Friday, April 18, 2014

The Final Hours

The Final Hours

Matthew 27:27-37
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!  And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.  And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.  And sitting down they watched him there;  And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

There are many people that have been accused, arrested, and convicted of crimes they did not commit. But, only Jesus has been falsely accused of crimes He never committed, arrested wrongfully, beaten unmercifully, and found innocent, repeatedly. Pilate had Him scourged and mocked to show to the Jews He was a helpless man, and a pathetic individual. He hoped this would satisfy their thirst for blood and stop them from executing an innocent man.

The scene is gruesome and hard to envision, the tragedy of Jesus’ face being slapped repeatedly, bruised and punched until He was swollen beyond recognition. Now Judas, the betrayer, is desperately trying to escape the consequences of what he has done. Sin never truly satisfies and moments  of pleasure in sin give way to sorrow, misery and pain. Maybe Judas thought by killing himself he could finally be relieved from his tremendous guilt, but the opposite is true. By killing himself, he found that he would have to live in his guilt, in hell, for eternity. 

The trial of Jesus was a mockery of the justice system. The Sanhedrin’s purpose was to intimidate Pilate and make him listen to their plea. They no doubt hoped Pilate would do whatever they told him to do, but Pilate was unwilling to co-operate so easily. Pilate gave his approval to judge Jesus according to their own law, but the Sanhedrin was not satisfied with Pilate’s approval, they wanted a Roman execution. If the religious leaders gave over the responsibility for Jesus’ death to the Romans, they would put Him to death. This was a fulfilling of the plan of God spoken by Jesus in (Matthew 20:18-19). “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.” 

It was clear the charges against Jesus, by the Sanhedrin, were false and had no foundation. Pilate had presided over countless criminal trials, some guilty, some innocent but none so obviously innocent and still, the accused, declined to speak in His own defense. This astonished and bewildered Pilate as Jesus held His majestic silence before him. Pilate took Jesus to Herod’s palace–––a short walk through the narrow streets of the city. Herod and Pilate agreed that Jesus was no threat to Rome and all the Sanhedrin’s charges were concocted and of an evil intent.

The crowd, now becoming hostile, pushes Pilate into making the decision to scourge Jesus. He knows He’s innocent and hopes that this act of cruelty will pose as a gesture of compromise. As was the custom of the day, one prisoner would be released from prison and Pilate proposed Jesus’ release in the fulfillment of that custom. The only candidate given for release was Barabbas, a man so foul and notorious that Pilate thought for sure the people would never choose him.

It is the sixth hour, by Roman calculations, that would be 6:00 a.m. an extremely early hour. The hostile crowd is persisting in their cries for Jesus’ crucifixion. Pilate was finally forced into the order for Jesus to be crucified. There was no stopping the scheme of the Sanhedrin. Pilate, the highest ruler in the region, is unable to stop this outrageous plea for Jesus’ crucifixion. John 19:17-18 says, “And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.”

The flogging of Jesus was only the beginning of the physical and emotional tortures He would have to endure before His death. The Roman soldiers had no reason to heap such scorn upon Jesus yet, they took great delight in torturing Him and led Him through the streets to maximize His humiliation. Being in an already weakened condition, it made it impossible for Jesus to carry the heavy load of the cross from the Praetorium to the place of crucifixion.

What pain He suffered before His death. Long, tapered, iron spikes were driven through His wrists and through both feet. None of these nail wounds would be fatal, but they would cause intense and excruciating pain. Victims of crucifixion would experience nausea, fever, intense thirst, constant cramps and ultimately, could lapse into a state of unconsciousness. The feeling of such utter hopelessness along with public shame and increasing trauma to the body, made every moment more painful then the last. Death came to the victims of crucifixion normally from slow suffocation. Such agony, fatigue, and intense pain would render the victim unable to continue to to push themselves up in order to draw just one more breath.

Thought:  Multitudes passed by the cross, hurling insults and wagging their heads at the Savior –––another fulfillment of prophecy as seen in Psalm 22. Though the abuse and torture of Christ is hard for us to fathom–––nothing compares to the wrath of God placed upon His Son when He bore our sins on the cross.  Such emphasis is placed upon the death of Christ because,”Jesus 
Christ and Him crucified” remains to be the very essence of the gospel. Therefore, the Resurrection of Christ is the supreme power of God, the divine authority we celebrate, and the immutable and enduring love we as believers, experience. The words, “Christ arose!” becomes the Christian’s anthem of praise and ultimate expectancy of eternal life–––because He lives!  Amen and Amen!

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