“The Dreaded Moment”
April 4, 2020
THE DREADED MOMENT
It was just before 8:30 in the morning, and the crowds were beginning to gather in Jerusalem, the Holy City, for the Passover feast. There would be tens of thousands of people crowding the roads, filling the small lanes between buildings and passing the areas were Jesus would be tortured and crucified.
Criminals to be crucified were commonly paraded through the city streets to the crucifixion site, and no exception was made for Jesus. Typically, surrounded by four soldiers and led by a Centurion, the victim was made to carry his own cross.
Pilate had a sign made to hang over Jesus’ head. It said, “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews.” (John 19:19-22) Pilate had this message written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek so that everyone passing by would be able to read it. Remember, there were tens of thousands of pilgrims from all around the region, pouring into the Jerusalem for Passover; and there would be plenty of people to see this man suffer.
Crucifixion was a barbaric form of capital punishment that began in Persia. The Persians believed the earth was sacred, so death could not be allowed to come in contact with and contaminate the earth. Therefore, criminals were fastened to horizontal beams of wood by iron spikes and suspended above the earth to die from exposure, exhaustion and suffocation. Death was painfully slow and publicly humiliating.
From Charles Swindoll’s book Exalting Christ, The Lamb of God – “The executioner laid the crossbeam behind Jesus and brought Him to the ground quickly by grasping His arm and pulling Him backward. As soon as Jesus fell, the beam was fitted under the back of His neck. On each side soldiers quickly knelt on the inside of the elbows. While this was happening, the thorns on the “crown” the soldiers had made, were piercing into Jesus’ torn scalp.
“With his right hand, the executioner probed the wrist of Jesus to find the little hollow spot between the radial and ulna bones. When he found it, he took one of the square-cut iron nails, raised the hammer over the nail head and brought it down with full force.
“Two soldiers grabbed each side of the cross-beam and lifted. As they pulled up, they dragged Jesus by the wrist. The ritual was then to nail the right foot over the left, this was difficult. If the feet were nailed too close to the bottom of the cross the victim would die too quickly.”[i]
In order to breath, the victim had to push up with his legs on his nailed feet to catch a breath. The lifting by the arms had probably pulled the shoulders out of socket so there could be no help there. Excruciating pain accompanied each upward push for breath and every downward release from fatigue. Fittingly, the words excruciating, and crucifixion come from the same Latin root word. Each movement cut deeper into bone, tendons and raw muscle. As He raised himself up to breath, His raw back scrubbed against the rough-hewn cedar cross. Waves of hallucinations drifted over some victims and in time flies and other insects found their way to the open wounds.
Helplessly suspended between heaven and earth, Jesus could look down and see His mother’s eyes. She and her sister as well as Mary Magdalene were huddled together trying to endure the ordeal. I can’t imagine watching my child being put through something like that. The Apostle John was also there as a witness to the death of his friend, the Sacrifice of the Lamb.
As Jesus hung there and suffered, He faced that final Dreaded Moment that He had dreaded for so long. From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”-which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46) At that moment God the Father turned His back on His Son and all the sin of the world was poured out onto Jesus’ shoulders…The Dreaded Moment! God the Father’s Spotless Lamb paid the price for our sin.
At the point when Jesus knew He had accomplished everything His Father had sent Him to do, to fulfill one last Scripture (Psalm 69:3, 21) He said, “I am thirsty.” And after receiving a drink of bitter vinegar, He said, “It is finished.” He then bowed His head and gave up His Spirit. (John 19:28b-30)
Of all the thousands of lambs that the Jews had sacrificed during Passover, finally the Perfect Lamb of God was sacrificed.
Jesus said, “It is finished.” But it is not over, stay tuned!
[i] Swindoll, Charles, Exalting Christ, The Lamb of God, (Insight for Living, 2000) p90
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