The Life of Jesus: The Cross (Part 2 of 3)

When the soldiers came to take Jesus, one of them drew his sword. Enraged, Peter drew his sword and cut off the soldier’s ear. Jesus healed the soldier who had come to arrest him and reminded Peter that the prophecy had to be fulfilled (John 18:10-11, Luke 22:47-53). Jesus was put on trial before the high priest and other priests. They looked for evidence against him so he could be put to death, but they could find nothing. Many falsely testified against him, but their stories contradicted each other. Jesus remained silent. Finally, the high priest asked Jesus if he was the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One. Jesus said, “I am and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One.” The high priest tore his clothes accusing Jesus of blasphemy. Everyone agreed that Jesus should be put to death. Some of the men spat on him and began to punch him mocking him saying, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?” Afterwards, Jesus was taken by guards and beaten a second time (Mark 14:53-65, Matthew 26:68).

Jesus was taken before Pilot, the Roman governor, and asked if he was king of the Jews. Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this earth, but he told Pilot that it was accurate to call him king. Still, Pilot could find no reason to execute Jesus. It was customary for a prisoner to be released back to the Jews during Passover. Pilot recommended Jesus, but the Jews requested he release Barabbas instead, a notorious prisoner. Pilot knew it was out of jealousy that the priests and people opted to release a true criminal rather than Jesus, but he granted their wishes (Matthew 27:11-18, John 18:28-40).

Pilot sentenced Jesus to be flogged (John19:1). It is believed that Jesus was whipped with an object like the “cat o’ nine tails.” This ancient whip is multi-tailed with sharp objects such as rocks or bone attached to its ends. When the whip strikes the skin, it attaches to the flesh and peels it away. The Passion of the Christ (2004) is an excellent film that depicts Jesus’ suffering very well. Isaiah 52:14 says his appearance was disfigured beyond that of human likeness. His body was an object of horror. The soldiers spat on him and ripped the hair from his beard. They twisted thorns together as a crown, forced it onto his head and beat him over the head repeatedly with a staff. After the soldiers mocked Jesus, they led him away to be crucified (Matthew 27:28-31).

Jesus was expected to literally carry his cross through town to a place called Golgotha (Calvary), which means the Place of the Skull. An abused Jesus was having trouble carrying his cross and had to get assistance. Finally, Jesus made it to his destination. His hands and feet were nailed to that cross (Psalm 22:16). Once Jesus was on the cross, the soldiers stripped him of his clothes so that he was naked and publicly shamed (John 19:23-24). The soldiers gambled for Jesus’ garments fulfilling the prophecy of Psalm 22:18. Jesus hung on the cross as guards mocked him saying, “Save yourself if you’re the Son of God.” Others hurled insults at him. “He saves others, but he can’t save himself,” noted one leader. Jesus said to the Father, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing (Luke 23:34).” Even a criminal who was hanging on a cross next to Jesus had a few insults of his own. The other criminal rebuked him saying, “Don’t you fear God? We are punished justly, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” This is one of my favorite examples of Jesus’ love for us. He did not look at the criminal and reject his request. He didn’t say, “Well, your past is pretty rough so you can’t be saved” or “You need to go on a 40-day fast and pray 5 hours a day before I can consider you.” Jesus simply saw the honesty and faith of this man and welcomed him in, no questions asked or demands required. There’s nothing wrong with fasting or praying, but Jesus takes us as we are and shapes us into who we need to be.

Finally, darkness covered the earth for 3 hours and Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Then he said, “It is finished,” and committed his spirit to the Lord. At that moment, the curtain in the temple, which separated God and man, tore from the top to the bottom as the earth quaked (Matthew 27:32-51). I believe the tearing of the curtain was God’s way of letting us know that there is no longer a divide between himself and man. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, all people could contact God directly through prayer rather than consulting with a high priest to have their voices heard. Jesus is our high priest (Hebrews 4:14). Jesus’ body was dead, but his spirit was very much alive when he went into the earth’s lower region, the waterless pit, and preached to those who were in Hell so they could be freed (Ephesians 4:9, Zechariah 9:11). Jesus made a public spectacle of the Devil and disarmed principalities and powers that rage against us (Colossians 2:15). The soldiers took a spear and pierced Jesus’ side, initiating a flow of both blood and water (John 19:34). His body was taken down from the cross, wrapped in linen and buried in a rich man’s tomb.

Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early one morning and discovered that the stone to the tomb had been rolled away. She noticed that Jesus’ body was missing. She ran and told the disciples what she had seen … or didn’t see. When the disciples made it to the tomb, Peter decided to go in and investigate. He found Jesus’ burial garments. The disciples went back to their homes, but Mary remained outside the tomb. As she wept, she looked into the tomb and saw 2 angels. They asked her why she was crying. “They have taken my Lord and I don’t know where they’ve put him,” she said. Just then, she turned around and saw Jesus, but didn’t recognized him. When he called her named, she cried out saying, “Teacher!” She ran back and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord (John 20).

One evening, when the disciples were all together behind locked doors, Jesus appeared to them and they were overjoyed. Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” Thomas, who was not there when Jesus appeared, denied the others’ claims about their Lord. Unless he could touch Jesus’ wounds, he would not believe. Another time, Thomas was with the others and witnessed Jesus for himself. Jesus held out his arms and invited Thomas to feel the wounds in his hands and then on his side. “Stop doubting and believe,” he said. Thomas believed. “Because you have seen me, you believe,” said Jesus. “But blessed are those who haven’t seen me and yet believe,” he continued (John 20). Some time later, Peter and the guys were fishing. Jesus was not with them. They had toiled all night and caught nothing. The next morning, they saw a man on the shore who asked about their catch. Once the man knew they were unsuccessful, he recommended they lower their nets to the right of the boat. The catch was so large, they were barely able to contain it. John realized that the man was Jesus and ran to him (John 21). Afterwards, Jesus spoke to the men and told them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” After Jesus spoke, he ascended into Heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father. The disciples went out and preached everywhere and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it (Mark 16:15-20).

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