The Crucifixion of Christ

We don’t like to leave Christ on the cross for very long. Our theology often gets in a rush to the resurrection. But the resurrection lacks its own possibility if you exclude the crucifixion of Christ. Anyone who has watched the movie The Passion of the Christ was moved by the brutality of what Jesus experienced on our behalf. The Romans weren’t out to make any crucified criminal look good or keep their dignity intact. On Sunday we get 10 minutes to reflect on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. I wonder what it would be like to reflect on the crucifixion for a full six hours? Several times I have prayed for a full hour but never for six. Imagine yourself at the foot of the cross, looking up at the dying Lord for a full six hours. Imagine the pain you would see, the blood that would flow, the words that were said, and the testimony from those standing nearby. Five minutes would seem like an eternity much less six long and brutal hours. The breathing becomes quicker, the pain more intense, the words more and more loving. And the seconds, minutes, and hours pass by slowly. To see him dead and lifeless hanging there would be heart wrenching. Could you keep your eyes on a bruised, battered and bloody Christ for six full hours? Could you keep your eyes off him?

There are several things that stand out to me when I spend time reflecting on the crucified Lord:

  1. He is concerned for others. He makes preparations for his mother. He forgives sins. He is concerned for the other crucified men around him.
  2. He experiences the full extent of the pain and agony. D.A. Carson points out the two times Jesus was offered wine in his crucifixion. The first is found in Mark 15:23, “wine mixed with myrrh”. Jesus refused this wine as it was intended to dull the pain. But the second offering of wine Jesus took (Mark 15:36). This wine was to ease Jesus’ thirst and would result in prolonging his life and as a result his agony on the cross (Gospel According to John, 620). Jesus really “bore it all” on the cross.
  3. Jesus is in full control. This isn’t an accident. It wasn’t a slip up. He was in control during his arrest and was in control of his crucifixion. Jesus gave up his spirit (John 19:30). It was his decision, his choice, and his obedience to the Father.
  4. There is glory in the unglorious. The cross was designed to degrade and shame those on it. It was a public spectacle designed to kill as much as to deter others from similar offenses. But through the unglorious experience of the cross Jesus received glory from God (John 17:4-5). What is more Jesus was bringing shame on sin and death itself.
  5. Last and most important is the obvious – love. John 3:16 says God loved the world so much that he gave Jesus. This is true in his birth. It is also true in the crucifixion. God gave Jesus fully. He didn’t let the world borrow Jesus and take him back again at a convenient and comfortable time. God fully gave him in order to fully gain us. John 14:1 tells us that through his foot washing Jesus showed his disciples the full extent of his love. That phrase might be better translated that he loved them to the end. The cross really did show them and us the full extent of his love. The creator laid down his life for the creation so that we could lay our lives down to take them up again just as he did.

From the Harding group The Firemen:


Fear, Control, and the Crucifixion of Jesus

While studying John 19 last night we talked about the role of fear in the crucifixion of Jesus. In John 18:33 we infer the charge against Jesus was insurrection as a competing king, “King of the Jews.” But in 19:7 the Jewish leaders mention Jesus’ claim to be the “Son of God” and we learn Pilate’s reaction was one of great fear. The Romans believed Caesar was the son of God and divine. Pilate realizes the likelihood of this situation going south has just increased substantially. So Pilate asks Jesus the question would determine his divinity, “Where do you come from?” Pilate probably already knows he is from Nazareth as the is what the plaque attached the cross eventually reads but that is not what Pilate is getting at here. Is Jesus from heaven above or earth below? Where and when does he originate from? This takes us back to the prologue that tells us Jesus has always been and that he came from God.

But anyway, back to fear. The whole crucifixion scene is laced with fear. The Jewish leaders are afraid of losing their positions of honor. Pilate is fearful of the divine but even more so afraid of Rome, Caesar, and losing control of this situation and his position. The disciples are fearful. The only one portrayed as fearless is Jesus Christ. He is still in charge even in control of the time for his spirit to be given up. What an amazing contrast for the crucified one to be confident, courageous, and in control while the ones vying for control of this situation are full of fear.

Fear is a powerful thing. We fear the unknown. We fear losing control of situations. We fear what we don’t understand. All of those seem present in the mind of Pilate and the Jewish leaders (all speculative, of course). We can only be fearful of those things if we are arrogant or prideful enough to think we are big enough to know where everything is headed, have total control of each and every situation, and have the ability to understand everything that comes our way. Life just doesn’t work that way. So we are faced with a choice. Do we side with fear and feebly try to maintain control over things we can’t. Or, do we side with the only one in the room who has no fear, is in total control, knows exactly what is going on and can control the outcome? I think I will opt for the second.

Gospel of John 12:20-33 – Greeks Want to See Jesus

The triumphal entry concludes with jealousy from the Pharisees and the statement, “Look how the whole world has gone after him.” (12:19). The very next verse shows how true that statement was. Some Greeks approach Philip and ask to see Jesus. Philip and Andrew ask Jesus if this would be okay and, in typical Jesus fashion, he answers their question without appearing to answer their question. They ask if it is okay for them to come and see him and he talks about seeds falling to the ground and dying, love and hating your life, and what it means to be a disciple. A bit more than the yes or no Philip and Andrew were probably expecting.

So how is Jesus’ response to this request a response to this request? All through Jesus’ ministry in John he has talked about his ultimate glorification in the cross. That is not how we would typically think of glorification but Jesus knew what was going to happen and where it was leading. The Greeks wanted to see Jesus because of all they had heard of him but Jesus knew that miracles and teaching were not even going to compare to the events that were about to unfold. The passion week would be the ultimate fulfillment of the Pharisees’ statement in 12:19, that the whole world was going after him. Ultimately Jesus answer to their request comes in John 12:32, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” – The Greeks came to see Jesus and even though he wouldn’t go and spend time with them now, he knew that being put on the cross and again raised from the death in his resurrection would be more than the Greeks who were now there to see him could even know to ask for or experience.

So what was Jesus’ answer to their request? It was, in a round about way, “Not yet…there is something bigger and better to come that will fulfill their request and draw them into something much bigger, grander, and with bigger implications than anything they might expect.

One last note of interest in this passage is that when Jesus usually speaks cryptically like this no one gets it…not the disciples and certainly not the crowds. But they do! They know he is speaking about his death through crucifixion because they ask him how the Son of Man can both be “lifted up” and live forever (12:34).

It is strange for Jesus to turn someone away but Jesus knew there were better things in store and that ultimately if they continued to seek him out they would eventually have eternal life but first Jesus must endure the cross and walk out of the tomb alive. It also seems strange to us that the most faith building thing God can do at times is to answer us with “Not yet…wait and see.” We often experience that as a “No” but it takes faith to carry us through to the “wait and see” part. If we are willing to wait our faith can be taken to the next level. Impatience is often lethal to the maturation of our faith.

The Two Most Important Dates You Never Heard Of

There are many dates that are etched into our memory. We hear July 4, 1776 and think indpendence, December 7, 1941 – Pearl Harbor, and on and on you could go. Then we have arbitrary dates that mark historical events that are difficult to date like December 25 and Christmas. But there is another date that doesn’t make the average week-at-a-glance planner. Chances are it isn’t a postal or school holiday. Even its liturgical celebration is not on a fixed day but has been placed instead on the day of the week rather than the actual calendar day. I am talking about the dates for the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In Bruce Metzger’s New Testament: Background, Growth, and Content he believes the crucifixion of Jesus took place on April 7, 30, which would put his resurrection on April 9. We don’t have rock solid confirmation of this date but I think it is a pretty good guess. So there you have it, two dates that probably have the most significance in your life as a Christian that you most likely never heard the likely dates for.

Did God Forsake Jesus on the Cross?

It is a claim that is heard many times from many pulpits often in during the Lord’s Supper. Matthew 27:45ff says,

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachtani?” (which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He is calling Elijah.” (TNIV)

It seems pretty clear that Jesus understood himself as forsaken by God. Why else would he make a statement like that? There may be more to this passage than meets the eye. Here in Matthew Jesus is quoting the first line from Psalm 22. Jesus was known to have quoted a line of a psalm but the context of his statement and the content of the psalm he quotes clearly indicated that he was making reference to more than the part he cites. In modern English that is called a synechdoche where one part represents the whole. In John 2:17 Jesus quotes Psalm 69:9 but is clearly making reference to the entire psalm. That sets a precedent for Jesus using that style of speech at other times. But that alone is not significant enough.

Are there any markers in content of the gospels or the content/context of this psalm that might point to Jesus not being forsaken by God?


The gospel is very clear that Jesus and God were unified. In John 10:20 Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” In John 15:10 Jesus said, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” Clearly on the cross Jesus was being obedient to his Father’s commands. It would seem that in doing so Jesus would remain in God’s love.

On the other hand, refer back to the previous post on Galatians 3 to see that in essence Jesus could have been under a curse on the cross that put him outside of the covenant community temporarily but was restored through the resurrection.

Psalm 22:

There is evidence from the psalm itself that Christ was not forsaken on the cross. When you look at this psalm you notice that the the first 21 verses have many parallels to Jesus and his situation on the cross:

  • Being mocked and having insults hurled at him
  • No one to help
  • Surrounded
  • Poured out like water
  • pierced his hands and feet
  • Divide his clothes and cast lots for his garments

But can we say that the parallels between Jesus and the psalmist stop at verse 21? Could it be that Jesus only made reference to these verses but not what follows? Psalm 22:24 says,

“For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.”

Could it be that Jesus made reference to this verse as well using the same style of speaking as he did in citing Psalm 69:9 in John? So many have made the claim that God “turned his back on Jesus” or “turned his face from Jesus” but the rest of Psalm 22 states exactly the opposite of the Psalmist, “he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” Ultimately through the resurrection we find that God did not forsake Jesus. Is he forsaken if only forsaken for a moment? How does this fit with Galatians 3 and the curse of the law?