The Way of the Cross
by, Mar 22nd 2009 at 09:21 PM (322 Views)
Since we are in the middle of Lent I thought that this sermon that I have preached a couple times would be appropriate.
THE WAY OF THE CROSSI would like you to do something for me. First close your eyes. Now picture a cross. OK, you can open your eyes now but remember that picture. Now when you pictured that cross what did you see. Did you see a cross similar to the one on our altar, all shiny, and nice? Or did you see something like the one on the wall behind me. Or maybe it was a piece of jewelry like the one Iím wearing. And while there is nothing wrong with wearing a cross as jewelry, especially if it means something more than just adornment. And there is nothing wrong with these, or any other pictures of the cross. Today, however, I would like to take your picture of the cross and change it, at least for today, into something more closely resembling the reality of what actually happened.
After the Last Supper Christ and the disciple's went to the Garden of Gethsemane and there Jesus went off by himself to pray and, as Luke 22:44 says "and being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." This is a rare condition called HEMATIDROSIS in which under emotional stress tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, thus mixing with the sweat. This alone could produce marked weakness and possible shock.
From the garden Christ is taken to the High Priests house for a mockery of a trial. I wonít go into the trial except to say that there were many Jewish laws broken that night. Among them were a prohibition of trials at night, they could not get 2 witnesses that could agree, and the verdict of the trial could not be rendered on the same day of the trial. Not to mention that they changed the charges from blasphemy to his claiming to be a king when they took him to Pilot.
Pilot tries to release Jesus and avoid the inevitable, even going so far as sending him to Herod, but Herod just sends Jesus back. Finally, thinking to appease the crowd, Pilot has Jesus scourged.
The soldiers prepare the prisoner by striping him of his clothing. Then his hands are tied to a post above his head. Then the scourge is brought out. This is a rod about 1 foot in length with 9 leather straps attached to it. At the end of each strap is attached a broken bone, a rock with sharp edges or the like. The aim is to remove every bit of flesh from the prisoners back without killing him. At first the whip only cuts through skin, but as the beating continues it cuts deeper and deeper into the muscle. By the time it is finished, the back is reduced to an unrecognizable mass of bleeding tissue. The Jews had a law prohibiting more than 40 lashes (thus the reason for the 39 lashes of tradition) but this beating was inflicted by Romans, and they had no such law. so it is entirely possible that Jesus received more than 40.
This does not satisfy the mob, so finally Pilot acquiesces and turns Christ over to the soldiers to be crucified. Before taking Christ out to Golgatha the soldiers make sport of Jesus. They put a purple robe on him, give him a rod for a scepter and push a crown of thorns on his head. The crown was made from a material commonly used for fires and had 1 or 2 inch thorns that would have pierced the scull as it was eventually beaten onto his head. The image from the Shroud of Turin suggests that instead of the simple circlet that traditional pictures show, this crown may have been more in the form of a cap. This would certainly fit with what we know of the cruelty of the Crucifixion.
When they had finished, the soldiers removed the robe, which, by this time, had begun to adhere to Christ's back, reopening the wounds on his back, and causing them to bleed again. Then they gave his own clothes back to him and prepared him to be taken to Golgotha. The condemned were forced to carry the heavy cross beam of the cross to the place of execution. This cross beam would have weighed approximately 110 pounds.
Christ, exhausted as he was from a sleepless night, the agonizing in the garden, and the beating, couldnít carry the cross and stumbled several times, pushing the rough wood of the Cross into his back. when it becomes obvious that Christ cannot continue on his own the soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross the rest of the way.
When they arrive at Golgatha the prisoners were again stripped of their clothes. Christ is offered wine mixed with Myrrh, which is a mild analgesic, which Christ refuses. He is then thrown down on the cross, where spikes are driven through the wrist bones where the medial nerve is located, and deep into the wood of the cross. The placement of the spike makes it so that every time he wants a breath, Christ is forced to cause his weight to press upon the medial nerve, sending shooting horrific pain all through the nerves of his body.
He is then lifted up. Then his left foot is pressed backwards against the right foot and both feet are extended, toes down and a spike driven through the arch of each, again, where the nerves would cause the most pain. The weight of the body fixes the intercostal muscles in a position of inhalation. The only way to exhale is to lift himself with his arms and push with his legs, to hold himself up for a few seconds. to avoid suffocation the prisoner is forced to cause his own excruciating pain by putting pressure on the medial nerves. It is during these times that Christ speaks from the cross.
As his arms fatigue great waves of cramps knot them in deep relentless throbbing pain and Christ is forced to relax until he is forced by the need to breathe to raise himself again this process continues with his back being torn up and down the rough wood.
In the end all the condemned can do is raise himself for a quick gasp. The average life span on the cross was 3 or 4 days. Roman compassion for the condemned was to break their legs to speed up the process and cause the shoulder muscles to lock, allowing the prisoner a relatively quick death of exhaustion, asphyxia, or suffocation.
As Christ is upon the cross all the sin of the world is placed upon him. The Sinless Son of God becomes sin. The holy God, unable to abide being in the presence of sin, turns his back on his Son. Christ, for the first time, experiences separation form God and cries out "My God, My God why have you forsaken me," quoting form Ps 22.
As Christ feels death coming closer he realizes his mission is over and so he speaks 2 last times. First, "It is finished," announcing that his mission of redemption is done. Then, "Father, into thy hands I commit my Spirit." and with those words he allows himself to die.
With Passover drawing near the Jewish authorities prevail upon Pilot to break the legs of the prisoners so they will not remain on the cross over Passover. But when they come to Christ they find that he is already dead. To be sure the soldier drives his lance through the 5th intersperse between his ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart (Jn 19:34). There is an escape of watery fluid from the sack surrounding the heart and blood from the interior of the heart. We, thus, have conclusive post mortem evidence that our Lord died not form the usual death of crucifixion (i.e. suffocation) but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.
The people that put Christ on the cross did not kill him. He gave up his life of his own accord. Of his own accord Christ went through the mockery of a trial. Of his own accord he suffered the pain and humiliation of the beating and torment by the soldiers. Of his own accord he endured the agony of the cross, and of his own accord he died, because he didnít have to. In Mt. 26:53 he tells Peter "Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than 12 legions of angles?"
But if this is the case, why did he do it? Part of the answer is found in the most well known verse of scripture, John 3:16 "for God so loved the world that He Gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life." But there is a problem. God is a holy God and cannot abide the presence of sin. That is why he had to turn away from Christ when he was on the cross. And we are all infinitely sinful.." Romans 3:10 reads "As it is written there is no one righteous, not even one:" Romans 3:23 says "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." In Romans 5:12 Paul goes on to say "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned." For, as we find in Romans 6:23, "for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." But we have hope. In Romans 5:8 Paul says "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Because Romans 10:9,13 says "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. . .for 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'" This then is the miracle of the cross. This is why Christ went through it all. He loved us so much that He was willing to take our punishment so that we could be restored to fellowship with Him if we will only believe and accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. And He did it not after we has straightened our lives up, but when we were His enemies. When all we deserved was His wrath, God sent His love in the form of Christ, so that we can have eternal fellowship with Him. This, then, is the way of the cross. And right now you can say yes to Christ if you have never accepted him as your Savior. Or you can turn back to him if you have wandered. All you have to do is pray and tell him "Lord I know I am a sinner. I have gone my own way, but now I want you to come into my life and be my Lord and Savior and to lead me in your ways, even if it is the Way of the Cross. Come into my life." And He will.
LET US PRAY