The Lamb’s Cross

The Lamb’s Cross

After the arrest in the middle of the night, Jesus exhausted from Gethsemane, was brought before the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas, the high priest.  A soldier struck Jesus across the face for remaining silent when questioned by Caiaphas.  The palace guards then blindfolded Him and mockingly taunted Him, spat on Him, and struck Him in the face.  In the early morning, Jesus battered and bruised, dehydrated and exhausted from a sleepless night, is taken across Jerusalem to the Praetorium of the fortress of Antonia. 

It was there, in response to the cries of the mob, that Pilate ordered Barnabas released and then condemned Jesus to be scourged and crucified.  Preparations for scourging are carried out.  The prisoner is stripped of his clothing, and His hands tied to a post above his head.  The Roman legionnaire steps forth with his flagrum (flagellum) in his hand.  This is a short whip consisting of several heavy leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each.  The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back and legs.  At first, the thongs cut through the skin only, then as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.  The small balls of lead first produced deep bruises, which are broken open y the subsequent blows.  Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons, and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue.  When it is determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped.  The half-fainting Jesus is then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with his own blood.[i] 

By his stripes we are healed, physically, emotionally and spiritually!  Indeed we can now hear the Lord proclaim his name before us as he “Shows Us”  His Glory, his revealed excellence,

Exodus 34:6-7 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

 The Romans soldiers see a great joke in the provincial Jew claiming to be a king.  They throw a robe across his shoulders and place a stick in his hand for a scepter.  A small bundle of flexible branches covered with 3 inch thorns is pressed into his scalp.  Copious bleeding ensued, the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body.  After mocking him and striking him across the face, the soldiers take the stick from his hand and strike Him across the head driving the thorns deeper into his scalp.  Finally they tire of their sadistic sport, and the robe is torn from his back.  This had already become adherent to the clots, to blood and serum in the wounds, and it’s removal—just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage—causing excruciating pain, almost as though He were again being whipped, and the wounds again begin to bleed.

He bled from his head taking on himself all the wicked thoughts of the human race.  He took on the curse of the toil and hardship of working the ground (thorns).  They beat his face causing it to become disfigured as Isaiah wrote,

Isaiah 52:14,53:3As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind…He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

Isaiah says they literally ripped out his beard,

Isaiah 50:60 “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.”

However even as they hit, despised and rejected this man of sorrows, his face revealed the very Glory of LOVE!  This piercing love caused them to turn away…they blind-folded him, they couldn’t continue to look upon and behold this Lord of Glory.

The heavy beam of the cross was tied across his shoulders, and the procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail began the slow and painful journey.  The weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by the copious blood loss causes Jesus to stumble and fall.  The rough wood of the beam gauges into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders.  He tries to rise, but his human muscles have been pushed beyond their endurance.   The dust from the hot ground latched onto his wounds, pasting and stinging.  Imagine for a moment the smell of blood and bodily fluids, the nauseating aroma of liquor and cheap ale on the breath of the soldiers, and the evil excitement in the air of people all around crying out ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’  On arrival at Golgotha, the beam is placed on the ground.  And Jesus is quickly thrown backward with his shoulders against the wood.  The legionnaire feels the depression at the front of the wrist.  He drives a heavy square wooden iron nail through the wrist, through the median nerve, and deep into the wood.  This would be like smashing the nerve in your elbow when you hit it against something, yet in this case racking your entire body in one moment!  The pain from this was so severe that a new word was invented for this, EXCRUCIATING! 

Quickly he moves to the other side, and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but allow some flexing and movement.  The beam is roughly lifted.  Imagine the unbearable pain as the weight of his body came crashing down upon his wrists.  After this the left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended and toes down, a nail is driven into the arch of each, as He pushes Himself upward to avoid the stretching torment.  He places his full weight on the nail through his feet.  Again there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet. 

Psalm 22:16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet.”

Isaiah 53:5 “But  He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities”

Jesus took the wrath of God against the sin of our hands and feet.  Think about the ways you have sinned against a brother or sister with your hands, or willingly walked into a place of sin or iniquity.  He took it!  He paid the price for it.   

Psalm 22:14-15  I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.”

When Jesus said he would be poured out like water, it means that His body would dehydrate through the cross.  Muscles and tendons are what hold our bones and joints in place.  They are comprised of more than 70% water.  When severe dehydration occurs, muscles and tendons break down, lose their elasticity, and are unable to properly support the skeletal structure.  Hanging on the cross would cause even his bones to be exposed, ‘out of joint,’ or ‘divided and split.’

As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain.  With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward, hanging by his arms.  The pectoral muscles are paralyzed, and the intercostal muscles are unable to act.  Air can be drawn into the lungs but cannot be exhaled.  Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath.  Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the bloodstream, and the cramps partially subside.  Spasmodically, He is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen.  Six hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down against the rough timber. 

Next a deep crushing pain in the chest as the pericardium, slowly filling serum, begins to compress the heart.  The compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues.  The tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to grasp in small gulps of air.  The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain. 

Jesus gasps, “I thirst.” He can feel the chill of death creeping through his tissues.  With one last surge of strength, he once again presses his torn feet against the nail, straightens his legs, takes a deep breath, and utters his seventh and last cry, “Father into your hands, I commit my spirit.” 

Apparently, to make sure of death, the legionnaire drives his lance through the fifth interspace between the ribs, upward through the pericardium, and into the heart.  Immediately, there came out blood and water.  We therefore have rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that our Lord died not the usual crucifixion (death by suffocation) but of heart failure (a broken heart) due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium. 

Ye that pass by, behold the Man!

The Man of Grief condemned for you,

The Lamb of God for sinners slain,

Weeping to Calvary pursue.

His Sacred Limbs they stretch, they tear

With nails they fasten to the wood;

His sacred limbs exposed and bare,

Or only covered with His blood.”[ii]

 

[i] Dr. C. Truman Thomas, paraphrased on Cross Examination I-IV, from Doug Stringer, Born to Die, pgs 2-6

[ii] Samuel Zwemmer, Glory of the Cross, pg 63

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