are many, many ways to examine the Crucifixion. In what follows, we will be
guided by a few simple precepts:
suffering of Christ is a model for us.
As we try to be like Him, we will undoubtedly need to know how to suffer as He
did. It is inevitable; as the world treated Him this way we certainly cannot
claim any exemption from it. We may take heart, however, in knowing that in
weakness God’s strength is perfected.
sufferings of Christ are emblematic of our salvation. By His stripes we are healed; we
may look at His suffering and see in it the symbols of the faith.
sufferings of Christ are a fulfillment of prophecy. The Crucifixion is God’s “Plan A.”
Mat 27:27-36 NASB
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered
the whole Roman cohort around Him. (28) They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on
Him. (29) And after twisting together a crown
of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they
knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, "Hail, King of the
Jews!" (30) They spat on Him, and took
the reed and began to beat Him on the
head. (31) After they had mocked Him, they
took the scarlet robe off Him and put
His own garments back on Him, and led
Him away to crucify Him. (32) As they were
coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they pressed into
service to bear His cross. (33) And when they
came to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, (34) they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall;
and after tasting it, He was unwilling
to drink. (35) And when they had crucified
Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots. (36) And sitting down, they began to keep watch over Him there.
takes a blind man not to see the symbolism in the solders’ mock coronation.
The soldiers take off the things of Christ and clothe Him in the things of this
is the scarlet robe, the sins of this world.
is the crown of thorns, by which bears the curse of this world to the
Cross, there to lift it from His people.
is the reed, the staff – by which Christ will conquer the old Serpent by
swallowing up death in victory.
soldiers – doing their jobs
cannot help but notice: the soldiers simply have no concept of what might be
happening. To them, this was just one more criminal (or political prisoner);
I suppose it provides something to do in the midst of a soldier’s boredom.
They thought little of mocking Him; the world likewise will think little of
is one curious incident here: it is the mixture of wine and gall. Such a
mixture would be very bitter. Can you see the symbolism in this? Christ
tastes the bitterness of death – and rejects it. He also puts a practical
point to it. We would see such a death as greatly improved by eliminating the
suffering. We believe not only that anesthetics work; we believe they should
be used. It is the temptation to false suffering; “How much have you suffered
for Jesus’ sake” is usually answered with, “Not much – but I moaned and groaned
it into something really big.” If you’re going to suffer, use the proper
soldiers then do what soldiers do best: they sat down and waited. It’s a
picture of many in this world; they are waiting to see what happens. They
think they’re sitting on the fence practicing “wait and see.” Actually,
they’re sitting on a rail road track. And there’s a light approaching.
it weren’t for symbolism, we’d be pressed to understand why Matthew told us
about Simon. But see it through the eyes opened to understanding:
tells us that man – indeed, one of the Gentiles – can carry the Cross. It
was no accident that Christ told us to take up the Cross. We need to bear
it on his Via Dolorosa, sharing his sufferings.
just man; the early church held that this meant that the nations would
take up the Cross. It is rejected by the Jews; it is therefore offered to
too – he was picked at random by the soldiers. Any one of us may be
called to take up the Cross; all of us should be willing to do so.
Mat 27:37-44 NASB
And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, "THIS IS
JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS." (38) At
that time two robbers *were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the
left. (39) And those passing by were hurling
abuse at Him, wagging their heads (40) and
saying, "You who are going to
destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the
Son of God, come down from the cross." (41)
In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were
mocking Him and saying, (42) "He saved others; He cannot save Himself.
He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will
believe in Him. (43) "HE TRUSTS IN GOD;
LET GOD RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIGHTS
IN HIM; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.'" (44)
The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the
you are the Son of God”
want to believe in magic, but not in God. Magic is a tame lion; it jumps
through the hoops when you want it to. This explains our love of science; it
is the twin of magic. We want a God who will do what we say to prove He
exists. But do you not see that such a God cannot exist – and still be God?
How is it that God the omnipotent, the ruler of all, now becomes your personal
forget that God works miracles – for His purposes, not ours. And His purpose
here is to pay the price for our sins.
is also the case that Christ is the Son of Man. He is sharing our pain, that
we might some day share His glory. Consider it from a perspective of style:
He certainly died like God. He died with forgiveness for those who did it; He
died in that maddening refusal to gratify our curiosity. He died with no
thought of anger or revenge.
King of the Jews
one of those ironic twists of history, Pilate puts this title on the plaque
over Jesus’ head. It is satire; Pilate’s last zing into the Jewish leadership
over this matter. The plaque normally contained the accusation; the irony is
that in this instance the sinless man is rightly accused.
you ever considered Jesus as Lord and King? Kings are entitled to obedience
from their subjects. One form of disobedience is to pass judgment on the
king. If someone today were to refuse to pay taxes because they didn’t like
the war in Iraq, we’d still prosecute them for it. And all we have is a
of the Jews: if this is the honor the world gave Him, why do we expect to be
treated so much differently?
we will believe”
only I could see a miracle – just one – then I would truly believe.”
saved others” – by these words the Jews acknowledge His power, and convict
themselves of hypocrisy. If you knew He did that by the power of God, why
are you crucifying Him?
God rescue Him.” Do you really know the purposes and plans of God
Almighty that well? Viewed from the past, the Crucifixion looks like a
horrible end to a promising beginning. Viewed from ages past, the plan of
God is indeed an awesome completion.
you need the history, remember that the ancestors of these Jews wandered the
desert and did not believe, despite the miracles. As Abraham told Dives,
even if someone were to come back from the dead, they would not believe.
Mat 27:46-56 NASB
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?" that is, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?" (47) And some of those who were standing
there, when they heard it, began saying,
"This man is calling for Elijah." (48)
Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine
and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. (49)
But the rest of them said, "Let us
see whether Elijah will come to save Him." (50)
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. (51) And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in
two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. (52) The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the
saints who had fallen asleep were raised; (53)
and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city
and appeared to many. (54) Now the centurion,
and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the
earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said,
"Truly this was the Son of God!" (55)
Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. (56) Among them was
Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the
sons of Zebedee.
God, my God
cry has been a problem to many. How could the God who is Love reject His own
Son? The answer is simple: God is holy; no sin can come near Him. So it is
when the Savior took upon Himself the sins of the world, He separated Himself
from the Father.
do you not also see that the very wrenching nature of this cry tells you that
Jesus was so closely bonded to the Father? We might ask, “Why me?” But that
view depends on our own goodness. To be truly alone from God brings another
question: why did God do what seems to be a contradiction in His character.
man with a sponge
poor, anonymous man: the last man to be of service to Jesus on earth, and we
don’t know his name. But we can see the character of the last servant of
ran. The servant of the Lord is not a leisurely person. Nor
should we be slack in doing what Christ has commanded.
gave him sour wine – the best he had, even if it was none too
appetizing. We should not excuse ourselves from service by complaining
that our portion is far too small to be of use.
gave it to him on a reed. This day it is the reed of weakness; but
God will turn it into the staff of His strength. Our means may be feeble;
we should use them none the less.
physics of the thing comes from the reaction.
itself – the handiwork of Christ, for whom the stones would cry out –
reacts in darkness and quaking.
of the saints of old rise from the dead; the spiritual world marks the
passing of its Creator as well.
one tough old army sergeant – the centurion – is convinced. The man died
like a God.
hindsight we see the plan and power of God.
see one other thing: that Jesus, the Christ, shared in the experience of death
with us. I can find no better words for this than these I wrote several years ago
for a devotional:
you ever been down to the point where the government had to get someone else to
carry your load? A welfare case? Simon of Cyrene carried the cross
for Him. He knows how you feel.
you ever been down to the point where those around you can think of nothing
more to say than, “Buddy, I’ll buy you a drink?” They offered Jesus
drugged wine. He knows how you feel.
you ever been to the point where the world takes away even your clothes?
Have you had to watch total strangers pick through what used to be your
clothes? Bankruptcy and the last garage sale, perhaps? They gambled
for His clothes. He knows how you feel.
you ever been in trouble with the law? To the point where the criminals
around you gave you a hard time about it? They crucified him between two
thieves, and even they insulted Him. He knows how you feel.
you ever been the victim of the insults of the mob? Just those looking
on, laughing at you and calling you names? “Come down from the cross,”
they called to Him. He knows how you feel.
you ever had the “righteous” people insult you, calling you names and letting
the world know just how rotten they think you are? Even the religious
leaders insulted Him on the cross. He knows how you feel.
knows how you feel, for it all happened to Him. Even though He had lived
the sinless life, deserving none of this, that’s how they treated Him. So
when you feel the world coming down on top of you, whether you deserve it or
not, remember: He knows how you feel.
Take your troubles to
Him. Go to Him in prayer and tell Him how it is within the depths of your
soul. There is nothing you can say that He does not understand, for He is
human just like us. There is nothing He cannot comprehend, for He is
God. There is nothing He cannot forgive, for He went to the cross for
you, that you might be forgiven. There is no hurt too deep for the
Christ, by whose wounds you are healed. Love, in its purest form, awaits
you. He knows how you feel.