The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was the most horrible crime that could ever be imagined. Here was an innocent man, whose chief crime seemed to be that He told the truth to people who were not ready for it. He did good and loved people. He never did anything that deserved even a mild rebuff. And yet, in the prime of His life, the tide of popular opinion went fickle, and turned on Him. He was arrested as He prayed in a garden at night. His accusers found Him, only because He was betrayed by one of His closest friends, who had served as the treasurer of their small fellowship. He was betrayed with a kiss, and led away to the slaughter. His friends sought to prevent His arrest, and one of them hacked off the ear of one of the attackers with a sword. Jesus healed the man’s ear, and secured the freedom of his friends. They fled in panic, leaving Him alone in the night with His enemies.
He was walked through the mockery of a trial. Sent to a higher authority. Then to another. Then back again. Nobody wanted this man’s blood on His hands, and yet the sheer force of the mob forced the hand of Pontius Pilate, who knew He was innocent, to cave in to their demands. So, all that was left now was the killing. But first there must be mockery. He must be put to shame. Blindfolded and pounded by a squad of drunk Roman soldiers. “Prophecy, Holy Man! Which of us made your mouth bleed?” Stripped naked and strapped to a whipping post. Flagellum. A whip with many thongs embedded with bone, metal hooks and bone chunks. The hatred of the Romans for Jews is now released in the most savage, unrestrained storm of violence they could muster. Again. And again. And again. It doesn’t stop. Not until the lictors are exhausted from their expenditure of cruelty, racial hatred and demonic influence. The whipped man is adorned in a red horse blanket, crowned with a crown of thorns and mockingly worshipped. “Your Majesty!”
Now the half dead man must carry the eighty pound crossbeam to the place of the skull. Golgotha. Calvary. Jeered, kicked, spit upon, mocked, and alone, He drags Himself to the place of torture. Crucifixion was a torture to death. It was slow, horrible, painful in the extreme, and humiliating. A man was fixed to the cross by iron nails through the wrists, between the radius and ulna bones. If the nails went through the palms, the nails would simply rip through from the weight of the victim. A crucified skeleton was found in Jerusalem in 1967. His heels were still held together by a spike. It seems that the Romans would get bored and try new contortions and nail placement. It sometimes took as much as a week to die on a cross, and the dying would be prey for insects and birds. Only the worst criminals of the lowest social order were crucified by the Romans. Jesus was classified as one of those.
So Jesus submits to the indignity and pain of a Roman cross. He is stripped naked. He is hung high and stretched wide. Every breath is a struggle, as the hanging man must push up with his feet on the nails and pull up on the nails in his hands for every breath. The sun is blazing down. The crowd mocks Him further, as if no pain is enough for this man. He is forsaken. And in this moment, He has a tremendous crisis, believing that this suffering is all in vain. He begins to lose His faith in God, and in a tortured moment cries out “My God, My God! Why have you forsaken Me?” There is no comfort for Him, even from God, it would seem. How much can one man take? Even more. When He is paying the price for every man’s sin, nothing of the wrath of God is held back.
This goes on for six hours. He is offered a pain numbing wine, and he refuses it. Every drop of the cup of pain must be drained. As He is dying, he offers comfort to His dying companions on his right and left. A fraternity of suffering that is known only to those who die together. One of his fellow sufferers asks for mercy. “Today, you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Even dying, He considers the comfort of others. “Father, forgive them. For they don’t know what they are doing.”
And so, it comes to the end. He is spent, and His soul has been poured out as a drink offering for sin. All that is left is to die. “Father, into Thy Hands I commit my Spirit. It is Finished.” His corpse is removed from the place of torture, and his mother cradles His head and wails for Him. Buried in a borrowed grave. No scene could be more devoid of hope, tenderness or justice.
Until Sunday. You know the rest of the story. How some women came to anoint His body, but they find a stone rolled away. What has happened? Even more indignity to this Innocent? How dare they? But powerless women can do nothing. As they turn, they are met by a man they suppose to be the gardener. His appearance was humble. But His voice. Now that was a different story! “Mary!” To hear Him speak your name, is a joy beyond all telling, but to hear it after he was tortured to death! “My mind must be blown. There is no way this could be! Too good to be true!”
And so it is. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ is too good to be true. It brings hope to the lowest, poorest, most hopeless, most sinful, and everyone else! The fact of His sacrifice hangs over the entire world with such import, our calendar hearkens to acknowledge Him when we date our correspondence. AD. Anno Domini. In the Year of our Lord.
How can it be?
That Thou My God,
Shouldst die for me?
He loves you.