Oct 7, 2009

Suicide and the Bible: The Cross: Part One

The air was thick with the smells of death. Every time the salty air would lap the seeping blood from the freshly made wounds, a twinge of pain would come over Him. Just when the pain would simmer to a slow sting, the whip came again. The echo of the whip as it slapped the raw skin permeated the crowd as some cried out in terror, while the majority cried out in blood lust. The Roman guards trained for this, and Satan fed their hatred, and not knowing why, they gave into those quickening desires. Using all the strength they had to force the whip harder as it churned the dust in the air and landed with a whap! The crowd feel momentarily silent as they awaited the wail of the tortured.

Jesus' body writhed in excruciating pain as He felt the numbing tendrils of the leather whip and the metal tearing open His back. Sweating blood the night before in shear dread could never have prepared Him for this moment. He could sense evil that day and what kept Him going was the will of the Father. This had to be completed in order to see Satan's defeat. There was no other way.

All of heaven witnessed the cruelty and the humiliation of its ruler and as God the Father watched on, Jesus called out in forgiveness. Out of pure and total love Jesus pleaded for his torturers that God would show them mercy. As the Roman soldiers pounded the metal stakes into His hands, as the pain surged like lighting up His arms, pain was pounded into His feet. His whole body rested on the narrow splintered wood and as they hastily and haphazardly hoisted the cross up to proper position, the shifting body weight would have caused more excruciating pain.

With outstretched arms, Jesus hung on the tree for all to see. Blood-crusted wounds tightened on His skin and as He tried to speak, His tongue stuck to the roof of His mouth and it was difficult forming the words with parched lips and a swollen face. His head was fuzzy as physical shock began to set in but He hung on, trying not to give into death too early.

(Condensed- Taken from the book Persistent Grace chapter 2 Grace in the form of the cross pgs 15-16 copyright shannon Gilmour 2009)

The above illustration is to show the reality of the cross and it is not intended for a believer to dwell on its horrific nature to the point of excess.

The cross is a believer's means for salvation. It was the act from a just God that called us into reconciliation because of the ever presence of sin that constantly separates us from Him. It is through the act performed on the cross that reconciles us to God, not the cross itself.

Crucifixion was an act of capital punishment in Roman times. It was meant to be slow, unsightly and cause the criminal considerable- unbearable pain while undergoing public humiliation. It was thought of as a useful method to set an example for the rest of the citizens to deter them from a life of crime.

It is documented that an entire wooden cross would have weighed over 300 lbs, and most likely Jesus would have been forced to carry just the cross beam upon his heavily flagellated shoulders, as did other criminals intended for certain types of crucifixion. This still would have been considerable weight for one to carry as it would have weighed around 75 lbs and given the pain and shock Jesus was fighting off, He carried quite a considerable lode.

"A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and the forced him to carry the cross. " Mark 15:21

"As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross." Matthew 27:32

"As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus." Luke 23:26

Artistic renditions have led the believer astray into believing that in all Jesus' strength and capacity of fighting off shock, and having his body displaying open gruesome sores, that He carried a cross that weighed considerably more than what He did! Although this is possible, and can be done but under such highly stressful circumstances, one can assume that the best likely scenario is that Simon helped Jesus in carrying the heavy cross bar. Each men Taking an end, and Jesus being first, He took the brunt of the lode! There was a reason why the Roman guards did not allow them to walk side by side, and Jesus perhaps eludes to it in the following scriptural passage.

"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 13:28-30

When to oxen wear a yoke, the weight is evenly distributed. When two are walking front to back, one is always the leader, the other the follower and the one in front usually is the one who pulls, while the one behind has to either catch up or pace the steps so that the animal is not pushing the other forward. The results are a jerking stop and start motion. ( Yes, like the time you helped move some furniture for your friend...That's the same concept)
In short, the weight is not distributed evenly. It is only slightly distributed.

The Roman guards were not compassionate in their punishment by any means, and the positioning of both Jesus and Simon was only to ease the burden a bit perhaps in order to help get everyone to the site quicker and not to help Jesus in any way. (Roman guards had to stay with the criminal until death and it is for this reason sometimes the legs of the victims were broken to hasten death.)

Jesus knew that the make shift yoke(Comparable to the world's yoke,) was only temporary relief, and very minimal at best. If anything , carrying the cross (beam) in this fashion did not change things much and for this reason, Jesus' yoke, (the true yoke) can be trusted because of His demonstration of the cross to its entirety.