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At The Cross Sin Was Judged and Death Was Defeated


And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
(Matthew 27:51-56 ESV)


Yesterday we saw that the curtain in the temple separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was torn in two at the moment Jesus died, symbolically declaring that sin had been forgiven and God and man were reconciled. But there were some other miraculous things that happened as well.

At that time the earth shook and rocks were split. Earthquakes are an indication of God’s judgment [2 Samuel 22:8; Psalm 18:7; Isaiah 29:6 et. al].

All sin must experience God’s judgment. If God failed to judge sin then He would not be holy. At the cross Jesus became sin and experienced God’s judgment in our place. The shaking earth and splitting rocks were visible, tangible proof that God had executed judgment on Jesus.

We also read that tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. These people were Old Testament believers who trusted in God to provide for the forgiveness of their sins but who died before He did so.

They went into the city and were seen by many after Jesus’ resurrection. They could not have been resurrected or appeared to the living until after Jesus was raised from the dead Himself because Jesus was to be the first of those who were asleep (dead) [1 Corinthians 15:20]. Jesus had to be resurrected first, before any of us could be.

Jesus’ resurrection was the fulfillment of the Feast of the Firstfruits [Leviticus 23:10-14]. During that feast the people would bring a handful of grain reaped early in the harvest to the priest as a sacrificial token of the upcoming harvest,

As a parallel, on this occasion some, but not all, Old Testament believers were raised up as a token of the still-future resurrection of all believers (those who lived during the Old Testament and those who lived during the New Testament).

And while Jesus was the first to be resurrected from the dead, if He had been the sole one resurrected people might think that such special treatment was only for Him, being the Son of God. The resurrection and appearance of these Old Testament believers would avow that a new life was available to everyone, not just the Son of God.

Notice that those who were resurrected were “saints”. As we learned during our study of Ephesians, the term saint is just the way the Bible refers to believers. Anyone who recognizes their own sinfulness and need for forgiveness, and believes that God would send someone to pay the penalty for our sins, is a “saint”, whether they looked forward to that event (as those who lived during the Old Testament did) or they looked back on that event (as those who lived during the New Testament do).

The message of these saints is clear: death had been defeated. No one need have any more fear of death, as long as they had their sins forgiven by Jesus at the cross.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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The Proof That Sin Has Been Forgiven


And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
(Matthew 27:51-56 ESV)


Yesterday we read about the death of Jesus. His suffering on the cross, including being abandoned by God, His Father, in His final hours, paid the penalty for our sins. Today we read the proof of that.

When the tabernacle (and later the temple) was built, God gave specific instructions on how it was to be constructed. This included creating a small inner room called the Holy of Holies – the most holy room in the Temple.

This room was where the high priest would go once a year, with the atoning blood of a sacrificed lamb, to meet with God. God would forgive Israel’s sins for the preceding year. But every year this same ritual had to be repeated.

The Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the interior by a curtain [Exodus 26:31-33]. This curtain was a bold reminder to everyone who entered the Temple of the separation between God and man – a separation that came into existence in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned.

Sin separated God from man. Before Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, they spent their lives in God’s presence. They are the only people in the history of mankind to do so. But then they sinned and were dismissed from God’s presence [Genesis 3:23-24].

But God immediately promised to rectify the situation by sending a savior who would bridge the sin-created gap between God and man [Genesis 3:15]. That savior appeared thousands of years later and is known as Jesus.

To symbolically prove that Jesus had paid for mankind’s sins and that this gap no longer existed the curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom. Notice that the curtain, which was over 60 feet long and 30 feet wide, was completely torn in two from top to bottom. This was a miracle. It was God who tore the curtain. Man would have torn it from bottom to top.

By tearing the curtain God was saying that Jesus’ death fully paid for mankind’s sins and that He was now accessible to all of us. Jesus’ death opened the way for every human being to enter God’s presence because their sins no longer separate them from God.

But just like the high priest could only enter the Holy of Holies with the blood of the lamb, we can only enter God’s presence through the blood of Jesus. It was Jesus’ shed blood that atoned for our sins and makes God accessible to us.

All the lambs slain in the Temple over the centuries were merely symbolic of the true lamb to come who would in actuality atone for people’s sins. That lamb was Jesus.

There is no other way to enter God’s presence as Jesus Himself explained [John 14:6]. Anyone who tries to enter God’s presence through Allah or Buddha or via their own good behavior will fail.

Only those people who have believed upon Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins can enter God’s presence. And they can do so confidently, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that their sins are truly forgiven [Hebrews 10:19].

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Jesus Willingly Gave His Life For Ours


Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
(Matthew 27:45-50 ESV)


In today’s passage we read that Jesus cried out again with a loud voice  while hanging on the cross. This was the second time He had done that, as recorded by Matthew.

As we learned yesterday, speaking at all while on the cross was rare. Even after He had been beaten several times, had been scourged, had nails driven through His flesh and had been hanging in excruciating pain on the cross for hours Jesus had the strength to speak with a loud voice.

This tells us that He wasn’t close to dying at this point. Yet He did.

Crucifixion victims died slowly. Very slowly. Crucifixion was designed to prolong death as long as possible and it would be the norm for a victim to live for a few days before dying. But not Jesus. He was crucified at 9:00 AM [Mark 15:25] and He died only six hours later [Mark 15:34].

In fact, Jesus died so soon that Pilate was surprised when he got the report of Jesus’ death and asked for confirmation [Mark 15:44-45]. The fact that Jesus had the strength to cry out in a loud voice just before dying tells us He did not die from asphyxiation, the common cause of death from crucifixion.

Rather, Jesus yielded up His spirit. In the Greek the words “yielded up” is απηιεμι (pronounced: af-ee’-ay-mee) which means “to let go of”. Jesus’ life was not taken from Him. He voluntarily gave it up.

This Greek word is not used of suicide. Jesus did not commit suicide. He gave up His life of His own volition [Luke 23:46; John 10:18] because His work on this earth was done [John 19:30]. He had experienced the penalty for sin on our behalf.

As a result, Jesus’ death discharged the debt which every human being owes God, if they will believe [John 3:16]. Jesus death was more than a self-sacrifice. Jesus’ death was the atonement of man’s sin. It allowed God to be perfectly holy while at the same time being perfectly merciful.

Every human being ever born has deserved to die. We forfeit our lives when we choose to sin. Jesus, on the other hand, never sinned and therefore did not deserve to die. Yet He willingly forfeited His own life so that the penalty of our sins could be paid in full.

We’ll see and study the proof that those sins have been paid for tomorrow.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Jesus Was Misunderstood His Whole Life


Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
(Matthew 27:45-50 ESV)


Yesterday Jesus cried out from the cross “Eli, Eli, lema sabacthani”. The bystanders thought He was calling Elijah. As we learned a few days ago when we studied the effects of crucifixion on the body, it would be very difficult to breathe while hanging on a cross. As we speak we are exhaling and exhalation on a cross required one to raise himself up through excruciating pain, making speech difficult and rare.

But Jesus did speak while on the cross and He did so, understandably, in short phrases. Those who heard Him misunderstood what He said. This is not unusual when it comes to Jesus.

Earlier in His life Jesus said “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” He was referring to His own body but the people thought He was speaking of the actual temple in Jerusalem [John 2:19-21]. Right before He raised Lazarus from the dead He told the people there that Lazarus was sleeping; they thought He meant literal sleep [John 11:11-13]

Right up until the end of His life Jesus was misunderstood. In fact, 2,000 years later Jesus is still misunderstood. This is not because the things He said were mysterious or cryptic (although they do require some thought and investigation). Jesus is misunderstood because people aren’t paying close attention to what He says. They think they know what He said. But they don’t. And their resultant misunderstanding causes them to reject Him, just like people did 2,000 years ago.

One example of this is many people mistakenly believe that Jesus came to bring peace on earth. And since they don’t see peace on earth today they conclude that Jesus is a fraud or a myth. But Jesus didn’t come to bring peace; He even told us so [Matthew 10:34]. But one can only know that by studying Jesus’ words instead of relying on mistaken information provided by others.

There is an old, but true, adage in the computer business: garbage in, garbage out (GIGO). When we start with bad information, the only possible result is bad conclusions.

One of those standing near Jesus took a sponge, filled it with sour win and put it on a reed and gave it to Jesus to drink. The person who did this was almost certainly a woman as charitable women often attended to crucifixion victims while they were on the cross to provide some relief to their suffering. Often this was in the form of something to drink. Unfortunately this often only delayed the person’s death and prolonged his agony.

From John’s account of these events we learn that the reed was a hyssop. And while the exact plant in question is not known, we can learn something about crucifixion from this information.

All the candidate plants have stems that are not very long (perhaps 18″ or so). This tells us that crucifixion victims were not very far off the ground since such a short reed could reach the person’s lips.

Rather than being raised high off the ground, the feet of a crucifixion victim were likely just a few inches off the ground.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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The Penalty For Sin Is Unimaginably Horrible


Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
(Matthew 27:45-50 ESV)


When Jesus was born the glory of God shone around the shepherds in the field [Luke 2:8-9]. He was described as “light” coming into the world [John 1:4, 9]. But when Jesus died there was darkness over all the land from the sixth hour (12:00 noon) until the ninth hour (3:00 PM). Jesus was crucified at 9:00 AM [Mark 15:25] so the darkness began after He had been hanging on the cross for 3 hours.

Exactly what this darkness was we don’t know. We do know, however, that it was not an eclipse as the Passover takes place during a full moon and it is impossible for the sun to be eclipsed by a full moon. This midday darkness was clearly a miracle of God on par with the darkness that covered Egypt before the Exodus or the sun standing still 40 years after that [Exodus 10:21-22; Joshua 10:12-13].

The Greek word translated “land” here is γε [pronounced: ghay] which can refer to a localized area or it can refer to the entire earth. Interestingly, there are extra-biblical extant documents which suggest that the darkness covered the entire earth. These documents mention this darkness in places as far away as western Europe.

The other day we studied the gruesome, inhumane details of crucifixion. Jesus went through horrible torture and humiliation as He hung on the cross. It was during this three-hour period of darkness that Jesus experienced something more horrible than having nails driven through His flesh or the excruciating pain of hanging on a cross – He experienced the true penalty for sin.

As He hung on the cross Jesus became sin [2 Corinthians 5:21]. As sin, He experienced the maximum penalty due sin – complete separation from God. This is the true definition of hell. God, being completely holy, must punish sin by removing it from the blessing of His presence.

God cannot, and will not, look upon evil favorably [Hebrews 11:13]. It must be punished to the ultimate degree. And there is no greater punishment that can be experienced than not being in the presence of God.

Notice that when Jesus cried out He did not call God His father. This is the only time in Scripture Jesus does not refer to God as His father. At this point in time God had forsaken His Son. He had turned His back on Jesus, who had become sin.

This is the fate that awaits all who die without having their sins paid for by Jesus. Such people will have to pay for their own sins by being separated from God for all eternity. God will turn His back on them – removing them from His presence forever. This will be an unimaginably horrible experience, even worse than hanging on a cross.

Jesus didn’t cry out when He was scourged. He didn’t cry out when the nails were driven through His hands and feet. He didn’t cry out as He struggled to breathe on the cross. The only time He cried out in agony was when God abandoned Him. Being separated from God was the worst thing He ever experienced.

Likewise, in hell there will only be the never-ending agony of existing apart from God.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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A Strange Way To Save The World


And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
(Matthew 27:33-44 ESV)


As we learned the other day, a crucifixion victim was paraded through the streets of the city to the place of crucifixion. He would have been naked and would be carrying the very cross he would be momentarily be nailed to. He would also have a sign hung around his neck with the charges against him. That sign would then be affixed to the cross above his head for all to see.

Over Jesus’ head the charge against Him read “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”. It was written by Pilate as a slap in the face to the Jewish leaders who Pilate knew railroaded Jesus to the cross [John 19:21]. Ironically, what Pilate meant to be derisive, was actually the truth, as Jesus had told Pilate earlier [Matthew 27:11].

While Jesus hung in agony on the cross He was derided by those who passed by as well as by the chief priests, scribes, and elders – the very leaders of the community. Even the robbers who were crucified with him reviled Him in the same way.

These people could not believe that the Son of God, could be crucified. It made no sense to them that God’s own son could be put through such humiliating torture. The fact that He did not come down from the cross was their proof that He was a fraud. But they didn’t understand.

They didn’t understand that Jesus was able to save Himself. But He chose not to. If He had there would be no forgiveness of sins available to us.

Jesus gave up His earthly life so we could have eternal life [John 3:16; Galatians 1:4; 1 John 3:16]. Jesus’ death removed condemnation from those who believe [John 17:3; Romans 8:1].

Notice that the people claimed that if Jesus were to come down from the cross they would believe in Him. Not likely. They had seen Him perform many miracles. In three days they’d witness His greatest miracle – coming back from the dead – and they still didn’t believe.

No, these people, like many today, already had their mind made up and nothing was going to change it because they were blind to their own sin. Nor did they understand God’s deep love for them that made Him hang on that cross to free them from the penalty of their sin.

The thought of God’s own son dying on a cross is foolishness to those who don’t understand [1 Corinthians 1:18]. They deride and mock the very idea. I understand. I used to too. Until I came to see my own sinfulness and realized that it wasn’t nails that kept Jesus on the cross. It was love.

It sure was, as the song from 4Him declares, a strange way to save the world.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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The Most Painful, Humiliating, Slow Way To Die


And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
(Matthew 27:33-44 ESV)


Yesterday we saw how Matthew doesn’t provide details about Jesus’ crucifixion. His readers would have been more than aware of what the gruesome process was.

Crucifixion originated in Persia. Its origin came from the fact that the earth was considered to be sacred to the god Ormuzd. Therefore criminals were lifted up from it so as not to defile that which belonged to Ormuzd. Crucifixion spread in various forms throughout northern Africa and southern Europe including Rome, where it was perfected by the Romans who used their understanding of anatomy and psychology to provide the most pain, the most humiliation, over the most amount of time.

The person crucified, who had already been stripped naked before he was forced to carry his cross through town for all to see, was laid on his back on a piece of timber, with a cross-piece nailed to it above where his head lay. His hands were spread out on the cross-piece, and nails were driven through each wrist, permanently fastening them to the wood.

His feet were nailed to the upright part of the cross with his knees slightly bent. All the nails were strategically placed so as to cause minimal bleeding as the point was to keep the victim alive for as long as possible.

Once his body was attached to the cross, the cross was then raised up and dropped into a pre-existing hole in the ground.

The victim then hung, pulled down by gravity, collapsing his diaphragm. In this position he could breathe in but in order to exhale he’d have to lift himself up by straightening his legs (this is why they were placed in a bent position) by pressing against the nails in his feet. This would put pressure on (not to mention damage) the Peroneal and Plantar Nerves causing immense pain.

Simultaneously, he’d have to leverage his weight onto the nails that secured his wrists to the crossbeam. These nails were strategically located so that as he lifted himself up pressure would be placed on the Median Nerve, again sending immense pain throughout his body.

In fact, the pain experienced on the cross was so unique that a new word was invented to describe it. We still use that word today: “excruciating” which comes from the Latin for “from” (“ex”) and “cross” (“crux”): pain from the cross.

Due to this pain the victim could not keep himself raised for very long; perhaps a second or two – just enough to exhale. But as any human being knows, we are constantly inhaling and exhaling. So as soon as he lowered himself he’d have to raise himself up again to exhale. This process, and its accompanying pain – excruciating pain – would be repeated countless times. This is where the scourging that he previously endured came into play.

As the victim raised himself up his back, which had been previously whipped to remove all its skin, would rub against the wood of the upright part of the cross (no, it wasn’t sanded smooth), providing another source of pain. The Romans thought of everything, didn’t they?

He would be provided no food or drink, but likely still had food and drink in his body. So it would not be unusual for him to defecate or urinate while on the cross. Of course, the lack of food and drink would slowly weaken him, making it more difficult for him to raise himself as time went on.

We should also realize that the victim could not sleep during this time else he would die. He would also have to hang there no matter what the weather – scorching sunlight, cold night, rain, snow.

Crucifixion factored in the victim’s inherent will to live. He constantly raised and lowered himself every few seconds despite the pain from the nails in his wrists and feet… despite the pain from the wood scrapping his back.. despite being hungry and thirsty. This continued non-stop until he died, which took at least several hours and very often a few days.

Crucifixions took place on heavily traveled roads to provide as much of a deterrent to other would-be criminals as possible. As such, the victim would have to endure insults from the people who passed by as well as being pelted with objects (e.g. rocks), not unlikely to the face or groin. He’d be helpless to defend himself against such attacks or against the insects and birds who would eat away at his open wounds.

Death by crucifixion occurred slowly, by asphyxiation. As time went on and it took longer for the victim to raise himself, carbon dioxide would build up in his muscles causing intense cramping. As the carbon dioxide built up in his bloodstream, his heart would have to work harder to pump oxygenated blood to the organs to keep them alive – obviously a losing battle. Eventually the victim would not be able to raise himself up any more and he would die.

Crucifixion was designed to be slow, agonizing torture that provided the most pain and the most humiliation. Death was not quick. It was definitely not painless.

This is what Jesus willingly endured. Because of our sin, Jesus experienced hours of excruciating pain, mocking, and embarrassment. Yet, this was not the worst of what He went through on the cross. We’ll learn about that in a few days.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Jesus Endured The Cross For Our Sake


And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
(Matthew 27:33-44 ESV)


It’s very interesting that Matthew does not provide any details about Jesus’ crucifixion beyond stating that they crucified Him. Of course, Matthew’s contemporaries would not need to be told about the crucifixion process or about the physical and mental anguish that a crucifixion victim experienced; they would have been very familiar with such things as documents show that the Romans publicly crucified tens of thousands of people in Israel during their occupation.

Instead Matthew, writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit, wrote about things happening around Jesus – things that were prophesied hundreds of years before. As we learned in our introduction to Matthew’s gospel, Matthew’s goal was to prove that Jesus fulfilled all these Old Testament prophecies.

These include being offered gall to drink [Psalm 69:21], his garments being divided among the soldiers by the casting of lots [Psalm 22:18], and Jesus’ being an associate with criminals [Isaiah 53:12]. In fact, there are over a dozen prophecies in the Old Testament about Jesus’ crucifixion alone – all of which came true. The odds of them all coming true are astronomical, leaving no room for doubt that the Bible was authored by God.

Notice that Jesus was crucified at a place called Golgotha, which in Aramaic means Place of a Skull. This was a hill outside the city of Jerusalem (known today as Gordon’s Calvary – “Calvary” being the Latin translation of “Golgotha”). Just like the sacrificial animals were burned on wood outside the camp [Leviticus 4:11-12], Jesus’ body was taken outside of Jerusalem. Symbolically, God calls upon His adopted children – Christians – to live “outside” of our culture. By doing so we, too, will be reproached. But that is no matter as nothing on earth is worth having compared to what awaits us in heaven [Hebrews 13:11-14].

As part of the crucifixion process, victims were given a drink that would stupefy them. As we learned yesterday, the Romans did nothing out of compassion. They gave their crucifixion victims this drink not to alleviate their pain, but to prevent them from struggling violently as the nails were driven through their flesh.

Jesus would not drink the wine, mixed with gall, that He was offered because He was committed to drinking the cup God wanted Him to drink [Matthew 26:39]. As our substitute, Jesus had to experience the full wrath of God – as we would have if we were to pay the penalty for our own sins. Our penalty would not have been diluted; neither was Jesus’.

While Jesus was hanging on the cross the soldiers decided which of them would get His garments. Before being nailed to the cross, Jesus would have been stripped naked. That would be humiliating enough. But to hang there in incredible pain while those around you showed no compassion would have been extra demoralizing.

But Jesus was committed to doing the Father’s will – no matter the cost to Himself – for the sake of reconciling sinful men to God. There was no other way [Matthew 26:39, 42; John 14:6]

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Identifying With Jesus Means Taking Up Our Cross


Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross.
(Matthew 27:27-32 ESV)


After mocking Jesus the soldiers led Him away to crucify Him. The entire process surrounding crucifixion was meant to provide maximum pain and maximum humiliation in a public display that would deter others from committing the same offense. To that end, after being whipped to within inches of their life, the crucifixion victim was then forced to carry his own cross through the streets of the city to the place where he would be crucified.

In Jerusalem, this would mean walking what has come to be known as the Via Dolorosa – the Way of Suffering – to a place called Golgotha so called because it looks like a skull. The Latin word “Calvary” is derived from the Latin word “calvaria”, which is a translation of the Aramaic “Golgotha”. Both words mean “skull”. This location is known today and is just beyond Jerusalem’s northern wall.

It may be that the victim carried only the crossbeam, although he may have carried the entire cross which would have weighed over 200 pounds. To increase the humiliation, the victim would be naked as he walked through the streets in full public view. He would also have the charges against him written on a sign that hung around his neck. That sign would be affixed to the cross above the victim’s head to identify his crime as he slowly died.

Considering the trauma of being excessively whipped just moments before, it was often difficult for the victim to actually carry his cross. This is precisely what happened with Jesus.

It should be remembered that nothing the Romans did was out of compassion. They did not remove the cross from Jesus because they felt bad for Him. They removed it because He was moving too slowly, probably stumbling and falling often. Jesus was taking too much time, slowing things down, so they compelled a man named Simon, from Cyrene, to carry Jesus’ cross.

Cyrene was a Greek town in north Africa. It had a sizeable Jewish population. Since Simon is a Jewish name we can conclude that Simon was a Jew living in a Gentile land who came to Jerusalem to participate in the Passover celebration. How his feelings must have changed after being pressed into non-voluntary service by the Roman soldiers.

We don’t know much about Simon, but we do know that two of his sons, Alexander and Rufus, were believers and were well known to the early church [Mark 15:21]. It’s possible that Simon was a believer as well. It’s also possible that this experience led him and his family to faith in Christ.

Simon walked behind Jesus to Golgotha [Luke 23:26]. He would have seen Jesus’ back – stripped of its skin and covered in blood. He would have seen Jesus stumbling along the cobblestone streets and up the hill to where He would die. This is precisely what those of us who claim to be followers of Christ are called to do – take up our cross and follow Jesus.

Just as Jesus identified with sinners [Matthew 3:14-15; Mark 2:15-17] we are to identify with Jesus by taking up our cross [Matthew 16:24-26]. We must willingly die to self, enduring the world’s ridicule as we live a life that does the will of God. When we do our lives will impact others.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Jesus’ Sufferings Were Vicarious


Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross.
(Matthew 27:27-32 ESV)


Yesterday Jesus was condemned to death by crucifixion by Pontius Pilate. The normal process was for the victim to first be whipped until the skin on His back was removed then to be nailed to a wooden cross. But in Jesus’ case, after being whipped, the soldiers went beyond protocol and made a mockery of Him for their own amusement.

They first presented Jesus before the whole battalion, which comprised about 600 men. There they stripped Him naked and put a scarlet robe on Him. They put a crown of thorns on His head (which would have added to His already intense pain) and a reed in His right hand. They then offered Him mock praise.

A king would normally wear a robe, wear a crown, and hold a scepter. But each of these items were used in a way of mocking Jesus, who claimed to be a king. Jesus was nothing but a joke to them. Eventually  their mocking turned to cruelty as they spit on Him, and struck Him on the head. 

No one enjoys being ridiculed and it’s hard to imagine anyone going through this humiliation, especially being weakened and in intense pain from just being scourged. It’s even more difficult to fathom that this was God who was being mocked and mistreated.

But this is a deep truth. God suffered on our behalf. All of Jesus’ sufferings in this scene and in ones that follow, were vicarious. He suffered not for His own sins, but for ours [1 Peter 2:22-24, 3:18; Hebrews 9:28].

The fallout from sin is eternal separation from God. That is what each one of us deserves, yet none of us has the ability to save ourselves from that dreadful experience. We cannot erase or make up for our own sin. Anytime we sin we are doing permanent damage to ourselves [Jeremiah 2:22; Hosea 13:12]. So God, out of His immense love for us, took it upon Himself to have the penalty for our sins paid by His son so we could avoid an eternity separated from Him [John 3:16].

Jesus was condemned, though innocent, so we could be acquitted of our guilt. He was scourged so we could be healed [Isaiah 53:5]. He wore a crown of thorns so we could wear crowns of glory. He was stripped naked so we could be clothed in righteousness [2 Corinthians 5:21]. He was mocked so we could be blessed. 

It was on account of our sinfulness that Jesus’ blood was shed. All the suffering that Jesus went through was undeserved. He was without sin. Yet He took on the penalty of our sin so we would not have to pay that penalty ourselves.

It is a sobering thought to realize that it was our sin that caused Jesus’ pain and humiliation. Our sin whipped His back. Our sin pierced His scalp with a crown of thorns. Our sin drove the nails into His hands and feet. How much, therefore, should we hate our sin and want to turn from it.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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