24: The Longest Day of Jesus’ Life: Golgotha: 1 Cross + 3 Nails + 4Gvn
I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read, “1 Cross + 3 Nails = 4GVN.”
When I saw that, I thought to myself that that’s a rather clever way to describe an event which was, at once, horrific for Jesus and glorious for us. For whatever else may be made of it, the cross of Jesus Christ is a dreadful fact as black as a splash of ink upon the record of human history—yet, that one cross plus three nails has produced for us a forgiveness, a grace, and a salvation which is glorious both beyond our deserving and our imagining. Today then, I wish for us to draw back the curtain on Golgotha for a moment or two trusting that what little we see will be sufficient, by the power of God, to convict our hearts and claim our souls. Look with me, if you dare . . .
Jesus was tortured.
That was standard operating procedure. The Romans had a name for what they did to a man before he was crucified. They called it “preparatio ad crucem”—“the preparation for the cross.” This “preparation” was administered by the Roman soldiers. Normally, it consisted of limited amounts of physical abuse. However, the Bible tells us, quite specifically, that Jesus was “scourged.” That was not standard operating procedure. That was much more than limited physical abuse. Jesus’ back was bared. He was chained with both arms around a stone post leaving him unable to move with His back exposed. He was then beaten with whip which was called “the scorpion.” It had nine lashes and set into each lash were pellets of lead, jagged pieces of bone, and even shards of glass. Roman scourging meant 39 lashes with “the scorpion.” You can imagine the result, or can you? It was unspeakably cruel. Many died while being scourged; many others went insane. It was so terrible in fact, that it was called “half-way death.” No one was ever sentenced to be both scourged and crucified because so few people ever survived the scourging with body, mind, and spirit intact. Jesus was one of the few. That is testimony to His physical strength. Remember please that Jesus was a carpenter and in those days carpenters were always physically strong. Clearly it was His great physical strength which enabled Him to survive the scourging, and yet, the scourging was so terrible that just a short while later, Jesus was unable to cany the crossbeam which normally He could have hefted quite easily. So Jesus was beaten with all of the severity those soldiers could muster, and yet through it all, the Bible tells us, Jesus uttered not a single word. He took the blows for us — true costly, saving sacrifice for you and for me.
Jesus was ridiculed.
The soldiers played a terrible game with Him. That also was standard operating procedure. The game was called “Basileia” which means “the king.” It was the ancient Roman version of what today we would call “Russian Roulette.” In other words, the winner of the game was the loser. Here is how it was played. Carved into the stone floor of the Roman barracks were game boards. You can still see the lines carved into the stone floor in Jerusalem even today. They look rather like a child’s hopscotch game. The soldiers would throw dice and move pieces about the board in order to select the winner from amongst the condemned prisoners. The winner would then be declared “king for a day.” He would be dressed up in royal robes, and the soldiers would pay him mock homage. Then the winner, “the king,” would be beaten before being dragged off to this hideous death by crucifixion. “Basileia” was a cruel, savage, and inhuman game, and yet we know, without doubt, from the account in the Gospel of Matthew that this was the game the soldiers played with the Messiah. It was the ultimate form of ridicule. It was meant to be totally dehumanizing. In the midst of this sadistic game, one of the soldiers had a novel idea. He went over to where there was a pile of dried thorn bushes. The soldier broke off some of the branches, and then carefully proceeded to plait a crown. Then, in what doctors tell us, would have been one of the most excruciatingly painful moments Jesus had to undergo, the soldier took his homemade crown of thorns and jammed it down on the Messiah’s head. “Basileia — hail to the king!” The soldiers laughed their cruel laugh. They had Jesus at their mercy, but they themselves had no mercy. I cannot think of Jesus wearing that crown of thorns without remembering how much Jesus loves me and how much He loves you. In light of that, I ask for our Messiah no other diadem.
Jesus was crucified.
I don’t know if you’ve thought about it or not, but one of the most unusual things about Jesus’ death on the cross was that He died so quickly. Some people were known to hang on crosses as long as a day or two or even three. Yet Jesus died within a few hours. Remember He was a strong man. He had demonstrated that earlier. And so it seems unusual that His death would have occurred so quickly when all the indications were that He should have lasted much longer. The answer, I believe, is found in one telling little detail of the Gospel accounts. Cardiac physicians tell us that it is possible for people to die because their hearts break or rupture. We have a saying “that person died of a broken heart,” but it is not just a poetic image or a figure of speech. It can be literally true. It is possible in times of terrible anguish or grief for a heart literally to rupture under the strain, and when that happens the blood from the heart flows into the pericardial sac. That’s the fluid filled sac which encloses the heart and allows the heart to beat without friction. The fluid in the pericardial sac is clear. When blood flows into the pericardial sac, the blood and the fluid do not mix. They remain separate. Now if you were to pierce that sac with a sharp instrument what would flow from the pericardial sac would look to anyone witnessing the scene like blood and water. Well, the Gospels tell us that when the soldiers saw that Jesus was dead, they pierced His side with the spear, and at once blood and water came out. Here then is concrete evidence that Jesus died of a broken heart. It was not His arrest, not the beatings He endured, not carrying the heavy cross, not the crown of thorns, not the nails in hands and feet that killed Him. It was not even the moment when they lifted the cross with Him on it and dropped it with a thud into the hole in the earth so that every nerve in His body must have shrieked in agony. None of those things killed Him. He died quite literally of a broken heart. In other words, He kept on loving you, loving me, and loving all of us until His great loving heart just couldn’t take it anymore. I cannot forget that. I think of it every single day of my life. Jesus broke His heart and gave His life for you and for me. “1 Cross +3 Nails = 4GVN” You and I—forgiven!
Well, we have been looking closely at the details surrounding the last 24 hours of Jesus’ earthly life. After that I guess it all comes down to this . . .
Do you know Jesus? Do you really know Him? Dr. Shadrach Meshach Lockridge—now that’s a great name for a preacher, isn’t it—Dr. Shadrach Meshach Lockridge says that the Bible calls Jesus a seven-way king. He is the King of the Jews—that’s a racial King; He is the King of Israel—that’s a national king; He is the King of Righteousness—that’s a moral king; He is the King of the Ages—that’s an eternal king; He is the King of Heaven; He is the King of Glory; He is the King of Kings.
But do you know Him?
No means of measure can define His limitless love; no human barrier can deter the delivery of His eternal blessings; no far-seeing telescope can bring to visibility the coastlines of His soul. He is enduringly strong; He is entirely sincere; He is eternally steadfast; He is immortally graceful; He is impartially merciful; He is imperially powerful.
But I wonder, do you know Him?
He is the centerpiece of civilization; He is the highest ideal of literature; He is the dominant personality in philosophy; He is the soaring melody in great music; He is the focal point of artistic creation; He is the foundational doctrine of true theology; He is unparalleled, and He is unprecedented; He is uncommon, and He is unchangeable; He is undaunted, and He is undefiled.
But I want to know, do you know Him?
He is accessible to the weak and the weary; He is available to the tempted and the tormented; He is attainable to the deserted and the downtrodden; He strengthens, and He saves; He sympathizes, and He sustains; He guards, and He guides; He heals the sick and cleanses the leper; He forgives the sinner and discharges the debtor; He liberates the captive and defends the feeble; He blesses the young and regards the aged; He serves the unfortunate and redeems the penitent; He is the key to all knowledge; He is the well-spring of all wisdom; He is the doorway to all deliverance; He is the pathway to all peace; He is the highway to all holiness; He is the roadway to all righteousness; He is the gateway to all glory.
Hear me, please. Do you know Him?
His office is manifold; His promise is sure; His life is matchless; His goodness is
limitless; His mercy is everlasting; His love never changes; His word is enough; His grace is sufficient; His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Do you know Him? He is indescribable, and He is indispensable. He is irresistible, and He is invincible. You can’t get Him out of your mind, and you can’t get Him off of your hands. You can’t outlive Him, and you can’t live without Him. The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him; Caiaphas couldn’t handle Him; Pilate couldn’t control Him; Herod couldn’t kill Him; the soldiers couldn’t break Him; Golgotha couldn’t stop Him; the grave couldn’t hold him.
But I must ask do you know Him?
He is King of all Kings; He is your King, and He is my King; He is Lord of all Lords; He is your Lord, and He is my Lord, but do you know Him? Oh my beloved people, do you know Him? That’s the only question that really matters in this life—do you know Jesus? That’s what I’m always trying to say when I climb into this pulpit week after week—that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. No one. So in your own life, I beg you, please answer the question: Do you know Jesus? Do you know Jesus?
Soli Deo Gloria