Death is always uncomfortable to talk about, especially when the death was due to false accusation. There are many true stories of such deaths from around the world. Fabricated stories have been the reason for many innocent people being put to death in countries where either autocratic, dictatorial or despotic leadership was forced upon people.
In our country, we know what happened during the dark days of Apartheid. Even before court cases, police would interrogate suspects using wet blankets and electrical probes attached to various parts of the body. Some died this way. There were many other terrible methods used. Death was normally by hanging in our country where other methods such as electrocution and lethal injection are just two methods used in other countries.
The “death prison block” in Pretoria was built when I was forced (conscription) to do my military training in 1967. One Sunday whilst not on guard duty I walked through that complex. To me the worst was where the actual hanging took place. That picture, even though not used at that stage, is still vivid in my mind though it was 55 years ago. There was another unfair, unjust murder that took place, fully sanctioned by both the Church of the day and the Government of the day. This means it was approved by the Church and the State.
We arrived at the part of the Apostles Creed that says …. “Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, He died and was buried.” What we need to remember here is that this is Jesus, the Godman, who dies. Where it was part of God’s redemptive plan, those guilty of this murder are liable before God.
1) This suffering was foretold in Isaiah. Please read Isaiah 52:13-53:13. I’ll used selected verses:
Isa 52:14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness
Isa 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
2) Pontius Pilate was the Roman prefect (governor) of Judaea between AD 26-36. Read about him, the court case and his fear of the Jews in Matthew 27:11-26. As a governor he was granted the power of a supreme judge, which meant that he had the sole authority to order a criminal’s execution. (On the day of Jesus’ crucifixion he had ordered at least another two executions that we know of). Pilate needed to deal with a conflict of interest between the Roman Empire and the Jewish Sanhedrin (the religious council governing the Jews). He asked Jesus whether He was King of the Jews, as the Jews authorities claimed Jesus had said. Jesus never claimed that title. Yet look at Jesus’ response to the question:
Mt 27:11Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
This was considered an act of treason by the Roman Government. All four of the Gospels describe Pilate as weak, succumbing to the Jewish authorities’ pressure on him to execute Jesus. The Gospels indicate his indecision, citing that he conceded to letting Jesus go at one stage of the trial, but later rescinded the offer. Strangely he died at the age of 39 after being governor for 10 years. His death was mysterious and no one knows how he died. As an aside, Jesus was King of the Jews because He followed in David’s Bloodline and would be on this throne forever … but in reality, He is King of His Eternal Kingdom … King of the True Kingdom of Israel … Christianity.
3) The execution instrument was a Cross. Although Crosses as depicted for Christianity today were used before this time, the Roman Empire used the “T”, where the vertical log (stripes) was planted firmly and permanently in the ground with a horizontal log (balibulum) placed in a notch at the top of the vertical (stripes). Although the details leading up to and including the crucifixion are gory and disturbing, it is necessary for the believer to grasp the magnitude of Jesus’ Substitution as He offered Himself in our place. Often knowing this help to appreciate the gravity of our sin and what our Lord did for us personally.
(1) It all started with Jesus being in prayer
Lu 22:44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
One needs to appreciate that Jesus knew what was about to happen to Him. As He prayed he was intensely emotional, causing dehydration through excessive perspiration of huge drops of sweat.
(2) Once He was arrested late at night, He faced physical abuse … punching and slapping in the face whilst He was blindfolded. He was badly bruised on the head and in the face. By now Jesus was bruised, dehydrated, exhausted and most likely in shock.
(3) Over the past 12 hours the Lord Jesus had suffered emotional trauma; He was rejected by His closest friends; He suffered a cruel beating; He walked many kilometers between unjust hearings and He had had no sleep. The next part will be His flogging … whipping. We will get there tomorrow, but already you start seeing all the wicked deeds leading up to the flogging, Pilate’s guilty verdict, Jesus’ struggling to walk with the balibulum over his lacerated should to His excruciating, painful, murderous death. Where this was voluntary and according to Gods rescue plan, you cannot get away from what Isaiah prophesied.
Father, where we thank You for salvation we are humbled at what it cost You and our precious Lord Jesus to secure our souls. You spared no cost because You value our souls. Amen,