Jesus Christ died on a stake for YOU! What kind of day was it that Christ spent — His last day before His crucifixion? What did it take to die for YOUR sins? With Passover now upon us you need to read this article and find out!
TUESDAY, April 24, was the day of preparation for the Passover in 31 A.D. Jesus Christ arose, prayed, studied and meditated. It was still dark, perhaps three or four a.m. when He arose, that is if He slept at all that night! When the first ray of sunlight cast its beams across the hillside, after breakfast was finished, Christ and the disciples walked the short distance from Bethany to Jerusalem to prepare for the Passover. Dusk came! The disciples and Jesus sat down at the table for the last supper! It was about six p.m. FIFTEEN HOURS had elapsed since Christ arose — that is if He slept at all that night! The time of the Passover Sacrifice had arrived! They finished the meal, the foot washing, the wine and the bread. Christ talked to the disciples until about ten p.m. Then He went out to the Mount of Olives to pray. The day had been long. NINETEEN HOURS had now gone by since daybreak. The powerfully built rugged Apostles couldn't hold out any longer. They fell asleep! Three times Christ prayed fervently to His Father. Beads of perspiration stood out on His forehead. The perspiration mingled with blood as He thought and prayed knowing what it would take to kill the body of a man who was perfect! Near midnight, Judas came with the soldiers. Then began the most demanding, horrifying FIFTEEN HOURS in history. Never has a man been called upon to suffer as Jesus Christ suffered. No man could! No man was perfect in strength and body as Christ!
A small mob, armed with swords and clubs took Jesus and marched Him off to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. His trial was held in the secrecy of the darkness of the night. Read it in Mat. 26:56-67. Read the full story from all four gospels, they each tell part of the story. [In this article I've paraphrased from several translations in order to bring a clear picture of what really took place on that last day. In a few cases I've given life and personality to certain character witnesses who would otherwise remain inanimate. You will find the description of the scourging and the crucifixion a little gory, the way it happened, including the scourging of Christ until blind, as indicated by several scriptures (Mat. 27:34; Ps. 69:21).] The small group laughed, poking fun at Christ as they walked down the ravine and up the hill to the house of Caiaphas. The disciples had fled as prophesied! Christ was alone with the murdering, God-defying priest and elders of Jerusalem — the ones who hated Him most. The priest and elders talked first aloud and then whispered as they sought a means of testimony that would result in His death sentence. They found two witnesses who said, "This man said, I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days!" Caiaphas jumped to his feet, staring into the powerful eyes of Christ and said, "Well, what about it! Did you say that or didn't you?" Christ kept silent. "Answer the question, are you the Christ?" No answer! "I adjure you by the living God that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God." "Yes," replied Christ, "I am and in the future you will see me, the son of mankind, sitting at the right hand of God and returning in the clouds of heaven." Caiaphas ripped at his own clothing, yelling at the top of his voice, "Blasphemy, blasphemy!" In a midnight kangaroo court, Jesus Christ was found guilty — guilty of respect, of mercy, of love for the poor, guilty of healing the sick, of bringing the good news of the Kingdom of God (Mat. 27, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 18).
The Mob Scene
They took Him outside in the courtyard. A few of the priests with Caiaphas began to curse Jesus Christ. Then a fat, ruddy-looking individual spit in Jesus Christ's face. Others began to spit, casting verbal tirades at Christ. Another struck Jesus Christ. The leaders of the court soon tired of this sport and retired to an inner room. Others came to see the man who had turned Jerusalem upside down. They wanted to see this man in the flesh. A man who was ALL MAN, a leader of men! Cautiously they approached Christ. Would He shoot fire out at them, do a miracle? "Are you the Messiah? Are you really the King over all of those beggars you preach to," they cried. Nothing happened. They grew bolder as Christ remained silent. Then someone kicked at Him, half afraid of what might happen. Soon they too left, only the soldiers remained. The soldiers were growing more indignant by the minute at this young upstart, who boldly stood His ground. A redhead swaggered up to Christ, looked Him in the eye and flippantly slapped Him across the face. "You rotten, filthy, contemptible hypocrite. You who will not bow to the high priest, take that." With an open hand he slapped Him, first on the right cheek, then on the left. Other soldiers encouraged by the redhead, tried a few jabs, kicks and some verbal tirades of their own. They soon began to enjoy the game! A young twenty-year-old six-footer doubled up his fist, swung wide and smashed Christ in the stomach. He doubled over in pain. Another soldier jerked Him erect. They all joined in beating Christ until His eyes began to close, turning purple, lips were split and swollen. Blood ran down His face, arms and chest. The merciless beating continued. Then someone shouted, "Hey, why not blindfold Him, He's a Prophet, let's test Him!" So blindfold Him they did. Dancing, jumping in glee, they pranced around Him, laughing, hitting and spitting at Him, crying out in cowardly voices, "Who hit you that time, Prophet, — come on Prophet you can tell!" Obscene names were a din in His ears. Bleeding, bruised and in pain, He found Himself on the floor, time and time again, only to be pushed back on His feet for the next onslaught. Would it never end? Hour after hour it went on with a little rest now and then as they tired of their new-found sport. The man who was ALL MAN uttered not a word — only an occasional groan escaped His lips as knuckles smashed against flesh and bone.
A Visit to Pilate
Around seven in the morning He was marched off to Pilate for the official Roman verdict. TWENTY-SEVEN hours had gone by since Jesus Christ began His day on the previous morning! Pilate asked Christ, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus said, "Yes, I am the Christ." After many questions Pilate turned to Caiaphas and said, "I find no fault with this man." Caiaphas turned from Pilate to the elders. He was beside himself. "What does he mean he can find no fault with this man?" Then someone said, "This man is from Galilee." "What did you say? Is this man from Galilee?" exclaimed Pilate. "Take Him to Herod." Hurriedly, Caiaphas ordered the guard to get Christ out on the street again. They pushed and jabbed at Him, hurrying Him along, fearful of encountering some of the followers of Christ who might defend Him. Herod granted an immediate audience. He was very anxious to see Christ. Entering the room he said, "Would you care to do a miracle for me?" Christ remained silent. After much questioning, Herod's patience worn thin, he ordered, "You over there, strip the clothes off this man." Soon they had Jesus Christ standing in the nude — they laughed! Then ;L soldier rushed in with a beautiful, gorgeous, king's robe. "Dress Him," said Herod. Convulsions of laughter rang out. Then they too began to add stripe upon stripe, kick upon kick, punch after punch which fell upon the body of your Savior and mine, a man who was ALL MAN (Luke 23:1-11).
Back to Pilate — The Death Penalty
Herod rendered no decision. Caiaphas, in his eagerness to get an official verdict, rushed Christ back to Pilate. A large mob had gathered. They began chanting. "Crucify Him! Crucify! Crucify!" "We demand the death penalty on this traitor!" A messenger arrived with a note. It was from Pilate's wife. The note read, "Do not become involved with the death of this man. I have had terrible dreams, some nightmares concerning Him last night." Pilate, attempting to free himself from guilt, offered to release Barabbas or Christ (Mat. 27:15-18). The mob grew more restless, screaming all the more, "Let Him be crucified, let Him be crucified!" Fearful of a riot, Pilate asked for a basin of water. Standing before the crowd, he washed his hands saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this person. The responsibility is yours!" (Mat. 27:23-24.) The mob yelled back, "His blood be on us and on our children!" Pilate gave the order to proceed with the scourging. Two men jostled Christ to the center of the courtyard. Pulling Him over to a bent position, they tied His hands before Him to a ring imbedded in a post. Jewish law forbade a scourging of a condemned criminal. The law exempted even the lowest criminal, who was to suffer crucifixion, the shame of a scourging. Filled with hatred and resentment, they ignored their own law!
Two Kinds of Scourging
Two methods of scourging existed at the time of Christ. The Jewish and the ROMAN! The Jewish scourging amounted to forty stripes save one. The scourge consisted of three leather thongs. (Dictionary of the Bible, p. 420). The weak died, the strong survived this scourging. Men rarely recovered from the scars that it left behind. The Roman scourging was of a far greater magnitude. They called it the "half-way death!" It supposedly stopped just short of death. Only the lowest criminal, the slave or foreigner of no reputation received the Roman scourging. It was a professional type thing, administered by a trained man called a "Lictor." (Dictionary of the Bible, vol. iv, p. 419; The Day Christ Died, p. 302.) The scourging that Christ was to receive was the ROMAN SCOURGING! The mob waited with anxious anticipation for the Roman lictor to appear. Five minutes passed, then ten. The sound of heavy boots echoed across the courtyard. A hushed silence fell over the crowd, every eye turned to the man carrying the scourge. It was a vicious looking thing, long strips of leather-like cords, with chunks of bone and pieces of chain affixed to the tips. The tough-looking, heavy-set Roman, strode boldly across, the courtyard, passing directly to the front of Christ. He hesitated a moment. Bending over, he looked into the pain-wracked, bloody, red face of Christ. It was swollen and bruised beyond recognition. Again he hesitated — but only for a moment, rubbed his chin, then carefully paced off an exact number of steps. He turned facing the bare, naked body of Christ. Back over his shoulder, whistled the cat-o'-nine-tails. Then a sudden power-exploding movement of a shoulder, the curve of the arm, a snap of the wrist and the scourge of death lashed forward, with the speed of light. Squish! Crunch!! Thud!!! Chunks of bone and steel found their target, chewing out great hunks of blood-red flesh. The slow, heavy rhythm of the scourge dug deeper and deeper into the body of Jesus Christ. First the rib cage opened, exposing the inner body, hones extruded, staring out in the bleakness of the day (Ps. 22:17). No place, no part of the body was safe from the flagellum. Steel, leather rind bone ripped at His cheeks. Battered, lacerated flesh hung in strips. Finally, a well-placed whiplash tore at Christ's eyes, another opened an eye socket, leaving it a mass of pasty-dark pulp — an oozing squashy red. Blow after blow continued to fall, pulverizing, ripping, tearing, mangling until, "He was marred more than any man" (Isa. 52:14). "I am poured out like water, and all my hones arc out of joint. My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels" (Ps. 22:14). Never had a man taken so much — given so much! The last man to look into the eyes of Jesus Christ, while there were still eyes to see, saw a burning desire, a determined look that said, "I give this life totally and completely for all of mankind." The scourging finished, they cut Him loose. A limp body, "a visage marred more than any man," fell to the ground. Then an arm moved, He pushed up on the elbow, then a knee. Lifting Himself, He staggered, then stood upright. The whole of His body was one agonizing pain. Head throbbing, blinded, beaten beyond recognition, Christ waited the next event of the suffering of death for YOU and for ME! They helped Him with His clothing. A soldier adjusted His crown of thorns. They laughed as a short, squatty soldier kneeled, raised his arms and said, "Hail, King of the Jews, your royal majesty." What a pathetic sight — He didn't look like a king — He didn't even look like a man anymore! They jeered all the more as He wobbled. "Look at Him, you call that a King, a Prophet! Why He is nothing but a dog!" A swarthy-appearing Roman soldier lifted the stake and roughly placed it on Christ's right shoulder. The weight caught Him by surprise. Down He went, falling in a heap. He lay for a moment on the dirty cobblestone street. The soldier looked, kicked Him and shouted, "Get up, King. Are you tired?" Christ tried, He struggled, but it was of no use. His strength was nearly gone. The soldier looked and beckoned to a man, Simon of Cyrene, "Come here you peasant, get this on your shoulder and follow me " Painfully, slowly, they trudged the last weary steps to Golgotha, the place of the skull (Mat. 27:32-33).
Two words "Scourged and Crucified," both are contained in one verse, Mat. 27:26 — what does the second mean? The crucifixion by which Christ was to die, was devised and perfected by the Phoenicians who passed on their devious knowledge to the Romans. It took centuries to develop this "special crucifixion." They had tried death by boiling, spearing, impalement, drowning, burning, strangulation, and yes, even stoning. They were all too quick! What was needed was a punishment that was more painful and it had to be much slower. Preferably it should last for several days. Death by crucifixion was the answer! Simon dropped the stake to the ground beside the hole dug for its erection. Four rugged soldiers took hold of the body of Christ and placed Him on the stake, face up! They turned and walked back to the band of men and soldiers who were standing in a circle to view the crucifixion. A little old man offered them a cloth to wipe the blood from their hands. Then a specially trained, unshaven soldier came on the scene. In his right hand was a large hammer, square-cut nails were held between his teeth. He kneeled, one knee in Christ's stomach. He reached out for the hands, raising them above His head. He felt the bones and flesh, took a nail from his mouth and placed it in the exact right spot. He raised the hammer and with a single blow, drove the nail halfway through the red, raw flesh. On the second blow blood squirted in his face. Pausing, he ran his sleeve over his face until he could see again. He continued, wham, wham, wham, metal rang against metal, until the nail head was driven in, barely visible above the flesh. Now the feet. This must be done just right! Trial and error had shown that the legs must not be too far extended, otherwise the subject died too quickly. By nailing the legs in a slightly bent position the crucified person was able to lean on the nails and prolong the agony. In perfecting the Roman crucifixion a slight problem had been encountered. When they erected the stake the weight of the body often caused the flesh to tear, allowing the body to fall to the ground. When this happened, they had to lift the subject into position for renailing — rather a messy affair. Experience proved it difficult to get the nails to hold in the torn flesh. Then someone hit on the bright idea-why not add a peg for the crucified to catch his weight as a partial relief of the nailing. The weight on the peg should keep the nails from tearing out of the flesh and it would help keep the criminal alive a little longer. The soldier with the hammer placed the right foot, insuring the right bend in the leg. Nails had to be just the right length and size. Spikes opened too large a hole. Selecting the right nail, he pushed it into the flesh, raised the hammer and with a downward blow drove it into the foot, continuing until both feet were securely nailed. Up stepped a squad of soldiers. They raised the stake into an upright position. The weight of Christ's body caught on the peg and held firm. They moved it over the hole and eased it down. As it touched bottom, the nails tore at Christ's flesh, opening wider the wounds. His breath came hard, it was nearly impossible to breathe in this new position. It was difficult to expel the air. Experimenting, Christ found that when He pushed up on His feet against the nails, He could expel the air from His lungs. The suffering that followed is beyond description. The slightest movement caused excruciating pains to stab through His body. The nerves of the hand and foot signaled to the brain again and again the pain. Inflammation from the scourging, the beating and the nails increased. Death seemed desirable — would it never come! The open wounds, the mangled flesh, the smell of blood began to attract insects. They swarmed around the face and body. His thirst increased, then turned into a burning. raging thirst. They talked, they laughed, they looked as He hung there naked in the heat of the sun — humiliated, scourged and crucified — A REAL MAN'S MAN! Then they offered Him vinegar mingled with gall The clear, never-failing mind of Christ refused (Mat. 27:34).
The Final Cursings and Mockings
They continued to revile Him. Wagging their heads, shouting epithets at your Savior and mine! The people jeered, "Look at you now! If you are so wonderful, save yourself and come down from the stake!" The chief priests, the religious leaders also joked and threw jest at Christ. "He's quite clever about saving others," they said, "but He can't save Himself" (Mark 15:29-32). "Hey there, Messiah! Hey there King! Come on down from the stake and we'll believe you!" IT WAS NOW OVER THIRTY HOURS SINCE TUESDAY MORNING! Three hours went by, one vile curse after another was thrown into His face as the life ebbed out of your Savior. Three o'clock came — the sky darkened! The wind rose, the mob shrank back looking into the ominous sky overhead. Priests and elders quickly disappeared, followed by most of the mob. Forlorn, sick at heart, forsaken, Christ cried out, "My God, My God, why have You deserted Me?"
The Father Looked Away
As Christ gasped out His final breath, God the Father looked away! He looked away from His beloved Son there on the stake. Only God the Father could have the total control and love it took to keep from converting this earth into a cinder along with all the wretched men that cursed their Savior, His beloved Son! A soldier "took up a spear and pierced His side, there came out water and blood!" The life went out of the God who created this world!! He yielded up His physical life with a loud cry after THIRTY-SIX HORRIFYING HOURS — the most excruciating THIRTY-SIX hours in all history!!! FORSAKEN! TORTURED! BEATEN! JEERED! HUMILIATED! SCOURGED! — and finally CRUCIFIED!! Yes — "This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." The real truth about the man that was ALL MAN the all-powerful, Living God, who suffered and died for YOU and for ME! That God lives! He will soon return in THUNDERING power "with a shout... the trumpet of God." When He comes, He will be heard around the world in a tremendous, booming, ear-splitting roar — "The sound of MANY WATERS," a mammoth, cascading, gigantic waterfall of awe-inspiring dimension. "Every eye will see Him." "Every knee will bow" to this God, the living, MASCULINE Jesus Christ. "Every tongue will confess and KNOW THE TRUE GOD, the Savior of this world" (Rom. 14:11). "Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives, will split apart in His presence in an earth-shattering quake of unbelievable magnitude" (Zech. 14:4). "And the Lord shall be King over ALL the EARTH: in that day shall there be ONE LORD and His name ONE." That God, the real God lives, He IS ALIVE! He is our PASSOVER!