Sunday, April 4, 2010

Celebrate Resurrection Morning!


Resurrection Morning! It is the most glorious celebration and hope we have as Christians! Celebrate the day with this devotion. And have a blessed day with your family and friends around the good news--the grave is empty: He is Risen!!!

RESURRECTION MORNING!

In the end of the Sabbath, it is beginning to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher, and, behold, there was a great earthquake: For the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. Matthew 28:1,2

“Jesus is alive! His resurrection was not merely a philosophical renaissance of His ideas and teachings – He was literally raised from the dead! The power of God exploded inside the tomb, reconnected Jesus’ spirit with His dead body, flooded his corpse with life and He arose! So much power was released behind the sealed entrance of His tomb that the earth itself reverberated and shuddered from the explosion. Then an angel rolled the stone from the entrance to the tomb, and Jesus physically walked through the door of the tomb alive!

“This is no legend nor fairy tale. This is the foundation of our faith! So today let’s examine the events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was resurrected from the dead sometime between the close of Sabbath sunset on Saturday evening and before the women came to the tomb early on Sunday morning. The only actual eyewitnesses to the resurrection itself were the angels who were present and the four Roman soldiers who had been stationed there at Pilate’s command. (Matt 27:66) However, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all record the events that followed on the morning of His resurrection.

“When first reading all four accounts of what happened that morning, it may appear that a contradiction exists between the details told in the various Gospels. But when they are chronologically aligned, the picture becomes very clear and the impression of contradiction is wiped away.

“Let me give you an example of what appears to be a contradiction. The Gospel of Matthew says there was one angel outside the tomb. The Gospel of Mark says there was one angel inside the tomb. The Gospel of Luke says there were two angels inside the tomb. John says nothing about angels, but does say that when Mary returned later in the day, she saw two angels inside the tomb who were positioned at the head and foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been laid.

“So who is telling the right story? How many angles were there? As I said, to see the entire scenario that transpired that day, the events in all four Gospels must be properly sequenced chronologically. So, let’s get started.

“Matthew 28:1 says, ‘In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.’ In addition to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the mother of James, Luke 24:10 tells us that Joanna and the other women came to the tomb. Luke 8:3 tells us that this Joanna was the wife of Herod’s steward—evidently a wealthy woman who was a financial supporter of Jesus’ ministry. According to Luke 23:55-56, many of these women were present when Jesus was placed inside the tomb, but returned home to prepare spices and ointments so they could anoint His body for burial when they returned after the Sabbath day.

“These women had no way of knowing that the chief priests and elders had gone to Pilate the day after Jesus was buried to request a watch of four Roman soldiers to guard the tomb and an official at home, preparing spices and ointments.

“Yet while these women were preparing to return to anoint Jesus’ dead body, the tomb was being officially sealed shut and Roman soldiers had been ordered to guard the tomb twenty-four hours a day. Had the women known that the tomb was legally sealed and couldn’t be opened, they wouldn’t have returned to the tomb, for it was legally impossible for them to request the stone to be removed.

“Mark 16:2-4 says, ‘And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away; for it was very great.

“Ignorant of the fact that the tomb couldn’t legally be opened, the women proceeded to the tomb for the purpose of anointing Jesus’ body. As they drew near to the garden where the tomb was located, they wondered among themselves who would remove the stone for them. However, Matthew 28:2 says, ‘And behold, there was a great earthquake…’

“This earthquake didn’t occur at the time when the women approached the tomb; rather, it occurred simultaneously with the moment of Jesus’ resurrection, sometime after the Saturday sunset and before the women arrived at the garden. When describing the magnitude of the earthquake, Matthew used the word ‘behold.’ In Greek, this is the word idou. The King James Version translates it behold, but in our day, it might be better translated, ‘Wow!’ When Matthew says, ‘And behold, there was a great earthquake,” he literally means, ‘Wow! Can you believe it!’ Although Matthew writes his Gospel many years after the fact, he still experienced amazement when he thinks of this event!

“Matthew tells us that there was a ‘great earthquake.’ The word great is the Greek word mega, leaving no room for doubt as to the magnitude of this event. The word mega always suggests something huge, massive, or enormous. The word earthquake is the Greek word seimos, the word for a literal earthquake. Just as creation shook when its Creator died on the Cross, now the earth exploded with exultation at the resurrection of Jesus!

“Mark 16:4 says that when the women arrived at the tomb, they found ‘…the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.’ In other words, this was no normal stone; the authorities placed an extremely, exceedingly massive stone in front of the entrance to Jesus’ tomb. Yet when the women arrived, it had been removed!

“Matthew 28:2 tells us how the stone was removed. It says that ‘the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.’ Some have suggested that the ability of the angel to sit on top of such a huge stone may also denote his immense size—in other words, he was so huge that he could sit on top of the enormous stone as if it were a chair. If this were the case, the removal of the stone would have been a simple feat. Matthew informs us that not only was the angel strong, but ‘his countenance was like lightening, and his raiment white as snow.’ (vs 3)

“The immense size, power, and brilliance of this angel explains why the Roman guards fled the scene. Matthew 28:4 tells us, ‘And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.’ It was such a panic-stricken fear that it caused the guards to ‘shake.’
“This word, shake is derived from the identical root word for an earthquake. The mighty Roman soldiers trembled and quaked at the sight of the angel. In fact, they ‘became as dead men.’ They were so terrified at the appearance of the angel that they fell to the ground, violently trembling and so paralyzed with fear that they were unable to move. When they were finally able to move again, these guards fled the scene—and when the women arrived at the garden, they were nowhere to be found!

“Luke 24:3 tells us that with the stone removed, these women passed right by the angel who sat on top of the huge stone and crossed the threshold into the tomb. It says, ‘And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.’ But what did they find inside the tomb besides the vacant spot where Jesus had laid? Mark 16:5 tells us: “And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrightened.’

“First, these women saw an angel sitting on top of the stone at the entrance of the tomb. Now inside the tomb, they see another angel whose appearance is like a young man. The words, ‘young man,’ are from the Greek word neanikos, referring to a young man who is filled with vigor and energy and who is in the prime of his life. This illustrates the vitality, strength, and ever-youthful appearance of angels. The Bible also tells us that this angel was ‘clothed in a long white garment…’ The word ‘clothed pictures a garment draped about his shoulders, as a mighty warrior or ruler would be dressed. The word, ‘garment’ is from the Greek word, stole, which represents the long flowing robe that adorned royalty, commanders, kings, priests, and other people of high distinction.

“As these women stood in an empty tomb, Luke 24:4 tells us that ‘they were much perplexed thereabout.’ This Greek word for ‘perplexed is aporeo, which means to lose one’s way. It is the picture of someone who is so confused that he can’t figure out where he is, what he’s doing, or what is happening around him. This person is completely bewildered by surrounding events.

“Of course these women were perplexed! They came expecting to see the stone in front of the tomb, but it was removed! Sitting on top of the massive stone was a dazzling angel. To get into the tomb, they had to pass by that angel—but once in the tomb, they discovered there was no dead body. Then suddenly they looked over to the right side of the tomb and saw a second angel, dressed in a long, white robe like a warrior, ruler, priest, or king. The women didn’t expect to encounter any of these unusual events that morning. It would have been normal for their heads to be whirling with questions.

“Then Luke 24:4 tells us that all of a sudden, ‘two men stood by them in shining garments.’ The words ‘stood by’ are from the Greek word, epistemi, which means to come upon suddenly; to take one by surprise; to burst upon the scene; to suddenly step up; or to unexpectedly appear. In other words, while the women tried to figure out what they were seeing, the angel sitting on top of the stone decided to join the group inside the tomb. Suddenly to the women’s amazement, two angels were standing inside the tomb in ‘shining garments.’

“The word shining is astrapto, depicting something that shines or flashes like lightening. It may refer to the angel’s shining appearance.

“Luke 24:5-8 says, ‘And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day, rise again. And they remembered his words.

“After the two angels proclaimed the joyful news of Jesus’ resurrection, they instructed the women, ‘But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.’ (Mark 16:7) Matthew 28:8 says they ‘did run to bring his disciples word.’ Mark 16:8 says, “And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre.’ Luke 24:9-10 says that the women returned and ‘told these things unto the apostles.

“Can you imagine how flustered these women must have been as they tried to tell the apostles what they had seen and heard that morning? Luke 24:11 says, ‘And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.’ The words idle tales are from the Greek word leros, which means nonsense, idle talk, babble, or delirium. In other words, the women’s presentation of the Gospel probably wasn’t extremely clear, but it stirred enough interest in Peter and John to make them get up and go find out for themselves about Jesus!

“When we’ve had a supernatural encounter with the Lord, it isn’t always easy to put that experience into words. This is a frustration all of us who know the Lord have felt at one time or another. However, we can’t let that keep us from spreading the good news of what Jesus Christ has done in our lives.

“As you share Jesus Christ with your family and friends, it is your job to give it your best shot. Tell the Good News that best way you know how! But don’t overlook the fact that the Holy Spirit is also speaking to their hearts at the same time you are speaking to their ears. The Spirit of God will use you and your witness so stir hunger deep in their hearts. But long after you are finished talking, God will still be dealing with them. And when they come to Jesus, they won’t remember if you sounded confusing the day you presented the Gospel to them. They will be thankful that you loved them enough to care for their souls.

“So get up and get going! Open your mouth, and start telling the Good News that Jesus Christ is alive and well!

“Lord, I am concerned for my family, friends, acquaintances, and fellow workers who still don’t know You as their personal Savior. I’ve been concerned that if I tried to talk to them, I wouldn’t make sense, so I’ve shied away from witnessing to them. But I know You can make sense out of anything I say. Today I am leaning on you to help; me witness to people in my life. I need You to speak to their hearts at the same time I’m speaking to their ears! Please help me tell them about Your saving grace! I pray this in Jesus’ name!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Christ's Passion for You-Part Five


From Rick Renner’s “Sparkling Gems from the Greek.”
How precious is it that we have the ability to go to God as our Father! It is in Christ and His sacrifice that this privilege was won for us!

The Day the Veil Was Rent and the Earth Shook

Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent. Matt 27:50-51

“Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record that on the day Jesus was crucified, the sky turned eerily dark at the sixth hour of the day. Matthew 27:45 says, ‘Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.’

“This sudden and unexplainable darkness covered all the ‘land.’ The word land is the Greek word for earth, ges, and it refers to the entire earth, not just a small geographical region. The Greek word ges emphatically tells us that the whole world literally became simultaneously darkened.

“The historians Phlegon, Thaddus, and Julius Africanus all referred to the darkness that covered the earth at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. Critics of the Bible have attempted to explain away this supernatural darkness by alleging that it was due to an eclipse of the sun. This is impossible, however, for the Passover occurred at the time of a full moon.

“The Bible informs us that the darkening of the sky started at the sixth hour. This is significant, for the sixth hour (noontime) was the very moment that the high priest Caiaphas, arrayed in his full priestly garments, began the procession in which he would enter the temple to slaughter a pure, spotless Passover lamb. This darkness that covered the land lasted until the ninth hour—the exact moment the high priest would be making his entrance into the Holy of Holies to offer the blood of the Passover lamb to cover the sins of the nation.

“It was at this moment that Jesus cried out, ‘It is finished!” (John 19:30). As He heaved upward to breathe for the last time, Jesus gathered enough air to speak forth a victory shout! His assignment was complete! After proclaiming those words with His last ounce of strength, Matthew 27:50 tells us that He ‘yielded up the ghost.’

“What Matthew tells us next is simply amazing! He writes, ‘And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom.’ The word ‘behold’ is the Greek word idou. Idou carries the idea of shock, amazement and wonder. It’s almost as if Matthew says, ‘Wow, can you believe it? The veil of the temple itself rent in two from top to bottom!’ Matthew wrote about this event many years after the fact, yet he was still so dumbfounded by what happened that day he exclaimed in effect, ‘Wow! Look what happened next!’

“There were two veils inside the temple—one at the entrance to the Holy Place and a second at the entrance of the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest was allowed to pass through the second veil once a year. That second veil was sixty feet high, thirty feet wide, and an entire handbreadth in thickness! One early Jewish writing states that the veil was so heavy, it took three hundred priests to move or manipulate it. It would have been impossible humanly speaking to tear such a veil.

“At the exact moment Jesus was breathing His last breath on the Cross at Golgotha, Caiaphas the high priest was standing at his station in the inner court of the temple, preparing to offer the blood of a spotless Passover lamb. At the very instant Caiaphas stepped up to kill the Passover sacrifice, Jesus exclaimed, ‘It is finished.’ At that same instant, miles away from Golgotha inside the temple at Jerusalem, an inexplicable, mystifying supernatural even occurred. The massive, fortified veil that stood before the Holy of Holies was suddenly split in half from the top all the way to the bottom!

“The sound of that veil splitting must have been deafening as it ripped and tore, starting from the top and going all the way down to the floor. It was as if invisible, divine hands had reached out to grab it, rip it to shreds, and discard it.

“Imagine how shocked Caiaphas must have been when he heard the ripping sounds above his head and then watched as the veil was torn in half, leaving two sides of the once-massive curtain lying collapsed to his right and his left. Just think what must have gone through this evil high priest’s mind when he saw that the way to the Holy of Holies was opened—and that God’s Presence was no longer there.

“You see, when Jesus was lifted up on that Cross, that Cross became the eternal mercy seat on which the blood of the final sacrifice was sprinkled. Once that sacrifice was made, it was no longer necessary for a high priest to continually make sacrifices year after year, for Jesus’ blood had now settled the issue forever!

“For this cause, God Himself ripped the veil of the temple in half, declaring that the way to the Holy of Holies was now available to everyone who came to Him through the blood of Jesus! This is why the apostle Paul wrote that Jesus ‘hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us’ (Eph 2:14).’

“Jesus’ death was such a dramatic event that even the earth reacted to it. Matthew 27:51 says, ‘the earth did quack, and the rocks rent.’ The word quake is the Greek word seiso, which means to shake, to agitate, or to create a commotion. It is where we get the word for seismograph, the apparatus that registers the intensity of an earthquake. It is interesting to note that Origen, the early Christian leader, recorded that there were ‘great earthquakes’ at the time of Jesus crucifixion.

“I find it so amazing that although Israel rejected Jesus and the Roman authorities crucified Him, creation always recognized Him! During His life on this earth, the waves obeyed Him; water turned to wine at His command; fishes and bread multiplied at His touch; the atoms in water solidified so He could walk across it; and the wind ceased when He spoke to it. So it should come as no surprise that Jesus’ death was a traumatic event for creation. The earth shook, trembled, and shuddered at the death of its Creator, for it instantly felt its loss.

“The earth shuddered so violently when Jesus died that even ‘the rocks rent’ Matthew tells us that huge, large rocks or petra, were rent by the shaking of the earth. The word rent is schidzo, meaning to rent, to tear, to violently tear asunder, to terribly fracture. This was a serious earthquake! It makes me realize all over again the incredible significance of the death of Jesus Christ!

“When Jesus’ blood was accepted at the Cross as final payment for man’s sin, the need to habitually offer sacrifices year after year was eliminated. The Holy of Holies, a place limited only to the high priest once a year, has now become open and accessible to all of us! As ‘believer-priests,” each of us can now enjoy the Presence of God every day. This is why Hebrews 10:19,22 says, ‘Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.’

“Since the way to the Holy of Holies has been thrown wide open to us, we need to take a few minutes each day to enter into the Presence of God to worship Him and to make our requests known. Because of what Jesus did, we can now ‘come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need’ (Heb. 4:16). Since this is God’s promise to us, let’s drop everything we’re doing and come boldly before that throne of grace for a few minutes today!

“Lord, I thank You for destroying the veil that separated me from Your Presence. By taking away the veil, You made it possible for me to come boldly before Your throne of grace to obtain mercy and receive help in my time of need. Because of what You did for me, today I am coming boldly to tell You what I need in my life. I present my case to You, and I thank You in advance for helping me just as You promised in Your Word. I pray this in Jesus’ name.”

Christ's Passion for You-Part Four


From Rick Renner’s “Sparkling Gems from the Greek.”

This is my favorite daily devotional of this week. It paints such a profound picture of what Jesus did, and His heart as He did it. It is even more profound to know that what He did is the perfect picture of love for me and you!

Crucified!

They gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. And they crucified Him. Matthew 27:34-35

“When Jesus arrived at Golgotha, the Bible says, ‘They gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall…’ According to Jewish law, if a man was about to be executed, he could request a narcotic, mingled together with wine, which would help alleviate the pain of his execution. The word ‘gall’ in this verse refers to this special painkiller that was mingled together with wine for this purpose.

“There was a group of kind women in Jerusalem who made it their good deed to help anesthetize the pain of people who were dying horrific deaths. These women wanted to eliminate as much pain and misery as possible for the scores of people being crucified by the Romans. Therefore, they produced the homemade painkiller that Matthew tells us about in this verse.

“Jesus was offered this anesthetic twice—once before His crucifixion and once while He was dying on the Cross (Matt 27:34, 48). In both instance, Jesus turned down the offer and refused to drink it, for He knew that He was to fully consume this cup the Father had given Him to drink.

“Verse 35 begins, ‘And they crucified Him…’ The word ‘crucified’ is the Greek word staurao from the word stauros, which describes an upright, pointed stake that was used for the punishment of criminals. This word was used to describe those who were hung up, impaled, or beheaded and then publically displayed. It was always used in connection with public execution. The point of hanging a criminal publically was to bring further humiliation and additional punishment to the accused.

“Crucifixion was indisputably one of the cruelest and most barbaric forms of punishment in the ancient world. Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian, described crucifixion as ‘the most wretched of deaths.’ It was viewed with such horror that in one of Seneca’s letters to Lucilius, Seneca wrote that suicide was preferable to crucifixion.

“Different parts of the world had different kinds of crucifixion. For example, in the East the victim was beheaded and then hung in public display. Among the Jews, the victim was first stoned to death and then hung on a tree. Deut 21:22-23 commanded, ‘And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he is to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God)…'

“But at the time Jesus was crucified, the grueling act of crucifixion was entirely in the hands of the Roman authorities. This punishment was reserved for the most serious offenders, usually for those who had committed some kind of treason or who had participated in or sponsored state terrorism.

“Because Israel hated the occupying Roman troops, insurrections frequently arose among the populace. As a deterrent to stop people from participating in revolts, crucifixion was regularly practiced in Jerusalem. By publicly crucifying those who attempted to overthrow the government, the Romans sent a strong signal of fear to those who might be tempted to follow in their steps.

“Once the offender reached the place where the crucifixion was to occur, he was laid on the crossbeam he carried with his arms outstretched. Then a soldier would drive a five-inch iron nail through each of his wrists into the crossbeam. After being nailed to the crossbeam, the victim was hoisted up by rope, and the crossbeam was dropped into a notch on top of the upright post.

“When the crossbeam dropped into the groove, the victim suffered excruciating pain as his hands and wrists were wrenched by the sudden jerking motion. Then the weight of the victim’s body caused his arms to be pulled out of their arm sockets. Josephus writes that the Roman soldiers ‘out of rage and hatred amused themselves by nailing their prisoners in different postures.’ Crucifixion was truly a vicious ordeal.

“When the victim was nailed to the cross, the nails were not driven through the palms of his hands, but through the wrists. Once the wrists were secured in place, the feet came next. First, the victim’s legs would be positioned so that the feet were pointed downward with the soles pressed against the post on which the victim was suspended. A long nail would then be driven between the bones of the feet, lodged firmly enough between those bones to prevent it from tearing through the feet as the victim arched upward, gasping for breath.

“In order for the victim to breathe, he had to push himself up by his feet, which were nailed to the vertical beam. However, because the pressure on hi s feet became unbearable, it wasn’t possible for him to remain long in this position, so eventually he would collapse back into the hanging position.

“As the victim pushed up and collapsed back down again and again over a long period of time, his shoulders eventually dislocated and popped out of joint. Soon the out-of-joint shoulders were followed by the elbows and wrists. These various dislocations caused the arms to be extended up to nine inches longer than usual, resulting in terrible cramps in the victim’s arm muscles and making it impossible for him to push himself upward any longer to breathe. When he was finally too exhausted and could no longer push himself upward on the nail lodged in his feet, the process of asphyxiation began.

“Jesus experienced all of this torture. When He dropped down with the full weight of His body on the nails that were driven through His wrists, it sent excruciating pain up His arms, registering horrific pain in His brain. Added to this torture was the agony caused by the constant grating of Jesus’ recently scourged back against the upright post every time He pushed up to breathe and then collapsed back to a hanging position.

“Due to extreme loss of blood and hyperventilation, the victim would begin to experience severe dehydration. We can see this process in Jesus’ own crucifixion when He cried out, ‘I thirst” (John 19:28). After several hours of this torment, the victim’s heart would begin to fail. Next his lungs would collapse, and excess fluids would begin filling the lining of his heart and lungs, adding to the slow process of asphyxiation.

“When the Roman soldier came to determine whether or not Jesus was alive or dead, he thrust his spear into Jesus’ side. One expert pointed out that if Jesus had been alive when the soldier did this, the soldier would have heard a loud sucking sound caused by air being inhaled past the freshly made wound in the chest. But the Bible tells us that water and blood mixed together came pouring forth from the wound the spear had made—evidence that Jesus’ heart and lungs had shut down and were filled with fluid. This was enough to assure the soldier that Jesus was already dead.

“It was customary for Roman soldiers to break the lower leg boned of a person being crucified, making it impossible for the victim to push himself upward to breathe and thus causing him to asphyxiate at a much quicker rate. However, because of the blood and water that gushed from Jesus’ side, He was already considered dead. Since there was no reason for the soldiers to hasten Jesus’ death, His legs were never broken.

“This, my friend, is a brief taste of a Roman crucifixion.

“The above description of crucifixion was exactly what Jesus experienced on the Cross where He died for you and me. This is why Paul wrote, ‘And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross’ (Phil 2:8). In Greek the emphasis is on the word ‘even,’ from the Greek word de, which dramatizes the point that Jesus lowered Himself to such an extent that He died even the death of a cross—the lowest, most humiliating, debasing, shameful, painful method of death in the ancient world!

“Now you understand why the kind women of Jerusalem prepared homemade painkillers for those being crucified. The agony associated with crucifixion is the reason they offered Jesus this ‘gall’ once before the crucifixion began and again as He hung on the Cross.
“Meanwhile, the soldiers near the foot of the Cross ‘parted His garments, casting lots…’ (Matt 27:35). They didn’t understand the great price of redemption that was being paid at that moment as Jesus hung asphyxiating to death, His lungs filling with fluids so He couldn’t breathe.

“According to Roman custom, the soldiers who carried out the crucifixion had a right to the victim’s clothes. Jewish law required that the person being crucified would be stripped naked. So there Jesus hung, completely open and naked before the world, while His crucifiers literally distributed His clothes among themselves!

“Making this distribution of clothes even cheaper was the fact that the soldiers ‘cast lots’ for His garments. The Gospel of John records that ‘when they had crucified Him, took His garments, and made four parts, to ever soldier a part; and also His coat; now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it.’ (John 19:23-24).

“This account informs us that four soldiers were present at Jesus’ crucifixion. The four parts of His clothing that were distributed among them were His head gear, sandals, girdle, and the tallith—the outer garment that had fringes on the bottom. His ‘coat,’ which was ‘without seam,’ was a handmade garment that was sewn together from top to bottom. Because it was specially handmade, this coat was a very expensive piece of clothing. This was the reason the soldiers chose to cast lots for it rather than tear it into four parts and spoil it.

“When the Bible refers to ‘casting lots,’ it indicates a game during which the soldiers wrote their names on pieces of parchment or wood or on stones and then dropped all four pieces with their names written on them into some kind of container. Because the Roman soldiers who helped crucify Jesus were remotely located, it is probable that one of them pulled off his helmet and held it out to the other soldiers. After the others dropped their names in the helmet, the soldier shook it up to mix up the four written names and then randomly withdrew the name of the winner.

“It is simply remarkable that all of this was taking place as Jesus was pushing down on that huge nail lodged in His feet so He could gasp for breath before sagging back down into a hanging position. As Jesus’ strength continued to drain away and the full consequence of man’s sin was being realized in Him, the soldiers at the foot of the Cross played a game to see who would get His finest piece of clothing!

“Matthew 27:36 says, ‘And sitting down they watched him there.’ The Greek word for watch is the word tereo, which means to guard. The Greek tense means to consistently guard or to consistently be on the watch. It was the responsibility of these soldiers to keep things in order, to keep watch over the crucifixion site, and to make sure no one came to rescue Jesus from the Cross. So as they cast lots and played games, the soldiers were also keeping watch out of the corners of their eyes to make certain no one touched Jesus as He hung dying on the Cross.

“When I read about the crucifixion of Jesus, it makes me want to repent for the callousness with which the world looks upon the Cross today. In our society, the cross has become a fashion item, decorated with gems, rhinestones, gold and silver. Beautiful crosses of jewelry adorn women’s ears and dangle at the bottom of gold chains and necklaces. The symbol of the cross is even tattooed on people’s flesh!

“The reason this is so disturbing to me is that in beautifying the Cross to make it pleasing to look upon, people have forgotten that it wasn’t beautiful or lavishly decorated at all. In fact, the Cross of Jesus Christ was shocking and appalling.

“Jesus’ totally naked body was flaunted in humiliation before a watching world. His flesh was ripped to shreds; His body was bruised from head to toe; He had to heave His body upward for every breath He breathed; and His nervous system sent constant signals of excruciating pain to His brain. Blood drenched Jesus’ face and streamed from His hands, His feet, and from the countless cuts and gaping wounds the scourging had left upon His body. In reality, the Cross of Jesus Christ was a disgusting, repulsive, nauseating, stomach-turning sight—so entirely different from the attractive crosses people wear today as a part of their jewelry or attire.

“At this time of the year, it would be a good idea for all of us as believers to take a little time to remember what the Cross of Jesus Christ was really like. If we don’t deliberately choose to meditate on what He went through, we will never fully appreciate the price He paid for us. How tragic it would be if we lost sight of the pain and the price of redemption!

“When we fail to remember what it cost Jesus to save us, we tend to treat our salvation cheaply and with disregard. That’s why the apostle Peter wrote, ‘Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.’ (1 Pet 1:18-19).

“The kind women of Jerusalem wanted to anesthetize Jesus to remove His pain. He refused their painkiller and entered into the experience of the Cross with all His faculties. Let’s not allow the world to anesthetize us, causing us to overlook or forget the real price that was paid on the Cross.

“Why not take time today to let the reality of the Cross sink deep into your heart and soul? As you do, you’ll find that it will cause you to love Jesus so much more that you love Him right now!

“Lord, help me never to forget the price You paid on the Cross for my salvation. Please forgive me for the times my life starts moving so fast that I fail to remember what You did for me. No one else could have taken my place. No one else could have paid the price for my sin. So You went to the Cross, bearing my sin, my sickness, my pain, and my lack of peace. That Cross was the place where the price was paid for my deliverance. Today I want to thank you from the very depths of my heart for doing this for me! I pray this in Jesus’ name!"