26 August 2009

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (2:8-2:9)

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that lethal injection, as performed in the state of Tennessee, does not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.” I wonder what the people who think that lethal injection is “cruel and unusual” would think of the Roman practice of crucifixion. Today we’re going to examine the medical aspects of crucifixion. And we are going to begin talking about how God used the crucifixion to glorify Himself through the death of Christ. Philippians 2:8-9He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name. Today, people think that sticking a needle in someone’s arm and putting that person to sleep is “cruel and unusual.” They have no idea what Jesus went through as He died on the cross for our sins.

There are some things we always need to remember about the crucifixion of Christ. First, it was not a surprise to Christ. Many times He told His disciples that He must die. Matthew 16:21From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Mark 9:31He taught His disciples and said to them, "The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day." Second, He went willingly. When the soldiers came to arrest Him, did He try to grab Peter and run and hide? In fact, when Peter took out his dagger and cut off the ear of Malchus, Jesus said, "Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?" (John 18:11).

Another thing to remember is this: whenever you see one of those old paintings of the crucifixion. Where He’s just kinda hanging there. You see Him, He’s got this look on His face like He’s thinking, “Oh gee, this is really uncomfortable! Oh, ow, this hurts! Could somebody get me a Band-Aid®?” Got a little slit over here—more like a paper cut. Golgotha is a very tranquil scene, very peaceful. Not a lot of busyness going on. His mother Mary, and maybe John the apostle, looking kinda disappointed. That is a load of baloney! I want to share with you what happened to Christ the day He was crucified. See, it didn’t start at the cross. It ended there.

First, as He was praying in Gethsemane, preparing Himself to bear the wrath of God for sinners, He began to sweat. The stress was so great that His blood pressure became such that it caused the capillaries in His forehead to burst. It's similar to what happens with diabetics; their blood pressure gets so high that the small capillaries in their kidneys and their feet and their eyes burst, leading to the resultant problems in those areas. And when the capillaries in His forehead burst, blood began to seep out of the pores of His skin. This is a condition called hematidrosis.

Then when He was arrested, they brought Him before the High Priest Annas. When Annas couldn’t get anything out of Christ he sent Him to Caiaphas. When Caiaphas couldn’t find two people that could agree on their testimony, he ordered the soldiers to beat Him and then send Him to Pilate, hoping that Pilate would pronounce a death sentence on Him. But Pilate was a rather weak-willed governor. There had been many uprisings under his rule. And He surely did not need another one, especially as big as this one was getting. So when he finds out that Jesus was from Galilee, he sends Jesus to Herod. Now, this was not the Herod who was over Galilee when Jesus was born. This was his son Herod Antipas—the man who had John The Baptist beheaded. He examined Him, found nothing particularly special about Him. Herod’s soldiers mocked Him. And He was sent back to Pilate.

Keep in mind, Jesus had not slept yet. He was arrested the previous evening. And here He is walking back and forth from Gethsemane to the house of Annas, then to Caiaphas, then to Pilate, then Herod and now back to Pilate. Pilate was none too happy to see Him. He thought he’d gotten clear of the whole deal. But here again is this man. And he’s got to do something fast. So He tells the people about their tradition that of letting one man go, and tells them to choose between Christ and the criminal Barabbas. Matthew 27:20-23But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" They said, "Barabbas!" Pilate said to them, "What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said to him, "Let Him be crucified!" Then the governor said, "Why, what evil has He done?" But they cried out all the more, saying, "Let Him be crucified!" Of course, Jesus had not broken any Roman laws—the only laws He was accused of breaking were Jewish religious laws. So, Pilate could not order Christ to be crucified, because according to Roman standards, He did not deserve such a punishment.

But the people were not going to be satisfied until Jesus was put on a cross. So they appealed to Pilate’s devotion to Rome. And they called out, in John 19:12-13, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend.” When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat. But, to please the people and to maybe appeal to any human sympathy they may have, He had his soldiers take Jesus to the side and scourge Him.

Scourging was a whole lot different than a simple whipping. The victim would be strapped to a post, with the skin of their back exposed and stretched tight. Then two men, called lictors, would take an instrument that resembled a cat-o-nine-tails. It was called a flagellum. But this was different from the cat-o-nine-tails because this would have little pieces of bone or animal’s teeth or something sharp. It also had lead balls attached to give weight to the strap. Kinda like if you take a piece of thread, you can't get it going too fast. But if you tie a lead washer to it, you can do some damage. So what happened was the lead balls would cause severe bruising, and would help the bones sink into the skin. Then came the painful part of it. Once the teeth sank into the skin, the lictor would yank the flagellum back, causing it to rip chunks of skin off the victim’s back. If you’ve ever gotten a fish hook caught in your finger—multiply that by 10,000.

There was no limit to how many lashes the victim could receive. But they were commanded to not kill the person. Although, many times, the person did die from either the sudden, horrendous pain causing cardiac arrest, or from bleeding to death. The lictors started at the shoulders, and worked their way down the back and, if they could, would wind up at the feet. And what you had when you were done was places where the muscle and even the bones would be visible. You can see already why those paintings are a farce.

But the soldiers weren’t done with Him. They took Him to the Praetorium, or judgment hall, and Matthew 27:28 says They put a scarlet robe on Him. And then they took a branch from a thorn bush and twisted it into a crown. I'm sure some of us have picked berries in our day. What’s the worst part about picking berries? The briers. These weren’t briers. There are thornbushes in the Middle East that produce thorns that are anywhere from 1-1/2 to 2 inches long and are so hard they can be driven through drywall. If you want to know what this crown of thorns was like, imagine taking a nail and scraping it down your head.

Then they took and hit Him and punched Him and struck Him with a reed—a staff. The kind of staff you walk with. Like a cane. He has these thorns jabbing into His head—and they use this cane to drive them in even further. Then as yet another insult, they spit on Him. Not just a little slobber. If they can be this cruel, do you think they're going to stop until they’ve covered His face? It was probably also at this time when they ripped chunks of hair out of His beard. Isaiah 50:6I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting. There is no limit to the depths of the unrestrained human heart.

Then, in Mark 15:20, when they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him. They took the robe off Him. This robe that they had covered His bare, bleeding, back. Remember, the skin on His back was gone from the scourging. They had covered it with this robe, and now they yank it off. If you’ve ever had a deep gash in your skin, and the doctor packs a dressing in it, when they take it off it is going to hurt. A lot. Have you ever ripped off a scab?

And then they led Him to Golgotha. But the trip there was no easy task either. As part of the humiliation of those to be crucified, they were ordered to carry their own cross. They didn’t carry the whole thing. The upright post was already there. The person only carried the cross-beam, or patibulum. It wasn’t a 2X4. It wasn’t even a 4X4. This was a large piece of lumber, probably 8 inches wide, 8 inches high, and about 8 feet long. And it weighed anywhere from 80 to 100 pounds. And He carried this thing just under a half-mile. Along the way, when His physical strength gave out, the Roman soldiers—who were not exactly the most courteous civil servants—they wanted to get this thing over with, so in Matthew 27:32, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross. Try carrying 100 pounds for a half-mile in the best of health. And you will understand what He had to do after having no sleep, going through everything He’s gone through. And let’s not forget the fact that at no point in time up to now has He even had the chance to sit down.

From the time was arrested in Gethsemane, He was taken to the house of Annas the high priest. Then over to stand before the Sanhedrin. Over to Pontius Pilate who sent Him to Herod who sent Him back to Pilate. And now He would carry His cross for a half-mile. In all, from the time He was arrested until the time they laid Him on His cross, He walked over 4 miles. And has been on His feet for hours. His blood is pouring out the whole time; he has had nothing to drink. The Book of Psalms contains what some call “Messianic prophecies.” In other words, it’s King David writing, but he’s writing what Jesus would say some time later. Psalm 22 is one of these. And in Psalm 22:15, he writes, My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws. And the worst is yet to come.

You may be asking, “How much more can a man take?” The real question is, “How much more can man dish out?” The truth of the matter is, each and every one of us is capable of doing everything the Romans did to Jesus—and a whole lot more. There is not one person who could honestly say, “I would never do that to the man.” Don’t flatter yourself. Jeremiah 17:9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it? I'm sure Mr. And Mrs. Hitler didn’t think little Adolph would grow up to be the monster he was.

A doctor named David Terasaka has put together a very comprehensive explanation of the ways in which Jesus suffered during this ordeal, using Scripture and medical science. I’m going to give you some clips from his research:
“The patibulum was put on the ground and the victim laid upon it. Nails, about 7 inches long and with a diameter of 1 cm (roughly 3/8 of an inch) were driven in the wrists. The points would go into the vicinity of the median nerve, causing shocks of pain to radiate through the arms. It was possible to place the nails between the bones so that no fractures occurred. Studies have shown that nails were probably driven through the small bones of the wrist, since nails in the palms of the hand would not support the weight of a body (Davis). At the crucifixion sites would be upright posts, called stipes, standing about 7 feet high. (Edwards) In the center of the stipes was a crude seat, called a sedile or sedulum, which served a support for the victim. The patibulum was then lifted on to the stipes. The feet were then nailed to the stipes. To allow for this, the knees had to be bent and rotated laterally, being left in a very uncomfortable position. A titulus was hung above the victim's head.”
The titulus was the plaque that spelled out the charges, the reason the person was being crucified. If you ever see a picture of the cross, with the letters INRI above it. INRI is the abbreviation for the crime Jesus was charged with—Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum. “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Dr. Terasaka continues:
“When the cross was erected upright, there was tremendous strain put on the wrists, arms and shoulders, resulting in a dislocation of the shoulder and elbow joints. (Metherall) The arms, being held up and outward, held the rib cage in a fixed end inspiratory position which made it extremely difficult to exhale, and impossible to take a full breath. The victim would only be able to take very shallow breaths. (This may explain why Jesus made very short statements while on the cross). As time passed, the muscles, from the loss of blood, last of oxygen and [because of] the fixed position of the body, would undergo severe cramps and [spasms].”
The arms of the person being crucified were stretched as far as they could be stretched so that the body didn’t sag down too far, and the person didn’t die too quickly. And they weren’t always very gentle. Pull on someone’s shoulder real hard and see what happens to it. Psalm 22:14I am poured out like water, all My bones are out of joint. But for Christ, the worst was yet to come. If you recall, I mentioned that Jesus, when He was praying in Gethsemane, that the stress was so great that blood began to seep out of the pores of His skin. He wasn’t agonizing over the physical aspects of what He would go through. He was anticipating the moment when the Father would place the sins of all who believe upon Him. And in Mark 15:34, when the sixth hour had come—that’s about noon—there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour—3 PM. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

He had spent the last three years being rejected by men. But since all the way back in eternity past, He had never, ever, ever done anything worthy of being the object of the wrath of His Father. Until now. Leviticus 16:21, talking about the Day of Atonement, when the sins of the people were laid upon the head of a goat, says that the high priest shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness. At about noon, God laid His hands on the head of His Son, confessed over Him all the sins of all those who would ever believe in His Son, and put them on the head of His Son.

Then at about 3 o’clock, The Lord Jesus Christ entered into the wilderness of death. John 19:30So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

And died.

If one needed any more confirmation that Jesus died ON THE CROSS, I give you John 19:31-34Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. Roman soldiers who were charged with crucifying a criminal knew what they were doing. They all had PHD’s—they were trained in Pain, Humiliation and Death. They were experts. They knew how to cause pain. They knew how to cause humiliation. And they knew how to bring death. There was a shortcut they could take if they didn’t want a person hanging on a cross any longer.

You see, when someone hung there for days, they would be in pain. They would perhaps be crying out for mercy. After hearing that for a while, it tends to get on your nerves. And so you want to end it—just so they will shut up. And if they wanted the person to die quickly, the soldiers would break the person’s legs. By doing this, the person could not push up in order to exhale—and they would quickly suffocate.

But when they got to Jesus—He was already dead! But, just to make sure, this soldier takes his spear and thrusts it into Jesus’ side. This was a spear, not a pocket knife. And he didn’t just kinda poke Him to see if He was alive. He pushed the spear in hard enough and far enough to cause blood and water to come out. The blood probably came from His heart. The water was probably fluid that had built up in His lungs and around His heart. There was no doubt about the fact that He was dead. However, the fact that He died after such a short time was almost unprecedented. Dr. Terasaka:
“The average time of suffering before death by crucifixion is stated to be about 2-4 days (Tenney), although there are reported cases where the victims lived for 9 days (Lipsius). The actual causes of death by crucifixion were multifactorial; one of the most significant would have been the severity of the scourging. (Edwards) Jesus died a quick physical death. While many of the physical signs preceding death were present, one possibility is that Jesus did not die by physical factors which ended His ability to live, but that He gave up His life of His own accord. His last statement, ‘Into your hands I commit my Spirit’ seems to show that Jesus' death occurred by giving Himself up. In John 10, He states that only He has the power to lay down His life. He proved His power over death by His resurrection. Truly, God is the one who has power over life and death.”
John 10:17-18“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” John 2:19“Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.” And in Mark 15:44Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. Now, why was it important that the soldiers didn’t break His bones? Well, we read in 1st Corinthians 5:7Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. The Passover that the people of Israel kept way back in the book of Exodus was a picture, a foreshadowing of Christ. When God commanded the first Passover, here was one of the commands in Exodus 12:46In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones. After the first Passover, the people were set free from bondage to Pharaoh. Likewise, Christ sets us free from sin when we accept His death for ours, and we worship Him as Lord and Savior.

Jesus was obedient to death, even the death of the cross. But don’t forget one thing: He was not only obedient to the Father’s command to die. He was obedient to the authorities that put Him through all that. A snap of His fingers, a word from His mouth—and every angel in Heaven would descend and slaughter every soldier in the Roman Empire—and even the emperor himself. But the reason He went through all of that is simple. The reason—is you. And you. And you.

And me.

Jesus Christ is Lord.

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