DOCTRINES OF THE BIBLE
THE CRUCIFIXION OF CHRIST
By Pastor Jared Decker
One of the most pivotal studies in all of Scripture is that of the crucifixion of Christ. Without the crucifixion of Christ, His blood would not have been shed for the sins of the world. For a Christian to truly understand the suffering of Jesus Christ, he must first understand the cross of Christ. It is extremely important for a Christian to comprehend the full extent of the anguish that Christ went through on the cross, if we are going to realize the love that Christ has for us. Contrary to some false doctrine flying around in “religious” circles today, the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ was not a quirk misfortune that took Him by surprise. In this paper, my desire is to show to the reader the absolute prophetic importance of the crucifixion in God’s plan for the redemption of mankind, through His Son Jesus Christ. Let us first look at the prophecies and pictures in the Old Testament that pointed to the crucifixion of Christ.
I. The Prophecy of the Crucifixion.
We cannot fully understand the importance of the crucifixion in God’s plan of redemption, until we study the prophecies by which God made his plan known to the Old Testament saints. The earliest prophecy of God’s plan to redeem mankind is found in Genesis 3:15, where God tells the serpent, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” We see later in Genesis, a picture of the death of Christ (as the Lamb of God) in the story of Abraham and Isaac. When Abraham was taking Isaac up to sacrifice him to God, Isaac asked his father where the lamb for the offering was. Abraham’s response was that God would provide himself a lamb. This statement was not fulfilled in the ram caught by the horns (it was not a lamb), but this was a prophecy of God’s provision that would come to pass when Christ was crucified on the cross. For God, in His infinite love and wisdom, would send His only begotten Son to be the spotless Lamb “slain from the foundation of the world”, that we might have our names written in His book of life. We are given many prophetic statements in the Old Testament that clearly point to the crucifixion of Christ. In Psalm 22, we see the prophecy of the crucifixion so plainly stated, that it tells the completely paralleled story that is also told in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19. For example, Psalm 22:1 prophesied the cry of Christ on the cross, and in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 this prophecy was fulfilled when our Lord cried out in extreme anxiety, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Psalm 22:7-13 prophesied the laughter and mocking that those standing by would rail upon our Lord while he hung on the cross. (Fulfilled in Matthew 27:39-44, Mark 15:32, and Luke 23:35-39) Isaiah 50:6 and 53:5 prophesied the cruel scourging of our Lord. This scene of the brutal beating of Christ was fulfilled in Matthew 27:26, Mark 15:15 and John 19:1, when Pilot had Jesus taken and beaten in an attempt to pacify the Jews that were calling for Christ’s death. Psalm 22:17 and Isaiah 53:2-3 prophesied the gruesome image of Christ after the scourging, beating, and crucifixion. In Psalm 22:14, we see the prophecy of Christ’s bones being forced out of joint and his heart melting like wax within him. (Fulfilled in John 19:34) The Bible’s prophesy of Christ’s crucifixion was so comprehensive that it even prophesied in Psalm 22:18 that the Roman soldiers would gamble for the garment worn by Christ. (Fulfilled in John 19:23-24) In Psalm 34:20, the Bible prophesied that not one of His bones would be broken. This prophecy was fulfilled in John 19:32-36, when the Roman soldiers came to break Christ’s legs as He hung on the cross, but when they found Him dead already, instead of breaking His legs and causing Him to suffocate, the soldier pierced Him in His side to make sure He was dead. This action was a fulfillment of the prophecy found in Zechariah 12:10, “…and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” The Old Testament prophecies surrounding the crucifixion of Christ, joined with the fulfillment of every one of these prophecies, is absolutely incontrovertible evidence of God’s hand and plan for the redemption of the world, through the death of His Son on the cross. This merciful plan of redemption took great preparation in the life of Christ Himself, which readied Him for the cross. Let us look at the preparation of our Lord that equipped Him to bear the sins of world on the cross of Calvary.
II. The Preparation of the Crucifixion.
The life of our Lord was completely wrapped up in the will of the Father for the work of the cross. In Luke 2:51, we see that Christ, as a young man, made himself subject to the will of Joseph and Mary. This submission of our Lord to the will of His earthly parents was simply a reflection of His submission to the will of the Father. (see Philippians 2:8) Christ said in John 4:34, “…My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” Because Christ made Himself subject to the will of the Father, He knew what would one day come to pass. Christ Himself foretold His death on many occasions. Some theological ignoramuses would suggest that Christ never intended to go to the cross, but what Scripture expounds to us is absolutely contradictory to this fraudulent theory. In Matthew 16:21, we see that Christ began to reveal to His disciples the things that He would suffer, the death that He would die, and the time in which He would rise again. In Matthew 17:22-23 and Matthew 20:18-19, Christ again laid out a clear explanation for His disciples of what would soon come to pass. These Scriptures clearly refute any erroneous teaching that the crucifixion took Christ by surprise. Christ’s whole purpose and ministry was directed toward the work of the cross. Christ said of Himself in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The entire purpose of Christ’s incarnation upon this earth was to die and save His people from their sins with His precious blood. Christ knew the importance and severity of the cross that lay before Him. In Luke 22:42, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to the Father and asked that the cup be removed from Him; however, Jesus ended His plea with the same character and submission that had permeated His life from birth when He said, “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” The Bible tells us that the agony of our Lord in prayer was so great, that he sweat as it were great drops of blood. Medical research has shown that the only possible way for this to occur, is for someone to be under such tremendous stress that the capillaries under the skin burst and mix with the sweat. Christ was not agonizing merely over the pain that would be inflicted by the crucifixion, but He was agonizing primarily over the separation from the Father that had never and will never again occur in all time. Our sins were laid upon the Lord at His crucifixion, and He who knew no sin became sin for us, “that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (see 2 Corinthians 5:21) Christ knew His mission on this earth, and every day was utilized in preparation for this great task that would carve the way for man’s redemption into the body of our Lord.
III. The Process of the Crucifixion.
The process of the crucifixion of our Lord was very meticulous and agonizing. Crucifixion was not a death from the loss of blood but a death from suffocation. The purpose for crucifixion was to prolong the pain and suffering of the victim as long as possible. In conjunction with the pain, the victim was stripped naked and hung on the cross in absolute shame before all who looked on. To be crucified was to be seen as accursed of God. (see Galatians 3:13) Isaiah 53:4 says of Christ when He was on the cross, “we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Christ was not only cursed by the words of the cruel crowd but also by the sin of the world that was laid upon Him. The express purpose of Christ’s willingness to suffer the kind of pain and agony that was associated with the cross was to free the world from the penalty of sin. We have all heard, from reading Scripture and hearing the preaching of the Word of God, that Christ loves us, but have we ever really considered the true unsuppressed and supreme love that would drive the Lord Jesus Christ to the suffering of the cross. Let’s look at the details of the crucifixion so that we might more thoroughly understand, if possible, the depth of Christ’s love for us. Consider the sting of the betrayal that Christ had to endure before the crucifixion even began. Judas betrayed him for the riches of this world.(see Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-11 and Luke 22:2-6) Peter, the disciple who swore that he would not betray Christ, followed far enough away that he would not be associated with Christ. When given the chance to redeem himself, Peter began to curse and swear that he didn’t even know the Lord.(see Matthew 26:69-74) The rest of the disciples, with the exception of John, were nowhere to be found until after the crucifixion. Now that all of His “loyal” followers had dispersed, Jesus was left to the mercy of the Jews; however, all of us would agree that the trial of our Lord was one filled with injustice and void of mercy. False accusations, counterfeit witnesses and unreasonable rulers filled the hall where man put God on trial. The Jews found our Lord guilty of blaspheme, but because they could not sentence anyone to death, they took Him before Pilot. After Pilot had questioned Christ, he told the Jews that he found no fault in Him. Pilot tried to use the Passover feast as an excuse to release Christ, but the Jews, filled with venomous anger against Christ, called for the liberation of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus.(see Luke 23:13-20) Pilot, not willing to infuriate the Jewish leaders, gave in and sentenced our Lord to be scourged and then crucified.(see Luke 23:23-25) The scourging of our Lord was, in itself, a grueling event. Historically, it was not unusual for the accused to die at the whipping post. The victim was usually, with his hands tied together above his head, lifted in the air until his feet barely touched the ground. In this position, the skin was stretched to the maximum. No surgeon was called in for this operation, only the strongest of soldiers that had been specifically trained for this task. The tool used on our Lord was a cat-of-nine-tails. This was, in most cases, a wooden handled whip with nine leather woven straps protruding from the handle. The Romans would take each of the nine leather straps and weave pieces of broken pottery, bone and stone into them. This would modify the cat-of-nine-tails from a sore inflicting instrument to a mutilating, lacerating death sentence. The scourging that Jesus endured was so terrible that the Bible tells us that His bones were visible. When led to Calvary, Christ didn’t even look like a man, and Isaiah articulated that those standing by turned their faces from Him because of the hideousness of His figure. After the scourging, with His blood pouring from His body, Christ was made to stand before a mob of soldiers who jeered and derided Him. They made of crown from thorns and placed it on His head, and with rods, they drove the thorns deep into the skull of our Lord. They stripped Him of His garments and placed upon Him a scarlet robe in mockery of His deity as King of Kings. (see Mark 15:16-19) The soldiers plucked out His beard, blindfolded Him and then slapped Him, asking whether He could prophecy as God who slapped Him. They spit in His face and railed vulgarity upon Him, and yet He opened not His mouth to rebuke them or to silence them. Through all of the cruelty of the road to Calvary, Jesus stayed obedient to the will of the Father. After all of the scorn cast upon Him by the Roman soldiers, He was made to carry the cross up to Calvary on His carved body. As Christ fell beneath the weight of the cross, a soldier grabbed a man from the crowd, named Simon, and commanded him to carry the cross for Jesus. (see Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26) If only each of us could take the place of Simon for just a few steps, maybe then we would understand the love of Christ, as the blood that He was shedding for our sin came in contact with our body. Maybe then we could fully understand what Christ meant when He told the disciples to bear the cross and follow Him. If we could only see Christ as He suffered for our sins, then maybe we would be more willing to suffer for Christ’s sake and bear reproach for His name. Now as Christ was taken and placed on the cross He again showed the motivation of His love when He laid down His hands, without reluctance or struggle, to be nailed to the cross. Christ Himself told His disciples in John 10:18, that no man would take His life, He would lay it down freely of His own will. As the soldiers raised the Lord in the air, the cross fell into the ground, jerking Christ’s bones out of joint. Naked before all who stood by, Christ became our eternal sacrifice by the shedding of His precious blood. Jesus hung on the cross, being mocked by all, even the two thieves that were hanging beside Him and the plaque above His head, which read, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. (see Matthew 27:36-45) Christ, who knew no sin, became our sin on the cross that we might have eternal life. Jesus’ compassion manifested itself clearly when one of the malefactors hanging beside Him, called out in faith for Christ to remember Him when He entered His kingdom. Christ’s reply, that he would be with Him in paradise that day, was a simple and clear acceptance of this sinner’s belief in who Jesus truly was.(see Luke 23:39-43) The love of Christ for sinners caused Him to suffer more on the cross than just physical pain, for the greatest pain that came upon the Lord was the torment of hell that was endured for the payment of our sin dept. God’s grace for His Son was shown when He darkened the sky for the space of three hours.(see Luke 23:44) God would not let anyone see the agony of Christ while He paid our eternal debt. Just as the Rich Man in hell asked for a drip of water to cool his tongue, Christ’s suffering of our hell can be seen in the fact that He cried “I thirst”. (see John 19:28) As soon as the soldiers brought vinegar to Him to quench His thirst, He cried with a loud voice, “It is Finished.” Upon this declaration, Christ gave up the ghost and died.(see Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:37, Luke 23:46 and John 19:30) Christ died on the cross to save this world of sinners from the second death of eternity.
The crucifixion of Christ is probably the most fundamental account found in the Bible. Our faith hangs upon the death of our Lord on the cross, for without the cross, the work of Christ could not be completed. The suffering of our Lord on the cruel cross of Calvary is the absolutely irrefutable proof of His love undeserving, sinful man. Thank God for His provision of grace and His plan for our redemption through the crucifixion of Christ.