Summary: A sermon about what Christ did on the Cross.
"24 Hours that Changed the World: The Crucifixion"
We tend to sometimes forget that the Crucifixion was the ultimate form of torture, and it has never been equaled.
It was a terrifying death.
Seneca said that if you knew there was a likelihood you would be arrested and crucified, it was better to commit suicide.
Cicero called crucifixion the "extreme and ultimate punishment of slaves" and the "cruelest and most disgusting penalty."
Part of the cruelty of crucifixion was the emotional as well as the physical torture.
Yes, Jesus' physical agonies were beyond imagining.
But the emotional agonies were horrible as well--the humiliation of being stripped naked, with all bodily parts and functions exposed for the taunting gaze of the public.
The mixture of blood and sweat and urine and feces created a nauseating stench.
These smells of death kept even the families of those crucified at a distance.
Victims were typically left hanging, or their bodies were taken down and left on the ground near the cross for the animals to devour.
We usually think of Jesus on a Cross high up from the ground.
But now it's believed that most crosses were between six to nine feet tall from bottom to top.
That would mean that when Jesus was crucified, His feet were probably only two feet from the ground.
When Jesus was crucified, the people passing by Him "insulted him, shaking their heads and saying, 'Ha!...'"
In Matthew's Gospel we are told that even the thieves that were crucified on either side of Him, taunted Him.
Jesus hung bleeding, naked, dying; yet there was no compassion.
In essence the people said, "You thought you were really something--look at you now!
You said you were the Messiah; you are really nothing!"
What's the saying?: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
How has that worked for you in your life?
The words of others really do hurt us, do they not?
Many of us have long since forgiven and forgotten most of the insults which were thrown our way as children, but a handful of them are harder to let go.
About the time we think we have forgotten them, they resurface to stir up old feelings of anger or hurt or pain or shame.
When we are insulted and harassed by others, we can turn to Jesus, Who knows the pain that words can bring.
When we are treated cruelly, when we are wrongly insulted, Jesus understands.
According to Luke's Gospel, the first thing Jesus did on the Cross was to look from the Cross at the soldiers casting lots for His clothing, at the priests pointing to Him with disgust, at the crowd hurling insults and pray for their forgiveness: "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing."
And Jesus not only forgave those who killed Him but He also made excuses for them.
We aren't accustomed to making excuses for the people who are hurting us.
If Jesus was able to forgive those who slaughtered Him; how much will He forgive those of us who come to Him for forgiveness, salvation and new life?
Have you ever felt as if your sins were just too awful for God to forgive and accept you?
Have you ever thought your sins were too big for God?
Jesus is much BIGGER than any sin we ever commit.
We serve a mighty BIG God!!!
And as Christians, as those who have accepted Christ's forgiveness--we are to live BIG lives.
Following His Resurrection Jesus commissioned His disciples to "preach forgiveness."
And in Matthew Jesus said, "love your enemies and pray for those who harass you."
Jesus not only taught us how to face those who taunt us; He demonstrated it as He prayed from the Cross.
How are we doing at following Christ in this way?
Are we growing?
Is our walk with Christ enabling us to become "Bigger" people...
...more humble, more quick to forgive, more loving, more filled with grace and understanding...
...more like Christ?
Are we forgiving those who hurt us, insult us, talk behind our backs, even bully us?
We really can't do it on our own; we must ask for Jesus' forgiveness in order to forgive.
In His death, Jesus acted as our High Priest.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man; this is a title which points to Jesus' role as the "representative human being."
Jesus was "God in the flesh" revealing God to us; but He was also fully human, representing a new humanity that reflects what we are meant to be as human beings.
Jesus offered a sacrifice to atone for our sins, to reconcile us to the Father.
He didn't offer a goat or a lamb--He offered Himself.