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A Cross - The Crucifixion of Jesus!

The Crucifixion of Jesus!

Matthew 27:34-49

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“Let the punishment fit the crime.” The legal system of our country struggles with that concept. Ezra said, “Whoever will not observe the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily on him, whether it be death, or banishment, or confiscation of goods, or imprisonment” (Ezra 7:26). Ezra outlined several levels of punishment for offenses against the law of God and the law of the king: banishment, confiscation of goods, imprisonment, and death.

Capital punishment, death, is our focus right now. Capital punishment has been carried out in several ways down through the ages. The ancient Jews stoned the guilty. The Babylonians stuffed the prophet Isaiah into a hollow log and sawed the log in two. King Herod Antipas decapitated John the Baptist. Some cultures fed the guilty to lions. Some cultures tied people to a stake and burned them. In more recent times the guilty have been hanged, shot by a firing squad, placed in a gas chamber, hooked up to an electric chair, or given a lethal injection.

The Jews were under Roman occupation during the time of Jesus. The Romans’ method of choice for capital punishment was crucifixion. They usually placed a placard on the cross to specify the crime of the crucified one. Over the cross of Jesus was this inscription: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

One of the cardinal issues for us to untangle is who crucified Jesus. Who was responsible for His death? The Jews instigated it. The Romans administrated it. You and I participated in it. The Father in heaven orchestrated it in that He was “smitten by God” (Isa. 53:4).

  1. The Background of the Cross

    The cross of Jesus and its significance is a heavy subject and worthy of our deepest thought. Two issues form the background of the cross of Jesus: the sinfulness of man and the holiness of God. These issues are deep and wide.

    The sinfulness of man is serious stuff. Sin is mean, cruel, ugly, and vile. Sin runs a dagger in the heart of God. The apostle Paul called us “exceedingly sinful” (Rom. 7:13). The sins of human beings must not be trivialized. Sin is a serious matter and must not be glossed over. The fact of the cross dictates that sin must be addressed.

    The second issue of the cross is the holiness of God, which must not be scandalized. Our God is holy: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty” (Rev. 4:8). The core of God’s being is holiness. The cross demonstrates that God’s holiness cannot and must not be compromised.

    Sinful man and Holy God are further apart than the North Pole is from the South Pole. How can they be brought together? Or, how can they be at-one? How can we experience atonement? The cross has two parts to it. The vertical part of the cross reminds us of the holiness of God, and the horizontal part reminds us of the sinfulness of man. The cross of Jesus makes it possible for Holy God and sinful man to be at-one. Hence, our word, “atone.”

  2. The Battle on the Cross

    Many battles have occurred in human history. There have been or will be three cosmic battles. The first cosmic battle took place in heaven when God expelled Lucifer from heaven. The second cosmic battle took place yonder on Golgotha’s Hill 2,000 years ago. The third cosmic battle will be the Battle of Armageddon at the end of time. Our focus is on the second cosmic battle. What a battle! It was a battle to the death.

    The Devil has had a burr under his saddle ever since he was expelled from heaven. The first messianic prophecy speaks about a battle where the Devil would have “bruise His (Messiah’s) heel” and where the Messiah would bruise the Devil’s head (Gen. 3:15). A bruise on the heel may hurt, even hurt badly, but it is not terminal. The crucifixion of Jesus hurt, but it was not permanently terminal. Resurrection morning was coming. A bruise on the head is a different matter. The Devil lost. He is not going to lose. He has lost already. He sails a sinking ship. He coaches a losing team.

    he physical sufferings of Jesus before and on the cross are indescribable: the scourging, the crown of thorns, and the nails in His hands and His feet. It was a bloody battle. But the spiritual sufferings of Jesus take us to a depth that we are incapable of understanding. Perhaps the most woeful prayer ever uttered was when Jesus cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). Martin Luther said, “God forsaken of God, who can understand that?” (Russell Bradley Jones, “Gold from Golgotha,” p. 64). It was those dark hours on the cross that the apostle Paul was attempting to explain when he wrote, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

  3. The Blessings of the Cross

    The blessings of the cross are many. The first blessing that I would mention is forgiveness. Forgiveness is wonderful, but it is not salvation. It just gets us ready for salvation.

    My sin – oh, the bliss of this glorious tho’t;

    My sin not in part, but the whole

    Is nail’d to the cross and I bear it no more,

    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

    (“It Is Well with My Soul,” Horatio G. Spafford, Baptist Hymnal, 1975)

    The second blessing of the cross is freedom. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). The cross of Jesus sets us free.

    The third blessing of the cross is the future. Without the cross the future is dark, dismal, and disgusting. But, with Jesus, our future is bright, wonderful, and glorious.

Conclusion

Ed Young, in his book, Been There, Done That, Now What (pp. 86-87), tells a heart-rending story about a student named Teddy Stoddard and a teacher named Jean Thompson. Teddy had real problems. He showed up for school unprepared, smelly, and unkempt.

For Christmas the students brought Mrs. Thompson gifts. Teddy brought a rhinestone bracelet with several stones missing and half a bottle of perfume. Teddy’s mother had just died and left those things. Mrs. Thompson dabbed on some of the perfume and put on the bracelet and said, “Isn’t this beautiful? Doesn’t this smell good?” The other children laughed.

Teddy moved on from her class the next year. Some years later he sent Mrs. Thompson an invitation to his high school graduation pointing out that he was second in his class. A few more years went by and there was another invitation, to his college graduation. A few more years passed and another invitation arrived with a note that said, “Dear Mrs. Thompson: You can call me Theodore J. Stoddard, M.D. By the way, I am getting married on July 26. I would love for you to come and sit where my mother would have sat. My dad died earlier this year. What you did for me that Christmas a long time ago is the reason I am what I am today. Thanks for loving me. Love, Teddy.”

The Bible says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Hallelujah for the cross!

Dwight Smith

Associational Missions Director, Wayne Baptist Association