Turn in your Bibles to Mark chapter 15, as we begin looking at the crucifixion of Jesus. And keep in mind that Jesus has gone through the unlawful religious trial by the hands of the Jews. Then He went through the civil trial under Roman law, was found innocent, but because of the pressure the Jews placed upon Pilate, we see the release of a hardened criminal, Barabbas, and the sentencing to death of an innocent man, Jesus!
Also, Jesus has endured Roman scourging or flogging, which was a brutal torture. "A Roman scourge had a short wooden handle that held a series of leather thongs threaded with bits of lead, brass, and bones sharpened to a razors edge. The man was taken by the wrists and tied to a post, his body taut. Two men, one on each side, would whip him across the flanks and back, exposing arteries, veins and entrails. That often brought about death. Scourging was often done before crucifixion to speed up the victims death on the cross. It was torture beyond description." It left the victims back nothing more than raw flesh, inflamed and bleeding. And so after this beating, the verdict to be put to death is given by Pilate, then Jesus will be lead to the cross of Calvary, as we shall see this evening. So lets begin reading in Mark chapter 15, starting in verse 20.
1. Now in Matthew 27:27 we are told that a garrison or a cohort of Roman soldiers took Jesus to the Praetorium or the Judgment Hall, that is 600 men coming against this mass of raw flesh, whose face no longer resembled that of a man because of the beatings he endured. These men put a scarlet robe on Him, placed a crown of thorns on His head, a staff in His right hand and knelt before Him saying "Hail, king of the Jews!" They then spat on Him and took the staff and repeatedly struck Jesus on the head. And when they were done they lead Him out to be crucified. Also, a execution squad of 4 Roman soldiers were responsible for Jesus, and they were under the command of a Centurion. (John 19:23).
1. The condemned man was to carry the Patibulum or the crossbeam which weighed about 100 pounds. And Jesus made it through the streets of the city, but as He exited the city gate, He could no longer carry the cross, He was to weak. In fact, it was amazing that He could carry it as far as He did because of the weakened condition He was in. In fact most died before they got this far!
2. Now understand that they would not take the shortest route through the streets. They would parade these victims through the streets so many people would see the condemned man as he carried his cross. Before him was a soldier who would carry a sign listing the charges against this person. And the reason they did this was to discourage others from committing crimes. This was not a retribution for the crime, for they could have just thrust them threw with the sword, but it was a vivid object lesson for those who might be walking down the path of crime, to stop them in their tracks before they ended up like these poor souls! You see, crucifixion was a very painful way to die, you could hang on the cross for 3 or 4 days until you finally died. Again, a deterrent against crime!
3. Also, we are introduced here to a man named Simon, a Cyrenian. He came from the area of North Africa, made this 800 mile pilgrimage to join in the Passover feast and now the Roman soldiers are compelling him to carry the cross for Jesus the rest of the way, which was not very far, only across the street and up the hill. Now the Roman soldiers could force you to go a mile for them by placing their sword on your shoulder. In Matthew 5:41 we see Jesus speak of this Roman practice. We read "And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two."
4. Now it is interesting to see Simons involvement here. Harry Truman, in writing to his mother, said "I went to the White House to see the President and discovered that I was the President." For Simon, he had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and ended up meeting the Passover Lamb!
Did it affect his life? You bet it did! He left a saved man. How do I know? Because Paul tells us in Romans 16:13, "Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine." In other words, Simon got saved, went home and shared Jesus with his family, and they got saved, and his son was being used by God! It is interesting how we go through things thinking we have an understanding why, we have a purpose for doing what we are doing, and then God steps in and does something spectacular!
5. Turn to Luke chapter 23, and lets look at verse 27. We read "And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him." According to Rabbinic tradition there were women in Jerusalem who would give sedative drinks to those who were going to be crucified to ease their pain. It is as Proverbs 31:6-7 says, "Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more." But Jesus is going to refuse this drink, He wanted nothing to do with that, He wanted to be fully aware of what was happening.
6. Now we see these women mourning and lamenting over Jesus, and Jesus turns to them and says beginning in verse 28 of Luke chapter 23, "...Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, "Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!" Then they will begin to say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills," Cover us!" For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?" Luke 23:28-31.
To be barren was not a blessing, but a curse in that culture. And now Jesus reverses that, why? Because of the destruction that was going to come upon them by the Romans because of their rejection of Him. Now this is what took place, "...Titus had so closely encompassed the city with a wall, that there was no coming out for provisions, upon which a sore famine commenced, so that they fed on dung and dirt, and shoes, and girdles, one rich noble woman, whose name was Mary, the daughter of Eleazar, being stripped of all she had, by the seditious, killed her own child, and dressed it, and ate part of it; and the other part being found by the soldiers that broke in upon her, the news of this shocking fact was spread all over the city, and every one looked with horror upon it, and with the same compassion, as if they had done it themselves: and then might those words be said, blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, ...who, though starving themselves, were under no temptation to do such a detestable action." Obviously the words of Jesus would and did come to pass!
1. We call it Calvary which comes from a Latin word, meaning skull. Here is the Aramaic word, Golgotha, which again speaks of a skull, and that is what this area looks like, a skull. Now if you go to Israel today, there is a Catholic site that claims to be Golgotha, they call it the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The only problem is this site is within the city walls of Jerusalem and Hebrews 13:12 tells us "Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate." So that cant be the place. There is another location, next to a garden tomb, called Gordons Valley, and this is located outside of the city walls and as you look at this hillside, you can see the face of a skull cut into the rock! So I tend to lean in this direction, that Gordons Valley is the location of Calvary or Golgotha!
1. Prior to the soldiers hammering the nails into the wrist of Jesus, they offered Him this sedative, given to them by these women, but He refused. It is as Psalm 69:21 says, "They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."
1. The condemned was stripped of all his clothes, except possibly for a loin cloth, but many times they hung on the cross naked for all to see their shame! It is hard for me to imagine my Lord, the creator of heaven and earth, being displayed in that manner. But He was! Now part of the Roman executioners pay was the possessions of these convicted criminals. And these soldiers divided the garments of Jesus into four, one for each of them. And then there was one more piece of garment remaining, the under garment which was a seamless woven one piece garment that was too valuable to divide up. So they cast lots to see who would win this, just as Psalm 22:18 tells us, "They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots." Over 1,000 years before these events took place, we were told that this would come to pass, and here we see these soldiers fulfilling that prophecy!
2. It is at this point we see Jesus cry from the cross "...Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do...." Luke 23:34. That is the first of seven sayings that Jesus will say as He hung on the cross of Calvary. I dont know about you, but someone cuts me off the road and I have a hard time forgiving them, I am mad! But here, the creator of heaven and earth, a man who was innocent, cries out to the Father to forgive them for what they are doing to Him! That is the heart of God, forgiveness, and may we show that same heart, that same attitude towards others, that of forgiveness!
1. The third hour was 9 AM, the time that Jesus was placed on the cross of Calvary for our sins, and He hung there until 3 PM, when He gave up His spirit!
1. In John 19:19-22 we read "Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, Do not write, "The King of the Jews," but, 'He said, "I am the King of the Jews." Pilate answered, What I have written, I have written." This of course made the Jews angry, they wanted nothing to do with Jesus being their king, it was an insult to them, and yet God left a testimony for all to see - that He truly is the King of kings and Lord of lords!
2. Look at people today for God has left a testimony or a witness of His existence, it is called creation. You see, all of creation testifies there is a God, a designer, a creator, and from that vantage point you can go to the Word of God where God revels Himself to us! There truly is no excuse for man today. Listen carefully to what Paul has to say in Romans chapter 1, beginning in verse 18, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man-- and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things." Romans 1:18-23. People today have to suppress the truth of God, of His existence, and because of that the judgment of God will come upon them.
3. Now the Jews seem very upset over this sign, and there may be another reason. John tells us that in Hebrew, Greek and Latin these words were written, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." In Hebrew, as you read the first four letters of the first four words it spells YHVH, the holy name of the LORD! Thus, you can understand why they were so upset, not only was He called the King of the Jews, but in Hebrew He was called YHVH!
4. One more thing before we close this evening. In Hebrews 12:2 we are told "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." It is hard for me to think of joy when nails are being pounded into my wrists. It is hard for me to think of joy when the crossbeam is being attached to the upright post in the ground. It is hard for me to think of joy hanging on a cross to die! How did Jesus do it? He looked past the temporary pain and focused on the glory! As we go through difficult times, we need to do the same. It is as Paul said in II Corinthians 4:16-18, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." May we not lose sight of that fact, of eternity with the Lord!