Fuzzy Bunnies and Blood Soaked Wood. . .

To people living in the United States in the year 2016 the word “Easter” conjures up images of little, cute and furry bunny rabbits. It brings to memory the taste of chocolate and the joy of watching your young children walk past plastic eggs that are 14 inches away from them on their Easter egg hunt. It is a time of family, community and church celebration, but I think we sometimes miss what this celebration is supposed to represent. In keeping to the true fashion of this ministry that is written to warrior men and women, I wish to bring to remembrance what this celebration is meant to cause us to remember. The eggs are only symbols of the new birth that we have in Christ, and it is imperative that we remember the price of this freedom. This is quite an abbreviated study, and I encourage you to study more on the topic, only then will we as a redeemed people be able to more fully understand what this season means to us.

Gethsemane

We begin in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus went to pray. This was right after the Last Supper with His disciples. The word Gethsemane actually describes the stone used in an olive press of the day. It was a huge stone that would crush the juices from the olives and is extremely significant to note. The idea of Jesus being in the garden of the olive press is tremendous. While in this garden Jesus asks for His cup to pass if there is any other way, but the cup did not pass from Him. It was His task to complete. The weight of the sin of the world was beginning to crush Him, just like the Gethsemane crushes the olives. We see a reference in Luke 22:44 that said his sweat was like great drops of blood. Perhaps this was a physical condition as some have argued, and perhaps that was the way Luke saw it as he was a medical doctor. Perhaps, he saw Jesus being crushed like an olive while supporting the weight of the sins of the world and used this as a figure of speech to describe what he so passionately wanted to show in his written account. In either case we must note there was no other way for salvation to come to men, and that this olive press was now crushing Jesus of Nazareth in a way that was difficult for words to describe. I don’t believe it was coincidence that Jesus prayed in the garden of the olive press just before His scourging and execution.

The Scourging

Jesus was flogged by the Romans. A manner of punishment that sometimes resulted in death. Eusebius of Caesarea recorded an account of scourging in his Ecclesiastical History. This excerpt is found in book four and chapter fifteen. ” . . . their very blood and arteries, so that now the flesh concealed in the very inmost parts of the body, and the bowels themselves were exposed to view.” It was not simply a quick whipping. It was done with such fervor and malice that one could physically observe past the skin, and past the muscle tissue into the bowels of a human being.

The Cross

It was normal practice for a condemned person to carry the cross-bar of the cross to the execution site. This was called the patibulum. The vertical beam would remain in the ground for repeated use and the cross-bar would be fixed and removed with each condemned man. Jesus after already experiencing significant blood loss from the scourging is now tasked with carrying the cross-bar that weighed approximately 30-40 pounds. His physical body was unable to do so and Matthew 27:32 says that Simon of Cyrene was called to take up the cross.

They arrive at Golgotha which Matthew translates for us as “the place of the skull” in 27:33. The patibulum is laid down and Jesus was nailed through his wrists. A nail through the hand itself would be unable to hold the weight as the flesh between the bones would simply rip away. The Greek word used by Luke, again a medical doctor, doesn’t only denote the hand, but the hand and the wrist area. The Romans knew what they were doing in this manner of execution, and this wasn’t their first rodeo. They were good at it. The nails went through the wrist and subsequently directly through the nerve. Consider having a nail driven through your funny bone. It’s the same nerve. More blood loss is caused by the severing of these arteries as well.

The patibulum is lifted and affixed to the vertical beam. Imagine your weight being supported by square nails rotating between your two bones in the wrist crushing and twisting the now potentially severed nerve. Some have argued that the nerve itself was crushed and wedged between the nail and the wood as well. Imagine your nerve being pounded into the wooden cross bar. Imagine your tendons following suit and tightening more and more with every blow of the hammer. The process is repeated to His feet and he is left to the arduous and difficult task of breathing. He must pull on his arms and push up on his feet to exhale. Imagine the rotation of the wrists on the large square nail, and the ripping of the flesh on the feet until the nail hits bone with every breath. Hours pass, permanent exhaustion sets in and His breathing shallows. The blood trickles down the wooden cross into pools on the dusty earth. There are no fuzzy bunnies here. Only tremendous pain and blood soaked earth. Darkness settles over the cross at about 12:00 noon, and it remains there until about 3:00 P.M. Jesus cries with a loud voice: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

God, Himself, has turned His back on His Son in judgment. He has turned His back on what was once perfect, but is now bearing the Gethsemane of the weight of our transgressions against a righteous moral code. This was the first death of Jesus Christ. He is now a wretched sinner like you and me.

Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and he yielded up His spirit as recorded in 27:50. He yielded up His spirit. He gave what needed to be given and willingly yielded His life.

There is a fancy theological idea that is referred to a substitutionary atonement. This means that Jesus substituted Himself for you and me. As police officers and warrior men and women we know all to real that justice must be done. If it is not than injustice will reign supreme and innocent people will he hurt. It’s the same idea here. Justice must be done, but God’s justice is righteous and we would all fall into condemnation.

Think of yourself being wrongfully accused and suffering the punishment for the worst human being you have ever arrested. Think of doing this willingly. Think of yourself being beaten until your intestines are in view. Think of being nailed to a piece of wood, struggling to breathe and dying a horrendous death by bloodletting and asphyxiation. Now think about the fact that He endured this grotesque form of execution for you and me. Our celebration of easter is about what happens in three days from the moment of his death. Three days later Matthew describes a great earthquake, and an angel of heaven rolled back the stone from Jesus’ tomb. In 28:3 the author writes: “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.” The men guarding the tomb trembled and froze in fear.

As we enter this easter season, I want to encourage you to remember what actually happened on Good Friday over 2,000 years ago. Remember the manner of death that Jesus endured. It was so significant that we have a word in our English language that has its’ historical roots in this form of execution. Excruciating’s literal historical meaning is “out of the cross.” It is a word that we use today that describes a very high, if not the highest level of pain. We are to remember this during this Easter season over the chocolate bunnies. We are to remember Jesus being flogged and bleeding over candy. We are to remember Jesus’ giving his life and being raised on that first Sunday morning over the simplicity of an easter egg. The egg is a symbol of new life, and we must always remember what it took to achieve this new life for those who are in Christ.

Freedom isn’t free as we all know. Jesus, in His actions over 2,000 years ago, paid the price for our freedom from death. Let us remember Him, be repentant, and be thankful. Let us teach others this Good News. Let us sure up this gift in our hearts.

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Thanks,

Marc

Matthew 28:6 – “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”

5 thoughts on “Fuzzy Bunnies and Blood Soaked Wood. . .”

  1. Marc, I really appreciate this.
    I know this may have made sense for most but I have actually struggled with this statement, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” by Christ. This short study in its simplicity has clarified this for me. God, Himself, has turned His back on His Son in judgment. He is now a wretched sinner like you and me.
    It really exemplifies the trinity.
    Thank You!

    Like

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