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Into Passion Week (Part 6)

We have gone through the run up to the Crucifixion according to Matthew’s Gospel, now we arrive at the most gruesome, evil and horrendous events. Under the coercion of the Chief Priests and elders, Pilate releases Jesus from his court to be crucified. I received a video clip of an artist today who chiseled out Jesus’ body hanging on the Cross. He had found a tree with branches resembling a cross and used his artistic skills to carve out a something truly remarkable. However, the one thing I noticed … and have notice this on every “Crucifix” … the body of Jesus is smooth and clean. My problem is that by the time Jesus was hung on the Cross His body was a bloody, mess with skin hanging from around His back to his slides and from the back of His lower torso and legs to the sides thereof. As artistic and brilliant craftsmen and women are as they use their skills, they never capture the real condition of His body. Many refuse to think of the mangled, bloody mess. They will then never understand what God the Son went through and did on Calvary’s Tree! I recall watching “The Passion of the Christ” directed and co-authored by Mel Gibson. Jim Caviezel took the part of Jesus. It was gruesome … nothing short of horrific … and it played down the punishment. The film did not depict half of what Jesus actually went through.

1) Pilate had Jesus flogged. Remember he said Jesus was innocent … yet we read

Mt 27:26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

This was a Roman flogging! The whip hand a short wooden handle onto which several leather thongs were attached. Onto the ends of these thongs, pieces of brass or lead and sharp pieces of bone were attached. The one being whipped was disrobed and bent over. Two Roman Military men were used to execute the punishment, one on each side of the victim, taking turns to whip. The victim’s flesh on the back, bottom and legs and to the sides would become lacerated. The deep-seated veins and arteries and even the intestines and inner organs would be exposed. Sometimes the victim died being flogged. Picture our Lord’s body … terrible bruising, lacerations, skin raised and welted where the thongs landed. He was weakened and exhausted. This is why He could not carry His own Cross for only a short distance with Simon of Cyrene being forced to carry it the rest of the way. Such flogging was a repulsive and unsightly instrument of torture! But, God’s will needed to be fulfilled! Have you ever shivered as you read Isaiah’s prophesy about the brutalization of Messiah?

Isa 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 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.

(1) He was a Man of Sorrows. People despised Him and rejected Him … especially the Religious Leaders. This is why He was so familiar with suffering … for three long years!

(2) We too were like those Religious Leaders! Before we believed His Word, we “esteemed Him not”.

(3) Look at what Messiah did … He carried our sin and guilt (verse 4) yet as Isaiah says … it’s almost as if we thought He deserved it!

(4) He was punished as our substitute. It is extremely difficult to write about this as one whose sin put Jesus on that Cross!

Isa 53:4 “stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities.”

O beloved … don’t you cringe at those words? Stricken, smitten, afflicted, pierced and crushed! How … O how can it be? But it was! I’ll write it often … it was substitutional … it was for you and me who believe … but it was also vicarious! Where substitution means in the place of … vicarious means to suffer in the place of … for the benefit of the one substituted for! The fullest and most dramatic expression of vicariousness is found in Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12. (Try and read it please).

(5) His vicarious benefits for believers.

(a) Peace with God. Sinners are God’s enemies. Sinners have no peace with God. Think of the poor Ukrainian people having no peace because they don’t know when the next bomb will fall and they know it might fall near or on them. Like them, our minds were in turmoil lacking peace with God because even in our unregenerate state, we knew sin must be punished! But Jesus was punished for us … the punishment that brought us peace was upon him. Jesus was punished for us. He stood vicariously for us so that we might have peace with God.

(b) Healing from God. Too often people superimpose their “will” onto Scripture to make it say what they want it to say. Here is a typical example … by his wounds we are healed. People want to claim physical healing through this phrase yet the context is not about physical healing! It is about spiritual healing! The best exegesis of Scripture is Scripture. Look at

1 Pet 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

Surely nothing could be clearer! Jesus vicariously heals us sin laden people. He removes the sin, diverts the wrath of God and accepts us into the Royal Family of Heaven. The healing is being restored before God, given a new heart through Jesus’ blood redemption! There are still two issues in

Mt 27:26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

2) Pilate set Barabbas free. It’s ironic … Pilate sets a political prisoner free. He was a rebel doing time for murder and inciting a political uprising. Something like the mid-year violent uprising in our country last year! Barabbas incited an uprising against Rome and most likely the murder of a Roman Soldier. Jesus sets the sinner / prisoner free. All our disgusting wickedness and evil was taken away and we are made holy unto the Lord. Barabbas’ sin remained … we experience true freedom!

3) Pilate plays into the Religious Leaders hands … he hands Jesus over to be crucified. Whatever the pressure, political or otherwise, Pilate is guilty of killing Jesus as much as the Chief Priest and other Religious Leaders and the Jewish Nation were … and even though our sin nailed Jesus to the Cross, we have been set free, called not guilty!

Father, what a Savior. Underserved but gratefully accepted. Amen.

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