This may seem like a strange Message at Christmas time, but I assure you it is right on target. Have you ever forgotten a gift? As we remind our audience every year in the Nativity that little baby in the manger—that precious innocent child—came for one single reason to this earth, and the greatest gift ever given, was hidden away and forgotten for 33 years before it was finally unwrapped. That tiny, sweet child of Mary had to become the very essence and embodiment of our sins which God had to punish and destroy with His own wrath. So like we have never done before (even if you have heard me talk on this subject), we are going to completely focus on the physical suffering that sweet baby in the manger came to experience in order to live and die for our Salvation. As we look at these difficult facts more intently than we ever have in the past. Today, there will be no prophecies of how exact the account was lived or how it was proven 1000yrs before unmistakably.—just a look at what He experienced alone.
Before His arrest, when Jesus was in prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane (John 17), the knowledge of all He would soon experience—not just physically, though this would have been enough—but the horridness of all of the sin, violence, hatred placed on Him as He was shamefully judged and hated by the Father for a time—was more than His heart could bear. Jesus was so full of anxiety, fear, and shear overwhelming stress that something happened to Him that is only recorded 12 or 14 times in medical history. Happening to those under unimaginable stress and agony ‘hematidrosis’ (Luke 22:44), where the small capillaries which surround the sweat glands rupture from stress, causing Jesus to literally sweat blood from pores all over His body. He was covered in His own blood long before the Cross, already experiencing a suffering that very few in history have ever felt. And even under this stress, fear and anxiety, Jesus surrenders, "Never the less, Your will be done." Luke 22:41-44.
After His arrest, Jesus was physically beaten on several occasions. He was brutally beaten by huge soldiers of war in extreme prejudice and apathy. First by the Temple Guards at His false arrest by night (Mark 14:65), spitting in His face, blindfolding Him and punching Him, and taunting to prophecy who hit Him, then repeatedly, open-handedly slapping Him while blindfolded. Isaiah says He was unrecognizable before it was all over. Between these blind beatings and those yet to come, Jesus' face became a disfigured mess. eyes swollen shut, nose busted, lips probably in ribbons, teeth probably loosened or missing. After Pilate offered to release Jesus or Barabbas, the crowd cried, "Crucify Him!" So it began for Jesus—one of the worst forms of torture and death that has ever been created by mankind perfected by the Romans—even illegal to be used on a Roman Citizen—saved for slaves, traitors and the worst of criminals. Even the most war-hardened soldiers coward at this sentence. Flavius Josephus recorded: That an entire barrack of soldiers offered surrender with a pledge that when killed, it would not be by crucifixion. This unspeakable road to death began with Jesus' scourging. Joel M. Donahoe, who has studied Roman scourging extensively made these statements: “A victim who was sentenced to a… scourging had very little to no chance of surviving even if he was still living by the end of the scourging. The blood loss and infection to come would result in the certain death of the victim. Crucifixion to follow a scourging served to expedite the victim’s death by suffocation.” It began by tying Jesus, completely naked in front of a multitude across a post or against a wall, immovable, and two Roman Legionnaires, well suited physically for the job would each have a Roman Flagrum described as a whip with 9 leather cords at each of the ends, a heavy lead shod like a fishing weight. And attached along the strands, sharp cattle or sheep bone fragments, sharp stone, glass, and metal hooks. These whips were used alternately across the shoulder, arms, back, buttocks, thighs, and calves of Jesus (face, neck sometimes) 39 lashes. The weights (besides bruising flesh themselves) were used to ensure the sharp fragments and hooks sunk deeply into the flesh, muscle and even bone. As the jagged fragments literally dug into the flesh, the whip would be jerked back, literally tearing out large strips of flesh and pulling ribbons of fatty tissue and muscle through the open wounds. One throng of one whip could produce a tear in the flesh that was about 2" long and 3/4 to an 1" deep. Medically, this one wound would require about 20 stitches. Medical research has shown that the wounds received after 39 lashes of this sort would require an estimated 2000 stitches to close. Historical writings and medical research both tell us when a scourging is finished this is the result: Shreds of muscle and fatty tissue are protruding from the open tears. The spine is often literally visible through the large connecting tears. Ribs, veins, sinews (connecting tissue) and even organs are visible. In some cases, internal organs have spilled out. A 3rd Century Historian, Eusabious of Ceasare writes of the experience: “…their bodies were frightfully lacerated. Christian martyrs in Smyrna were so torn by the scourges that their veins were laid bare, and the inner muscles, sinews, even entrails, were exposed.”
In this condition, our precious Savior was finally removed from the Scourging Post—already covered in His own bloody sweat from head to toe; face beaten unrecognizable; body now torn open the entire length with bones, veins, muscles and maybe organs visible. The loss of body fluids and blood already critical, weak, dying of thirst, suffering beyond expression of words. He was put into shackles again, brought into the public courtyard and gathered all of the available Roman Soldiers of the area. In the open public, they placed a scarlet robe on His raw back, twisted the crown of thorns [made of hard thorns 1 1/2 to 2" long], shoved it into His scalp and beat it with a reed into His skull. These thorns were hard enough to tear the flesh and scrape the bone of the skull. And they spit into His disfigured face mercilessly as they bowed in ridiculing worship to the King, and mercilessly beat Him in public. Then they tore the robe away from His wounded back again and had the cross bar (horizontal beam) of His soon-to-be cross tied across His shoulders and back. This cross bar was about 5 or 6 feet long. It weighed between 75 and 125lbs., and was made of rough, unfinished wood—very much like a railroad cross tie. Harassed, in unquenchably thirst, weak, and in unbearable pain—the rough wood scraping open tears and exposed muscles—Jesus stumbles towards His cross. And our Jesus, in His human form, is pushed beyond His limits. He falls in His near dead state...
and cannot rise again. Simon of Cyrene, carries Jesus' cross the rest of the way (Luke 23:26). Once He arrived at the place of crucifixion, He was stripped naked in front of thousands once again. Then He was thrown to the ground onto the rough crossbeam, and had 5 or 6" spikes driven through His wrists—missing the radial and ulnar arteries—but using the traverse carpal ligament to support the weight and perfectly piercing the median nerve. This alone was one of the most excruciating pains possible as the unstoppable pain would radiate as electrical shocks through the whole arm and the hands would involuntarily curl up. Next Jesus was either hoisted up with large metal forks from each side or the entire cross lifted and dropped into a foundation where His feet were crossed and extended down on an angled pedestal and another spike was driven through both feet between the 2nd and 3rd metatarsal bones, piercing the plantar nerves, causing the same agonizing effects to the legs. He is finally crucified. His full weight hangs on the nails driven through the most sensitive nerves in His arms and legs. His diaphragm will only allow Him to breathe in air as He hangs by His arms. In order to breathe out again, He must shift all of His weight to the nail between the bones in His feet and push against the burning nerves enough to exhale briefly. Then sink back onto the nails tearing His median nerves again. Open torn flesh, muscles, even bone scraping the cross as He moves. And He must torture Himself this way every several seconds or suffocate. This is why every sentence spoken from the cross was so short and so completely precious at this time of year (Passover). There are tens of thousands in Jerusalem, hundreds of thousands more camping in the surrounding land, and Jesus is the biggest news of the century. There is no guessing how many were there to witness Him in this state. Our Jesus, God, Creator, Lover of mankind—hung naked and shamed in front of thousands. Isaiah says at that moment He was swollen, cut, torn and beaten until He did not even look human, with dried mucous and spit all over Him: Isaiah 52:13-15. As Jesus hung there in His most intimate moments before death, the pain from all His wounds were unbearable. The searing pain from His hands and feet, alternating every few seconds as He pushed to breathe, unbearable thirst increased as His blood and bodily fluids ran from His wounds. Birds, which were quick to flock to this area, would quickly torment their helpless, immovable victim, pecking at eyes, pulling at the protruding shreds of exposed muscle and fatty tissue while Jesus was still alive. Insects would bite and torment on flesh and in wounds. And even here, they continued to mock Him to His death, as Roman Soldiers laughed and gambled for His clothing, just a few feet beneath His blood-dripping, naked body. But in all of this—I do not think any of these things took His life—not asphyxiation, not a failed heart, not shock—listen closely to Jesus' own words: John 10:13-18.
Jesus' Last Words Spoken between broken, tortured breaths on the Cross were: "It Is Finished!" And finally this: Luke 23:46; Matthew 27:50. I believe that is Scriptural proof Jesus Released His own Spirit to death at that moment because when they thrust a spear through His side in the end, He had to have been dead for at least 30 or 40 minutes for the blood to separate and come out of the wound as blood and water (John 19:33-34). And believe it or not, these things were the least of His pains and terror [But that is for another lesson]. Even as all of this was actually being done to Jesus, this was His Prayer: Luke 23:33-34.
When you wonder why Jesus doesn't do something about the evil and sin in the world, look how far He went. When you get the idea that Jesus is pompous, arrogant and self-serving, wake up and look at this picture. When you think that Jesus couldn't still love you after all you've done—that you are just unforgivable—look what He paid. Look at what you are worth to Him. Look at the torture, humiliation and horror He experienced and try to tell me your sins are still greater than His love and sacrifice. Try to tell me you still need to do something more. Don't you dare insult His unfathomable love and desire for you ever again with that thought. This is what that baby in a manger truly came to accomplish. This is why our Jesus is worthy of everything in our lives. This is how far He went just to know you intimately. What are you waiting for? Could you actually still be ashamed to proclaim Him after all He suffered for you?
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