April 8, 2020 | by: 1 Comments|
The corrupt Jewish leaders did not want to be personally involved in Jesus’ execution. They had become fearful of public opinion about killing Jesus. They wanted the responsibility of Jesus’ death to be shared. If the people revolted over Jesus’ execution, the leaders could shrug and blame the universally hated Roman government. But the Jews were also thinking of themselves: They would be defiled if they stoned Jesus before partaking in Passover.
So, the Jewish leaders portrayed Jesus as a threat to the Roman government. They presented Christ to Pilate as an insurrectionist who refused to pay taxes and declared Himself to be king. Pilate was in a difficult position. His ability to govern Judea was already being questioned by Rome, so he couldn’t afford any kind of negative incident. Though he believed Jesus was innocent, he would have to strike a balance between justice and political survival.
Unable to find grounds for executing Jesus, Pilate found a way out of his predicament when he learned that Jesus was a Galilean. He had Jesus sent to Herod, who was eager to see Jesus work miracles. When Jesus refused to entertain Herod, he was mocked and abused and sent back to Pilate. Though Pilate offered alternatives to crucifixion, the people demanded Jesus’ death. Pilate then washed his hands, signifying that he was not responsible for Jesus’ death.
After Jesus was flogged, He was handed over to the Roman soldiers for execution. The soldiers mocked Jesus by fashioning a king’s costume for Him. The whole cohort was entertained by the spectacle of Jesus’ mistreatment. His strength failing, Jesus could no longer bear the weight of the crucifixion beam. A bystander named Simon was chosen to carry it for him. Simon would later become a follower of Christ.
The Romans carried out crucifixion in highly traveled areas. They used crucifixion as a deterrent as well as a punishment. Jesus was taken to a place called Calvary, which means “skull.” Though the scripture does not expressly mention a hill, it is assumed to be a hill or outcrop with a vaguely skull-shaped appearance. There, Jesus was first nailed to the beam, and then raised up onto the cross.
Crucifixion was a form of execution designed to maximize pain and prevent a quick death. While Jesus waited for the inevitable end, bearing the incredible physical pain of the cross, He was further mocked and abused by those who surrounded him. The soldiers stripped Jesus and cast lots for his garments. Many in the crowd, along with the other victims of crucifixion, taunted Jesus, saying that if He were truly the Messiah, He should save Himself.
The physical punishment of the cross made breathing, and therefore speaking, incredibly difficult. Scripture records seven statements that Jesus made from the cross.
Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” None of those who put Jesus to death were able to understand the magnitude of what was really happening. In the days ahead, many of those present at the crucifixion did believe in Christ and were indeed forgiven.
One of the sayings from the cross that is frequently misunderstood is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Jesus said this while experiencing the first and only separation from the Father that He would ever experience. He was also referencing Psalm 22, a vivid Old Testament prophecy of the cross. Disappointingly, MacArthur creates an unnecessary dichotomy between these two important points. Recognizing the significance of Jesus’ reference to Psalm 22 is crucial to understanding God’s sovereign plan to make atonement for sin. That Jesus would quote scripture during a time of great need is entirely consistent with His behavior throughout the gospels. By quoting the Psalm, or at least its title, Jesus forever connected the words of Psalm 22 with the events of the crucifixion.
By crying out, “It is finished,” Jesus indicated that His work was fulfilled. Atonement for everyone who would ever trust in Christ had been secured. By stating, “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit,” Jesus signified that no one took His life, but that He gave it up, willingly.
Few travelers who paced the roads of Jerusalem would have taken notice of Jesus’ execution. But when the Messiah died, supernatural phenomena indicated that something incredible was taking place. The sun darkened for about three hours, the veil of the temple was torn completely, an earthquake shook the ground, and many dead saints were raised. These occurrences, along with the meek and gentle way that Jesus died, caused the Roman centurion to admit that Jesus was truly the Son of God.
Of course, the story of Jesus’ crucifixion doesn’t end at Golgotha. It ends with the tomb of Joseph being empty on the third day. That means that Jesus’ death was indeed an acceptable sacrifice that made atonement for sin. Jesus died, but forever lives again. That is the hope of the gospel that is given to believers: that those who believe in Christ will not perish, but will have eternal life (John 3:16, 11:25).
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