Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Christ's Passion for You -- Part Three

From Rick Renner’s “Sparkling Gems from the Greek.” Sorry for the delay, but I had to go out of town for the week, and I've been delayed in posting.

Golgotha: The Place of the Skull

And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull. Matthew 27:32, 33

“When the soldiers brought Jesus out from the residence of Pilate, Jesus was already carrying the crossbeam that would serve as the upper portion of His Cross.

“Most Roman crosses were shaped like a “T.” The upright post had a notched groove at the top into which the crossbeam was placed after a victim had been tied or nailed to it. The crossbeam, normally weighing about 100 pounds, was carried on the back of the victim to the place of execution.

“According to Roman law, once a criminal was convicted, he was to carry his own cross to the place of execution if his crucifixion was to occur somewhere other than the place of the trial. The purpose for exposing criminals heading for crucifixion to passersby was to remind those who watched of Roman military power. At the place of execution, vultures flew overhead, just waiting to swoop down and start devouring the dying carcasses left hanging on the crosses. In the nearby wilderness, wild dogs anxiously waited for the newest dead bodies dumped by executioners, to become their next meal.

“After the person was declared guilty, a crossbeam would be laid across his back and a herald would walk ahead of him, proclaiming his crime. A sign with the person’s crime written on it would also be made, later to be hung on the cross above his head. Sometimes the sign bearing the person’s crime would be hung from his neck, so all the spectators who lined the streets to watch him walk by would know what crime he committed. This was the very type of sign that was publicly displayed on the Cross above Jesus’ head with the crime He was charged with—“King of the Jews”—written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

“Carrying such a heavy weight for a long distance would be difficult for any man, but especially for one who had been as severely beaten as Jesus. The heavy crossbeam on which He was destined to be nailed pressed into His torn back as He carried it to the place of execution. Although the Bible does not state the reason why, we may assume that the Roman soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene to help because Jesus was so drained and exhausted from the abuse He had suffered.

“Little is known of Simon of Cyrene, except that he was from Cyrene, the capital of the province of Libya that was situated approximately eleven miles south of the Mediterranean Sea. Matthew 27:32 informs us that the Roman soldiers “compelled him to bear His Cross.” The word ‘compelled’ is the Greek word aggareuo. It means to compel, to coerce, to constrain, to make or to force someone into some kind of compulsory service.

“Matthew 27:33 says, ‘And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of the skull.’ This scripture has been the center of controversy for several hundred years, for many have attempted to use this verse to geographically identify the exact location of Jesus’ crucifixion. Some denominations allege that the place of Jesus’ crucifixion was inside modern-day Jerusalem, while others assert that the name Golgotha refers to a site outside the city that from a distance looks like a skull. However, the earliest writings of the Church fathers say this phrase ‘a place of the skull’ refers to something very different!

“An early Christian writer named Origen, (185-253AD) recorded that Jesus was crucified on the spot where Adam was buried and where his skull had been found. Whether or not this is true, there was an early Christian belief that Jesus had been crucified near Adam’s burial place. As the early story goes, when the earthquake occurred as Jesus hung on the cross (Matt 27:51) His blood ran down the cross into the crack in the rock below and fell on the skull of Adam. This history is so entrenched in early Christian tradition that Jerome referred to it in a letter in 386 AD.

“Interestingly, Jewish tradition states that Adam’s skull was buried near the city of Jerusalem by Noah’s son, Shem. Tradition says this burial place was guarded by Melchizedek, who was the priest-king of Salem (Jerusalem) during the time of Abraham (Gen 14:18) Unknown to most Western believers, this history is so accepted that it is considered a major theme of Orthodox doctrine, and the skull of Adam appears consistently at the base of the Cross in both paintings and icons. If you ever see a skull at the base of a crucifix, you can know that it symbolizes Adam’s skull that was allegedly found buried at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion.

“These extremely interesting facts, although unprovable, have retained strong support throughout 2,000 years of Christian history. If it were true, it would be quite amazing that the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, died for the sins of the world exactly on the spot where the first Adam, the original sinner, was buried. If Jesus’ blood ran down the crack in the stone and fell upon Adam’s skull, as tradition says, it would be very symbolic of Jesus’ blood covering the sins of the human race that originated with Adam.

“But what can we definitely know about the place of Jesus’ crucifixion?

“We definitely know that Jesus was crucified like a criminal by the Roman government just outside the walls of the ancient city of Jerusalem. Whether or not He was crucified at the place of Adam’s skull is interesting but not important. What is vital for us to know and understand is that Jesus died for the sins of the entire human race—and that includes you and me!

“Today we may not be able to say with certainty exactly where Jesus was crucified, but in our hearts and minds we should meditate on the scriptures that speak of His crucifixion. Sometimes life moves so fast that we tend to forget the enormous price that was paid for our redemption. Salvation may have been given to us as a free gift, but it was purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. THANK GOD FOR THE CROSS!

“This question of where Jesus was crucified is a good example of the way people tend to get distracted by unimportant issues and, as a result, miss the main point God wants to get across to them. People have argued and debated for centuries about the accurate location of the crucifixion when the truth they should have been focusing on is that Jesus was crucified for their salvation! The apostle Paul wrote, ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that he rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures’ (1Cor 15:3-4). Of this, we can be sure!

“Aren’t you thankful that Jesus’ blood purchased the forgiveness for all of mankind’s sin? It is true that through Adam’s disobedience, sin entered the world and death was passed on to all men. But just as sin entered the world through Adam, the gift of God came into the world through the obedience of Jesus Christ. Now the grace of God and the free gift of righteousness abounds to all who have called upon Jesus Christ to be the Lord of their lives (Romans 5:12-21). Now every believer had the glorious privilege of reigning in life as a joint heir with Jesus Himself!

“Lord, how can I ever adequately say thank You for all that You did for me at the Cross? I was so undeserving, but You came and gave Your life for me, taking away my sin and removing the punishment that should have passed to me. I thank You from the depths of my heart for doing what no one else could do for me. Had it not been for You, I would be eternally lost, so I just want to say thank You for laying down Your life that I might be free! I pray this in Jesus’ name!”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Christ's Passion for You Part Two


Christ's Passion for You -- Part Two
From Rick Renner’s “Sparkling Gems from the Greek.”

Scorned!

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto Him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped Him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head, and a reed in His right hand: and they bowed the knee before Him, and mocked Him saying, Hail, King of the Jews! Matt 27:27-29

“After Jesus was scourged, Pilate delivered Him to the Roman soldiers so they could initiate the crucifixion process. However, first these soldiers dragged Jesus through the worst mockery and humiliation of all.

“Matthew 27:27 says the soldiers, ‘…took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto Him the whole band of soldiers.’ The common hall was the open courtyard in Pilate’s palace. Since Pilate rotated between several official royal residences in Jerusalem, this could have been his palace at the Tower of Antonia. It also could have been his residence at the magnificent palace of Herod, located on the highest part of Mount Zion. All we know for sure is that the courtyard was so large, it was able to hold ‘the whole band of soldiers.’ This phrase comes from the Greek word, spira, referring to a cohort or a group of 300-600 Roman soldiers.

“Hundreds of soldiers filled the courtyard of Pilate’s residence to participate in the events that followed. Matthew 27:28 says, ‘and they stripped Him, and put on Him a scarlet robe.’ First, the soldiers ‘stripped Him.’ The word stripped is the Greek word, ekduo, which means to totally unclothe or to fully undress. Nakedness was viewed as a disgrace, a shame, and an embarrassment in the Jewish world. Public nakedness was associated with pagans—with their worship, their idols, and their statues.

“As children of God, the Israelites honored the human body, made in the image of God; thus to publicly parade someone’s naked body was a great offense. We can know, that when Jesus was stripped naked in front of 300-600 soldiers, it went against the grain of His entire moral view of what was right and wrong.

“Once Jesus stood naked before them, the soldiers then ‘put on him a scarlet robe.’ The Greek phrase is chlamuda kokkinen, from the words chlamus and kokkinos. The word chlamus is the Greek word for a robe or a cloak. It could refer to a soldier’s cloak, but the next word makes it more probable that this was an old cloak of Pilate. You see, the word ‘scarlet’ is the Greek word Kokkinos, a word that describes a robe that has been dyed a deep crimson or scarlet color, which is suggestive of the deeply colored crimson and scarlet robes worn by royalty or nobility. Did this cohort of Roman soldiers who worked at Pilate’s residence pull an old royal robe from Pilate’s closet and bring it to the courtyard for the party? It seems that this is the case.

“As Matthew continues the account, we find out what happened next: After the soldiers ‘had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head…’ The word ‘platted’ is the Greek word empleko which is often used to describe a person entangled in his lower garments or a person who is caught is caught in some type of vine. The soldiers took vines loaded with sharp, dangerous thorns; then they carefully wove together those razor-sharp, prickly jagged vines until they formed a tightly woven, dangerous circle resembling the shape of a crown. It was this kind of crown that the soldiers violently shoved down upon Jesus’ head.

“Matthew uses the Greek word, epitithimi, a word that implies they forcefully shoved this crown of thorns onto Jesus’ head. These thorns would have been extremely painful and caused blood to flow profusely from His brow. Because the thorns were so jagged, they would have created terrible wounds as they scraped across Jesus’ skull bone and literally tore the flesh from His skull.

“Matthew called it a ‘crown’ of thorns. The word ‘crown’ is from the Greek word, stephanos; the word that described a coveted ‘victor’s crown. These soldiers intended to use this mock crown to make run of Jesus. Little did they know that Jesus was preparing to win the greatest victory in history!

“After forcing the crown of thorns down onto Jesus’ brow, the soldiers put ‘a reed in His right hand…’ There were many beautiful ponds and fountains in Pilate’s inner courtyard where long, tall hard ‘reeds’ grew. While Jesus sat there before them clothed in a royal robe and crown of thorns, one of the soldiers must have realized that the picture was not quite complete and pulled a ‘reed’ from one of the ponds or fountains to put in Jesus’ hand. This reed represented the ruler’s staff, as seen in the famous statue called ‘Ave Caesar,’ which depicted Caesar holding a staff or scepter in his hand. The same image, also showing a scepter in the right hand of the emperor, appeared on coins that were minted in the emperor’s honor and in wide circulation.

“With a discarded robe about Jesus’ shoulders, a crown of thorns set so deeply into His head that blood drenched His face, and a reed from Pilate’s ponds or fountains stuck in His right hand, ‘they bowed the knee before Him, and mocked Him saying, Hail King of the Jews!’ The word ‘bowed’ is the Greek word, gonupeteo, meaning to fall down upon one’s knees. One by one, the cohort of soldiers passed before Jesus, dramatically and comically dropping to their knees in front of Him as they laughed at and mocked Him.

“Matthew 27:30 goes on to tell us, ‘And they spit upon Him, and took the reed, and smote Him on the head.’ They word ‘they’ refers to the entire cohort of soldiers who were present in Pilate’s courtyard that night. So as each soldier passed by Jesus, he would first mockingly bow before Him; then he’d lean forward to spit right in Jesus’ blood drenched face. Next the soldier would grab the reed from Jesus’ hand and strike Him hard on His already wounded head. Finally, he would stick the reed back in Jesus’ hand to make Him ready for the next soldier to repeat the whole process.

“The Greek clearly means that the soldiers repeatedly struck Jesus again and again on the head. Here was another beating that Jesus endured, but this time, it was with the slapping action of a hard reed. This must have been excruciatingly painful for Jesus, since His body was already lacerated from the scourging and His head was deeply gashed by the cruel crown of thorns.

“When all 300-600 soldiers were finished spitting and striking Jesus with the reed, Matthew 27:31 tells us that ‘they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.' The robe wrapped around Jesus had no doubt had time to mesh into His wounds, for it took a great amount of time for so many soldiers to parade before Him. Therefore, it must have been terrifically painful for Jesus when they jerked this robe off His back and the material ripped free from the dried blood that had coagulated on His open wounds.

“But this would be the last act of torture Jesus would endure in this stage of His ordeal. After putting His own clothes back on Him, the soldiers led Him from the palace to the place of execution.

“As the soldiers mocked Jesus that day, hailing Him as king in derision and ridicule, they were unaware that they were actually bowing their knees to the One before whom they would one day stand and give an account for their actions. When that day comes, bowing before Jesus will be no laughing matter, for everyone—including those very soldiers who mocked Jesus—will confess that Jesus is Lord!

“Yes, a day is soon coming when the human race will bow their knees to acknowledge and declare that Jesus is the King of kings. Philippians 2:10,11 talks about that day: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

“If you have a friend who doesn’t know Jesus yet, don’t you think it’s time for you to introduce that friend to Jesus Christ? Your friend will one day bow before Him anyway; the question is, from which place will he bow before Jesus—from Heaven, from earth, or from hell? Everyone in Heaven will bow low before Jesus on that day, as will everyone who is alive on earth at His coming and everyone who has gone to hell because they didn’t bow before Him while they lived on this earth. So the big question is not if a person will bow before Him, but from which place will he choose to bow before Him?

“Isn’t it your responsibility to help lead your friends and acquaintances to Jesus? God’s Spirit will empower you to speak the Gospel to them. If you pray before you speak to them, the Holy Spirit will prepare their hearts to hear the message. Why not stop today and ask the Lord to help you speak the truth to those friends, acquaintances, and fellow workers whom you interact with every day?

“Lord, open my eyes to those around me who are unsaved and in need of salvation. You died for them because You want them to be saved. I know that You are trusting me to tell them the Good News that they can be saved. Please empower me strongly with your Spirit, giving me the boldness I need to step out from behind intimidation and to tell them the truth that will save them from an eternity in hell. Help me to start telling them the Good News immediately, before it is too late. I pray this in Jesus’ name.”

Monday, March 22, 2010

Christ's Passion for You


The Resurrection season is upon us. It is the time and opportunity for us to reflect on the glorious sacrifice of Jesus. Rick Renner has written one of my favorite daily devotionals called "Sparkling Gems from the Greek." Over the next few days, I would like to once again share with you part of the powerful account of Jesus' passion, from trial, to tragedy, to triumph. We will take it from the torturous scourging forward. I encourage you to follow and read each post, one about every other day. The posts themselves may seem long as I take them straight from the book, but they will give you great insight into the amazing passion Jesus has for you. If you read and meditate on the contents of these posts, I guarantee you won't be the same when you more fully realize what Jesus was willing to endure on your behalf.

Warning-some of the contents are of these posts will be extremely graphic.

SCOURGED

...And when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. Matt. 27:26

"What was it like for a prisoner to be scourged in New Testament times? From what materials was a scourge made? How did it feel when the straps of a scourge whipped across a person's back and body? What effects did a scourging have on the human body?

"Matthew 27:26 tells us that Pilate 'had scourged Jesus' before he delivered Him to be crucified, so we need to understand what it meant to be 'scourged. The word 'scourged' is the Greek word phragello, and it was one of the most horrific words used in the ancient world because of the terrible images that immediately came to mind when a person heard this word. Le me tell you a little about the process of scourging and what it did to the human body. I believe this explanation is important so you can understand more completely what Jesus endured before He was taken to be crucified.

"When a decision was made to scourge an individual, the victim was first stripped completely naked so his entire flesh would be open and uncovered to the beating action of the torturer's whip. Then the victim was bound to a two-foot high scourging post. His hands were tied over his head to a metal ring, and his wrists were securely shackled to the metal ring to restrain his body from movement. When in this locked position, the victim couldn't wiggle or move, trying to avoid or dodge the lashes that were being laid across his back.

"Romans were professionals at scourging; they took special delight in the fact that they were the 'best' at punishing a victim with this brutal act. Once the victim was harnessed to the post and stretched over it, the Roman soldier began to put him through unimaginable torture. One writer notes that the mere anticipation of the first blow caused the victim's body to grow rigid, the muscles to knot in his stomach, the color to drain from his cheeks, and his lips to draw tight against his teeth as he waited for the first sadistic blow that would begin the tearing open of his body.

"The scourge itself consisted of a short, wooden handle with several 18-24 inch long straps of leather protruding from it. The ends of these pieces of leather were equipped with sharp, rugged pieced of metal, wire, glass, and jagged fragments of bone. This was considered to be one of the most feared and deadly weapons of the Roman world. It was so ghastly that the mere threat of scourging could calm a crowd or bend the will of the strongest rebel. Not even the most hardened criminal wanted to be submitted to the vicious beating of a Roman scourge.

"Most often, two torturers were utilized to carry out this punishment, simultaneously lashing the victim from both sides. As these dual whips struck the victim, the leather straps with their jagged, sharp, cutting objects descended and extended over this entire back. Each piece of metal, wire, bone or glass cut deeply through the victim's skin and into his flesh, shredding his muscles and sinews.

"Every time the whip pounded across the victim, those straps of leather curled tortuously around his torso, biting painfully and deeply into the skin of his abdomen and upper chest. As each stroke lacerated the sufferer, he tried to thrash about but was unable to move because his wrists were held so firmly to the metal ring above his head. Helpless to escape the whip, he would scream for mercy that this anguish might come to an end.

"Every time the torturers struck a victim, the straps of leather attached to the wooden handle would cause multiple lashes as the pieces of metal, glass, wire and bone sank into the flesh and then raked across the victim's body. Then the torturer would jerk back, pulling hard in order to tear whole pieced of human flesh from the body. The victim's back, buttocks, back of the legs, stomach, upper chest, and face would soon be disfigured by the slashing blows of the whip.

"Historical records describe a victim's back as being so mutilated after a Roman scourging that his spine would actually be exposed. Others recorded how the bowels of a victim would actually spill out through the open wounds created by the whip. The Early Church historian Eusebius wrote, 'The veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.

"The Roman torturer would so aggressively strike the victim that he wouldn't even take the time to untangle the bloody, flesh-filled straps as he lashed the whip across the victim's mangled body over and over again. If the scourging wasn't stopped, the slicing of the whip would eventually flay the victim's flesh off his body.

"With so many blood vessels sliced open by the whip, the victim would begin to experience profuse loss of blood and bodily fluids. The heart would pump harder and harder, struggling to get blood to the parts of the body that were profusely bleeding. But it was like pumping water through an open water hydrant; there was nothing left to stop the blood from pouring through the victim's open wounds.

"This loss of blood caused the victim's blood pressure to drop drastically. Because of the massive loss of bodily fluids, he would experience excruciating thirst, often fainting from the pain and eventually going into shock. Frequently the victim's heartbeat would become so irregular that he would go into cardiac arrest.

"This was a Roman scourging.

"According to Jewish law in Deuteronomy 25:3, the Jews were permitted to give forty lashes to a victim, but because the fortieth lash usually proved fatal, the number of lashes given was reduced to thirty-nine, as Paul noted in 2Corinthians 11:24. But the Romans had NO LIMIT to the number of lashes they could give a victim, and the scourging Jesus experienced was at the hands of the Romans, not Jews. Therefore, it is entirely possible that when the torturer pulled out his scourge to beat Jesus, he may have laid more than forty lashes across His body. In fact, this is even probable in light of the explosive outrage the Jews felt for Jesus and the terrible mocking He had already suffered at the hands of Roman soldiers.

"So when the Bible tells us that Jesus was scourged, we now know exactly what type of beating that Jesus received that night. What toll did the cruel Roman whip exact on Jesus' body? The New Testament doesn't tell us exactly what Jesus looked like after He was scourged, but Isaiah 52:14 says, 'As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.'

"If we take this scripture literally for what it says, we can conclude that Jesus' physical body was marred nearly beyond recognition. As appalling as this sounds, it was only the overture to what was to follow. Matthew 27:26 continues to tell us, 'and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.' This scourging was only the preparation for Jesus' crucifixion!

"Every time I think about the scourging Jesus received that day, I think of the promise of God to us in Isaiah 53:5. This verse says, 'But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed." In this verse, God declares that the price for our healing would be paid by those stripes that were laid across Jesus' back.

"In 1Peter 2:24, the apostle Peter quoted Isaish 53:5. He told his readers, '...by whose stripes we are healed.' The word 'stripes' used in this verse is molopsi, which describes a full-body bruise. It refers to a "terrible lashing that draws blood and that produces discoloration and swelling of the entire body. When Peter wrote this verse, he wasn't speaking by revelation but by memory, for he vividly remembered what happened to Jesus that night and what His physical appearance looked like after His scourging.

"After graphically reminding us of the beating, bleeding, and bruising that Jesus endured, Peter jubilantly declared that it was by these same stripes that we are 'healed.' The word 'healed' is the Greed word iaomai--a word that clearly refers to physical healing, as it is a word borrowed from the medical term to describe the 'physical healing or curing of the human body.'

"For those who think this promise refers to spiritual healing only, the Greek word emphatically speaks of the healing of a physical condition. This is a real promise of bodily healing that belongs to all who have been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ!

"Jesus' broken body was the payment God demanded to guarantee our physical healing! Just as Jesus willfully took our sins and died on the cross in our place, He also willfully took our sicknesses and pains on Himself when they tied Him to the scourging post and laid those lashes across His body. that horrific scourging paid for our healing!

"If you need healing in your body, you have every right to go to God and ask for healing to come flooding into your system. It's time for you to dig in your heels and hold fast to the promise of God's Word, releasing your faith for the healing that belongs to you."