Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Morning Cup of Tea: The Crucifixion

***Warning*** I have explained some parts of Jesus' suffering a little more graphically than the usual " he was beaten and hung on the cross." I wrote it this way in order to make myself and any other reader think about what Jesus did that we might be saved from our sins. It wasn't just a given. We have to accept that gift by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17), believing it to be true (Romans 10:10) , publicly acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God (Romans 10:10, repenting (turning away from) our sins, being baptized, (Acts 2:38) and living the life. 

Today we begin chapter 27 of Matthew.  It is now morning, and the chief priests and elders have taken counsel and they want Jesus put to death. They bound him up and delivered him to the governor, Pontius Pilate. 
  Judas had seen all this and knew that he had done wrong. I don't think he realized that when the chief priests and elders had wanted Jesus, they wanted him dead. But, as sometimes is the case, we let sin take the lead (in this case, greed; love of money) and we jump head first into a situation without thinking it through. Judas was now sorry that he had betrayed Jesus. He knew Jesus was innocent and death was wrong. He tried giving the money back and explaining to the chief priests and elders, but they refused to take back the money. That's your problem, not ours, they told him (paraphrased, v4).  Judas threw down the thirty pieces of silver to the floor of the temple and left. He hanged himself afterward.
  The chief priests and elders decided the money couldn't go into the treasuries because it was blood money, so they bought the potter's field in which to bury strangers.
  Jesus was taken in front of Pontius Pilate, who asked him, Are you the king of the Jews? Jesus answered Thou sayest (v 11) and said nothing more. When the chief priests and elders accused him, he stayed silent. 
  During the feast of the Passover it was the custom to allow a prisoner of the people's choice to go free. Pilate gave them a choice: Jesus or Barabbas, a known murderer. The chief priests and elders incited the crowds to ask for Barabbas. 
 When the governor asked what should be done of Jesus, they answered: Crucify him.
  At this point, after Pilate symbolically washed his hands of the blood of Jesus, Jesus was scourged. If you have watched The Passion of the Christ or know a little about history, you know this wasn't your normal everyday whipping. The people who did this tended to use a cat o' nine tails, a whip with several lines, instead of one, and most of the time they had embedded in the leather, pieces of glass or sharp stone, which cut into the flesh. It left the victim's back torn and bloody.  Not an easy thing to think about. 
  After this was done, Jesus' clothes were ripped from him and they replaced the clothes with a crimson robe. They placed a crown of thorns on his head -none too gently I'm sure- and put a reed in his hand, and bowed down to him, mocking him. Then they spit on him and took the reed and hit him on the head with it. They took the robe from him and had his own clothes put back on him, and led him away to be crucified.
  Think about this for a moment if you will. Here is an innocent man, the Son of God, who never once sinned. He has been up presumably all night, been hit and spit upon, and they just beat him with a whip that ripped open his flesh. Taking clothes on and off where a wound is fresh hurts like crazy, and most of us reading this has never known the type of beating like this. And now he was going to be crucified, adding more suffering to his body. 
  Being nailed to a cross meant having huge nails -stakes almost, driven into your wrists and your feet. There is just enough room for you to try and lift your body up so that you can breathe. We think of today's electric chair or gas chamber, or even hanging from not so long ago as cruel and unusual. Those are tame compared to crucifixion. They don't even come close. 
  Jesus was placed on the cross, between two thieves. He was continually mocked as he was up there suffering. To drink he was offered vinegar mixed with gall, which he refused.  His clothes were torn apart and the soldiers cast lots for them.
  When Jesus died on that cross, there was an earthquake. The veil of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. There was no separation between God and man now. And graves were disturbed and bodies popped up. Many people saw this happen.  A centurion who witnessed all this realized then that Jesus was indeed the Son of God ( v33-54). 
 Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. He wrapped him in clean linen and had him laid in the tomb which he had just purchased for himself. A large boulder was placed in front of the tomb. 
 The next day the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. They told him, This deceiver told people that he would arise in three days. We need to have the tomb sealed and a guard put up so his disciples can't come in and steal the body, thereby fooling the people into believing he really rose from the dead. Pilate allowed it to be done.  And thus ends chapter 27. Please read this for yourself. I have only told the story in my own words. 

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