Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: This message looks at the crucifixion story told by Mark...

Next week is Easter. I’m sure you have already been making plans. Plans to attend Easter egg hunts, and have family over for dinner, maybe you’ve even selected a special outfit to wear... This morning, I want us to look at something a little darker - as I thought about my message this week, the week before easter, I started thinking about Christ’s death... When was the last time we actually walked through what it was like?

So this morning, I want us to look at a whole chapter of text - Mark chapter 15. We pick up the story after Jesus had been taken in the garden. He had stood trial before the Sanhedrin - but they had no authority to kill him... So they bring him to Pilate. (Read 15:1-14)

They brought him to Pilate early... The Jewish leaders knew they could get an audience with Pilate only at the beginning of the day, and if he was to stand trial before Pilate that would happen at Sunrise.*

Pilate was not a nice man, and the Jewish leaders and Pilate did not get along. The charge against Jesus was that he was declaring himself “the King of the Jews” which was a political charge. The Jews were saying this man is saying he is greater than Caesar...

Its pretty clear that Pilate did not want to make a judgement in this case. So he tried to free him. He put him up against Barabbas to be released - but the crowd wanted Jesus... That’s always surprised me. Why did they not free Jesus - well in one part, because Pilate was endorsing him.

(Read 15:15-20) We don’t think too much about the beating that Jesus took at the hands of the soldiers, but more than likely it would have been brutal. The soldiers were probably tense during passover week. They expected trouble, and so getting the chance to take out their frustration, Jesus was an easy target.

The scourging/flogging that Jesus took was standard before a crucifixion. Crucifixion was a contest of wills. A person could hang there for days and so the whipping was designed to bring a person to the point of death and exhaustion... The whip had metal balls and leather straps. It would tear the flesh almost to the bone.

The soldiers took pleasure in the beating and they really enjoyed the mockery. Since he was accused of saying he was like Caesar, they gave him a purple robe and fashioned their own special crown.

(Read 15:21-31) They typically made a person carry their own cross... Crucifixion was a form of advertisement. The person carrying their cross made an example for everyone to see... Jesus probably carried just the cross beam. The main pole usually stayed in the ground at the crucifixion site. The bean would have weighed about 300 pounds and after the beating he was exhausted. The soldiers looked for someone to carry it - but they couldn’t use a roman - and during passover week they couldn’t use a Jew - so they found a visitor, Simon... One of his sons, Rufus, was an early church leader. Could it be that this one encounter with Jesus, changed Simon forever?

When the got to Golgotha, the soldiers ripped away the robe, and hung him on the cross in between two other criminals. They fashioned a sign that showed his charge and also insulted the Jews...

At this most solemn of moments - what we think of in silence - they shouted insults. they yelled at him and made fun of him...

let’s talk briefly about Crucifixion. It was a death penalty like no other. Roman citizens could only be crucified if Caesar himself gave the order. It was reserved for the lowest of criminals and people. It was a terrible way to die...

The victim’s back was first torn open by the scourging, then the clotting blood was ripped open again when the clothes were torn off the victim. When he was thrown to the ground to fix his hands to the crossbeam, the wounds were torn open again and contaminated with dirt. Then, as he hung on the cross each breath made the painful wounds on the back scrape against the rough wood of the upright beam.

When the nail was driven through the wrists, it severed the large median nerve going to the hand. This stimulated nerve produced excruciating bolts of fiery pain in both arms, and could result in a claw-like grip in the victim’s hands.

Beyond the excruciating pain, crucifixion made it painful to simply breathe. The weight of the body pulling down on the arms and shoulders made it feel like you could breathe in but not out. The lack of oxygen led to severe muscle cramps, which made it even harder to breathe. To get a good breath, one had to push against the feet and flex the elbows, pulling from the shoulders. Putting the weight of the body on the nail-pierced feet produced searing pain, and flexing the elbows twisted the hands hanging on the nails. Lifting the body for a breath also scraped the open wounds on the back against the rough wooden post. Each effort to get a proper breath was agonizing, exhausting, and led to a quicker death.

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