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Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion
as recorded in Matthew 27:27-55
 
 
Pilate believed that Jesus was a good man and he didn’t want to be responsible for his death.  As the Roman governor in Jerusalem, Pilate had the power to stop Jesus from being put to death and to do the right thing.  But if Pilate used his power to rule against the wishes of the angry mob it might have caused unrest among the people and that in turn might have caused Pilate to lose his position as governor.
 
Would Pilate use his position to do what he knew was right or would he do what he thought  might work to his advantage?  Scripture tells us that Pilate didn’t want to pay the price for doing the right thing!  So he walked away from his responsibility to uphold justice and told the crowd that they would be responsible for Jesus’ death!  And then he ordered his soldiers to whip Jesus and crucify Him.
 
The Roman soldiers obeyed Pilate and whipped Jesus and then Scripture says the whole garrison gathered around to humiliate Him. (Matthew 27:27)  Were these soldiers or brute beasts?  Jesus’ flesh was torn and bleeding from the beating and He stood there with his head down while the soldiers enjoyed shoving Him around and taunting Him.  The soldiers stripped his clothes off and put a purple robe on Him.  And then, making fun of Him, they twisted a crown of thorns and pushed it down on His head and shoved a reed in His hand and bowed before Him in fake reverence saying: “Hail, King of the Jews!”  (Matthew 27:28-29)  Then still jeering they spit on Him and beat him over the head.
 
Finally the soldiers pushed Jesus out onto the road and lay the heavy cross on His torn and bleeding back.  They ordered Him to carry the cross down the long road and outside the city gates.  Angry crowds lined the road yelling obscenities and waving their fists at Jesus as He struggled along carrying the heavy cross.  Hatred hung heavy in the air.  At one point Jesus stumbled and fell and the soldiers grabbed a man named Simon the Cyrene out of the crowd and ordered him to carry the cross for Jesus.  We don’t know much about Simon other than he was a black man from northwestern Africa.   But Simon the Cyrene was given the honor of helping Jesus bear the cross.
 
When the soldiers brought Jesus to a place outside the city walls called Golgotha they stopped and prepared to crucify Him.  The blood thirsty crowds were following along looking forward to spending the day watching Jesus suffer.  .“Golgotha” is an Aramaic word which means “skull”.  No one knows why they called this place the place of the “skull”.  People have guessed as to where the exact location of “Golgotha” is, but no one knows for sure... 
 
The Catholic church considers “The Church of the Holy Sepulcher” in Jerusalem is to be the exact location of Jesus’ death.  Another place has been considered as the possible location by some British Protestants and other Christians because the place is outside the city and next to a hill with a rock that looks somewhat like a “skull”. But we don’t know for sure where “Golgotha” is. 
 
Scripture says that when the soldiers got to Golgotha they offered Jesus sour wine with gall to drink, but Jesus refused it.  Then the soldiers held Jesus down on the ground and drove large nails through His hands and His feet, nailing his body to the cross while the cruel mob stood around watching and cheering and eating and drinking their booze and partying.  Several women were in the background crying.  This terrible scene had been prophesied one thousand years earlier in Scripture: “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.  (Psalms 22:16-17) 
 
Then they hammered his cross into the ground between the crosses of two robbers laughing and joking as they did their work.  And then the soldiers cast lots for his robe and divided up his other clothing.  (Matthew 17:35) This was also prophesied a thousand years earlier: “They divided My garments among them.  And for My clothing they cast lots.”  (Psalms 22:18)
 
Then the soldiers hung a sign over His head.  It was the custom to write out the accusations made against the prisoner being put to death on a sign for everyone to see. So the sign that hung over Jesus’ head read: “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.” And the soldiers ran around the dying Jesus waving their hands and joking about Him being a king.     
 
As Jesus was hanging there on the cross the mob crowded around swearing and shaking their fists and yelling more insults at Him.  “You who destroy the temple and build it back in three days, save Yourself!  If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” they jeered..  (Matthew 27:40)  Even one of the robbers who were hanging on a cross next to Jesus joined in to make fun of Him.
 
Again these scenes of cruelty and rejection had been prophesied so very long ago.  The ancient prophet had foretold his death long ago: “But I am a worm, and a no man.  A reproach of men, and despised by the people.  All those who see Me ridicule Me.  They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, ‘He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him.  Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”  Psalm 22:6-8) 
 
The chief priests and the scribes and elders in their long black robes proudly strutted by Jesus as he hung on the cross.  This was the day they had been waiting for! They were so glad to finally be getting rid of Him! They had worked so hard to have Jesus put to death and now it was happening! “He saved others: but He can’t seem to save Himself.” they gloated, shaking their heads.  “If He is the King of Israel, Let Him come down from the cross now and we will believe Him.” they sneered, wagging their fingers at Him.   (Matthew 27:39-42) 
 
These religious leaders believed that they were doing God’s will by having Jesus put to death.  They felt righteous and holy as they stood there mocking the Savior and watching Him die. They were standing tall proudly wearing their phylacteries (leather pouches with Scripture inside) and praying loud prayers.  After all they represented God didn’t they?  It had been a difficult job to persuade the people that Jesus should die.  But the so called men of God had finally won the people over to hating Him and they were jubilant.  This was their day!  
 
The mob stood around the cross having fun - screaming insults at Jesus while He was gasping for breath and yelling crude jokes at Him while He was writhing in pain.  These mean folks enjoyed seeing the blood pour down from His wounds and they took pleasure in watching Him die.  “He trusted in God: let God deliver Him now if He will have Him.  Didn’t He say, ‘I am the Son of God’?”  they asked laughing.  (Matthew 27:43)
 
     
Scripture says:  “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.”  (Matthew 27:45)  A supernatural darkness enveloped the whole land.  You would think that some of the people in the crowd might question why this was happening!  Why wouldn’t the sun shine while the Savior was dying? 
 
 “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  (Matthew 27:46)  Jesus was made sin for us (2 Cor.5:21) and in paying the penalty as the sinner’s substitute, He was accursed of God (Gal.3:13)  God the Father did not forsake Him (Luke 23:46) but God as Judge had to be separated from Jesus if He was to experience spiritual death in the place of sinful men.
 
 Jesus’ cries from the cross had also been prophesied long before:  “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?  Why are You so far from helping Me.  And from the words of My groaning?”  (Psalm 22:1) 
 
About this time one of the soldiers ran and took a sponge filled with sour wine and put it on a reed and offered it to Jesus to drink as He hung on the cross dying.  And soon after that Scripture records Jesus’ death:  “Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.  And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  And the earth quaked, and the rocks were split.  And the graves were opened: and many saints who had died were raised: and coming out of their graves after His resurrection they went into Jerusalem and appeared to many.”  (Matthew 27:50-53)  When Jesus died the earth shifted and something changed!
 
The creation - God’s world - was moved and effected by Jesus’ death.  It is not surprising since Scripture says that through Jesus everything was made or created.  (John 1:3)  Nothing came into existence without Jesus.  Along with the darkness covering the earth while Jesus hung on the cross, at the moment of His death there was a violent earthquake. And Scripture records: “The centurion and his men who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and the things that were happening and they were terrified.  And they said: “Truly this was the Son of God.’”  (Matthew 27:54)
 
Scripture also says that when Jesus died “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”  This veil or curtain divided the Holy of Holies (where God’s presence was) from the sinful people outside the veil.  People were kept on the other side of the veil because they would die if they approached a holy God in their sin.(Exodus 26:31)  The veil kept a sinful people away from a holy God.  But now the barrier was torn down.
 
Scripture says: “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” (Hebrews 9:22) But the blood of the perfect lamb (Jesus) had been shed and the price for sin was paid when Jesus died on the cross.  Jesus death has torn down the barrier between a sinful people and their God.  The veil in the temple was split by God, not by man.  It points to the fact that Jesus’ death opens the way for us to enter into the presence of God!        
 
The mention of the dead saints being raised when Jesus died has raised many questions.  These people were not raised to life on earth again but to life eternal.  This opening of the graves of the saints may illustrate that Jesus’ death and resurrection affected those dead saints and also affects all believers and what happens to us after death! If we are in Christ the grave can never hold us! “Oh death where is your sting?  Oh grave, where is your victory!

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