A day of horror

Read John 19:1-42; Matthew 27:15-56; Mark 15:6-41; Luke 23:11-43

It is impossible to describe adequately the horror of that day. We have to guard ourselves against being anaesthetised to this part of God's word because we have heard it so often. Events move quickly from the arrest in the garden of Gethsemane to the six trials and Peter’s denial of his Lord, to the trumped-up charges and the near-acquittal (see previous study).

We now move on to the flogging and scourging, from which treatment alone Jesus could have died. (John 19:1-6) Usually, the upper half of the body would be laid bare and the hands would be tied to a pillar so the skin was taut. The soldiers, who did this as a job, hated Jewish people and vented their anger as they lashed the whip. Three long thongs entwined with broken pottery lashed into Jesus’ back and, if the whip got stuck, they just wrenched it out of the skin. So Jesus' back and most of his chest would have been laid open to the bone. His flesh must have been hanging from him like raw meat. Then he was handed over - as an innocent man - to the howling mob who had been incited to a frenzy by the chief priests. (John 19:12-16) Horror enough you may say, but now, Jesus, whose beard had been yanked out, was forced to carry his cross to the final place of execution. (John 19:17)

This stumbling, agonising and breath-sapping procession went via the longest route to the place of execution, through streets thronged with people who, just a few short days ago, were heralding him as their king. Now, they raucously derided Him. (Luke 23:23) He had been sentenced to death and was, therefore, regarded as a dead man already. He was fair game for all the horrors that could be inflicted on a condemned man along the public road to his death.

Was he kicked, pushed from side to side of the street, jeered, spat upon, reviled? Perhaps rubbish and sewage were thrown over him. We will never know but, knowing human nature today allows us to think that the final footsteps of his life were more horrific than we might care to consider. Many of us can recall being hurt physically or mentally but, at Jesus’ death, He suffered more than any have done or ever will do - not simply from physical agony, but through separation from His Father in heaven. The amazing thing is that Jesus, being both human and divine, could have saved himself from all those who were ill-treating him. Instead, he chose to endure the suffering because of His amazing love for us all. Our past, present and future sins put him on that cross.

At one point, it became apparent that Jesus could carry His cross no longer. The Roman executioners pressed Simon from Cyrene in North Africa into carrying it the remainder of the way. (Mark 15:21) Many women followed Jesus - with much weeping - but had a very special part to play in ministering to Him. (John 19:25-27) Jesus had always treated women differently from the culture at that time, giving them dignity, respect and value. Mary Magdalene was one such woman. She had been delivered by Jesus from seven demons and gave the rest of her life to serving the believers in a life of thankful living. (Luke 8:2) She was so grateful for the freedom that Jesus had given her that she had no fear for herself and so was at the cross to encourage Him. Jesus honoured her child-like faith by appearing to her first with the news of His resurrection.

Even when on the cross, Jesus did not forget to make provision and protection for His mother, through John the "beloved" disciple. Remember this, if you are feeling alone: that Jesus, even in His darkest moment, remembered His mother. He is guaranteed to provide for you in whatever circumstances you may be facing.

Finally, at the place called Golgotha ("the place of the skull" or "Skull Hill") Jesus was pushed down on to the cross and nailed there. The common practice was to use spikes through the forearms so that, as Jesus hung upright, He would not be able to tear the spike through His hand and free His arm. Spikes were also driven through His feet - probably His ankles - rupturing tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints. You see, nobody cared anymore. Jesus was just another condemned non-entity, a loser to be ridiculed; He would be dead in a few hours anyway. Then they hoisted up the cross, dropping it into a socket in the ground to anchor it and so jarring His body.

The response of the crowd

You saved others, but you can’t save yourself!" - "Get yourself - and us - down from here!" - "Perhaps Elijah will come and get him... let’s wait and see..." - "What’s that he said?" - "Why is the sky getting dark? It's hardly past lunchtime and it’s turning pitch black!" - "Why is the ground shaking?" - "Who are those people?" - "What's happening?

God is on the cross! The creator of the universe is being killed by His own creation. Spit and blood are caked to His cheeks and His lips are cracked and swollen. Thorns rip His scalp. His lungs scream with pain. His legs knot with cramp. Taut nerves threaten to snap as pain envelops His entire body. Yet, still death does not come. No, not yet! And there is no one to save Him, for He is sacrificing himself. With His last breath, Jesus spoke special words and, after refusing a narcotic drug, declared: “It is finished!” meaning "paid in full".

What will our response be?

How does this affect us? Jesus’ death had been planned from before the foundation of the world. His death was a payment for the sin of the whole world - the sacrifice of the "Lamb of God" so that we might go free. Satan laid claim to Jesus’ soul, but death could not hold Him. Father sent the Holy Spirit to bring Jesus out of the grave and He returned to life, conquering death and hell. His life was given for your life and my life. The penalty for our sin was paid in full. It was no normal six hours, no normal Friday.

Far worse than the breaking of His body was the shredding of His heart. His own countrymen clamoured for His death. His own disciple had planted a kiss of betrayal. His friends had run for cover and then His own Father had turned His back on Him, leaving Jesus utterly alone. He delivered us from the power of Satan, who now has no control over us. Only one obstacle remains: we must respond to the gift in order for it to be effective. You see, nobody will die unforgiven, but they may die unbelieving.

Read Matthew 12:34-37. There will come a time when we have to give account (on "Judgement Day") for what we have chosen. Jesus said that our own words will reflect our fate. We ourselves choose to be justified or condemned. A million dollars may have been put in our bank account but, unless we acknowledge its presence and draw it out, we cannot spend it and will die without receiving its benefit. The benefits of salvation are enormous: forgiveness, new life, healing, deliverance from sin, overcoming problems, plan and purpose, joy every morning, freedom and much more!

Moving forward

“Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” John 19:15

Take note of the horrendous rejection that Jesus suffered, especially in the light of all the good that He had done, Nonetheless, He showed only unconditional love and forgiveness. In the Old Testament, Joseph said to his brothers: “You intended to harm me but God intended it for good.” (Genesis 50:20) In the same way, Jesus’ crucifixion leads to life for all people. Can we echo this today and respond accordingly? Instead of being obsessed over what a person may be doing to us, let's start noticing what God is doing in us! Through our words we control what the enemy does, so we need to start talking like conquerors - even though everything around us may be falling apart. Rejection can bring new direction and, if we trust Jesus with our lives, we can praise Him, as we choose to see it from God’s perspective. You see, we have this new, overcoming life of Christ inside us and it’s now His life in us that enables us to do anything.


But when the messiah arrived, the high priest of the superior things of this new covenant, He bypassed the old tent and its trappings in this created world and went straight into heaven’s 'tent' [the true, Holy Place] once and for all. He also bypassed the sacrifices, consisting of the blood of goats and calves, instead using His own blood as the price to set us free once and for all. If that animal blood and the other rituals of purification were effective in cleaning up certain matters of our religion and behaviour, think how much more the blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out. Through the Spirit, Christ offered Himself as an unblemished sacrifice, freeing us from all those dead-end efforts to make ourselves respectable, so that we can live all out for God." (Hebrews 9:11-14)

  • The tabernacle (tent) was a sanctuary in this world. The true tabernacle, not made with hands, is now us. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
  • The High Priest entered once a year. Christ entered once and for all.
  • The High Priest obtained annual redemption. Christ obtained eternal redemption.
  • The High Priest offered the blood of animals. Christ offered His own blood.

Jesus is our redemption... hallelujah!

A prayer

Jesus, I have never fully considered the extent of the horror that You went through for me. I have never been told that You died for more than my sins - that You included my sicknesses and my diseases or, if I have, I have ignored it. I never even considered that, at the cross, You finally defeated Satan. I can now be free of his power for ever. Thank You for forgiving me, Jesus. I recognise that You are the Son of God and that there was a mighty purpose to Your death. I now realise what You did and that it was enough. I need nothing else but You and receive Your forgiveness. I recognise that I HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN! Thank you.

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