“THE PASSION OF CHRIST”

Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” has caused quite a stir among both secularists and Christians. I thank God for the heightened interest in the Person and work of Jesus Christ that this film has ignited! In a day when the Ten Commandments are being pushed off into the closet and other public displays of Christianity are kept out of the public’s eye, Mel Gibson has opened up a public discussion of Jesus Christ that the media cannot shut-up or hide! It is the subject in schools, television, radio, around the water cooler, and among neighbors! In my opinion, this is a good thing. The more people talk about what Christ did on the cross the better!

“Passion” means suffering. That is what Gibson has attempted to portray in his movie—The last twelve hours of Christ’s life on earth.

It is the focal point of all history. It was the hour of the ages. “A date which will live in INFAMY” (FDR). Dec. 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001 are relatively minor events in comparison to the magnitude of what happened in Jerusalem on a hill called Calvary that spring day in 33 AD.

The Old and New Testament were joined at Calvary’s cross. Psalm 85:10—“Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”

Matthew 27:36 speaks of the original eye-witnesses of “The Passion of Christ”—“And sitting down they watched him there.” They sat mesmerized by atrocities afflicted upon the Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice first of all…

The PRELUDE to the cross

Christ’s sufferings did not begin at the cross. He is called “a man of sorrows.” He suffered intense spiritual suffering in Gethsemane before He ever went to Calvary.

After His illegal arrest and mock trial by the Sanhedrin we see the physical suffering begin…

First the Spitting—“ Then did they spit in his face” (Mt. 26:67). Hardly anything is more degrading than to spit in someone’s face.

Then the Smiting—“… and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” (Mt. 26:67-68). Isaiah 50:6 prophesied of Christ—“I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”

Then came the Scourging—“ …and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified” (Mt. 27:26). Normally 39 lashes were given according to Jewish law (2 Cor. 11:24). However, Jesus was flogged under Roman law.

The following is from an article from The Journal of the American Medical Association (March 21, 1986, Volume 256) entitled “On The Physical Death of Jesus Christ:”

The usual instrument was a short whip (with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals. For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post. The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers or by one who alternated positions.
As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock.

Finally there was the Scorning—“And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head” (Mt. 27:29-30). The thorns were approx. the size of a 16 penny nail. The Scripture says they took a reed and pounded the crown onto Jesus head. This would cause the thorns to penetrate the flesh and scrape the skull.

Now notice…

The PAIN of the cross

No one suffered the cruel brutality that Jesus endured. Consider the medical aspects of the crucifixion. Let’s look at a what Christ suffered from a medical doctor’s point of view. Again quoting from The Journal of the American Medical Association (March 21, 1986, Volume 256):

With a knowledge of both anatomy and ancient crucifixion practices, one may reconstruct the probably medical aspects of this form of slow execution. Each wound apparently was intended to produce intense agony, and the contributing causes of death were numerous.

The scourging prior to crucifixion served to weaken the condemned man and, if blood loss was considerable, to produce orthostatic hypotension and even hypovolemic shock. When the victim was thrown to the ground on his back, in preparation for transfixion of his hands, his scourging wounds most likely would become torn open again and contaminated with dirt. Furthermore, with each respiration, the painful scourging wounds would be scraped against the rough wood of the cross.

With arms outstretched, but not taut, the wrists were nailed to the cross beam. It has been shown that the ligaments and bones of the wrist can support the weight of a body hanging from them. Accordingly, the iron spikes probably were driven between the radius and the carpals or between the two rows of carpal bones… Furthermore, the driven nail would crush or sever the rather large sensorimotor median nerve. The stimulated nerve would produce excruciating bolts of fiery pain in both arms.

Most commonly, the feet were fixed to the front of the cross by means of an iron spike driven through the first or second intermetatarsal space, just distal to the tarsometatarssal joint. It is likely that the deep peroneal nerve and branches of the medial and lateral plantar nerves would have been injured by the nails.

The major pathophysiologic effect of crucifixion, beyond the excruciating pain, was a marked interference with normal respiration, particularly exhalation. The weight of the body, pulling down on the outstretched arms and shoulders, would tend to fix the intercostal muscles in an inhalation state and thereby hinder passive exhalation.

Adequate exhalation required lifting the body by pushing up on the feet and by flexing the elbows and adducting the shoulders. However, this maneuver would place the entire weight of the body on the tarsals and would produce searing pain. Furthermore, flexion of the elbows would cause rotation of the wrists about the iron nails and cause fiery pain along the damaged median nerves. Lifting of the body would also painfully scrape the scourged back against the rough wooden cross. Muscle cramps and paresthesias of the outstretched and uplifted arms would add to the discomfort. As a result, each respiratory effort would become agonizing and tiring and lead eventually to asphyxia.
Not uncommonly, insects would light upon or burrow into the open wounds or the eyes, ears, and nose of the dying and helpless victim, and birds of prey would tear at these sites.

In all His pain, Jesus never pleads for mercy—“Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves” (Luke 23:28). There are no hysterical sobs or screams of anguish. He cries not for vengeance, but prays, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Now this is most important. Consider…

The PERSON on the cross

This was no ordinary Jewish criminal that was being crucified. He was the Christ (Mt. 27:22). He was the Son of God (Mt. 27:40, 54). He is God in the flesh (see John 1:1, 14; Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 3:16). He is the Creator (see Col. 1:16). He created the very tree that was He was being crucified upon!

First, He was the SUBSTITUTIONARY One (Mt. 27:15-23). Barabbas, the guilty one went free while Jesus, the sinless One died in his place. It is a picture of Christ dying in my place! Gordon Jensen wrote a song titled “I SHOULD HAVE BEEN CRUCIFIED” …

I was guilty with nothing to say,

And they were coming to take me away.

But then a voice from heaven was heard that said,

“Let him go! Take Me instead!”

And I should have been crucified.

I should have suffered and died.

I should have hung on the cross in disgrace.

But Jesus, God’s Son, took my place!

A crown of thorns, the spear deep in His side,

Oh the pain, it should have been mine.

Those rusty nails were meant for me.

But Christ took them and let me go free!

And I should have been crucified.

I should have suffered and died.

I should have hung on the cross in disgrace.

But Jesus, God’s Son, took my place!

Second, He was the SINLESS One. Several times Pilate said, “I find NO FAULT in him.” (John 19:4-6). He asked, “What evil hath he done?” but never received an answer (27:24-25). The Apostle Paul wrote, “For he [God the Father] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

If Jesus was sinless, what did people have against Him to want He crucified? When Mel Gibson was interviewed on Primetime this week, this question was raised: What is the explanation for all the hostility towards Jesus? Why would anyone want to kill Jesus who was so loving, self-denying and caring? Wasn’t He this nice person who went around telling people to love one another and picking up children in His arms to bless them? He forgave and healed people… He did many wonderful works. It doesn’t sound reasonable that anyone would demand His death! Where did this animosity come from? The truth is, there were those who did not appreciate His ministry or the claims He made. The Bible speaks of those who are “Despisers of those that are good” (2 Tim. 3:1-3).

Here are a few reasons the religious leaders wanted to get rid of Jesus:

•His POPULARITY among the common people (Mark 15:10-11). Pilate recognized that the priest delivered Christ up because of ENVY! As Proverbs 27:4 says, “Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?”

•His PROFESSION of deity (Mt. 9:1-3; 26:62-66; John 8:44-59; 10:30-39). He claimed equality with God and the Jews considered that blasphemy.

•His PREACHING was offensive to the religious elite. He denounced the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites and a generation of vipers (Mt. 15:7-14; 23:13-33).

Thirdly, He was the SACRIFICIAL One. Jesus did not die a martyr’s death. His death was foreordained from the foundation of the world (1 Pet. 1:19-20; Rev. 13:8). Jesus did NOT die from the physical atrocities afflicted to Him! No one took Jesus Christ’s life from Him. Jesus said, “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18). He could not be killed by man. Death is the result of sin (Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 6:23). However, Jesus was sinless. He literally had to “give up the ghost” in order to die.

None of this was by accident. It was all prophesied…

The PROPHECIES concerning the cross

Notice Matthew 27:35—“And they crucified him, and parted his garment, casting lots: THAT IT MIGHT BE FULFILLED which was spoken by the prophet…”

King David wrote the following prophecy about 1,000 years before Christ’s crucifixion! These words were written 800 years before Death by crucifixion was ever practiced! Psalm 22:1, 13-16—“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? …They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.”

Note verse 14—“…all my bones are out of joint…” After Christ was nailed to the cross, the cross would be hoisted upright by ropes and then dropped into a hole about 3 feet deep with a sickening thud. The jolt from the weight of the body literally dislocated the shoulder bones. Psalm 34:20 prophesied that none of Christ’s bones would be broken. This was fulfilled in John 19:33-37.

Isaiah also prophesied of the death of Christ 700 years before Christ’s birth—“his visage was so marred more than any man… he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment… for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken… Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin… he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isa. 52:14; 53:2-12 in part)

He came to give His life a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:6). He tasted death for every man—“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:9).

Christianity is about God sacrificing His Son to restore a relationship that was broken. “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself…” (Col. 1:20).

Jesus, God’s Son, sacrificed His life to pay for the sins of mankind and took the punishment for the sin upon Himself. Because He gave His life on the cross, any one who believes in Him will have a restoration of a personal relationship with God.

Finally, please notice…

The POST-SCRIPT following the cross
Mel Gibson’s added this post-script to his movie: “The Romans crucified thousands of Jews during their occupation of Palestine (but only One rose from the dead!)” Paul wrote: “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, AND ROSE AGAIN” (2 Cor. 5:15).

SUMMATION: “Sitting down they watched him there…” What did those who gathered around the cross see at Calvary on that crucifixion day some 2000 years ago? They witnessed the greatest expression of love this world has ever known. “For God so LOVED the world [that includes you and me], that he GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM should not perish but HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE!” (John 3:16).

Have you believed on this One who suffered in your place so you could be saved. Trust Him as your Lord and Savior TODAY.

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