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The Cross of Christ

Our Lord Jesus Christ was not a helpless victim. After three years of Spirit filled

ministry, He set His face towards Jerusalem, knowing that humiliation and death

awaited Him there. After supper with His disciples in Jerusalem, while they were

asleep in the garden, Gethsemane, Jesus knelt down three times to pray, saying:

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup of suffering away from me; yet not my will,

but yours be done.” The intensity of the prayers was such, that His blood fell to the

ground like sweat. Betrayed and sold by the thief, Judas, He could have resisted

arrest in the garden by calling legions of angels. But He did not. He was denied three

times by Peter, and deserted by the disciples, except for John, who stood by Mary,

the mother of Jesus, at the cross. At His trial before Pontius Pilate the Roman

Governor, the Jews called for Him to be crucified, and the murderous rebel,

Barabbas, was released in His place. On the cross, Jesus suffered for the sins of the

whole world, in obedience to the will of His Father. What appeared to be total failure,

was in fact the greatest victory of all time.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, the Roman statesman, politician and scholar,

described crucifixion as “the most cruel and hideous of tortures.” After sentencing

had been passed, it was the custom for the condemned to be scourged with the

flagellum, a whip of leather thongs with small pieces of metal or bone tied to them.

Eusebius, the third century church historian, described Roman flogging like this: the

sufferer’s veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews and bowels were open

to exposure. After this treatment, our Lord Jesus was taken to the Praetorium, where

a crown of thorns was thrust upon His head. He was mocked by a battalion of 600

men, and hit about the face and head. He was then forced to carry a heavy cross bar

on His bleeding shoulders until He collapsed, and Simon of Cyrene was press-

ganged into carrying it for Him. This is described in Isaiah 52:14: “His appearance

was so disfigured beyond that of any man, and His form beyond any human

likeness.” When they reached the site of crucifixion, Jesus was stripped naked. He

was laid on the cross, and six inch nails were driven into His forearms just above the

wrist. His knees were twisted sideways so that the ankles could be nailed between

the tibia and Achilles tendon. He was lifted up on the cross which was then dropped

into a socket in the ground. There He was left to hang in unthinkable pain, in intense

heat and unbearable thirst, exposed to the ridicule of the crowd. The pain was

intense, as the whole body was strained, while the hands and feet, which are a mass

of nerves and tendons, would lose little blood, causing a throbbing headache, and

eventually traumatic fever would set in. When, for any reason, it was proposed to put

the sufferer out of his misery before the end, the legs were shattered with blows from

a club or hammer. “But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already

dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a

spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.” John 19:33

We may not know, we cannot tell, what pains he had to bear, but we believe it

was for us he hung and suffered there…. There was no other good enough to pay

the price of sin; he only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.

From the hymn “There is a green hill far away.”

Written by Derek Burton.

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