In some form or another, we all probably hear the crucifixion story at this time every year. Usually it is the week before Easter Sunday or maybe it is during a Good Friday service. Many may only hear it on Easter Sunday. And while we hear about it, we don’t ever really study it & make it a point to grasp the brutality of the events of that weekend or the sacrifice & self-control of God Almighty & our beautiful Lord Jesus. So today, before we walk into church this weekend, lets take a little while & focus on just what Jesus did for us on that day on Calvary.
Before we start, please take a minute to pray that God will open your heart, mind, & eyes to gain better understanding of what Jesus went through for us.
Read Matthew 27:24-50.
(Before we dig into the study: if you don’t have study resources you already use in addition to your bible- check out our Resources page here)
Read Deuteronomy 25:1-3. From these verses, how many lashes/stripes/whips can we guess Jesus may have received?
Here is something to keep in mind: the scriptures do not say how many times Christ was whipped. We can only make an educated guess based on the history of the laws from Deuteronomy. It is important to remember to actually read what the scriptures say & look for what is & isn’t included without basing our beliefs of events on heresy.
Verses 28 & 29 say that the soldiers put a scarlet [or purple depending on your translation] robe & a crown of thorns on Him & gave Him a reed in His right hand. What is the significance of these items? Think it through – what did each represent when it came to royalty? What were these soldiers doing in reality? Mark 15:16-20 will shed a more light on these details also.
Going back to Matthew 27, let’s take just a minute to look into the brutality of what these soldiers are doing:
vs 28 – What did they do?
Do you think this was done respectfully & gently?
What had just happened to Jesus previously? (vs 26)
In these days, the whip historically used was called a Cat of Nine Tails. It was a whip that had 9 tails (or whips) rather than the one we typically think of when we picture Indiana Jones or cowboys. The tails were designed to make contact & wrap around the torso. Each of these 9 tails were embedded with pieces of bone, metal, or jars and would penetrate, grab onto, & rip off the skin of the receiver in just enough time to receive another lashing. And as we learned in Deuteronomy, this can be done up to 40 times. So it is safe to say there probably wasn’t much skin left to protect the underlying flesh & bone of the body of Christ.
What happens when skin is ripped off the body?
Have you ever put a bandage on an open wound? What happens?
We don’t know how long Jesus stood there in the inner courts being mocked, but it is possible the body had started the natural clotting process & the blood on his torso had started to dry…to the robe. What happened in verse 31?
That’s right, they ripped off the robe taking more flesh with it.
But this wasn’t it. Do you remember what was placed on his head?
And what does verse 30 tell us these soldiers did with the reed they placed in his hand?
So what was happening to those thorns on his head?
We haven’t even begun the walk to Calvary & look at what our Savior endured already. Remember: He endured all this for us, to save our souls from the pits of hell…and He isn’t even done yet.
Verse 32 enters us into the walk to the actual crucifixion. Turn to John 19:17. What information are we given in John that we don’t get in Matthew 27:32?
Now before we go thinking the Bible is contradicting itself, Roman history tells us that those crucified only carried the cross beam (where the hands/arms were attached, which is estimated to be about 100 pounds) across the top of their shoulders, & that they didn’t drag the cross in its entirety like we often see. This may be where Simon of Cyene entered the picture. When Jesus could no longer physically bear the weight of His cross, someone came beside Him & did it instead. (Hmmmm, does that parallel sound familiar…?)
Now, there is a lot of medical research done on the actual process of the nailing. What we typically see is that the nails were driven through what we call His palms, but it was most likely driven through a hole in the middle of the wrist (which is still considered part of the hand). If you were to look at an x-ray of a hand (go ahead Google it) you will see that the fingers are actually attached at the wrist, meaning the weight of the body would simply have just ripped the flesh of the hands & the crucified would not have stayed on the cross. There is similar research done on the nailing of the feet. Some say the feet were stacked, some say they were side by side, some say during historical crucifixion, the feet were actually on either side of the cross & the nail went through the heel. But whatever it was, we can be sure of one thing: it hurt. It probably would have been enough for most of us to just have had a heart attack right then & there. But our Savior endured it…for us.
Let’s pick up on verse 33 & 34, then read Mark 15:23. What was gall? (Use a bible dictionary) What was the gall mixed with?
Take a look at these verses: Psalm 69:21, Deuteronomy 29:18, & again Mark 15:23.
The greek defines gall as bitter, but the Hebrew refers to it as poison or a poisonous plant. (Greek & Hebrew are were your concordance comes in handy.) But why would Jesus refuse it? Wouldn’t poison just make it go quicker? Let’s keep looking….
Read Proverbs 31:6, 7. Go back to Mark 15:23. What was the gall mixed with again?
Look up myrrh in a concordance or Mark 15:23 in a commentary & see if you can find why He might have refused it.
Strong’s Concordance tells us myrrh was considered a narcotic. Some sources tell us it had opiate properties & was given to those suffering, specifically in a crucifixion, to lessen the pain. But Jesus was to suffer the full weight of the cross…the full weight of our sins.
Go back to the Garden of Gethsemane for just a minute in Matthew 26:39. What does Jesus ask of God?
Did God take if from him?
So why not take something to lessen the pain of his horrible suffering?
Alright…..take a break. Stretch your back, refill your coffee… we are about halfway through! (This is important stuff – and well worth our time!)
We will revisit the garments of Jesus next week, so for now read Matthew 27: 40-44 again. What is happening?
When it comes to the Bible, our opinion is not what matters, but our opinion can sometimes shed light on the human condition that we actually understand. So in your opinion, why did Jesus not come down from the cross when others were challenging Him to prove who he was?
What does Matthew 5:39-41 tell us about being challenged or mistreated?
Would Jesus have been “turning” the proverbial cheek if He had taken himself off that cross to prove a point?
Think about what the eternal ramifications would have been had He given in to the taunting. Would He have been better than any of us if He had given in?
One more time, go back to Matthew 26:39. Did God take the cup from Him?
So can we assume He was to suffer on the cross, fully & completely?
Now, lets go back to the cross. Looking at verse 45, use your resources to figure out when those times were estimated to be.
And in Mark 15:25, when does it say the process began?
About what time would that be?
So we are 6 hours into the horrendous, brutal torture. Very quickly, let’s take a look at some of the physical ramifications of hanging on a cross.
The weight of the body was on the shoulders, thus putting added pressure on the lungs. (Keep in mind the heart is probably beating fast trying to endure the torture, making the lungs work even harder.) Still being alive on the cross, the crucified individual would be desperate to relieve the suffocating pressure on their lungs & would instinctively push through their legs to give their lungs some relief from the pressure & thus more air. (Also remember what is going through their feet.) When they could take the searing pain no more, they would crumble back to bent knees & the force of the weight of their bodies would come crashing down on their shoulders, hands, & feet. Ouch! For over 3 hours, over and over, this is what Christ endured….for us.
Now let’s wrap this up! Looking at verse 46, what did Jesus say?
Why do you suppose Jesus cried out?
If we use our concordance & follow the trail of the Greek words, we can figure out a deeper meaning of forsaken. The word of forsaken is egkataleiph (eng-kat-al-i-po) [it’s ok…stay with me!]. That Greek word means “to leave behind in some time/place.” We will get a little further into this in a few weeks, but for now, knowing what the Greek word means, how do you think Jesus may have been feeling?
Read verse 50. It is over. Jesus “yielded up His spirit.” Read Mark 15:37 for more context. Also read John 19:30, which is the verse we are most familiar with.
Whew….that was a lot, huh?! Give yourself a big hug & pat on the back for making it through these last few studies. But now, hopefully…. prayerfully, you have a better understanding of the agony of the cross. Our prayer is that with all you have learned so far through this series, you can walk into Easter this weekend with a deeper understanding of not just what Christ physically endured, but how long people of the Bible had been waiting for this & how each & every prophecy about his life & his death is fulfilled by these events.
Monday, we will take a deeper look at the resurrection, but for now let’s just sit in the weight of what He did for us & how specifically God had worked all things out for good.
For a deeper study: