Today, we live in a spiritually hungry culture. Our culture is hungry for truth, but it often satisfies that hunger with things other than true spirituality. True spirituality is only found in the life, the work and the person of Jesus Christ. Often when I watch a movie, turn on the TV or listen to music, the plot or the song is talking about spirituality, religion, the Church, God or Jesus Christ. It is very hard to escape this global hunger for something beyond ourselves.
As a Christian I find that people are almost always open to hear about God and religion but not about Jesus Christ. And it’s hard to find a major world religion that doesn’t believe that Jesus Christ was a good person, a prophet and a helper of the marginalized. But it is not any of those things that makes Jesus Christ the amazing, very spiritual person that He is. It’s the fact that He claimed to be God and that He died a physical death and was literally raised from the dead. This is what makes the God Man Jesus Christ a person of international attention. In this session we are going to look at what actually took place with Jesus prior to the cross, while He was on the cross, that Jesus died for our sins and some of the proofs of Jesus’ literal resurrection from death.
As I have mentioned already Jesus was known for doing many things including, preaching, prophesying, teaching, healing the sick, raising the dead and fighting for the hurting but it is not any of those things that He said He specifically came to do. In John 12:27-28 Jesus said;
“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.”
Although Jesus did so many things, so much so that John said all of His works couldn’t be contained in all the library’s of the world; Jesus was emphatic that He had come to die on the cross. The cross of Jesus Christ would be the final place of His ministry only prior to a long encounter with the religious leaders of His day. Jesus was accused of blasphemy, because He said that He and the Father were equal, making Himself God. After Judas sold Jesus into slavery He was taken in before both Herod and Pilate to be illegally tried as a criminal. Matthew 27:26 says;
“Then he (Pilate) released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.”
The word scourging that Jesus underwent is also known as being flogged. During this process Jesus’ hands were chained above His head to expose His back, shoulders and buttocks. They used what’s called a “cat-O’-nine tails” to whip or flog Jesus. This whip consisted on many long leather straps with both metal balls and pieces of bone attached at the end of the straps. The metal balls were for the purpose of tenderizing the back of the victim and the pieces of sharp bone were for the tearing of the flesh across the shoulders, back and buttocks as the whip was pulled back. Jesus would have been whipped anywhere between 30-41 times. 700 years prior to Jesus’ incarnation and crucifixion Isaiah the prophet said this about Jesus in Isaiah 52:14;
“Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage (face) was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.”
Isaiah was prophetically saying that Jesus’ face and body would be more disfigured than any other man.
Following the flogging of Jesus the religious leaders then placed a crown of thorns on His head (Mark 15:16-17). What we must keep in perspective is that Jesus has not even made it to the cross yet. This is all taking place prior to the cross, but its included in what is called the Sufferings of Christ. This crown of thorns would have caused massive amounts of blood to flow down from Jesus’ forehead and mixing with the sweet He would have been nearly blinded. Jesus was then forced to carry a rugged wooden cross of roughly 100 pounds on His bare, broken and exhausted body (John 19:17).
Even though Jesus was in excellent health and only 33 years of age, He collapsed under the weight of the cross as He was headed towards Golgotha, the place where He was crucified. The cross wasn’t something that was resting on His back, but something that His hands were lashed too as they were stretched out across it. This means that when He fell, He fell facedown with this 100 pound wooden crossbeam crashing on top of Him. Jesus was then marched to the top of the hill. Here on the hill, Jesus, who had driven many nails in His day, would have 5-7 inch spikes driven into both His hands and His feet nailing Him to the cross. It wasn’t uncommon for people who were being crucified to lose their bowl movements and leave a pile of blood, sweet, urine and feces at the foot of the cross.
The prophet Isaiah also spoke about this very thing when he said this in Isaiah 53:3;
“A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”
The site of Jesus on the cross was so terrible that Isaiah said that the people literally turned their faces away. Crucifixion was reserved for the worst and most heinous of criminals and even most Romans, who were killed weren’t even killed in this manner, but rather beheaded. In the rare event that a women was crucified they would actually place her face against the cross so they wouldn’t have to look upon her. There is a word that is used to describe a crucifixion and it’s the word excruciating which literally means “from the cross.” Through all of this we can see what actually took place in the sufferings of Christ.
When the professional executioner came to inspect the men on the cross to see if they were dead, He came to Jesus and seen that He was already dead and instead of breaking His bones he pierced His side causing both blood and water to flow out from Jesus’ side. Jesus, nearly naked, beaten, bruised and bloody hung in-between heaven and earth, on a piece of wood that He created at the hands of men and women that He also created and named. On that dark day, the second person of the Trinity, God who came in the flesh would give up His final breath and die.
What Does It Mean That Jesus Died For Us?
Many people would love to pile Christianity into the same pile as other world religions but for one main reason it cannot join the pile. That main reason is the simple fact that Jesus died for us. Though that is just four words, the power behind them is what makes Christianity what it is. Why do I say this? Because, when you look at other world religions they work to get you to perform for your salvation, for your freedom and for anything else that you can attain. You have to work for whatever you hope to receive from other religions. With Christ, and with Christianity, the work has already been done for us, by Jesus Christ.
As Christians we don’t become saved or in intimate relationship with God because we do certain things, but because we believe that Jesus did it for us on the cross. Martin Luther gave us the very powerful statements “that our salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone and in Christ alone.” Nothing more and nothing less. We don’t obtain our salvation because of our good works, but because Jesus died for us. We call the death of Jesus Christ a substitutionary death because on the Cross Jesus substituted Himself for us. Our head was on the chopping block so to speak, but because of the kindness of God through Christ, He took my place on the chopping block. He did this for me, not because of anything that I did or didn’t do. Here are a few verses from the Bible that help describe what I’m saying;
“He was wounded for our transgressions” “He was delivered for our transgressions” “God shows His love us, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” and “Christ died for our sins” (Isaiah 53:5;53:12; Romans 4:25; 1st Corinthians 15:3.)
Jesus was the sinless Lamb that took the fall upon Himself and freed all those that seek salvation in and through the cross. Some, while preaching passionately about the cross, can overemphasize the justice of God and others under emphasize the mercy of God which was shown through the cross. What I mean by this is that we should take the middle of the road approach. The middle of the road approach to the cross is to say that God is both just and merciful. We can see the justice of God in that He is ready to punish His own Son to free a people to love God. But He is also merciful because He is ready to forgive anyone who repents and asks for help. If you look at the cross of Christ and only see a God who is a judge and not a merciful bridegroom, you have only seen a portion of the cross. The cross speaks about great darkness and great light. It’s not a little bit of darkness and a lot of light, or a little bit of light and a lot of darkness. It’s both. Grace through faith in Christ isn’t something that you can earn, it’s a free gift that can only be received by an act of free will.
Did Jesus Rise From Death?
If you spend any amount of time searching out the Bible and other books, it won’t take long before you run head on into some folks that work to disprove nearly everything in the Bible. The resurrection is no stranger to the difficult scrutiny of the human race. The question is asked often did Jesus rise from the dead. John R. Stott had this to say about the resurrection “Christianity is a resurrection religion. The concept of resurrection is at the heart. If you remove the resurrection, Christianity is destroyed.” The cross was bloody and terrible, but the resurrection is glorious, more glorious than we will ever understand. And when we look at the proofs of Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead it’s important that we look at two things.
Firstly, we can see the factual, Biblical evidence that Jesus really rose from death. The Bible is filled with great, verified facts about Jesus’ resurrection from death. And secondly, we have what I call the different heart changes that also took place. Many things took place at the heart of Christianity in light of the resurrection that can only be explained, by something as amazing as Jesus really rising from the dead. We will now look at both Biblical evidence and heart changes that took place. 1) Jesus’ resurrection was spoken of roughly 700 years prior to His first coming. The prophet Isaiah spoke in great detail about what would take place in the sufferings of Christ, which all came to pass in a powerful way.
2) Jesus predicted His own death prior to it happening. Jesus spoke about when He would die, where He would die, who would kill Him and that He would be raised from the dead. This wasn’t something that Jesus kept as a secret in His heart, but rather something that He shouted from the mountain tops.
3) Jesus literally died on the cross, He didn’t just pass out, or have some sort of near death experience. We know that because of several things the Bible has to say about His death. First, Jesus was went through a sleepless night, and endured the flogging that He received from the hands of the religious leaders. Second, He was publically crucified and a professional executioner pronounced Jesus to be dead when he came up near Him. This executioner’s job was only to make sure people were dead. Third, Jesus was then wrapped in around 100 pounds of burial spices which if the previous things didn’t kill Him surly this would have. And fourthly, Jesus was laid in a rock hewn tomb, with no medical attention, wrapped in 100 pounds of burial spices and left without food and water for three days.
If all the other things didn’t kill Him, surly being laid in the tomb would have. It’s possible to have and even to know all the factual information surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection but still never allow it to change your heart. So now I will move onto what I call the heart change issues, or the things that took place which are beyond Biblical evidence.
1) The disciples were totally transformed after Jesus’ resurrection. Just prior to Jesus’ resurrection Peter denied that he even knew Christ in front of a few young women that were warming themselves by the fire. But just after Jesus rises from death and empowers them with the Holy Spirit, Peter becomes a bold preacher who fearlessly tells the religious leaders that had just killed Jesus, that they killed God. What is the explanation for this? Jesus really rose from the dead.
2) The disciples were loyal to their Messiah. In our day and in every day past there have been many so-called messiah’s who promise to save us from new taxes, work and our aging bodies. The problem is, after these so-called messiahs die we quickly move onto the next person and when they die we continue the cycle, leaving the old in search for the new. That wasn’t true with the disciples. They stayed loyal to Jesus and were even willing to go to death because they wouldn’t deny who He was. In fact 11 out of the 12 apostles would die as martyrs because they wouldn’t recant.
3) And lastly, the growth of the Church was a huge proof of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. On the same day, in the same place, and in the same manner Jesus’ crucifixion, two other men also died. Why don’t we know their names? And how come since that day, maybe as many as 1,000,000,000 people have confessed the name of Jesus Christ as their Savior? It’s because those men are still in the grave awaiting judgment from God. They never rose from the dead and for that reason we don’t know who they are. The Church continues to grow at this very moment because Jesus has risen from the dead.
Throughout Church history many of our Church fathers and mothers found it a great joy to fill up in their bodies the sufferings of Christ Jesus. They did this by bearing the cross of persecution in their own lives as they took the gospel to the nations. I challenge you to give yourself to the cross of Jesus Christ in such a way that your heart begins to soar into the depths of what possessed God to crush His Son for the freedom of your soul.
Don’t shrink back from the suffering of the cross, or the resurrection from the dead. Proverbs tells us that it’s the glory of God to conceal a matter and it’s the glory of kings to search it out. The cross is a public but very hidden matter that is our joy to search out. We want to become preachers of the cross, communicators of the cross regardless of what we do for our occupation. We want to be able to give a defense for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Take time right now and ask God what was on His mind when He willingly climbed up onto the cross and said yes to His Father’s plan.