Sunday Morning Bible Study
March 9, 1997
We continue our look at the last day of Jesus’ earthly life.
We've watched as Jesus has been rejected by the very people He came to save.
After the Jews kept telling Pilate to "Crucify Him", John wrote:
Joh 19:16 Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.
Pilate delivered Jesus up to the Roman guards, to be taken away and crucified.
19:17-18 The crucifixion
:17 And he bearing his cross
bearing - bastazo - to take up with the hands.
The language is not that the Roman guards put the cross on Jesus, but that He picked it up Himself.
This was typical of crucifixion, that the condemned person was required to carry their own cross to the place of crucifixion.
Jesus had taught,
Lu 9:23-25And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. 25 For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
Again, Jesus said,
Lu 14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
What does it mean to "bear my cross"
And as shameful as it was, the cross was also the Father's will for Jesus, it was God's plan for Him.
And now we see Jesus taking up His cross.
Don't just say it, live it.
Jesus didn't just have a lot of nice things to say.
He lived what He taught.
All the times He had told His disciples that they were to take up their cross and follow Him are now gaining new meaning for the disciples.
Teachers, are you living the example you ought to be?
Don't use that classic parent line, "Do what I say, and not what I do".
Take up your cross.
It might be something that brings shame on you, because you're acting like a "Christian".
It might be something that's painful to you, but you do it for the sake of others.
It might be something hard for you to do, but you realize that God wants you to do it.
I had walked life's way with an easy tread, I had traveled where pleasures and comfort lead until one day in a quiet place, I met the Master face to face.
With station and rank and wealth for my goal, Much thought for my body but none for my soul, I'd entered to win this life's mad race, when I met the Master face to face.
I built my towers and reared them high, 'til they had pierced the blue of the sky. I'd sworn to rule with an iron mace, when I met my Master face to face.
I met Him and knew Him and blushed to see, that His eyes, full of sorrow, were fixed upon me. I faltered and fell at his feet that day, while my castles melted and vanished away.
Melted and vanished and in their place, nothing else could I see but the Master's face. My thoughts are now for the souls of men, I had lost my life to find it again.
Since that day in a quite place, when I met the Master face to face.
-- Insight for Living 7/30/90
It may be that you won't have to carry it too far, but you must start by taking it up.
John does not record for us how at one point, Jesus is no longer able to carry the cross.
He's been up all night.
He's been severely beaten and whipped, undoubtedly with a great loss of blood.
Mark tells us a little bit about it:
Mr 15:21 And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear (bastazo) his cross.
It has been suggested that the Romans drafted this man, Simon, because Jesus was getting too weak, and might die before He is even crucified.
Cyrene is a place in Libya. Some have suggested that Simon might have been a Jewish follower of Jesus, since Simon is a Jewish name, and there was a synagogue of Jews in Cyrene.
Tradition has it that his sons Alexander and Rufus were well known Christians in the early church. (Rom.16:13)
I wonder if we have a picture here.
Bear one another's burden's.
(Gal 6:2 KJV) Bear ye (bastazo) one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
There may be times when you see someone about to collapse under the weight of their cross.
Perhaps we ought to get up under it with them.
The writer Max Lucado was asked to illustrate the kind of love taught by Jesus, he responded with this experience:
"The best example of love that I can think of occurred at the death of my own father. I remember a lady who was a distant relative of our family. She drove six hours to get to the funeral. She walked in the house and went immediately into the kitchen and began washing dishes. I didn't even know she was there. She straightened up everything and helped prepare for the meal. She came to the funeral. After the funeral, she came back and did the dishes again, got in her car and went home. As far as I know, she never said a word. She never introduced herself. But when I looked around, I realized that love had been in our house."
The Sequoia trees of California tower as much as 300 feet above the ground. Strangely, these giants have unusually shallow root systems that reach out in all directions to capture the greatest amount of surface moisture. Seldom will you see a redwood standing alone because high winds would quickly uproot it. That's why they grow in clusters. Their intertwining roots provide support for one another against the storms.
That's why we need each other, to hold each other up during the storms, to be intertwined with one another.
We've got some folks in our church who could use a little cross-bearing right now.
Are you available?
:17 went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha
Golgotha = "skull"
It is thought that the place was called this either because of the skulls that had accumulated there from the executions, or because it looked like a skull.
There is an interesting tradition about Golgotha. But keep in mind, this is only a tradition, and is no more than just an interesting possibility.
There was an ancient tradition that Golgotha was the place where Adam's skull was buried.
The Syriac writers said,
``when Noah went out of the ark there was made a distribution of the bones of Adam; to Shem, his head was given, and the place in which he was buried is called "Karkaphta": where likewise Christ was crucified;''
Bar Bahluli apud Castel. Lexic. Polyglot. col. 3466. (Gill)
Luke simply uses the Greek word for "skull" (kranion), and the King James translators decided to translate it with the Latin word for "skull" which is "Calvary".
Lu 23:33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
(Note: the modern translations simply translate it as "skull" here)
So, technically, "Calvary Chapel" means "Skull Chapel".
Kind of sounds like we're a bunch of pirates, don't it me maties?
Actually, a church might be named "Calvary" because Calvary is the place of the cross, and we're only here because of the cross.
(1 Cor 2:2 KJV) For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Where is Golgotha?
We're not really sure.
All we really know was that it was outside the city (Heb 13:12), yet was still close to the city (John 19:20), and there was a garden with a tomb nearby (John 19:41).
There are at least two good possibilities:
Around 300 AD, Emperor Constantine commissioned Bishop Marcarius to find Golgotha and the tomb.
This wasn't an easy task, since the earlier pagan emperor Hadrian had deliberately covered many Christian holy sites with pagan temples.
The Church of Constantine was then built on the site of Hadrian's Aphrodite temple, and named in honor of Constantine's mother, Helena.
Legend has it that upon excavating for the tomb, a fragment of the true cross was found that effected miracles of healing, and thus certified the site.
A man named Otto Thenius made a suggestion of a different site in 1842, and in 1885, General Charles Gordon declared that this was the site of the crucifixion and burial.
This site is a hill located some 250 yards NE of the Damascus gate.
The hill looks like a skull. (You can see a picture of it tonight in Bill Jaberg's slide presentation of Israel).
: 18 Where they crucified him
What is crucifixion?
The Persians seem to have been the first people who practiced crucifixion.
Alexander the Great learned it from the Persians.
The Romans learned the practice from the Phoenicians, and perfected it as a means of capital punishment.
For the Romans, crucifixion was such a horrible, humiliating death, that it was reserved only for slaves, robbers, assassins, or rebellious provincials.
Crucifixion was common.
Augustus Caesar boasted that he had captured 30,000 fugitive slaves and had crucified all of them who had not been claimed.
Over 6,000 of the rebellious slaves who had followed Spartacus were caught by Crassus and crucified beside the Appian Way from Rome to Capua; and, as was customary, their bodies were left to rot as a warning against such insurrection.
Julius Caesar caught the pirates who had formerly held him captive for ransom and crucified them all, having cut their throats first as an act of kindness.
In Palestine, the Romans crucified 2,000 followers of the rebel Judas (not Iscariot).
How it was done
The cross consisted of a perpendicular stake with a crossbeam either at the top of the stake or shortly below the top.
The condemned person was often scourged, then made to carry the crossbeam to the place of crucifixion, which was to be in an open, public place, for all to see.
A tablet called a titulus had the person's crime recorded on it. Sometimes the condemned person had to carry the titulus around their neck, but if they had to carry the cross as well, then someone else was made to carry the "title", which was later then attached to the cross so everyone would see why they were crucified.
To attach the person to the crossbeam, the hands were either tied or else nailed to the beam.
Sometimes a block or a pin was driven into the stake for the condemned person to stand on, sometimes their feet were nailed to the upright pole.
Victims did not usually die for two or three days, though the length of time was actually determined by whether or not there was a block or pin to rest on.
It has been suggested that because of the way that the sponge of vinegar was lifted up to Jesus to drink, that Jesus' cross may have been seven to nine feet in height.
Death came either through loss of blood, or by asphyxiation, as the person struggled to breathe, hanging from their hands.
When the torturers desired to finish things up, the legs would be broken below the knees, so the victim could no longer use their legs to push up for breathing, and they would die.
I am crucified with Christ.
One of the great mysteries, and great truths of being a Christian, is the effect the cross has on our sin nature.
Not only did Jesus pay for our sins on the cross, but there's also a sense in which the cross affects our daily lives.
Gal 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Ga 5:24And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Somehow, when I accept Jesus into my life as my Savior, there's a sense that I find that when Jesus hung on the cross for my sins, I was somehow on the cross with Him as well.
One of the keys to gaining victory over our sin nature is to understand this death on the cross.
Ro 6:6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
Crucifixion is not a quick solution
It wasn't like an electric chair where somebody throws a switch and it's over.
It took hours, sometimes it took days before death came.
We'd like a quick solution to our sin nature.
We'd like someone to wave a magic wand over us and suddenly it's all gone.
But in reality, victory over the flesh can take a long time.
Crucifixion is not an easy solution
It wasn't like being given a shot and just drifting off to sleep, never to wake again.
You were whipped, beaten, nails driven through your hands and feet, and then left to die.
Learning to die to our fleshly, sinful desires isn't a pretty thing.
Our sin nature wants to stay alive.
It doesn't like it when we "just say no".
Victory over sin is a constant struggle.
Crucifixion is not a pleasant solution
It is shameful as you slowly die in front of all the crowd, the death of a wicked person.
We'd like to keep our face and reputation.
But in reality, we're shameful sinners.
I often limit the idea of being crucified with Christ with just the "death" of the flesh.
But I think we need to keep in mind what kind of death it was.
It was a long, horrible, gruesome, shameful, humiliating way to die.
Ro 6:11Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Live as though it were so. That's faith.
:18 and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
Mark tells us about the two that were crucified with Jesus.
Mr 15:27 And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.
The word used to describe these men means that they weren't guys who stole things secretly, but were open, violent robbers, like the ones that tried to rob the bank in L.A. last week.
This was another fulfillment of an ancient prophecy:
Isa 53:12b … and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Stop worrying about your position in life.
Some people are so concerned about being seen with the right people, getting to know the ones with the big names.
During His life, Jesus was often accused of hanging out with the wrong people.
Mt 9:12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
Your Lord aimed His life for this moment, to die between two thieves.
Do you think we ought to worry so much about position?