To The Cross
October 22, 2023
How many of you would say you are adventurous?
Let’s just take a couple of minutes and I want you to share with the person to your right and if no one is to your right then the person in front of you, or if no one is in front of you, the person behind you…closest person to you.
Let’s define adventure.
Adventure is defined as engaging in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.
Adventure might be something like going behind enemy lines during a military battle and implanting equipment to better inform your army as to the enemies movements and better understand their patterns and habits so that you can more easily eliminate enemy threat.
Then coming back and monitoring all that data, only to go back behind enemy lines a few months later and recover the equipment that you had earlier planted in the hostile territory and come back out undetected.
That might be an adventure right?
When I enlisted in the US Army, they said, it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure…they were right, that was one of my many adventures.
So, let me ask you again, How many of you are adventurous?
I want us to take an adventurous journey with Jesus as he walks us to the cross.
A little context before we jump into our passage this morning.
Jesus had been arrested, convicted in an unfair trial by the Sanhedrin, disowned by his disciples, had a murderer released in his place before Pilate.
Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, he was mocked and flogged and beaten by Roman soldiers.
Let me give you a little insight into this flogging and beating.
First the Roman soldiers stripped Jesus and tied his hands to a post above his head.
The whip (flagellum) was made of several pieces of leather with pieces of bone and lead embedded near the ends.
Two men, one on each side of the victim, usually did the flogging.
The Jews mercifully limited flogging to a maximum of forty stripes; the Romans had no such limitation.
The following is a medical doctor’s description of the physical effects of flogging.
The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs.
At first the heavy thongs cut through the skin only.
Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper in the subcutaneous tissues, producing first and oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles…
Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue.
Keep this image in your mind as we read our text today.
As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
WHEN ALL SEEMS DARK AND HOPELESS, JESUS IS THE LIGHT THAT BRINGS HOPE.
Have you ever thought what it would have been like to walk side by side with Jesus as he made that walk to the cross as he was crucified and died.
Crucifixion was the most shameful and painful way to execute a criminal.
Roman citizens ordinarily were not crucified.
As a matter of fact, crucifixion was so degrading that it wasn’t even mentioned in polite society.
Jesus was led outside the city to the place of execution (Heb. 13:12–13).
It was required that the prisoner carry his own cross (or at least the crossbeam), and that he wear a placard around his neck announcing his crime.
That placard was then hung over his head on the cross for all to see.
It seems that Jesus was so exhausted and depleted from the scourging that he didn’t have the strength to carry his cross, or at least he was slowing down the convoy enough that the Roman soldiers felt they needed to pick up the pace.
There was to be no delay in this execution.
The Passover was about to be celebrated, and the Jewish leaders did not want their holy day desecrated by the dead bodies of criminals.
In order to speed things up, the soldiers drafted a visitor to Jerusalem, Simon from Cyrene.
He had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, and now he was humiliated by being forced to carry the cross of an unknown criminal!
Something interesting is that all the Gospels refer to Simon as though the audience would readily know who he was.
Mark referred to Simon as “the father of Alexander and Rufus” (Mark 15:21).
Apparently these two sons were well-known members of the church.
It seems likely that this humiliating experience resulted in Simon’s conversion as well as in the conversion of his family.
Simon came to Jerusalem to sacrifice his Passover lamb, and he met the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for him.
It was customary to give a narcotic drink to those about to be crucified, for this would help to ease the pain.
Jesus refused this drink; He did the will of God in complete control of His faculties.
Also this act fulfilled Psalm 69:21, They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
It was also customary for the soldiers to share the loot at an execution.
This was a fulfillment of Psalm 22:18, They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.
After they had finished gambling for His clothing, they sat down and “guarded Him there…”
After all, this Jesus was known to be a miracle-worker.
Nobody knew how many followers He had, and perhaps they were even then preparing to rescue Him.
He had one man in His band of disciples who had been a Zealot (Matt. 10:4—“Simon the Zealot”), and that fanatical group stopped at nothing when it came to opposing Roman authority.
By combining the Gospel records, we arrive at the full accusation that was put over His head: “This is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.”
The Jewish rulers did not approve of what Pilate wrote, but for once the governor did not waiver.
When they arrive at Golgotha the crucifixion begins.
Cicero once said , “Crucifixion is the cruelest and most hideous punishment possible.”
Don’t close your eyes, don’t turn away, we are still on this adventurous journey with Jesus.
Simon of Cyrene is ordered to place the patibulum on the ground and Jesus is quickly thrown backwards with his shoulders against the wood.
The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist.
He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood.
Quickly he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement.
The cross is then lifted into place.
The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed.
The victim is now crucified.
As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in brain.
The nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves.
As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places the full weight on the nail through his feet.
Again he feels the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.
At this point, another phenomenon occurs.
As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain.
With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe. . . .
Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled.
Jesus fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath.
Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subside.
Spasmodically he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.
Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber.
Then another agony begins a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.
It is now almost over the loss of tissue fluids reached a critical level the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air.
The body of Jesus is now in extremis, and He can feel the chill of death creeping through his tissues.
His mission of atonement has been completed.
Finally he can allow His body to die.
As we stand there with Jesus, watching him on the cross in this adventurous jouney, there is something else that gets our attention.
Jesus was not crucified in a quiet building, away from the city’s noise and activity.
He was crucified on a public highway, on a day when perhaps hundreds maybe thousands of people were traveling.
The fact that His indictment was written in three languages—Greek, Hebrew, and Latin—indicates that a cosmopolitan crowd passed by Golgotha, “the place of the skull.”
This in itself was humiliating, for the passersby could stare and shout and mock the victims.
It was bad enough that the common people mocked Him, but even the Jewish leaders joined the attack.
They reminded Him of His promise to rebuild the temple in three days.
“If You can do that, You can come down from the cross and prove to us that You are God’s Son!”
In reality, it was the fact that He stayed on the cross that proved His divine sonship.
The Jewish rulers mocked His claim to be the Savior.
“He saved others; but he can’t save Himself” (42).
He had saved others.
But if He saved Himself, then nobody else could be saved!
Jesus said in
just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
I want this to be really clear, Jesus died for all to surrender to Him, but all won’t surrender to Him, so He died as a ransom for many…the many who will surrender to Him.
Only through Jesus will we have eternal life.
Listen to John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Folks, it doesn’t matter what you do in life, if you don’t surrender to Jesus as Lord and Savior, then you will enter into a Christ-less eternity and you don’t have to.
Jesus did this for you!
Jesus was crucified at 9 o’clock in the morning; and from 9 until noon, He hung in the light.
But at noon, a miraculous darkness covered the land.
This was not a sandstorm or an eclipse, as some liberal writers have suggested.
It was, I believe, a heaven-sent darkness that lasted for three hours.
It was as though all of creation was sympathizing with the Creator.
There were three days of darkness in Egypt before Passover (Ex. 10:21–23); and there were three hours of darkness before the Lamb of God died for the sins of the world.
Jesus had spoken at least three times before this darkness fell.
While they were crucifying Him, He repeatedly prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
He had spoken to the repentant thief and assured him a place in paradise (Luke 23:39–43).
He had also given His mother into the care of His beloved disciple, John (John 19:18–27).
But when the darkness came, Jesus was silent for three hours.
After three hours, the darkness left.
Then Jesus cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”
This was a direct quotation from Psalm 22:1.
It was during the time of darkness that Jesus had been made sin for us.
2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
He had been forsaken by the Father!
That darkness was a symbol of the judgment that He endured when He was “made a curse” for us.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”
Psalm 22:2 suggests a period of light and a period of darkness; and Psalm 22:3 emphasizes the holiness of God.
How could a holy God look with favor on His Son who had become sin?
Jesus spoke these words in Hebrew, and the spectators did not understand Him.
They thought He was calling for Elijah to help Him.
Had they listened carefully and consulted Psalm 22 in its entirety, they would have understood the truth.
In rapid succession, Jesus spoke three more times.
He said, “I thirst” (John 19:28); and this fulfilled Psalm 69:21.
Someone took pity on Him and moistened His lips with some sour wine.
The others waited to see if perhaps Elijah would come to His rescue.
Then Jesus shouted, “It is finished! Father, into your hands I commit My spirit!”
The fact that Jesus shouted with a loud voice indicates that He was in complete control of His faculties.
Then He voluntarily yielded up His spirit and died.
There are three little words I don’t want us to miss on our adventurous journey with Jesus.
It Is Finished.
This phrase is only found in the Gospel of John, is the Greek word tetelestai.
This word is an accounting term that means “paid in full.”
When Jesus uttered those words, He was declaring the debt owed to His Father was wiped away completely and forever.
Not that Jesus wiped away any debt that He owed to the Father; rather, Jesus eliminated the debt owed by mankind—the debt of sin.
Just prior to His arrest by the Romans, Jesus prayed His last public prayer, asking the Father to glorify Him, just as Jesus had glorified the Father on earth, having “finished the work you have given me to do” (John 17:4).
The work Jesus was sent to do was to “seek and save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10), to provide atonement for the sins of all who would ever believe in Him (Romans 3:23-25), and to reconcile sinful men to a holy God.
Paul wrote in
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
None other but God in the flesh could accomplish such a task.
Also completed was the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecies, symbols, and fore-shadowings of the coming Messiah.
From Genesis to Malachi, there are over 300 specific prophecies detailing the coming of the Anointed One, all fulfilled by Jesus.
From the “seed” who would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15), to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, to the prediction of the “messenger” of the Lord (John the Baptist) who would “prepare the way” for the Messiah, all prophecies of Jesus’ life, ministry, and death were fulfilled and finished at the cross, EXCEPT HIS RESURRECTION, which we will talk about next week.
The sufferings Jesus endured while on the earth, and especially in His last hours, were at last over.
God’s will for Jesus was accomplished in His perfect obedience to the Father (John 5:30; 6:38).
Jesus’ finished work on the cross was the beginning of new life for all who were once “dead in trespasses and sins” but who are now made “alive with Christ” as we surrender our life to Him.
Let me ask you a question this morning:
Are you ready to take an adventurous journey with Jesus to the cross?
Jesus said in
Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
So, I ask again, are you ready to take an adventurous journey with Jesus to the cross?