Summary: Why would Jesus deliberately go the cross to die? And why would He say "Father Forgive Them"?
OPEN: Ever since the 1950s, the men of the Philippines have had unusual tradition around Easter. It has grown to the point where from 50,000 to 75,000 people attend every year. McDonalds sets up a temporary store to sell burgers, fries and ice cream to those exhausted by the tropical heat.
The ritual that has drawn all these tourists to the Philippines is an odd and gruesome Good Friday reenactment of the crucifixion of Christ. A group of men who refer to themselves as the “kristos” allow themselves to be beaten with rods and whipped. Approximately 500 men each year are physically beaten as Jesus was. Then, this year 17 men volunteered to have their hands and feet nailed to a wooden cross (which is fitted with a foot rest for them to stand on) and they hang in space – between heaven and earth – for a period that can last anywhere from a few minutes to up to an hour. At that point they are taken down and transferred to a medical tent where their wounds are treated and they receive tetanus shots.
APPLY: Long before the day of Jesus, people had been executed by crucifition. Many nations had used this form of execution - but it was the Romans that employed it most often and cruelly.
ILLUS: When Rome ruled the world 1000s of people were executed in this way. The most terrible of these executions took place in 73 BC. A slave revolt led by a gladiator named Spartacus defeated many of Rome’s best armies in a conflict that lasted for over two years. Eventually, though, this slave army was trapped and taken prisoner.
The Romans judged that – having waged war against Rome - these slaves had forfeited their right to live. Approximately 100 years before Jesus was crucified – Spartacus and 6,000 of his followers were crucified along a stretch road called the Appian way.
Crucifixion was a terrible way to die.
The victim didn’t usually die immediately. That could take hours… even days.
The executed usually died from suffocation - the inability to breath any longer. With their arms pinned to the posts of their cross, if they sagged from exhaustion it would be impossible for them to breathe, so they would push up on their feet which were pinned to the cross by that nail. In time the pain would be too much and they’d sag again and struggle for breath. This would happen again and again until the condemned would finally succumb to their exhaustion and pain and die.
Now, in the Philippines, none of those young men who were nailed to crosses had to struggle to breath very long. Eventually, they’d were all taken off their crosses and allowed to heal. None of them expected to die.
But they WERE real men experiencing real beatings and crucifixions.
WHY would they do that?
Well, there are several possibilities:
· Maybe some of them have wanted to prove their manhood.
· Or it’s become a “rite of passage” where young men prove their faith in God
· Or, as one local parish priest believes - these men may be inflicting pain on their bodies to prove their repentance of sins they’ve committed.
· And, there are persistent reports that at least some these men do it for money. That they receive cash from tourists and event sponsors. One report has it that participants have received upwards of 50,000 pesos to participate (and no, I don’t know how much money that would be in our economy).
However – as far as I can tell - no one who has suggested that those who taken part in this odd ceremony did it because they loved the people in the crowd.
Each of these young men took part in this ritual for their own reasons.
But Love for sinners does NOT appear to be one of those reasons.
But they did choose to be ‘crucified”.
And the Bible tells us that – Jesus also chose to be crucified as well.
Repeatedly Jesus told His disciples that He would die
In Matthew 16:21-23 (just after Peter had declared that Jesus was the Christ/ Son of God)
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
As His final trip to Jerusalem approached, Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again." Luke 18:31-33