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Reformed. Christianity. Evangelism. Modern Culture.
It’s about two thousand years since Pilate said, “Ecce homo” (behold the man). How easily we forget that God was among us (Emmanuel). How easily we forget that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Death by crucifixion was agonizingly slow, and came about by suffocation. A medical expert on crucifixion describes the physical effects that Jesus would have endured while nailed to a cross,
“As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles . . . With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by His arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed . . . Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically He is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen.” (The Crucifixion of Jesus: The Passion of Christ from a Medical Point of View, Arizona Medicine, vol. 22, no. 3 (March 1965), 183-187).
This process would continue for hours until all strength in the legs is gone, and Jesus is no longer able to push up in order to breathe.
Aside from the physical pain of crucifixion, there was also the stigma of disgrace and humiliation that was attached to it. Victims were beaten, whipped, and taunted even before reaching the cross. They were usually hanged naked, made a spectacle of shame for all to see.
And how did our Lord respond to such treatment? By this time, He had been beaten, whipped, spat on, taunted, and now, stripped naked, Jesus is nailed to a cross between two criminals, and what are the first recorded words of Jesus on the cross? “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34).
As C.H. Spurgeon has said, “neither the weakness of the past (beatings), nor the pain of the present, could prevent (Jesus) from continuing in prayer. The Lamb of God was silent to men, but He was not silent to God. Dumb as sheep before her shearers, He had not a word to say in His own defense to man, but He continues in His heart crying unto his Father, and no pain and no weakness can silence His holy supplications. Beloved, what an example our Lord herein presents to us! Let us continue in prayer so long as our heart beats; let no excess of suffering drive us away from the throne of grace, but rather let it drive us closer to it.”
What if we realised that by His death on the Cross, Christ has become the Lamb that was slain for us, our Redeemer, the One who has made peace between us and God, who has taken our guilt on Himself, who has conquered our most deadly enemy and has assuaged the well-deserved wrath of God.