Passion (four)

Jesus stood before the Governor, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Pilate asked him. Jesus answered, “You have said it”, and while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He didn’t answer.
Matthew 27:11-12

Legally, The Jews had authority in Moses’ law to enforce capital punishment in only three ways: Stoning, Decapitation & Strangling. Jesus knew he was to be crucified, (John 12:32-33), so he was aware of being handed over to Pilate before The Sanhedrin even did it. Why? Because only the Romans could crucify someone, and to get the Romans to do it, the Jews must charge Jesus of a crime only the Romans would take as capital. The idea of stoning upon the charge of blaspheming is mute because the Jews knew they had no way of practicing capital punishment in a corner, away from the public’s view and therefore must get concurrence from the Roman authority to execute the death penalty. See Matthew 26:66 & John 18:31. In this context, the stoning of Stephen, a few years later, was simply ‘mob rule’ action, Acts 7:54-60. The Sanhedrin did not, under any circumstances, want the massive supporters of Jesus to be rekindled and grow, and if they were seen to execute Jesus, that is exactly what would happen. Therefore it was essential to get the Romans to do it. Many political rebels were crucified by the Romans.

Legal Crucifixion: The Romans apparently learned crucifixion from the Carthaginians and rapidly developed a high degree of skill at it. A number of Roman authors (Livy, Cicer, Tacitus) comment on it, and several innovations are described in ancient literature. For example, the upright portion of the cross (or stipes) could have the cross-arm (or patibulum) attached two or three feet below its top in what we commonly think of as the Latin cross. But the most common form used in our Lord's day, however, was the Tau cross, shaped like our T. In this cross the patibulum was placed in a notch at the top of the stipes. There is archeological evidence that it was on this type of cross that Jesus was crucified. There is also evidence that patibulums were simply hoisted upon a tree and the victim’s feet were nailed to the trunk. Many painters and sculptors of crucifixion, show the nails through the palms. Historical Roman accounts have established that the nails were driven between the small bones of the wrists (radial and ulna) and not through the palms. Nails driven through the palms will strip out between the fingers when made to support the weight of the human body. The misconception may have come about through a misunderstanding of Jesus' words to Thomas, "Observe my hands." Jn. 20:27. Anatomists, both modern and ancient, have always considered the wrist as part of the hand. The victim crucified sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists sending pain shooting along the fingers and up the arms to surge in the cranium, the nails in the wrist are putting pressure on the main nerves. As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places His weight on the nail through His feet. Again there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet. At this point, as the arms fatigue, waves of cramp sweep over the muscles, knotting them in throbbing pain. With these cramps come the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short 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 the life-giving oxygen. In this state, Jesus could make short sentences, and we have the 7 sayings on the cross in the gospels. A crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. At this point, Psalm 22:14 is fulfilled, “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." It is now almost over. The loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level; the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissue; the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain. Death is ensued.

The Roman soldier would then drive his spear through the fifth interspace between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. "And immediately there came out blood and water." (John 19:34). There was an escape of water fluid from the sac surrounding the heart, giving postmortem evidence that Our Lord did not die as usual in crucifixion by suffocation, but of heart failure (a broken heart) due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium. How many forms of execution would bring about heart failure? God’s heart is in His work of atonement. Because blood is always at the heart of forgiveness of sins, Gen. 3:21. Is our heart cleansed by His blood?

Passion (three)

The company of soldiers, the commander, and the Jewish Temple police arrested Jesus and tied Him up. First they led Him to Annas for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was advantageous that one man should die for the people John 18:12-14, Lesson Three, DVD C6-7  

The Binding: Jesus was bound and tied for a reason. The nature of sin, is that once we commit it, it enslaves us. The cords of sin are like the cords of rope that tied Isaac to the sacrificial altar Abraham had to build. In this act of obedience God was making a shadow of the reality in Jesus, when the soldiers tied him up. What do we feel like when we are bound? Helpless. The burden of sin makes us helpless, and Jesus took on that feeling for us, so that we never really need to suffer from helplessness. We always have help in overcoming sin because Jesus suffered, paying the price and giving us strength to overcome our helplessness.

The Leading: When John the cousin of Jesus was arrested, Caiaphas was high priest, Luke 3:2, but now the son-in-law Caiaphas is side-stepped and his Father-in-law the previous High Priest Annas is being consulted first. Their actions spoke like they were making excuses for the young Caiaphas’ plot of killing Jesus to be given clout from the older Annas. Historically, Annas had 5 sons, all of which took turns being High Priest. The real crime, Jesus must feel is that his “quasi-trial” starting here is really already finding him guilty before the actual trial takes place.  They and others had already conspired to kill Lazarus, Jn. 11:49-12:11, now they wanted Jesus dead. He had previously escaped a stoning, so now they would get the Romans to help them and kill him 'their' way.  The plot is in process and Jesus must feel fright in seeing it unfold. Jesus practiced what he preached. The pain of determination in the midst of fright. “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say to you, do not resist him that is evil: but whoever hits you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man would take you to court, and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also.  Mt. 5:38-40.  The hitting of Jesus in the presence of the High Priest was susceptible to a reverse charge against the injurious action, called “the zuzim”, Jn. 18:23. But his false-accusers had no interest in true justice.  “And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to slap him, and to say to him, Prophesy: and the officers received him with smacks of their hands. Mark 14:65. This is to take the weight of sin, and absorb the wrath of God against our sin, he was letting the burden of sin be placed on his face. God prophesied this: “I gave my back to the beaters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off my beard; I hid not my face from humiliation and spitting”. Isaiah 50:6

The Charge: Being arrested late on a Thursday night, Jesus had to be brought to a deadly conclusion by dusk Friday evening, the beginning of the Sabbath. Night time arrests, particularly ones involving capital offences were illegal.  But illegalities did not deter  the Priests, who had no qualms. The speed to have Jesus killed put illegality upon illegality. Perhaps one day, a Jew can explain why the initial verdict of blasphemy was allowed to become a charge of sedition, perverting the Nation and opposing Caesar. The Sanhedrinic law in the case of capital accusations allowed argument for acquittal to be aired, with the custom of younger members speaking first, so that they would not be easily swayed by more mature members, but that is totally ignored as Jesus is first taken to the murky character of old Annas before any kind of a trial begins. The pain of a false charge must hurt Jesus inwardly.

Passion (two)

Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him."  Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed Him. (Mt. 26:47-49, Lesson Two, DVD C4, 9:15-11:15) 

The experience of betrayal for Jesus was first recorded, when his own physical brothers labelled him as ‘insane’ Jn. 7:5-10, Mk. 3:21. But when his own so-called disciple turns on him in front of Temple Security Forces, there must be a depth of hopelessness felt which is impossible to ignore. Jesus wasn’t the first King to be betrayed. King David’s life was filled with betrayal, he started his reign wrestling with it, he warns those who had deserted him for Saul: "the God of our fathers look thereon and judge" (1 Ch 12:17). Later still, the pain of betrayal was to come personally to him by his own son Absalom.  To feel the inward piercing of treacherous lies was the deep consequence of deception God warns us about in the Proverbs 25:9-10, and that Jesus felt before he was beaten, scourged & crucified. It’s worse to be tortured when you know that even a ‘friend’ is against you.

If we know the reasons for betrayal, we may avoid committing it ourselves. God pleads, do not grieve His Holy Spirit, Ephesians 4:30. In the betrayal, God’s Spirit in Jesus must have sunken to a depth unknown before. John 3:31-34.

Reputation: Judas was already known to be a thief. Why do people steal? Because they want to be something they are not, such as influential, richer or comfortable. Because Judas was chosen to be inside the circle of friends of Jesus, he may have wanted the leaders of religious society to recognize his advantageous position, and told them, whoever I “kiss”, He is the One. Consider this possibility, what if Judas believed that Jesus would use God’s power to overcome his captors? This would make Judas look more than knowledgeable. But Jesus would know Judas even better than Judas wanted to be known.

Money: 30 pieces of silver from the Priests would be shekels of the sanctuary, this would be equivalent to 120 denarius, which was the average of about three months wages. Today that would be appx. $12,000. Judas agreed to identify when and where Jesus was for the captivity in stealth. This would at first excite Judas enough to go through with what he thought was questionable. But afterwards of course, he realizes he betrayed an innocent ‘friend’(Mt. 27:4), and offers the money back, committing suicide. Jesus must have felt cheated and cheap, to know that Judas would just throw everything away, for what he had done. The idea of money was in Judas’ mind, but the exact amount was offered by the chief priests. What is amazing is that 30 pieces of silver is equivalent to the price of a slave, which is exactly what Jesus was to become, enslaved to the burden & consequence of sin, being prophesied of in Zec. 11:12-13, Ex. 21:32.  He certainly took on the form of a slave, Php. 2:7-8. So should we!

The pain of betrayal is felt in three ways by Jesus. Firstly from his own physical brothers calling him insane, Jn. 7:5-10, Mk. 3:21,31. Secondly by Judas capturing him for the Jews. Thirdly by the Chief Priests in encouraging the people to insist on crucifixion after Pilate had found no fault in him. It is asserted by Stephen that the “Jews” also betrayed Jesus, Ac. 7:52. Most of us would strike back when betrayed, but Jesus only said one remark recorded by Luke, “will you betray the Son of Man” (22:48), To the ears of Judas, the title Son of Man, must have smacked of the office of Royalty and Judge, see Daniel 7:13. This would have certainly got Judas’ attention, but what was the result?

The Passion (one)

The basic literal meaning of the word “Passion” is to experience excruciating pain. Suffering is a tool of Satan, which God allows to be used in our life, so that we may learn to choose to use suffering for His glory, and ultimately our benefit. The question we do not want to ask is: “Why me?”. Every time we feel pain, we might ought to think of a choice, or decision, as this: “What will I do with this?”  Jesus faced this question in Gethsemane. But his ‘passion’ really began when he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted 40 days, Mt. 1-11, Mk.1:12-13, Lk. 4:1-13.  40 is a number connected with the consequences or the bearing of sin. 40 is in connection with sin and responsibility for strength to overcome it, Jesus wants us to know that he is  being tempted to the degree that he takes on the battle against our sinful state and puts himself in it. Moses (Ex.34:28) because of his leadership against sin in mediating the 10 commandments. 40 days Moses intercedes in prayer for sinning Israel, Dt 9:25. Elijah, (IKg19:1-8) because of his fight against sin & false prophets and trying to protect Israel, he ran from his enemy Jezebel and fasted 40 days and also appeared in the  transfiguration (Mt 17:3).  40 nights & days of rain because of sin, Ge 7:4,12.  40 years of wilderness wanderings for sin, Num.14:33.  40 stripes sinning offenders were to be beaten, Dt.25:3.  Even John’s unique gospel without the temptation record, still introduces Jesus as “rejected” by his own people he came to, 1:11, and later records both incidences of rejection in the Temple grounds after His rebuke at the beginning of his ministry and the end, 2:13-22 & Mt. 21:12-13. Jesus lived his whole life here as a “Man of Sorrows”, Isa. 53:3.

The suffering Christ endured through his 33 years of life on earth was as common as we all suffer, until he approached Gethsemane. There for the first time, he suffered emotional and physical trauma like he had never experienced in all eternity.  “He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities, punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds” (Isa. 53:5.) None of us have felt this, but we all have dealt with agonizing pain.  Actually when anyone undergoes intense hurt, sorrow, grief, or burning torturous pain, FOR AN INTENDED PURPOSE, we have experienced ‘passion’. Athletes are notorious for willingly undergoing gruelling training where a victory is involved. Soldiers in battle certainly bear harrowing pain in war, but do we feel this for our faith?  He knew this pain was coming for a certainty since the moment Elijah & Moses addressed it in His transfiguration, (Lk. 9:29-32). Why did it begin in Gethsemane? Because that is where the decision was made. Jesus formed and sealed an inseparable bond with His Father by prayer. A bond which was threatened by Satan’s sinful presence. When His prayer in
Gethsemane was finished, the whole act of His agonizing death was as good as done. That is why there was blood in His sweat. “Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him, for he was in such agony of spirit that he broke into a sweat of blood, with great drops falling to the ground as he prayed more and more earnestly. At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples-only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief”. Lk 22:41-45 (TLB)  It took intense physical and emotional pressure to overcome the terrifying consequence of His first personal acquaintance with sin. “He bore our sins” (Mt. 8:17 & 1st Pt. 2:24).