Why Was Christ So Brutally Put to Death?

Why was it so necessary for Christ to die such a brutal and violent death? Surely God could have planned an easier death for His Son? The answer, I believe, is this: only a violent death could have exposed sin in the way it so sorely needed revealing. One preacher said, “Could Jesus have exposed sin in all of its foul horror if He had died in His bed, or by accident, or by disease?” It is one of the tragedies of human life that we fail to recognize the sinfulness of sin. God’s plan was for Christ to die as a substitute for all who would put their faith in Christ’s death as their own death, thereby showing the sinfulness of sin and the just punishment placed upon it. Out of God’s love for man, He came in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus, to take man’s place and bestow mercy and grace upon us. Another example of this kind of substitutionary legality is found in history:

During a war between Britain and France, men were conscripted into the French Army by a kind of lottery system. When someone’s name was drawn, he had to go off to battle. On one occasion, the authorities came to a certain man and told him he was among those who had been chosen. He refused to go, saying, “I was shot and killed two years ago.” At first, the officials question his sanity, but he insisted that was indeed the case. He claimed that the military records would show that he had been killed in action. “How can that be?” they questioned. “You are alive now!” He explained that when his name first came up, a close friend said to him, “you have a large family, but I am not married and nobody is dependent on me. I’ll take your name and address and go in your place.” And that is indeed what the record showed. This rather unusual case was referred to Napoleon Bonaparte, who decided that the country had no legal claim on that man. He was free. He had died in the person of another.[1]

In the viewpoint of God, when Christ died, He died as a substitute to release you from the legal claims that Satan had against you because of your sin. Christ died for you and as you. God sees Christ as taking your place just as the one man went to war in another’s place.  When Christ died, God sees you as having died too:

Since you died with Christto the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules (Colossians 2:20).

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died,and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:1-3).

The Lord Jesus, through His death, burial and resurrection came to give us His life. We received physical life from our forefather, Adam, but Christ came to give us the life of God, and this life is imparted to us when we wholeheartedly put our faith and trust in Him. When we believe, our sins are washed away, and the Spirit of God baptizes us into the spiritual organism of the Body of Christ. The life of God flows into each of us that are connected to Him by faith. God loves you and wants to invite you to abandon your sin and walk the rest of your life in freedom from the bondage of sin. Will you give Him your life? Pray a simple prayer from your heart asking Him to forgive your sin and come into your life. Receive the gift of God—salvation in Christ. Keith Thomas

[1]1500 illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Edited by Michael P. Green, Printed by Baker Book House, Page 360.

Isaiah’s Prophecy of a Suffering Servant

The Lord God, the creator of the Universe, knows all things that will happen. He exists outside of time. To prove that He alone is God, He spoke of specific things that He was going to do, ahead of time. Let’s look at one today. The prophet Isaiah ministered for over forty years (740-697 B.C.) and spoke about a time when God would send a suffering servant to the nation of Israel. This servant of God would be humiliated, persecuted, spat upon, mocked, the hair from His beard would be pulled out, and His back would be whipped:

I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; 
I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting (Isaiah 50:6)

Isaiah went on to prophesy about this suffering servant, that He would be despised and rejected, but in this act of suffering He would carry our transgressions, sorrows and our infirmities (physical or mental weaknesses):

3He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 4Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, 
yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:4-6).

The prophet Isaiah, five hundred or so years before Christ, spoke in detail about the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ, sharing that One sent from God would make His life an offering for sin. Jesus fulfilled all of these things and much more. He was brutally whipped on His back, beaten by the company of soldiers about His head, humiliated and mocked as they impaled Him with a crown of thorns, before leading Him off to one of the worst tortures that man has devised—crucifixion. He would come as a substitute and take the guilt that we have incurred by our lives of sin and animosity toward God, and pay the penalty that our sins deserve. Because of this one act of love by the suffering servant, Jesus, God can deal with us in grace and mercy. This suffering servant would be God Himself. He Himself would show us how much He loves us and desires us to enjoy relationship with Him.

This plan to buy us back from Satan’s slave market of sin, was put into operation thousands of years ago when man decided that he would listen and obey Satan rather than God in the Garden of Eden. The just penalty that God had to place on this rebellion was death and separation from God (Genesis 2:17). But because of God’s love and mercy He did not leave us in this state—He would come and take the just penalty on Himself for sin. This act of love would be a covenant in blood, a solemn agreement by two people—you and God. For all those who agree to the terms of this solemn covenant or agreement, He will take your sin and count it paid for by the substitutionary death of Christ in this one amazing act of love by the Suffering Servant. What about you, dear reader, will you agree to the terms of this covenant? Your sin has been paid for two thousand years ago by One who came to die in your place. To agree to the terms of the covenant, you must repent (turn from your sin towards God in obedience to Him) and believe (trust in Christ as your Savior from sin) the gospel (the good news that God loves you and has taken the initiative to cancel out your guilt and everything that keeps you from enjoying eternal life with Him). If you will call upon the name of the Lord in this way, the promise is that you will enjoy eternal life:

16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:16-18).

He is only a prayer away. No matter what sin you have done, He will forgive you on the basis of the substitutionary death in your place of His Son Jesus. He hears every heart cry. Let this be your day. Eternity is a long time—there is no time like the present. Turn to the lover of your soul. Keith Thomas

Roman Guards Seal the Tomb

After Christ’s body was placed in the tomb, the Jewish priests and elders then went and made a request to Pilate for a guard of Roman soldiers to watch over the tomb. They were afraid that some of Christ’s disciples would steal the body and say that He had risen. Roman soldiers would make sure the disciples would not steal the body. So that no chance of deception would take place, a seal was placed on the stone (Matthew 27:60-66). Scripture tells us much detail about His burial, because God knows that there will always be those who will doubt that the event of the resurrection ever took place. For instance, why did the Jewish leaders request that Pilate order Roman guards to be placed around the tomb? Why didn’t they guard it with their own men? It’s possible that the Jewish leaders knew that many in Jerusalem were followers of Christ and were followers of Him. They possibly thought that the Roman soldiers had never listened and that the Jewish leaders could trust that they would guard the tomb more safely.

The Roman soldiers had been highly trained; they knew that it was at the cost of their lives if any of them lost a prisoner. In the book of Acts, we read of Peter the Apostle being put in prison with four squads of four soldiers guarding him. When an angel brought him out, Herod had all sixteen men executed for losing their prisoner (Acts 12:4-19). There would be no sleeping for the Roman guards, for their lives were on the line if the body had been stolen.

People look for excuses as to why they should not live their lives in obedience to the claims of the Gospel. Many will concede to the fact that there was a man by the name of Jesus, that He did many miracles of healing, and that He was even a great prophet, but the resurrection is the stumbling block for them. Some people cannot bring themselves to believe in the divinity of Christ. If Jesus was God and He did rise again, what is our response to Him and to the claims that He has made? What impact does Christ’s death and resurrection have on our lives?

It is a common response to avoid any personal responsibility to God by explaining away the resurrection by a number of possible explanations, e.g. saying that the disciples and the women went to the wrong tomb, or that the body was stolen, or that Jesus only fainted on the cross and then woke up in the tomb and rolled the stone away. The Gospel writers go into detail on such things because on this point hangs the crux of the Gospel story. If there is no resurrection, then there is no hope, no life after death, and our Christian faith would be non-existent. As Paul once stated;

12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith (1 Corinthians 15:12-14).

The fact is that Christ did die as a substitute in full payment for our sin, His death for our death:

24but also for us, to whom righteousness will be credited—for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25He was delivered over to death for our trespasses and was raised to life for our justification (Romans 4:24-25).

God does not leave us in doubt, there is plenty of evidence that Jesus has conquered death for you and me. Let’s look at some of the facts of the resurrection tomorrow.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 64 at this link, The Resurrection of Christ (Luke 23:50-24:12). Keith Thomas.

My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

We continue our meditation on the last seven sayings of Christ while His life was slowly ebbing away on the cross. The fourth thing Jesus said was, “‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”‘ (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). The question arises, if Jesus had never sinned as the Scriptures teach, and that He was totally pure and innocent of all charges of blasphemy brought against Him, why would Christ feel forsaken of God near the hour of His death?

Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). On the cross, the sin of the world was placed upon Christ. He became the sin-bearer for the whole human race. Scripture tells us that God is too pure to look upon evil (Habakkuk 1:13), so for the first time in eternity, fellowship between the Son of God and the Father was broken as the Father turned away from Christ. Christ came to be the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. As death drew near, He spoke for the fifth time:

5) “I am thirsty” (John 19:28).

We cannot tell what Christ was experiencing at this point. Some have said that He is beginning to suffer the thirst of a man without God. The thought is that because Christ was bearing the sin of many, the Father had withdrawn from Jesus. We cannot tell for sure if this is so, but if it was, perhaps Christ was experiencing the thirst that the rich man in hell suffered upon death (Luke 16:24). The rich man had been thirsty and desired Lazarus to dip his finger into water to cool his tongue.

Because of lack of blood, Christ’s body was shutting down, and as the prophecy in Psalm 22:15 states, His tongue was sticking to His mouth, that being a normal process of crucifixion. Jesus had now drunk the cup of God’s judgment to the full (Luke 22:42), so he looked for some relief to be able to shout His next words of victory. This time there was no myrrh, no narcotic; it was sour wine on a sponge that was put to His mouth. “A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips (John 19:29). It is interesting that Scripture tells us that it was a sponge on a hyssop plant that was lifted to His lips, because this was the same plant that was dipped in the blood of a lamb and used to strike the doorposts and lintels at the time of the Passover from Egypt (Exodus 12:22), the very same festival time that Jesus was being crucified.  The children of Israel were delivered from the slavery of Egypt by a substitute lamb’s blood, just as we are delivered from the slavery of sin, by the substitutionary blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus.

To stop His tongue from sticking to the roof of His mouth, as the prophecy in Psalm 22 says, He took a drink from the sponge on the hyssop. Matthew and Mark record that Jesus shouted out something from the cross before giving up His spirit: And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit” (Matthew 27:50). He pushed one more time on the wedge of wood under His feet, and He shouted loudly His next words. It is John who tells us what He shouted in a victorious shout. Let’s talk about that tomorrow.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 63 at this link, The Crucifixion of Christ (Luke 23:26-49). Keith Thomas.

Darkness Covers the Land

We are meditating day by day on the drama that took place at the crucifixion of Christ, specifically on the seven last sayings of Jesus while He hung on the cross with death approaching (Scroll down for earlier meditations). The third thing Christ said was to His mother and to John the apostle. “He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’” (John 19:26-27).

His mother Mary was obviously broken hearted as she looked up at Jesus. John the apostle was also near. We don’t hear of Joseph, Mary’s husband, being around during Jesus’ ministry, so he had obviously died at some point. By this time, she was probably in her late 40s or early 50s and as far as we know, had no visible means of support. The Scriptures speak of honoring one’s parents (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16), so Jesus, being the firstborn of the family, did not pass on responsibility to His half-brothers. He asked John, the disciple whom He loved, to take care of Mary, His mother. In the midst of His pain, Christ is still caring for those around Him. What an example He is to us. He does not call her mother, but woman, lest people attribute divinity to her, as some do. Mary was a sinful person in need of a Savior just as much as any of us. She had already acknowledged her need of a Savior for her sin (Luke 1:47).

At midday, the sixth hour by Jewish reckoning, darkness covered the whole land. The laughter, comedy, and scorn by the religious elite was over at this point, for God Himself shows up. Yes, the Lord who “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16), also visits in thick darkness. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him– the dark rain clouds of the sky” (Psalm 18:11). In another place, Scripture says of God, “Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Psalm 97:2). When God showed up at Mount Sinai, Moses wrote of Him, “You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens: darkness, cloud and thick gloom” (Deuteronomy 4:11). The very air was pungent with the presence of the Holy One, who drew near bringing judgment for sin on His Son instead of us. It was during that time of darkness, this writer believes, that every sin and act of rebellion while on this planet, past present and future, were laid on Christ:

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

In the midst of the darkness after midday, Jesus spoke again: “‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”‘ (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). This is such an important saying, we have to wait until tomorrow to talk about it. Let me leave you with a question to ponder: In the midst of the terrible darkness of that day, why would Christ feel forsaken of God?

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 63 at this linkThe Crucifixion of Christ (Luke 23:26-49). Keith Thomas