Thanks for being with us this Palm Sunday. This was the Sunday two thousand years ago Jesus came into Jerusalem for the last week of his life on earth fulfilling scriptures by riding upon the back of a donkey (Zec 9:9). Here's what happened.
Matthew 21:8-9 A very LARGE CROWD spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!"
Hostile toward Jesus, the Jewish leaders devised a plan using Judas Iscariot. Their plan worked. They arrested Jesus, but had no charge. They only had a verdict - death by crucifixion. They must fabricate a charge. The crowd shouting "Hosanna," only days later became a mob shouting murder, but not simply murder - crucifixion. Jesus was taken to Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea.
Luke 23:21-23 But they kept shouting, "CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM!" For the THIRD TIME he spoke to them: "WHY? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him." But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be CRUCIFIED, and their shouts prevailed.
Three times Pilate told the crowd there were no grounds for crucifixion. Every time the crowd screamed "Crucify Him!"
Most people think of crucifixion as being impaled to a cross. The cross is only a part. Death by crucifixion is unanimously considered the most torturous form of death by execution ever devised by man and includes far more than death impaled to a cross. Crucifixion appears to have been invented to provide a particularly slow, humiliating, public, painful, gruesome death using whatever means were most expedient to accomplish that goal. The goal, or major part, of crucifixion actually wasn't death. The goal of crucifixion was humiliation and degradation. The word "excruciating" actually came into existence from the word "crucifixion." Crucifixion creates the most excruciating form of torture imaginable. It left out nothing physically, mentally, or spiritually. Was that why crucifixion was created? Could it be crucifixion was created for Jesus Christ?
No one was concerned with, or wanted, a quick and painless death. There's a "blood-thirsty" desire behind crucifixion. Something is desperately evil when people ask for a human being to be crucified. Killing the person was not the goal, only the result.
Crucifixion is evil personified. It provided and displayed the absolute and ultimate depravity of man. There is nothing worse one human being could do to another. This is why crucifixion was the death by choice of Jesus. If Christ was to take all sin and depravity upon himself, he must die the most depraved death. Nothing less than crucifixion would do.
The Romans perfected crucifixion. They'd crucified thousands, leaving the dead hanging on display as a portrait reminder to everyone, warning to never become a public enemy against Rome. But, had the Romans become the masters of crucifixion for Rome's sake, or for Christ's sake? Jesus' death must be brutal, bloody, humiliating, and the worst imaginable horror one human being could do to another. The Romans would do nothing less than just that.
Had the Judaist Jews only wanted to kill Jesus, their cruelty and deviousness could find many ways. They stoned people frequently. Assassination was not out of their realm. No. They hated Jesus with the deepest hatred. They wanted him treated worse than an animal. They wanted the name of Jesus of Nazareth to be a vile thought in the mind of every person. They desired his teachings to be reviled and sickening. They wanted Jesus worse than dead. Only crucifixion provided the perfect implement. Only crucifixion could provide the place for the deepest hatred and vileness of the world since time began to be dealt with by God. Only crucifixion would do.
Matthew 27:26 ...and WHEN HE HAD SCOURGED JESUS, he delivered him TO BE CRUCIFIED.
The scourging of Jesus was an addition to crucifixion. Pilate scourged Jesus prior to turning him over for crucifixion in an attempt to appease the Jews who yelled, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Pilate desired to punish and release, but the Jews desire was much more hideous. Pilate's attempt of scourging to help Jesus only added more pain, but brought more forgiveness. "By his stripes we are healed" (Isa 53:5; 1Pe 2:24).
Scourging was a hideous punishment. A person was stripped nude, tied to or hung from a post, and his bare back, buttocks, and legs whipped with whipping sticks given forty "stripes." After the stripes, the person was scourged by a "cat of nine tails" consisting of a handle with several (nine) leather straps attached. Some of the straps had metal attached on the end used to bruise and tear open the already beaten tender back.
As executioners, the soldiers became responsible to humiliate Jesus to the total degree. It was their job and the primary part of crucifixion. They did their job well. Pilate delivered Jesus to be crucified.
(TMB) Matthew 27:27-31 The soldiers assigned to the governor took Jesus into the governor's palace and got the entire brigade together FOR SOME FUN. They stripped him and dressed him in a red toga. THEY PLAITED A CROWN FROM BRANCHES OF A THORN BUSH AND SET IT ON HIS HEAD. They put a stick in his right hand for a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mocking reverence: "Bravo, King of the Jews!" they said. "Bravo!" Then they spit on him and hit him on the head with the stick. When they had had their fun, they took off the toga and put his own clothes back on him. Then they proceeded out to the crucifixion.
Jesus was taken to a "Praetorium" (NIV), or "common hall" (KJV). This was a large open and public judgment hall where it seems anyone could watch who wanted. "The entire brigade" was summoned to participate in the crucifixion humiliation and "for some fun." Only days prior, they'd seen or heard about this Jesus fellow being hailed with shouts of "Hosanna in the highest!" They said, "Come on! You'll love getting in on this one. He thinks he's king."
The soldiers began their game by stripping Jesus nude. Some place lying around was an old red colored toga once worn by a Roman soldier now discarded. It was placed on the bleeding beaten back of Jesus.
Isaiah 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be RED LIKE CRIMSON, they shall be as wool.
Sin is humiliating. Sin strips us naked showing us for what and who we are. Unknowingly, the soldiers depicted exactly what was happening. The ugly, nasty, dirty, sinful red cloth placed over the back of Jesus Christ was saturated by his sin forgiving blood.
"Then they knelt before him in mocking reverence: Bravo, King of the Jews!" It was actually, "Hail, King of the Jews!" as if to say, "Hail, Caesar!" They were saying, "You fool... you clown... you idiot... what a farce... what a joke."
"Then they spit on him and hit him on the head with the stick." There is not a more degrading thing to do to a person than spit on them. Spitting on someone is the universal display of the greatest disrespect. It's a demonstration of the lack of one's worth. Spitting on someone is worse than the treatment of an animal. The Jews (Mat 26:67) and Gentiles spit on Jesus. The world spits on Jesus. Jesus took his journey to the depths of humanity, going as low into disdain and worthlessness as possible. Jesus took the spit of worthlessness upon himself making you and me worth everything.
Matthew 27:29 and then twisted together A CROWN OF THORNS AND SET IT ON HIS HEAD. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said.
To them this was a cheap and painful imitation of the wreath on every coin bearing Caesar's image. When a Caesar made an appearance, he wore his wreath crown on his head. The soldier obviously went to some trouble plaiting thorns into a crown. He had to find them and cut them. I don't imagine it's possible to plait thorns into a crown with no protection without sticking one's self. The soldiers twisted and shoved the ugly painful crown of mockery on Christ's head.
This is awful. No. It's beautiful! The crown of thorns depicts evil mankind at his worse. There is no better symbol to show what Jesus did for mankind than thorns on his head. The first sin ever recorded, Eve took and ate the fruit from the tree instructed by God not to eat. She gave it to Adam and he ate. For this sin, man, woman, and the earth were cursed. All creation suffered as displayed by thorns.
Genesis 3:17-18 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce THORNS AND THISTLES for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
The crown of thorns is an ultimate display of mankind at our sinful beginning. What better way to show how low into sin Jesus went for us than by showing how far back into sin Jesus went for us. No better symbol shows it than thorns on his head. Taking mankind's sin upon himself truly is Christ's crown.
I was thinking about the crown of thorns. Thorns in the scriptures are frequently compared to a type of people. Here is only one.
2 Samuel 23:6 But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns, which are not gathered with the hand.
I was, and sometimes still am, a thorn to Jesus, but Jesus said, "I'm not going to cast him away. I'll bear him." I'm The Thorn in that crown. You are The Thorn in that crown. Jesus went all the way back to your very first sin and carried it on his head so you would not have to. Painful as it was, you're his crown and he died for you.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
How ridiculous did our Lord Jesus look standing there nude with only a red rag draped on his bleeding shoulders, his face covered with spit, swollen from the slaps and punches, dirt in his wounds, blood running down his legs dripping onto the floor, but with The Thorn crown on his head? No. How beautiful did our Lord look!
Isaiah 53:4-6 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. ALL WE like sheep have gone astray; WE HAVE TURNED EVERY ONE to his own way; and the LORD hath LAID ON HIM THE INIQUITY OF US ALL.
The soldiers were not finished with Jesus yet. Or, was it Jesus wasn't finished with them yet? Crucifixion required the victim to carry his own cross of execution. How horrible knowing the cross I'm carrying on my shoulder would shortly carry me to death. Jesus did.
Wikipedia says, "While a crucifixion was an execution, it was also a humiliation, by making the condemned as vulnerable as possible. Although artists have depicted the figure on a cross with a loin cloth or a covering of the genitals, writings by Seneca the Younger suggest that victims were crucified completely nude. When the victim had to urinate or defecate, they had to do so in the open, in view of passers-by, resulting in discomfort and the attraction of insects."
The goal of crucifixion was absolute humiliation. Upon his cross Jesus hung from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Six hours of the worst torture humiliation combination imaginable. Only feet away stood both those who loved him and those who hated him. Those filled with hate yelled obscenities of the most insulting sort at a beaten, bloody, naked, dying man who only did good and gave love. Jesus received all their vile, humiliating, degrading, hateful lewdness. Then showing the meaning of the cross Jesus said,
Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
Of our most vile actions, even when we spit in the face of God by things we do, yell God's name in profanities, humiliating God to the deepest degree with our sins, he says, "Father, forgive them, just please forgive them."
Some gambling went on at the foot of the cross for the tunic, the cloak, and the sandals belonging to Jesus. Each soldier laid his luck on the dice. Common soldiers participating in the most uncommon event and they had no clue. Many today have no clue. We too play games at the cross beneath God gambling over our salvation. Gambling if he's God or not. Gambling, hoping we can beat the odds. Gambling if there's a hell or not and rolling the dice for eternity. What did Jesus think looking down at those gambling? What does he think today?
Crucifixion, how ugly! How nasty! How humiliating! How despicable was crucifixion. No. Not at all. How beautiful. Jesus understood the beauty of crucifixion. People ask why Jesus had to die for us. Because love cost.
As were those gambling soldiers, religious hypocrites, and mocking mob, many today are so close to the timber, but so far from the blood. Are you only close to the timber, or washed by the blood? Are you a thorn Jesus bore in his crown, or a gambling soldier?
© Life Gate Ministries