Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Crucifixion and Last Words of Jesus

Crucifixion was designed to cause death but to do so at the slowest, most torturous pace. The agony was intense as wounds tore and bled, and muscles and joints pulled from tendons and sockets. But that is not what caused death. The strain of hanging by the arms eventually caused asphyxiation as the person lost the ability to breathe.

That day on Calvary two others were executed alongside Jesus. One of them joined the Jewish leaders in deriding Jesus and cried out, “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us” (Luke 23:39). But the other rebuked the first saying, “Dost not thou fear God. . . .We receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.”

Then to Jesus he said, “Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”

Many of the women who had followed Jesus were sorrowing at the cross including Jesus’ mother. When Jesus saw her there he said,, “Woman, behold thy son!” Then to John he said, “Behold thy mother!”

At noon darkness fell over the land, and for the next three hours the sun was hid. Finally after three hours of suffering, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

John tells us that then, knowing all things were now accomplished, Jesus said, “I thirst.”

In response someone dipped a sponge into a pot of vinegar, put the sponge on a hyssop reed, which would have been about three or four feet long, and lifted it to Jesus’ mouth. After He had sucked from it Jesus said, “It is finished. Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Then bowing his head, as the Greek text says, Jesus breathed out his last breath and delivered up His spirit.

Meanwhile at the temple the new course of Levites were performing the sacrificial rituals and at this same moment the trumpets announced that the ritual service was one-third over. Inside the Holy Place the veil separating it from the Most Holy Place ripped in two. The symbolism of this incident is beautiful. Before only the High Priest, representing Jehovah, could enter the Most Holy Place which contained the throne of God, and he was only allowed in once a year on the day of Atonement. With the veil rent, the way back to God was now open for all mankind. But there is something more. Josephus tells us that according to the Rabbis, the veil was a handbreadth thick. It was woven of 72 twisted plaits, each consisting of 24 threads (24 ply yarn!). Josephus, who tends to exaggeration, also informs us that the veil was so large it required 300 priests to lift it into place. But at the moment of Christ’s death it miraculously ripped in two from top to bottom.

Wanting the ordeal to be over before the Sabbath began, the Jewish leaders implored Pilate to expedite the crucifixion. Under orders, then, the soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves so that they could no long push themselves up by the small platform at their feet and would suffocate. But when they came to Jesus, He was already dead. Seeing this one of the soldiers thrust his spear into the Savior’s side and blood and water gushed out. This is significant in that it indicates that instead of dying by asphyxiation, Jesus’ heart literally ruptured making the cause of death a broken heart.

After the death of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathaea asked Pilate for the body and he and Nicodemus lovingly anointed Jesus with myrrh and aloes, wrapped Him in linen burial clothes and spices, and placed him in a never before used sepulcher over which was rolled a stone.

On Saturday the Jewish leaders, remembering that Jesus had said that after three days He would rise again, asked Pilate to place a guard at the sepulcher for they feared someone would steal His body and then claim Jesus had risen. Pilate consented, saying, “Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can” (Matthew 27:65). Given permission, the Jewish leaders sealed the stone door and set soldiers to guard the tomb.

But soldiers would not be enough to secure this tomb.

1 comment:

Wendi said...

Are you okay? You haven't posted since Saturday and that seems unusual. I hope you had a happy Easter. :)