happened from Friday afternoon through Sunday morning. But I do know this: Jesus' body stopped working and died just like everyone else's had.

Jesus wasn't dead long. There's a Southern Gospel song (I can't find it) called "Weekend" that goes something like:

Jesus needed that tomb for just one weekend

He didn't stay there long

He didn't. And on Saturday, the Bible says He was busy in Sheol (what the Jews of the day understood as the place of the dead) preaching the gospel of salvation to everyone who'd gone before Him so that they had the chance to respond and receive salvation.

Jesus didn't enjoy that Passover. When thinking about the crucifixion, I'm always taken to Hebrews 12:1-2 which says "Therefore, we also, because we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Jesus hated what was happening to Him. And He did it anyway. How? He looked through His circumstances and saw what waited ahead. He didn't hear the insults. Instead, He looked ahead and heard His Father tell Him how proud He was. When Jesus felt the nails, He looked ahead to the Second Coming and saw the saints rising out of their graves. When Jesus was gasping His last, He looked ahead to the day when all God's children were gathered before him in Heaven.

This makes me think of a very simple mathematical equation:

Jesus > Humiliation + Torture + Death.

For those that haven't had math in a while, here it is in English: Jesus is greater than the combination of humiliation, torture and death. And He still is.

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