Sermon on Jesus’ Crucifixion
A. The crucifixion of our Lord took place at a location known as “The Place of the Skull”- Greek, Hebrew, Latin
B. Crucifixion was probably the most horrible form of capital punishment ever devised by man. It appears to have originated with the Persians (c. 522 B.C.).
1. Later, it was employed by the Greeks. Following the destruction of Tyre, Alexander the Great crucified 2,000 men of military age.
2. The Jews even used crucifixion on occasion. In the inter-biblical age, Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.) crucified 800 Pharisees who had been involved in a revolt.
3. But the Romans were most noted for the practice. In 71 B.C., following a slave revolt in Rome, 6,000 recaptured slaves were crucified on the Appian Way leading to the city
C. The prospective crucifixion victim, as a rule, was first subjected to scourging, i.e., a beating with a three-thong whip (fashioned of plaited leather, and studded with bone and metal).
1. The victim was stripped naked and then was secured with leather ties. He was then beaten from his upper back to the lower extremities of his legs.
2. The flesh was flayed from the muscle. Eventually muscle could he shredded from the bone. The bones of the back, including the spinal column might well be exposed in a bloody mass.
3. Not infrequently these whippings were fatal. In an article which appeared a few years back in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. W. Edwards wrote:
“The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a pre-shock state. Moreover, hematidosis had rendered his skin particularly tender. The physical and mental abuse meted out by the Jews and the Romans, as well as the lack of food, water, and sleep, also contributed to his generally weakened state. Therefore, even before the actual crucifixion, Jesus’ physical condition was at least serious and possibly critical”
D. The shape of the cross is a matter of some controversy.
1. Some scholars believe that the victim was forced to carry, only the upper crossbar (which weighed about 125 pounds) to the place of torture.
2. It is little wonder that the Lord required assistance in carrying the beam (Lk. 23:26). At the death site, the upright post might have been secured in the ground already, awaiting the attachment of the crossbar
E. The criminal would be made to lie upon the ground, with the crossbeam under his upper back. The arms were then attached by nails.
1. The nails almost certainly were driven through the wrists, since the palm tissue “cannot bear the weight” of the body, The Greek term rendered “hands” (cheiras, Jn. 20:27) can also mean “arms” (Liddell, p. 1807).
2. The feet were nailed also. In 1968 the first remains of a crucified man were discovered in Jerusalem. A seven-inch spike was wedged through a young man’s heels.
F. The actual cause of death was the loss of blood volume and the inability to breathe due to the extension of the body
1. The victim, unable to support his body so as to inhale/exhale easily, eventually suffocated; he usually died within 36 hours, though he could survive for days.
2. Jesus lived only 6 hours.
G. Let us reflect upon several matters relative to the Lord’s crucifixion.
1. A thousand years before Jesus’ birth, David, speaking on behalf of the coming Messiah, described the ordeal of the crucifixion.
a. Psalm 22:14-18
b. This context is doubtless the most comprehensive portion of the biblical record detailing the physical and emotional trauma of the Son of God during the crucifixion ordeal.
c. Moreover, it is an amazing declaration inasmuch as it was penned five centuries prior to the invention of the torturous system.
2. The prophetic details in connection with the crucifixion of Jesus are amazing.
3. Note the following abbreviated list of prophetic details:
a. Jesus’ back was to be beaten (Isa. 50:6), and his hands and feet pierced (Psa. 22:16).
b. His garments would be divided (Psa. 22:18), and he would he given vinegar and gall to slake his thirst (Psa. 69:21).
c. Though it was common to break the legs of the victim (Jn. 19:32), such did not occur in Christ’s case because the Lord was the antitype of the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:46; Psa. 34:20; Jn. 19:33; 1 Cor. 5:7).
d. Too, a crucified person normally was not given a burial; the body was left to rot or be devoured by animals. But Jesus, by divine decree, was interred in the tomb of a wealthy Jew (Isa. 53:9; Mt. 27:57ff).
4. These prophecies are powerful evidence of the divine origin of the Bible.
B. THE THEOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE
1. During the first century, the Jews employed four methods of capital punishment – stoning, burning, decapitation, and strangulation. But Jesus was executed according to Roman procedure. Aside from the political considerations, there were reasons for this.
2. First, Christ had to die in some fashion that involved the shedding of his blood, without which there could be no remission of sins (Heb. 9:22).
a. Since the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), man, by virtue of his transgression, forfeited his right to live.
b. However, in the marvelous sacred scheme of things, it was determined that God’s Son would offer his life in exchange for man’s (1 Cor. 15:3).
c. Inasmuch as the “life” (Heb. – nephesh) resides In the blood (Lev. 17:11), it was necessary for the Lord to shed his blood to effect redemption.
1) Isaiah speaks of the Messiah’s “soul/life” (nephesh) being “poured out” unto death (Isaiah 53:10-12).
2) Centuries later, the Savior said – Matthew 26:28
d. The crucifixion thus accommodated a method of death consistent with the heavenly plan.
3. Secondly, under the Old Testament regime, hanging a body upon a tree was a special token of accursedness; “He that is hanged is accursed of God” (Dt. 21:23).
a. Crucifixion was a most shameful punishment designed for the guiltiest criminals
b. Galatians 3:13
c. It is significant that the “cross” is designated as a “tree” several times in the NT (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 1 Pet. 2:24).
d. The Lord’s death by means of the crucifixion upon the cross, therefore, was a fitting symbol of the fact that He was bearing the “curse” and “shame” (Heb. 12:2) of sin for the human family.
4. All who so choose may take advantage of that wonderful gift, by being immersed into Jesus’ death(Rom. 6:3-4).
C. THE CROSS AS A WITNESS
1. How was it that a mode of death so despised as “the cross” – became such a glorious badge of honor for Christians?
a. The “word of the cross” was synonymous with the gospel (1 Cor. 1:18), and in that cross the early saints gloried.
b. Paul wrote: “But far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Gal. 6:14).
2. Why should such a hideous instrument of shame be transformed into an object of glory by the early Christians?
a. Do men today honor the hangman’s noose, or the electric chair? Does anyone wear these emblems as an item of adornment? Hardly.
b. It was because the cross ceased to be an embarrassment in the light of the resurrection
c. Had Jesus remained dead, the cross would have been forever an object of infamy.
3. The cross, then, becomes a silent witness, an apologetic, for the authenticity of Christianity.
A. Remember… Isaiah 53:6