John 18 Part 4

Resumed from part 3

 

They would take Him and crucify Him and He would rise from the dead. The Jews never crucified anyone. It was a cruel and particularly Roman form of punishment. We have talked about this before, but I had an article from the American Medical Association that gives a lot of details about what is involved in a real crucifixion. It was more gruesome than you might imagine. When people complained about The Passion, that it was so bloody and violent, that is what happened. It was a bloody affair, and it was a cruel and violent affair. Frankly, Romans were experts on this, and so they knew how to scourge a man, so that he would almost die, but not quite. They could keep their victims in that state. Pilate had Him scourged, you recall, hoping, out of pity, when they saw what He looked like, he said, “Ecce Homo,” or, “behold, the man.” In other words, have pity on this guy, we have already punished Him enough.
But, then the chief priests instigated the crowd to say, “Crucify, crucify.” What if Pilate had simply had Him beaten and released? It is hard to say. Pilate certainly did not want to have Him killed. That is a true statement, but it was needful for Him to be delivered over and it was needful for this to take place.
But, ‘woe to that man who delivers Him over’, it is that same tension, and he is still culpable for his response, just at it said about Judas. “The Son of Man is going to be delivered over, just as it has been predicted.” But, woe to that man by whom He is delivered. It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.
Now, I can’t get around that. There is a tension and a balance. On the one hand, God knows exactly what is happening and there are no surprises to God. He is not like the God in the movie Oh, God!. This was the movie years ago, with George Burns, and he never knows what was going on. That is not the God of Scripture. The God of Scripture is never surprised. At the same time, He never eliminates the reality of human choice and freedom, this fact is not subjective.
There is a deep mystery as to how the two go hand in hand. Pilate is culpable for what he does. In any case, we continue on with the story and I was saying a word about crucifixion. We know from crucifixion victims, evidence from their bones, that the nails went through their wrists and not their palms because it was more painful because of the nerves located there. In doing so, it wouldn’t break any bones, but it would be agonizing for the victim. It is interesting, later on, in Medieval paintings, that they did not know what it was like. Crucifixion was eliminated as a form of capital punishment in the middle of the fifth century. You don’t see renderings of crucifixion scenes until long after that because it was so gruesome. They had no knowledge of what was involved.
It was most likely that the legs would be put together and the ankles would be right next to each other and they would take one long spike and drive it through both of them. There would also be a little pedestal upon which you would stand. In doing that in this manner, the victim would be stretched out and the diaphragm would be in such a position that his lungs would fill up and he would have to push down in order to breathe. Pushing down would be an agonizing event in itself. By the way, your shoulders would be dislocated when they put the Cross down into the ground. In addition to that, your back would be forced against the wood of the Cross. Jesus’ back was already open with wounds because of the flailing and the scourging. It was truly a gruesome method and you recall that one of the things that happened was it led to a deep thirst. The interesting cruelty was that it was the sort of death that would cause a person to try to stay alive because of natural impulses, but the longer you stayed alive, the more pain there would be. It would last, sometimes, two days.
But, it was needful for them to get Jesus down early because it was a holy day. So, they wanted Him down by 6PM, because that was when a new day would begin. The day went from sundown to sundown and not as we measure it today. Therefore, they had to get Him down.
Now, how would you get Him down? What would be the technique? If He has to hold Himself up, in order to breathe, what would be the technique? You would have to break His legs. Once His legs are broken, He can not hold Himself up any longer and He would expire by asphyxiation. And recall that is exactly what they did with the two thieves. I have said before that the two thieves represent the two possible responses to Jesus, either to accept Him or to reject Him. Those are the only choices. To ignore Him is covert rejection. You can not ignore Him, because that is covert rejection, and in the end, it will be simply to reject Him. If you recall, they went to the thieves and broke their legs so they would die, but then when they came to Jesus they saw that He had already died.
But, in order to be completely sure, what did they do? They took a spear and pierced His side and that was a fulfillment of prophecy as well. It says, in Zechariah, “They will look upon Him who they have pierced.”
So, we knew His side would have to pierced and that He would have to be crucified, but it also predicted that not a bone would be broken. Had they broken His legs it would have violated the prophecy that said you are not to break a bone in the Passover lamb. You see the idea here? It says in Psalms that not a bone is to be broken.
So, inadvertently, these Roman soldiers, totally clueless as to what they were doing, were actually fulfilling prophecies, even as they did not break His legs but pierced Him in the side. And so, you have all these things woven together and even so, as painful as it was, it was nothing in comparison to what Jesus was really sweating blood over. It was not the physical death, as bad as it was. It was the separation from His Father and the bearing of sin. That is what He was really loathing. Here is the sinless lamb of God, before the foundation of the world, perfect in all ways, and now He takes all sin upon Himself.
If I take a look at my situation, and what I have done, what does it add up to? If I look at my thoughts and my words and my deeds, what does it add up to? Does it come up to God’s standards or not? “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” And so, I would use the word sin, which is a word that means contrary to God’s character. In other words, even in the best of my words, thoughts, and deeds, I fall short of God’s character. I look at Christ, on the other hand, and look at His words, thoughts, and deeds, and what does it add up to? The keyword would be ‘righteousness’. Righteousness means conforming perfectly to a standard.
Now, 2nd Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” He took our sin, on the Cross, and put it upon Himself, and that is what He was sweating blood about. To become, now, a murderer, a rapist, a liar, and a thief and He took on not just a few sins, but all the sins of the world. “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” It is beyond our comprehension.
But, that is not the whole story. What else do we need to have in order to be acceptable before God? We not only have to have our sins removed but what else do we have to have? What is the positive thing we need? We need the righteousness of Christ. “He made Him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf, that we might have the righteousness of God in Him.” It is called the ‘double imputation’. He imputed our sin on Him and imputed His righteousness on us. He who deserved the love of God received the wrath of God.
We who deserve the wrath of God received the love of God. That is the best offer, the best gift, you will ever, ever get. You can not earn it, it must be a gift. Recall what I said before about Galatians 2:21. “If righteousness came by keeping the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” The implications are two-fold. First of all, then, if it were possible, through some work system, to attain righteousness, perfection, and justification before God, if that were possible, then the death of Christ was a great tragedy and a great waste. If it is not possible, through works, then the death of Christ is the only hope. That is what it comes down to. I have to stress, again, that the world’s religions do not agree about God, about human nature, about sin, and about human destiny. The world’s religions, for example, say the way of salvation is a variation of works.
Only in the Gospels and the Epistles do we discover that it is by grace through faith. It is intimated, also, in the old covenant. Finishing in our text, in verse 33, “Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to Him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews’? Jesus answered, ‘Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me’? Pilate answered, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done’? Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.
If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm’.” Now, that doesn’t say that He has no kingdom in this world, just that He would not rule on the earth. If you look at Daniel chapter 7:13-28, it makes it very clear that as the Son of Man He will reign on this earth and His reign will never end. In fact, it says that in Luke chapter one as well. Pilate was concerned with the source of this kingdom. Where did He get His authority? And so, he goes on to say, ‘“So, you are a King’? Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this, I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice’.” That is an interesting combination.
Why does He say, “For this I have been born?” My thinking here is that in John’s work we have an intimation of His incarnation of humanity, “I have been born,” and an intimation of His deity, “I came into the world.” See the difference between the two? It is kind of a perfect combination of humanity and deity. Jesus says, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice,” and then Pilate asks Him this famous question, “What is the truth?” This was said in a cynical and disparaging way. “And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, ‘I find no guilt in Him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews’? So they cried out again, saying, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas’. Now Barabbas was a robber.”
There is no explaining how a mob chooses its heroes, is there? The mind of a mob is the mind of a child. It is not led by rationality, but by emotions. Remember they said, “Give us Barabbas.” What did they also say about Jesus? “Crucify Him.” Is it possible that Barabbas only heard the mob saying, “Give us Barabbas,” and “Crucify Him”? That would have put him in a very uneasy state. But then, when the guards came for him he was told that Jesus would die in his place. You get the idea? All of us are Barabbas. We are all him and we are set free. That is a good closing thought.

 

Now let’s continue on to part 5

 

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