God in the midst

In reading the accounts of Jesus' death in Chuck Swindoll's, "The Darkness and the dawn."  I'm
horrified at the barbaric way the Romans chose death for their convicted criminals.

"How could a soul drive nails in the wrist of another, especially an innocent man, and not be mortified?"  Here God's Son stood in their very midst and they (the many people) missed Him.  Even most of the highly religious leaders missed Him.  How could such a travesty be?

In pondering on this I am led to read my bible and open the pages to read these words, "The woman said to the serpent, 'From the fruit of the tress of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'

The serpent said to the woman, 'You surely will not die!  For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'"

God was in their midst and they totally missed Him ... hid from Him, missed out on the experience of getting to know Him fully.  Likewise, Jesus, God's Son, the world's Savior was in the midst of those who wanted Him dead, but they, too, missed Him. Eyes were closed shut to spiritual things.  My heart wants to give a mind lasing of its own to Adam, Eve ... the soldiers, religious leaders, and all the rest!  How could they be so blind and miss that Jesus is the Savior... the one who came to save the world?  And Adam and Eve???  Who in their right mind could see the beauty of the Garden, walk with God and not believe He is not only who He says He is, but why wouldn't they believe what He said?  Why wouldn't they obey?  He was right there ... right there in their midst, for crying out loud.

How quickly my heart is humbled when I remember, go back in the minds-eye and see the many times I've forgone ... rightly ignored God in my mist.  Ignoring God and going our own way always leads to some form of death.  Someone always suffers for our choice.  The Father reminds me that I am more kindred in nature with the ones I'm despising in heart, than I want to believe.

It very well could have been you or me who drove the nails into the wrist of Jesus.  Our actions have panged Him in indescribable ways too.  We've hurt Him.  Devastated Him.  Turned our back on Him while He has been right there beside us...beckoning us to come.  Regardless of how we see ourselves, we're not above it ... crucifying a soul.  We have the same nature, you and I, as did Adam & Even, and the same sin-infested nature of the the religious leaders of Jesus' time, the Roman soldiers and the wicked and unscrupulous crowd who insisted with their chants that Jesus be put to death.


The Journey of the cross 

After dressing Jesus, the soldiers followed their usual course with criminals:  such a victim was surrounded by four Roman soldiers and led by a centurion, all the while struggling to carry the six-foot cross beam that would later be attached to the larger, vertical post of the cross.  And so it was with Jesus.  After the scourging and beating, however, He was too weak to carry the beam Himself.  Matthew tells us that Simon o Cyrene was pressed into service to help Him (Matt. 27:32).

Once at the site, a placard was placed above Jesus' head that read, 'Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews,' not only in Hebrew but also in Latin and Greek (John 19:19-20).  The chief priests objected to the wording see John 19: 21-22.

Death on a cross

The barbaric form of capital punishment known as crucifixion originated with the Persians, who possibly learned it from the Assyrian practice of impaling criminals on sharpened beams.  In crucifixion, death came slowly and painfully—from exposure, exhaustion, and finally suffocation.  And to ensure the greatest amount of humiliation, it was always done in plain view of a watching public.  Jim Bishop, in his book The Day Christ Died, conveys the horror of this kind of death:

The executioner laid the crossbeam behind Jesus and brought Him to the ground quickly by grasping His arm and pulling Him backward.  As soon as Jesus fell, the beam was fitted under the back of his neck and, on each side, soldiers quickly knelt on the inside of his elbows . . . . The thorns pressed against His torn scalp.

...With his right hand, the executioner probed the wrist of Jesus to find the little hollow spot.  When he found it, he took one of the square cut iron nails ... raised the hammer over the nail head and brought it down with force. ... 

Two soldiers grabbed each side of the crossbeam and lifted.  As they pulled up, they dragged Jesus by the wrists.  With every breath, He groaned.  When the soldiers reached the upright, the four of them began to lift the crossbeam higher until the feet of Jesus were off the ground.  The body must have writhed with pain. ...

When the crossbeam was set firmly, the executioner ... knelt before the cross.  Two soldiers hurried to help, and each one took hold of a leg at the calf.  The ritual was to nail the right foot over the left, and this was probably the most difficult part of the work.  If the feet were pulled downward, and nailed too close to the foot of the cross, the prisoner always died quickly.  Over the years, the Romans learned to push the feet upward on the cross, so that the condemned man could lean on the nails and stretch himself upward {to breathe}.

Each movement cut deeper into the bone and tendons and raw muscle.  Fever inevitably set in, inflaming the wounds and creating an insatiable thirst.  Waves of hallucinations caused the victim to drift in and out of consciousness.  And in time, flies and other insects found their way to the open wounds.

By this time, Jesus knew He had accomplished everything His Father had sent Him to do.  And to fulfill one final Scripture, He said:  "I am thirsty." 

A Jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. ( John 19:28b-29; see also Ps. 69: 3, 21).

With a final effort, Jesus exclaimed, "Tetelestai" — "It is finished!"

His saving work was done, and now He could rest.  Quietly, peacefully, He bowed His head and then died.

The next verses of this passage represent John's eyewitness account of what was done with the Lord's body.  Because Jewish law demanded that the dead be buried before sunset, the Romans would usually expedite the process by breaking the victim's legs (vv. 31-32).  But when the soldiers came to Jesus, they saw that He was already dead, so they didn't break His legs (v.33).  But in one last brutal act, a soldier stabbed Him in the side, and water mixed with blood streamed out (v. 34).

Ad the darkness lifted from the sky (see Matt. 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44), the crowd slowly dispersed.  Jesus was dead.  His blood had been shed, His body broken ... just as He had predicted.  It was for the world He loved ... including you and me.

The writer of Hebrews tell us, "By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." ~ Heb. 10:10

Note:  One sign of death is the quick separation of dark red corpuscles from the thin, whitish serum of the blood, here called "water" (v. 34).  Normally, the dead don't bleed.  But after death, the right auricle of the human heart fills with blood, and the membrane surrounding the heart, the pericardium, holds the watery serum.  Jesus' heart must have been punctured with the Roman spear, causing both fluids to flow from His side.

"For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." ~ 1 Corin. 1:18


1.  What does this event tell you about the nature of God?

2.  What does this even tell you about human nature?  {Read John 19: 23-27)

3.  What does it tell you about God's love?

"The Cross is so immense that it's hard to get our minds and hearts around it, isn't it? 


Books for probing further

The Day Christ Died

Meditations on the Cross

The Death of the Messiah from Gethsemane to the Grave

On a Hill too Far Away: Putting the Cross Back into the Center of Our Lives

Living Jesus: Learning the Heart of the Gospel

The Passion of Our Lord

The Death Christ Died: A Biblical Case for Unlimited Atonement

The Cross

The journey to the cross, Death on a cross and books for more reading all come from Chuck Swindoll's book, "The Darkness and the dawn."


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