He was maybe a year or two old. I could hear him cry, but I could not see him since he was hidden deep inside of the concrete pipe. How far down he was, I don’t know for sure, maybe ten feet into the ground. The scene was abuzz, easily fifty or a hundred people were milling around. A couple, probably his parents, looked stressed, distraught and devastated. Scrambling rescuers with shovels and hoes, ropes and backhoes were removing dirt around the pipe. Some sent a rope down, attempting to lasso the poor chap. Some were digging and others were just staying out of the way, but all were talking. What to do, what to do? Should they try to dig down and somehow cut the pipe below the little boy? Would that make it worse? What about sending an adult down? No, no one could fit. But a glimmer of hope emerged, there was one way and only one who could save the child. Around age fourteen, he stood quietly in the crowd of rescuers: slender, strong, confident and brave. He was willing. Soon, a few guys were next to him, one placed a harness around his chest, others placed a rope around his feet. After being inculcated with instructions and a headlight securely positioned, he was lifted by strong arms to the edge of the pipe. He slowly crawled over the edge, into the dark pipe, head first. Many hands held the the ropes that suspended him. Slowly, he descended with his hands stretched down in position to grab the little child. After giving a signal, the people up top swiftly and smoothly pulled the rescued and the rescuer to the mouth of the pipe. First the young man’s feet popped out, then his waist, then his shoulders, then head, then his prize grasped in his arms. Hungry hands whisked the little child away for medical treatment. Our young hero was hugged and kissed, praised and thanked. Obviously, feelings of success and joy swept over him as his face beamed.
The Jesus StoryThis reminds me of the Jesus Story, such a ripe topic because of the Easter season, the season where we memorialize Jesus’ death and celebrate his resurrection. But the Jesus Story starts way before he came to earth as a baby and his death, rather it starts with humanity’s first parents. They did wrong and became innately broken, segregating themselves from a Holy God. They passed this “disease” on to their offspring, making it an intergenerational stink and stain of sin. Just like your aversion to a pet skunk, the stink makes it unbearable, even if it may be a great pet. So is God’s aversion to us. Because of our sin, we too stink, we did wrong, we broke God’s perfect law and rightness. We need to be judged and punished for our crime, just like judgment in a court of law. It is worse than you think, it is so bad that we ought to die for our crimes, banished from God forever. Even though this is all true, God wants a relationship with all people. However, there is only one way this can happen. Each one of us can pay for our stink and evil. But, we could never do enough good or fully pay the price. However, a perfect person could volunteer to pay in our stead. To pay in full for all humanity, not only do we need one who is perfect, but one who is more valuable than you and I. Thus, we need one who is fully human, but also fully perfect God. We also need one who can stand as mediator or advocate between humanity and God. Also, we need one who can have power over death and evil! In addition, we need one who has more strength and authority than all the spiritual evil forces put together, something that no mere mortal can accomplish. When we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the one who came around two-thousand years ago who fulfilled these things: Jesus. As a man, he taught of his rescue mission, and then he allowed people to do something that was bad for him but good for us. It is something that we now memorialize as Good Friday. For now, let’s just look at the events that lead to his death, his actual death and his burial.
Being Led To The SlaughterThe Jewish religious leaders wielded much authority in the politics of the day. They hated Jesus. Here’s why. Jesus outwit and beat them in arguments. This stung their pride and threatened their authority! Plus, Jesus claimed to be God. This made them really mad. They thought he was not God, and since they thought he was not God, they were sure he was committing the crime of blasphemy. Thus, they wanted him dead. They tried a number of times to catch him, but they never did until the last attempt. In a heart pounding episode of betrayal by a friend, he was captured and then all of hell broke loose. Either it was a Thursday night, or some say it could have been a Tuesday night. But for our purposes here, the night of the event doesn’t matter much. First, he was tried before the Jewish leaders. Jesus, sealed his fate by affirming his deity. However, since the Jews were conquered by the Romans, it was illegal for them to do capital punishment under the Rome law. Thus, Jesus was brought to Pontius Pilate as the morning broke. He was not accused the crime of blasphemy to Pilate. He would not have cared. Rather, they accused Jesus of sedition or treason against Rome. Why? Well, Jesus claimed to be the “King” over his Kingdom, thus a supposed threat to Rome. If there was treason, there would be capital punishment, or the death sentence. In the case of Jesus, however, the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate did not find fault with him. Jesus’ “King” claim did not mean much to him, since it was a spiritual kingdom. However, Jewish leaders stirred up the people, and the masses started rioting, screaming, and shouting “crucify him, crucify him.” He gave them an option, let good guy go, Jesus, or let a criminal go, Barabbas. They chose the Barabbas, the criminal. To keep the peace, Pontius Pilate capitulated and condemned Jesus’ fate to crucifixion.
Murder Of The InnocentThat Friday, or maybe it was a Wednesday, the process from condemnation to the cross was most horrific. Rome was known for killing, they were experts. Roman capital punishment for the outcasts of society was vicious, causing bad people to think twice before being bad. They made death embarrassing, slow, painful, torturous and agonizing. It was excruciating, a term that comes from a method they used a lot: crucifixion. It was a form of capital punishment that the Persians birthed, others practiced it, but the Romans perfected it to become most vicious. There was ridicule, spitting and in the case of Jesus, a thorny wreath jammed on his head. The process could involve whipping the person prior to crucifixion, which they did to Jesus (Mark 15:15; John 19:1). The Romans used a whip that had leather braids with metal balls and sharp little bones in the braids. The weights caused deep bruising and contusions and cut the flesh. The bones would rip into the skin, muscles, veins, ligaments and even bowels. It was so bad, some would die from it. Many would go into hypovolemic shock – low blood volume because of blood loss and the person would go into shock. One who goes through hypovolemic shock has the following issues: 1) The heart would race to pump blood that was not there. 2) The victim would collapse or faint due to low blood pressure. 3) The kidneys would shut down to preserve body fluids. 4) The person would experience extreme thirst as the body desired to replenish lost fluids. After the flogging, he was forced to drag a large beam to the place of death, outside of the town. Part way to the site of crucifixion, Jesus collapsed, probably due to the hypovolemic shock (John 19:17). A guy named Simon was forced to carry the load the rest of the way to the site of crucifixion (Matthew 27:32–33; Mark 15:21–22; Luke 23:26). He was stripped naked, his arms were forced outstretched on a beam and spikes pounded, piercing his hands to the beam. They lifted him up, attach the beam to a upright post in the ground. The gruesome “T” structure could now be seen. Lastly, his feet were nailed together into the lower part of the post. This all is as painful and as gruesome as it sounds. It caused his mother and his friends, standing in the crowd, to mourn, weep and look on in pure shock. After awhile, Jesus cried out in thirst, thirst probably caused by his low blood pressure from his hypovolemic shock (John 19:28). There he hung, suspended, for hours. Every breath was so painful. To breath, he had to push his body up against his nailed feet. Remember too that his backside was beaten, bruised, ripped and cut with the whip. As he pushed up, not only would searing pain shoot up from his feet, but also this back was like cheese on a grater. The word painful is not strong enough. The design of this killing structure would at times prolong one’s life for days, for Jesus it was just hours. After an agonizing time on this structure, Jesus died, he was gone. Surprised at his relatively quick death, one Roman soldier, speared his side, and out flowed blood and water. The Gospel of John says that after the Roman soldier pierced Jesus’ side, blood and water came forth (John 19:34). But does blood and water flowing out make medical sense? The hypovolemic shock he was probably going through caused rapid heart rate. This would cause fluid to accumulate in the sacs around the heart and lungs – called pericardial effusion and pleural effusion. Torture causes blood to fill the sac around the lungs too. Within a couple hours after death, cells separate from plasma to bottom. Thus when you would spear the side, you would get the blood that flowed out first and then the plasma/water (John 19:34). Depressed is not strong enough to describe the feelings of his family and friends. They were devastated. Jesus had so much power, superhuman power, and now he was dead. He could heal and raise the dead. He had power over nature and the supernatural. He was such the communicator, full of wisdom and knowledge. But in the words of ancient English line, he was as “dead as a doornail.” Later, some of his friends were allowed to take his body down, wrapping his face with a sudarium. Carefully they took him to a grave, wrapped his boy in a shroud and laid him in there. Blood still flowed onto the the cloth wrappings. As the grave was shut, the saddest day of all was felt. Evening came and the dark sky didn’t help with the depressing feelings as these people slunk away, defeated.
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History In AdvanceNow, obviously this is not the end of the story, but for now, we will end here. However, I would like to point out one more interesting item, one of the most breathtaking stories in the Bible. I think of it as a mega picture of Jesus, before Jesus. It is like a shadow of the real, a picture prophecy. It all happened a little over a millennium and half before Jesus’ death march to Golgotha, or the place of the skull. It is recorded in the book of Genesis chapter 22. Abraham was tested by God for his dedication and trust, an account called by the Jews as the “Akedah”, meaning “The Binding.” Abraham was instructed to offer up his beloved and promised son, probably a young adult by this time. God told him to take his son to the land of Moriah, to a mountain that God would point out. There, he was to make an alter and kill his son Isaac on it! After three days, they saw the place. As they ascended the mountain, Isaac took the wood and Abraham took fire and knife. Then Isaac asked the most obvious question, “where’s the Lamb?” Abraham gave a peculiar response,“God will provide himself a lamb…” However, I’m sure to Issac’s confusion, he became the sacrifice, he was bound to the altar. Seemly he did this willingly, we read of no effort to object or leave. At the fateful moment, knife in hand and arm raised to slay his son, an angel stopped Abraham. Rather than Isaac, the angel pointed to a ram caught in the thicket nearby. The ram was sacrificed as a substitute to Isaac. But Abraham’s claim that God would provide a lamb was curiously not fulfilled, it was not a lamb, rather a ram. But, can this curiosity be solved in the name of the place that Abraham gave? He called it, “Jehovah Jireh” or “The Lord will provide”, “In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen” or “in the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided” (Genesis 22:14). First, the burning question should be, where is the land of Moriah? Well, most would say that it happened in the pre-Israeli territory. Many think it was in or near Jerusalem. One popular spot is the traditional Temple Mount site. However, with a foreshadowing event of such nature, could this have been the exact spot where Jesus hung on the cross? Some think so. There are a couple locations for the site of crucifixion, but one is called “Gordon’s Calvary.” North of Temple mount, it is also the highest point of Jerusalem with caves in the rock that look similar to a skull. What if the place of Isaac’s sacrifice was the exact location or another sacrifice? Maybe it was a foreshadow of another father who actually did offer his son for all, for not only the descendants of Isaac, but for all people? Jesus was another person who was willing to die in place of Isaac, being the Lamb, the Lamb of God.
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