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The authors of the Gospels took a very reserved approach to the crucifixion of their Savior and ours. I will do the same thing in this article. If you are interested in the details of crucifixion, you can find many good resources on the Internet.
The Road to Golgotha
The Roman execution detail whipped, mocked and beat Jesus so severely (Matthew 27.27-31) that he was unable to carry the beam of his cross. An African, named Simon, was conscripted to carry the cross beam to the place of execution (Matthew 27.32). It should be noted that one Simon (Peter) deserted Jesus, while another Simon (from Cyrene) carried the cross for him.
Jesus told us that the requirements of a disciple was: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8.24). Simon literally carried Jesus’ cross. What cross are we carrying today?
When Jesus arrived at Golgotha, he was offered “wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it” (Matthew 27.34). It is possible that this wine had a pain killer mixed in it and Jesus refused because he wanted to be fully alert during the entire process.
Another interpretation of the mixture is to identify it with Psalm 69.
Insults have broken my heart,
so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none;
and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. (Psalm 69.20-21)
Both interpretations of the wine and gall mixture make sense. I personally lean to the second one, given the fact that there seemed to be no mercy among the members of the Roman execution squad.
Execution was public and brutal. It was meant to deter any opposition to the rule of the Roman empire. To the Romans Jesus was a rebel and the sign over his head told the story of how they treated with mocking words other pretenders to the throne in their realm. It read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27.37).
There were three crosses for the public execution that day (Matthew 27.38). It is possible that they were reserved for the so-called freedom fighters who were led by Barabbas. If that is true, then Jesus took the cross that was reserved for Barabbas.
The next study I am planning for these blog articles will be an in depth study of the Psalms. When we get to Psalm 22, we will discuss how perfectly Psalm 22 described what happened to Jesus on this awful day in human history.
As Jesus was surrounded by his enemies, they called to him with the most hurtful words they could imagine. Some said, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27.40).
The full contingent of religious authorities abused him and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son'” (Matthew 27.42-43).
Note the phrase, “if you are the Son of God,” in their abuse. They are the exact same words that the devil used when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4.3, 6).
The two men who were crucified on either side of Jesus joined in with the jeering and mocking crowd. Nearly every strata of society took a turn at insulting our Lord and Savior. The Roman execution squad, the average person in Jerusalem, the entire contingent of the religious establishment and even fellow sufferers could not resist increasing the misery of Jesus’ final hours on earth.
We do well to pause at this point and ask ourselves if we could have been part of the jeering and mocking crowd. If I can say very negative things about a sports player or politician whom I have never met, then under the right circumstances I can be like the mob before the cross of Jesus.
Three Holy Hours
Verse 45 shrouds what happened between noon and 3:00 PM in holy mystery. What took place during that time between Father and Son was so precious that only heaven knows what took place.
It is possible that this was the time when in an actual way Paul’s words to the Corinthians took place: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5.21).
If this understanding is correct, then every sin that has ever happened since the beginning of time was dealt with by Jesus. The punishment for every lie, every abuse, every oppression, and every sin of all time was somehow absorbed by Jesus on the cross. Given this, we can only step back in holy awe at the amazing love and grace of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
At 3:00 PM Jesus cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27.46). Some heard the word, “Eli” and thought he was calling for Elijah’s help. Another person offered him some of the wine that was provided for the Roman squad to drink. Jesus let out another loud voice and breathed his last (Matthew 27.47-50).
The process of redemption that had begun 33 years earlier with the birth of a baby in a stable had completed the most torturous and difficult phase.
As if the Father were answering the taunts of the religious establishment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from two to bottom (Matthew 27.51).
The Father seemed to answer the mocking of the common people of Jerusalem with an earthquake and the visible resurrection of people who had been in tombs for years (Matthew 27.52-53).
Even the Roman execution squad was affected. They said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Matthew 27.54)
Still More to Come
We know the end of the story. It is the greatest story ever told and has revolutionized our lives. We have heard the good news of Jesus and can proclaim with Paul, “The good news is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” (Romans 1.16).
Grief and relief was not part of a gathering of faithful people who loved Jesus. Matthew identifies them with these words: “Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee” (Matthew 27.55-56).
There was still much more to come for these people. In three days they would hear the news, “He is risen.” In fifty days they would receive the Holy Spirit. They would become the foundation of the greatest movement the world has even know, a movement that has brought life and hope to people like us for generations.
Dear Jesus, we are in complete awe of your indescribable nature. No one compares to your love and sacrifice for the entire world. We praise you and pledge to you our faithful allegiance.