11 Aug 2020

Jesus Crucified [Matthew 27:27-44]


People ask, "What's the big deal about Jesus' suffering on the cross? There are many who suffered like Him or even more than Him. . . " Perhaps the best response to that question is to invite them to study the sufferings of Jesus in Matthew 27. Check out this sermon as we look into how Jesus endured the cross and faced the shame, to save us from our sins. May the crucifixion of Jesus reveal the holy wrath of God against sin, and how much He loves us when He poured His wrath upon His own Son.


Sermon Transcript

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A very good morning to all of you and welcome to Gospel Light Christian Church. We are grateful you can join us in this Sunday worship service online. We are continuing our series in the book of Matthew. We are arriving at this series called, “48”, a look at the last two days of the Lord's life before He will go to the cross.

When my kids were younger, we love to go to Jacob Ballas Garden. It's a part of the Singapore Botanical Garden. And it is there that I first saw this plant or this shrub, as seen in this picture. This plant or shrub is called the “Crown of Thorns”. Legend has it, that it is associated with the actual crown of thorns that Jesus wore some 2,000 years ago.

In this series on “48”, we are nearing the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. So today, we're going to see how He will be scourged, how He will be mocked and how He will be crucified.

Last week, during the “Meet-the-Pastor Session”, there was a lady who asked a question. She has been sharing the Gospel or she has tried to share the Gospel with a friend. But the friend's remark is that the sufferings of Jesus were nothing really special. Because that friend remarked that, “there are many people who have suffered greatly throughout history, abuse and so on and so forth and therefore, there is nothing special to the sufferings of Jesus.”

And so this person in the Zoom session then asked, “How should we respond to a statement or question like that?” I shared with her that this is really a matter of degree. She's really comparing about the degree of suffering between Jesus and people throughout history. And I say, “Perhaps, it's very hard to say, experientially ourselves, because we have never been in the shoes of Jesus, neither have we been in the shoes of all the people who have suffered throughout history. But maybe what is helpful is to really come to the Bible and understand and see for ourselves, how did Jesus suffer.

And so I said to her, “Maybe this sermon, and the sermon to follow would be important and helpful for you to be able to respond to this friend, indeed. So today, that's what we're going to do. We're going to see the sufferings of Christ. We're coming to the climactic point, where Jesus would give His life on the cross. How did He suffer? So today's message is very straightforward, we're just going to go through the verses. And as best as we can, put ourselves into His shoes, to experience the sufferings, the passion of Christ.

We began in verse 26, we saw how Pilate reluctantly but ultimately sentenced Jesus to death on the cross. “He released for the people, Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered Him to be crucified.” So, it's very common that people will look at verse 26, and say, “Alright! Jesus had a good whip. And then now, let's go to the real action, let's go to the crucifixion.”

But wait a minute! Because it's important to dwell a little bit at the word, ‘scourged’. When we think about scourging, we think about the long leather whip that one strong man would wield and inflict pain on somebody's back side. That's the idea of scourging in modern days.

But in those days, scourging, I think is a lot more painful. It's a lot more torturous, because the whip on the scourge they used, looks something like this. There are many strands of leather that are tied to this one handle. And at the ends of the strips of leather will be embedded or tied, bones or small metal balls or sharp objects.

The idea is that these leather strands with all these metal balls and sharp objects, would pulverize the flesh, the muscle of the person. And all these sharp objects and bone bits would be able to catch or be embedded in some protuberances of the body, like the face or some orifices like the eye, the nose, the mouth, the ear.

So this is meant to really inflict maximal pain. So what happens? The action looks like this, the man, the criminal, would first be stripped naked, so that he would experience the full pain of this scourging. His hands would be tied to a wooden beam and so his back, his body is absolutely exposed and at the mercy of the soldier.

The soldier stands somewhat beside and behind this man. And with his one flail of that scourge, the many leather straps would wrap around the person's body, face and inflict pain right there and then. But at the same time, with the pulverization of the metal balls and with the embedding of the sharp objects, the soldier now proceeds to part two of this scourge, which is to give this scourge or this whip a good tug or pull. Thereby, in a sense, whipping and tearing out strips and ribbons of skin and flesh.

Now you could imagine, the eye - severely damaged, the nose - deformed, the mouth - torn and so on and so forth. And that is with one stroke of the whip. It is not uncommon that criminals in those days who are sentenced to crucifixion would suffer 39 strokes of that whip. And so it would be a process by which ribbons and strips of flesh and skin will be torn. The man would be absolutely disfigured.

Now, don't forget that before this, Jesus had already been punched and slapped by soldiers at Caiaphas’ judgment hall. So Jesus now must be a bloody mess. You probably would not be able to recognize Him much, with all the blood, with all the ribbons of skin and flesh torn, He is a disfigured person. Not to say, He must be severely weakened at this point.

With all this flailing, with all this bloody mess, He must have lost a lot of blood. And He is in dehydration mode. He's probably in shock or pre-shock mode. In other words, He's weak, He's bloody, He's going to die. And all that is just in that one word – ‘scourged’ Jesus, that was preparatory for the crucifixion.

So we read next in verse 27, “The soldiers of the governor then took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before Him.” Can you imagine that? He's now scourged, weakened, and 600 soldiers were gathered before Him.

They were like a pack of animals. That's a battalion! 600 people gathered. “And they stripped Him and they put on Him a scarlet robe and twisting together that crown of thorns, they put it on His head and put a reed in His right hand. And kneeling before Him, they mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.” [Matt 27:28-29]

You can imagine all of them having a good laugh. Jesus with that robe, with that crown, with that reed, but absolutely disfigured, bloody, weakened, and they laughed at Him. “They spat on Him and then they took that reed and struck Him on the head.” [Matt 27:30] In a Greek tense, it is that they struck Him repeatedly using that rod.

They took from Him and they whacked Him on the head. And in John 19:3, we are also told that, “They struck Him with their hands.” Soldiers had already struck Him at Caiaphas' house and now soldiers would continue to strike Him with their hands.

“And when they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the robe and put His own clothes on Him and led Him away to crucify Him.” [Matt 27:31] So we are not even near crucifixion, or we are not at crucifixion, but that's all the suffering Jesus had to endure already. Again, before we pass on quickly to that crucifixion, I want you to know that, that stripping of the robe is not just one of mockery, but also one of great pain.

You could imagine with the bloody back, with the bloody body, that robe would have, in a sense, fused with the body as the blood dries and coagulates. It's almost - like a wound, a fresh wound you have, you put a bandage over it. The next day, you want to remove that bandage, you fear because it's going to be painful. And maybe as they tore that robe off the back of Jesus, it reopens the wounds. Fresh pain. Fresh bleeding. But that's all Jesus had to endure.

We go to verse 32, “And as they went out …”, as they were journeying towards the place of crucifixion, “… they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry His cross.” So Jesus was probably way too weak right now, to carry the cross and Simon of Cyrene is called to carry this cross.

You say, “Is Jesus particularly frail, that He can't carry the cross?” Well, William Hendriksen, a commentator of the Bible, he has this to say.

“Consider what He had already endured [sic: with this or] with the last 15 hours, the tense atmosphere of the Upper Room, the betrayal of Judas, the agonies of Gethsemane …”, where He sweat drops of blood. “… The desertion by His disciples, the totally hypocritical trial before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court, the mockery in the palace of Caiaphas. The denial of His most prominent disciple Peter, the trial before an unjust judge, Pontius Pilate, the terrible ordeal of being scourged …”, with which we have just read. “Humanly speaking, it's a wonder at all, that He was able to carry the cross any distance at all?”

So Simon of Cyrene carried the cross, “And they came to a place called, Golgotha, which means place of a Skull.” [Matt 27:33] Now the word, Golgotha, is in the Aramaic language; Calvary would be that Latin language, and it basically means The Place of a Skull.

Now, we do not know why this is called the place of a skull. Does it look like a skull from far? Is it because that's where people are executed? Is it because where there are many skulls to be found? We don't really know. But it's called, “The Place of a Skull”. And we don't even know the location, the exact location today. But all we know is that this is outside Jerusalem. This is where Jesus would be sentenced to death, in dishonor and shame.

“They offered Him wine to drink.” [Matt 27:34] It is so painful, that it is common that they will offer some kind of an anaesthetic to numb the pain mixed with gall. “… But when He tasted it, He would not drink it.” [Matt 27:34] It is determined by Jesus that He would not lessen any of the necessary pain that He would have to go through. So He will not have it, He would bear the full pain Himself.

And the Bible says in verse 35, “And when they had crucified Him, they divided His garments among them by casting lots.” So He is now crucified. Again, this is something we might just skip over. Isn't it? Maybe you say, “Alright! He goes to the cross and He's going to die soon and that's game over. But before we do that, I like to just, maybe for the sake of those who are not familiar, share with you what this crucifixion really might look like.

The crucifixion is done with the cross being laid on the floor, or the ground. The criminal would then lie on top of that cross. So this is to facilitate that crucifixion process, that nailing process. So when this man lies on the cross, the soldiers would then take a nail or take a few nails. The nail is thick. It's big. It's strong. It has to be, in order to be able to sustain the weight of the entire man.

So the soldier takes that nail and places it right in the middle of the wrist. Now, you know that there are actually two bones in your forearm, and there are a series of bones held by strong ligaments at your palm. So if you drive a nail through this middle part of your forearm, it is a secure location to anchor the man on the cross.

But at the very same time, in the middle of your forearm is a thick nerve, that runs right through here. So it is very common that when this nail is driven through the wrist or the fore arm of the man, it sends a terrible pain because that thick nerve is now cut off.

Now, if you've been to the dentist, or if you've hit your nerve here, the funny bone they call it, at any point, you know that nerve pain is extremely excruciating. Now, this is just a little touch and it sends a tingle. And this is just tiny nerves in your mouth and it is extremely painful. Imagine a thick nerve that is now severed by the driving of a nail. It sends the men into great pain, often into a shock mode, and he might even dislocate some of his joints.

So Jesus lies on the cross, the soldiers hold Him there and they drive this nail one on the left, one on the right. And then besides that, they will also have to anchor His feet. So it is common that both feet will be on each, one foot will be on the other. And with this one nail, it will anchor that man on that cross.

Next, the soldiers would now haul up that cross. They pull it up from the ground. And this is where the entire body weight of the criminal would be hanging on these three points. Now, it's extremely painful, I'm sure. Try hanging on the bar for any period of time, it's … it's tiring. But this whole weight is on these three points. It's extremely painful with nails through your body, through the bones.

And this man, not only hangs there, he actually has to pull himself up. Because, as you know, if you're hanging there for long, you can't breathe well. So in order to catch your breath, you need to lift yourself up and it is at the expense of great pain that you do so.

Now, imagine you're probably having dislocated joints already; pulling up yourself at this stage is extremely torturous. Now, this is coupled with the fact that the criminal or the man on the cross is likely to be in a state of shock. There's not enough blood, with all the blood loss, not enough blood to go around the body. So there's a lack of oxygenation and he needs to catch the breath even more.

So what he has to do is to toggle between that painful choice of pain or of suffocation, pain or of suffocation. And his back, raw from all the scourge would have to rub against that rough wooden block behind him.

The Romans actually picked this kind of punishment up from the Persians, but they improved it, they brought it to an extreme. And the way to die on the cross is a way to inflict maximal pain for the longest period of time, so that the criminal suffers the most. And so this is the genius behind this crucifixion. This is the suffering Jesus had to endure on the cross.

He was there, “From the third hour.” Mark 15:25 tells us, that is about 9am. And He was there on the cross until 3pm. But today, we're just going to look at what happens from now maybe to 12pm. Next week, we're going to look at the sufferings further.

But this is what we must understand, when we look at verse 35, “When they had crucified Him …” It's not a light punishment at all! Now, I shared earlier on, that whilst we must understand these sufferings, and these sufferings are immense in and of itself, they are not the total sufferings of Jesus.

In fact, if I may say it crudely, “They're not even the appetizers yet because the real suffering would come later on.” But I think we already could sense the deep pain of the scourging and the crucifixion, even if we were to stop right here.

But Jesus did not just suffer physical pain, He suffered great emotional and psychological pain. And we're going to see that in a while. Now, Matthew 27:35 tells us that, “They divided His garments among them by casting lots,” the soldiers did that. This detail is given to us because Matthew is very deliberate in showing how prophecy, every prophecy about Jesus is fulfilled in His day and time.

Now, we're going to see that in Psalm 22, verses 12 to 13. Psalm 22 is a Psalm that depicts a lot about the sufferings of Jesus, hundreds of years even before Jesus came. And the psalmist says,” Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.” I think this probably refers to the soldiers who were gathered around Jesus, they were out to kill Him. And I think they are like a pack of animals, wild animals baying for His blood.

Psalm 22:14 goes on to say, “I'm poured out like water.” What is he saying? “I'm dry. I'm dehydrated. All my bones are out of joint.” Now you understand why the psalmist writes it in such a way. When you first read it in Psalm, without understanding the crucifixion, you say, “This is exaggeration! Why would anyone feel this?” Well, now you know, this is exact depiction. Jesus was dehydrated. He's probably dislocated from the crucifixion, from the fact that He had to pull himself up over and over again.

“My heart is like wax.” [Ps 22:14] In other words, it's like melting hot, wax. That's the sensation, heart failure patients may go through. Deep pain. Deep burning. It is melted within my breast. “My strength is dried up like a potsherd.” [Ps 22:15] He is so weakened with all this blood loss and this pain.

“My tongue sticks to my jaws, you lay me in the dust of death.” [Ps 22:15] He's so dry, so this -dehydrated, he's almost to die.

“For dogs encompass me; [sic: a violent], a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet - I can count all my bones …” [[Ps 22:16-17a] With the dislocation, with the stripping of the flesh, the ribbons being torn, “… they stare and gloat over me.” [Psalm 17b] “They divide my garments among them and for my clothing, they cast lots.” [Ps 22:18]

So Matthew quotes Psalm 22:18, and records the exact point the soldiers did so. Psalm 22 is a messianic Psalm; it's about Jesus Christ and His sufferings.

And then there's this interesting quote in Psalm 129:3, “The plowers plowed upon my back. They made long their furrows”. This has no sense apart from the scourging we read off in the Roman system of execution. What do you mean by a farmer plowing on my back? Remember the furrows? Remember the stripes? Remember the ribbons of flesh that will be torn? That's what Jesus had to go through.

“I gave my back to those who strike …” [Isa 50:6] Remember that time on the wooden beam? “… My cheeks to those who pull out the beard …” That's how they mocked Jesus. By the way, this is why we believe Jesus was not a clean-shaven man, but a man with a beard. “… I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.” They spat at Him, first at Caiaphas' house and also the soldiers.

“As many were astonished at you - His appearance was so marred beyond human semblance, but its form beyond that of the children of mankind.” [Isa 52:14] He is a mangled piece of meat, you may say, a bloody mess, alright.

And Isaiah 53:5, “He was pierced, He was crushed, He was chastised, He was wounded.” I think that's all that we need to appreciate, when we come to this verse, “When they crucified Him.” [Matt 27:35]

I mentioned, Jesus not only suffered physical pain, He suffered great emotional, psychological pain. And that's why we read in verse 36 onwards, “They sat down and kept watch over Him there. And over His head, they put a charge against Him which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”" So the crucifixion, that cross would bear shame to Jesus, they will mock Him, “Hah! He is the King of the Jews.”

And the Bible tells us, “The two robbers who were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left.” [Matt 27:38] In verse 44, “They reviled Him.” These two men who are criminals, who deserve to die, when they see Jesus in between them, they even had the cheek to laugh at Jesus. They reviled Him! Two dying men laughing at Jesus Christ!

Not only did the robbers, the thieves laughed at Jesus, “Those who pass by, those people who walked by, they derided Him, wagging their heads, saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”" [Matt 27:39-40]

“The chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked Him, saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He's the King of Israel; let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him.”" [Matt 27:41-43] So the thieves mocked Him, the passers-by mocked Him, the priest, the religious leaders mocked Him, the soldiers, “The Roman soldiers also mocked Him, coming up and offering Him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.”" [Luke 23:36-37]

Maybe all this is not new to you, but for me, something registered. You know, I've always read Hebrews 12:2 and never really quite understood or appreciated, what the author said, when he mentioned that, “Jesus endured the cross, despised the shame.” Jesus suffered emotionally, physically, psychologically. He endured the cross - the physical pain, and He despised the shame. There was great shame. I'm not sure about you, but perhaps what hurts most in life may not be the physical whips. But the despise and shame people can give to you and Jesus suffered it all.

Now, what did they mock Him? What did they tell Him to do? What did the people challenge Jesus to do? They said, “Save yourself, if you are the King.” [Matt 27:39-40] “If you really say who you really are, then save yourself.” That's what the passers-by say. That's what the religious leader says, “Save yourself.” [Matt 27:41-43] And that's what the soldiers say, “Save yourself.” [Luke 23:36-37]

What are these telling Jesus? They tell Jesus, “Save yourself. Come down from the cross. If you really are the Son of God, save yourself.” But you know something, Jesus did not seek to save Himself. What He did was that He gave Himself. To prove that He really is the Son of God, the path is not to come down from the cross, but to stay up there on the cross. Because His mission is to seek and save that which is lost. His mission is to give His life, a ransom for many.

So the paradox, the irony is this, everybody said, “Prove that You are the Son of God by coming down. Save yourself.” But Jesus would prove that He is the Son of God by staying up and giving Himself.

You know something, it’s not nails that held Jesus to the cross, it was love that kept Jesus on the cross. Jesus said earlier in John chapter 12:23-24, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” How do you know Jesus is the Son of Man? Because He would die and He would rise again for the salvation of many.

That's how we know today! That's why Christians all around the world today worship Jesus because He gave His life in love and He rose again from the dead.

So Jesus says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” [John 12:23-24] Jesus went there not to save Himself, but He went there to die. So that through His death, there will be fruit, there will be salvation. There'll be lives restored and reconciled with God. That's what Jesus came to do.

Ray Stedman, he says, “Ultimately, God removes evil from the universe by absorbing it into Himself.” God is not going to excuse evil. He's not going to close one eye with regards to sin. Sin must be dealt with. Sin must be paid for. Sinners must pay for that sin, but Jesus will absorb it for us. That's the Gospel!

My friends, Jesus suffered greatly. But all that we look today is not even the main deal, it will come next week, but He suffered greatly. And I wonder if there's anyone who could suffer like what Jesus did already. Not just the crucifixion, but the mockery, the spitting, the shame. He endured it all. Not because He was worthy of all that, but because you are worthy of all the punishment that is due to sin, but He loves You and He gave His life on the cross for you.

I pray today you would turn from sin. I pray today you will see the love of God. How do you see the love of God? It's seen on the cross when Jesus gave His life. I pray that as we focus on the cross this morning, you will think about sin, about the wickedness of sin, about the damn worthiness of sin, about the wages of sin.

I pray today you will see the grace of God. You’ll see His love, His mercy. I pray today you'll see His faithfulness, what God has promised in the Bible, He will always fulfil it. And I pray this will cause you to turn from sin, to repent and to come to Jesus.

I pray this will encourage Christians today to follow Jesus. Christianity is not a path to save your life. Christianity is a path that gives your life. You need to lay down your life, deny yourself, follow Jesus because that's what He says, “Whoever loves his life loses it. And whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for life, eternal life. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me and where I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor Him.” [John 12:25-26]

My friends, the path of Christianity is one of dying to self - burying the shame, taking up the cross. I pray you will not be tired of doing so. I pray you will continue to look to the love of Jesus and to the promise of God. “If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor Him.” Jesus, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despised the shame, and is now set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I pray today you'll be wise. Don't live this life, trying to gather the things of this world. Live this life giving yourself and one day you will find it. Trust Him. May God bless all of you, as we think about Jesus and His love.

Let's bow for a word of prayer together.

Father, we took a solemn look at the cross of Jesus Christ. Perhaps it's something familiar to us; the details, the descriptions. Oh, but God I pray, we would not grow weary of knowing Your love, as we see the picture of love on the cross. We ask today, that by the work of Your Holy Spirit, You will ignite a flame of passion in our hearts.

Perhaps some of us have grown cold, some of us are living in sin, some of us are not willing to lay down our lives. Lord, I pray that Your love would be experienced in our hearts today, by the work of Your Holy Spirit. We want to pray that Christians would live a life that honors you, that we would appreciate the love of God in the Gospel. And that we would lay down ourselves as living sacrifices.

I want to pray for friends who are listening in today. They may not know Jesus as yet, and we are praying for Your mercy and grace, that you'll turn their hearts away from sin, away from self, to look to Jesus alone. Father, be merciful, that they may understand the power of the cross. Thank You for being with us. We pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen. God bless.

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