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Luke 23: 33
Christ died for our sins!
"He made the forests, whence there sprung
The tree on which his holy body hung,
He died upon a cross of wood,
Yet made the hill upon which it stood."
The scene on the hill of Calvary was a touching and tragic one.
Crucifixion was a crude and cruel form of death.
Two horrible facts were present each time a criminal was crucified: great suffering and great shame.
- Death by hanging or stoning, or even by burning in comparison with crucifixion was an act of mercy.
- Death by hanging, stoning, or burning was over in a few minutes.
- Death by crucifixion was a lingering death, which took many hours, sometimes even days, before the victim died.
Horrible physical tortures awaited Jesus before He reached the cross.
"Pilate... therefore took Jesus and scourged him." (John 19: 1)
A person to be scourged was tied by his wrists to columns and was elevated on the balls of his feet,
which intensified the discomfort.
Two persons did the whipping at the same time.
One started in the front at the neck and worked down.
The other in the back started at the ankles and worked up.
Whips were used.
Whips consisted of a sturdy handle with leather thongs attached.
Embedded in the leather were sharp bits of pieces of metal or bone.
As the leather strips wrapped around the body, they were pulled like one would spend a top.
This tore the flesh into shreds -- on the back and on the chest.
The whips were soaked in vinegar to make them sting more severely.
Immediately after the lashing, the victims were splashed with salt water, which accentuated the pain.
During the scourging victims were laid bare and raw flesh and muscles were exposed.
Their intention was to beat a person without killing him.
No one walked away from these scourgings.
If they were able to move, they crawled away.
It is almost certain that Jesus had to crawl or to be helped for He would have been unable to walk under His on power.
It was this disfigured body of Christ of which was written, "No man wanted to look upon Him."
Those who were beaten were so mutilated that it was difficult to recognize them.
Exhausted by the scourging, the condemned Jesus was pushed on the pavement and the games began.
After they had finished with Him, they took the robe off of Him and put His own clothes on Him.
- The soldiers stripped him. (Matthew 27: 27-31)
- They put on Him a scarlet robe.
- They platted a crown of thorns and placed it upon His head.
- They placed a reed in His right hand.
- Then they bowed before Him and mocked Him saying, "Hail, King of the Jews."
- They spit in His face.
- They took the reed and smote Him on the head.
Then they led Him away to be crucified.
While realizing the intensity of the physical abuse and pain, don't forget the spiritual agony.
Humiliation, embarrassment, and mortification only hinted at the anguish of spirit.
Even the route to Calvary was an ordeal of stumbling and suffering as He was led through the crowds.
By 9 am, Christ was on the cross.
The nails were probably square-headed rough spikes, and they were used to nail a person's palms to the cross.
As the spikes were driven through the hand, the bones were separated.
It probably would sever one of the branches of nerves, sending unending torrents of fiery pain up the arms
and into the upper torso.
Victims were hung with their arms at a 90-degree angle.
As the cross was lowered into place, the body's weight caused the arms to be lifted to a 65-degree angle.
Such a position forced the weight of the body down on the chest cavity.
This made it virtually impossible for a person to breathe.
In order to prevent the legs from flailing aimlessly as the body went into trauma, the feet were also spiked to the cross.
Instinctively, a person would attempt to push up with their legs in order to gasp for breath causing more excruciating pain.
A spear was used to pierce the body to the right of the sternum.
The thrust of the spear penetrated the heart.
The guards did this because it brought instant death and relieved them of having to stand guard for days.
In this manner Christ died physically.
- Crucifixion was a ghastly, physical atrocity.
Every nerve in a victim's body cried out in anguish.
- Crucifixion involved an amalgamation of hunger, burning thirst, agonizing anticipation, untended wounds,
searing fever, excruciating cramps, dizziness, shame, nausea, muscle spasms, convulsions,
joints out of their sockets, and the loss of blood.
On that day the very Son of God was being put to death in what was a lynching party.
It was literally a black day, for the sun refused to shine, and the earth was darkened for awhile.
The earth convulsed with the tremor of an earthquake.
The giant curtain, the veil of the temple was torn asunder to indicate that man was no longer shut out
from the presence of God.
Merciful death came quickly to Jesus that day.
Perhaps, because He was already weakened from a long night of beatings and abuse
before He was ever nailed to the cross.
Why did all this happen?
Why did God send His Son to suffer such shame and agony at the hands of sinful men?
The answer lies in the limitless love of God.
The very sight of the cross -- the very mention of that cross ought to move us to the deepest contrition and reverence.
- The cross is the supreme revelation of the love of God.
- The cross is God's way of saving us from the consequences of our sin.
- The cross is God's way of stepping into the horrible human situation to take upon Himself
the suffering and destruction that we were piling up for ourselves.
It is said that when Martin Luther, as a monk, came to realize for the first time what a sacrifice Jesus had made
for his salvation he was overcome with emotion.
His fellow monks found him in his little room sobbing, "For me! For me! For me!"
When we focus attention on the cross, it ought to affect us in that same moving way as we realize
what Jesus has done for us in order to bring salvation to us.
Perhaps, the sacrifice that Jesus made for us in His death on the cross is illustrated, in a small, human way,
by the death of a woman who gave her own life in a heroic attempt to save her children from a burning house.
She had just gone to a neighborhood grocery store only a few blocks from home to pick up
a few items that she badly needed.
She had left her three small children bedded down for their afternoon naps.
She anticipated that she would only be gone a few minutes.
While she was away, a fire broke out in the house.
The old house was tinder-dry, and the fire quickly engulfed the whole structure.
When she turned the corner to her block, she saw her house in flames.
A crowd of people had gathered around it waiting for the arrival of fire trucks.
No one realized that there were three children inside.
She broke through the crowd and ran into the house, before anyone realized that she was even there.
She groped through the heavy smoke until she found the three frightened children huddled in a closet.
They were screaming and crying.
She grabbed one by the hand, picked up another, and made her way to a window.
She broke out the glass, and handed the two children to startled onlookers.
She went back to the closet in the hall to get the last child.
Gasping and choking, she carried the limp form of her last little boy to the window and handed him to safety.
But by then, her own body had been badly burned, and her lungs singed by the hot air and smoke.
She collapsed before she could climb to the window and was dead by the time others could get her out of the house.
As probably any mother would have done, she gladly sacrificed herself in order to rescue her precious children.
Those three children lived the rest of their lives with the realization that they were alive, only because
their mother had sacrificed her life for them.
It ought to be like that for us when we look at the cross...
Jesus exchanged His life for yours -- for mine.
We are only alive because of Jesus.
The awful sin -- the sin of all sins, the sin that shuts out God forever, is the sin of not accepting the salvation
God has provided through Jesus Christ.
That man or woman, boy or girl who will not flee to the cross to accept Jesus as their Saviour is doomed,
eternally doomed, eternally lost.
There are just two options open to us as we face the cross.
We either reject Jesus or we receive Him.
No one can be neutral.
The cross of Christ demands a response.
When a person fails to respond and to receive Christ as Saviour, that person rejects Christ's invitation
of forgiveness and salvation.
That person has signed his own death certificate.
"O the love that drew salvation's plan.
O the grace that brought it down to man.
O the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary.
Years I spent in vanity and pride
Caring not my Lord was crucified
Knowing not it was for me He died on Calvary.
Mercy there was great, and grace was free
Pardon there was multiplied to me
There my burdened soul down liberty
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at hleewhite@AOL.com