Christ’s death and resurrection
the chapter 3 we discussed the past and present state of mankind.
We learned that man was made in God’s image.
This meant that we were holy and without sin.
By sinning Adam and Eve chose not to obey God. This placed a barrier for
all time between man and God. We all continue, to this day, to choose sin over
obedience to God.
a result we have been condemned to death. That is, our actions have earned us
the penalty of eternal death. This state is not God’s plan or desire. God does
not want you or me to parish or be separated from Him. However, His just nature
will not allow the laws of His creation to be broken. Exodus 24:7 says
“maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.
Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished”. Man’s tendency was towards
increased sin and wickedness. In Genesis 6:5–7 tells us that our actions
actually made God sad that He had created us.
See also Ezekiel 18:4.
is God’s most special creation (Read Genesis 1:26 to 2:25) but we had become a
source of grief and pain. Even then God did not abandon us but chose one family,
Noah’s, to give man a fresh start. However just starting out fresh did not
enable us to be obedient. Then, as now, many of the people chose evil over good.
Even Noah, God’s chosen man, could not control his appetite for
self-indulgence (Genesis 9:21). Again,
a failure to live a godly life.
again chose one of us, Abram, to re-establish a relationship between God and
mankind. The basis of the new relationship was that man was to commit to loving
and serving God first and ourselves second. This was to be accomplished by
sealing this family as the special family (nation) of God.
God said, in effect, set aside yourselves from the time you are a baby as
belonging to me. Show this by having your infant males circumcised, by leaving,
the country of your birth, and by choosing between that which is most dear to
you and serving Me.
(Abram) chose to serve God. We are told that his faith was credited to him as
righteousness (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3, 22). Abraham was not able to be
righteous, but his faith was credited to him as righteousness.
In other words Abraham demonstrated by his actions that God was first in
his life and this was credited by God to him as righteousness.
this time of history our human conscience was the determining factor in our
choosing between good and evil. The thousands of years from Adam to Moses showed
that we did not have the force of will to choose correctly.
remove this burden from mankind’s shoulders God gave His Law to Moses and the
nation of Israel on Mount Sinai. The complete law was a framework for personal
and community life consistent with God’s intent for man.
and Leviticus tell us about the law and sacrificial system set up by God. In it,
He created the priestly class (the Levites) to enable sinful man to have a
relationship with a holy God. This system required constant sacrifices for sin
to be made. However the nation of
Israel was not able to discipline itself and carry this out. The sacrifices
required the continuous actions of man and were not sufficient to atone for sin
on a permanent basis. Over and over again man returned to a life of sin (Hebrews
these thousands of years we (mankind) showed that we were not able, or willing
to choose good over evil. God in His love for us has provided a new and better
way to be counted as righteous on the day of judgment. This is through the
ministry of Christ. We should not think
for a minute though that God was stumbling around blindly looking for a way to
get us to heaven. The two periods of time mentioned above were there for our
benefit. We are in the very privileged position of being able to learn from past
mistakes (1 Corinthians 10:6). Therefore, make sure that you do not choose to
try to earn or achieve salvation through works or will power.
This is faith in yourself, not in God.
chapter 4 we looked at the earthly ministry of Christ up until His death on the
cross. We will now look at Christ’s death and why it was necessary and
sufficient to restore our fellowship with God.
First we will look at the physical crucifixion.
physical crucifixion of Jesus
The section that follows is taken from an account of Christ’s death from
scourging and crucifixion written by a physician. It is based on the gospel
accounts, and historical and medical knowledge. Because it is our intent to
communicate as much important information about the Christian faith as we can in
a survey format we are addressing Christ’s physical death. Christ’s
voluntary death for our sins in this very cruel way is central to our
understanding of His love for us. However this passage describes a terrifying
event in detail, so it may not be comfortable to read. It is definitely not
suitable for children, and some other people, so use your judgment. A line marks
the end of the passage describing the crucifixion.]
is the torture and execution of a person by fixation to a cross. This was a
relatively common form of execution for criminals in the time of Christ.
The cross has been described in three forms.
It may be the upright portion only. This
part is the stipes. In addition, a
crossarm called the patibulum may be fixed either to the top of the stipes to
form a “T” or lower down to form what we typically call the “Latin
cross”. Most historical evidence
suggests that it was the “T” shaped cross used to crucify Christ.
physical passion of Christ began at Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Here
Christ prayed in anguish, His sweat became as drops of blood (Luke 22:44). This
is a very rare, but documented process called Hematidrosis or bloody sweat. It
is caused by great emotional stress breaking the tiny capillaries in the sweat
glands. This causes blood to mix with the normal sweat.
This process alone can cause weakness and a state of shock.
Jesus was arrested He was taken to jail (Luke 22:63). When He was in prison the
guards beat Him and insulted Him. It is doubtful if He was able to sleep at all
during the night before His death. Very early in the morning He was taken before
the council of elders.
the Jews were under the rule of Rome they did not have the authority to execute
a prisoner for any reason. Therefore they took Jesus to Pilate, who was the
leading civil authority of the area. When they arrived at Pilate’s court
Pilate could find nothing in Jesus’ record that would warrant death. Learning
that He was originally from Galilee, he sent Him to Herod, the ruler of Galilee,
who happened to be in Jerusalem at the time. There is no indication that Jesus
was mistreated while before Herod. Herod, finding nothing deserving death
either, sent Him back to Pilate.
Jesus arrived back at Pilate’s court Pilate stated that he still found no
reason to kill Jesus. The Jewish leaders however pressured Pilate and threatened
to send a delegation to Rome. Pilate
caved in and had Jesus scourged or flogged. This scourging was done with a whip
made of strips of leather. Each strip had two balls of lead at the end. Jesus’
clothes were removed and His hands would have been tied to a pole above His
head. As He was whipped the balls of lead would at first bruise and then sink
into His back as the tissues broke down under the repeated beating. Blood would
flow first from the broken skin and then from the muscles and veins as they were
cut to ribbons. Jewish law limited
the number of scourges to 40, and the Pharisees limited it to 39 in case they
being flogged they put a fancy robe on His bloody back and a crown of thorns on
His head. The crown was pushed down on His head as Jesus was struck on the face
and head (John 19:3, Mark 15:17). This would have caused more bleeding as the
scalp is one of the most vascular areas of the human body. By the time the robe
was taken off of Him, the robe would have become stuck to His back by clotting
blood, so removing it caused further bleeding and terrible pain.
deference to Jewish custom, Jesus’ clothes were returned to Him. The patibulum
of the cross is tied across His shoulders, and the procession of the condemned
Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail of Roman soldiers headed by a
centurion, begins the 650 yard journey to Golgotha. The rough beam digs into the
lacerated shoulders of Christ.The weakened and bleeding Christ is unable to
carry the beam, so a visitor from Cyrene who happens to be looking on is forced
to carry it the rest of the way. Note that normally at this point, as is the
case of the two thieves, the condemned man would not have been harmed, while
Jesus is in a state of shock and exhaustion from multiple trauma to His head,
face, back, and legs.
they arrive at the scene of the execution Jesus is again stripped of His
clothing except for a loin cloth allowed Jews. Jesus is offered wine mixed with
Myrrh, a mild analgesic, which He refuses. Jesus is thrown to the ground on top
of the patibulum and a large square nail is driven though the small depression
in the front of each wrist. The nail is not driven through the palm as is
popularly believed because the nail would rip out before supporting the body’s
weight. The patibulum and Jesus are then lifted to the top of the stipes. A sign
reading “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” is nailed in place.
left foot is pressed backwards over the right foot and with the toes facing
downward a nail is driven through the arch of each. The legs are left moderately
flexed. The victim is now crucified. As He slowly sags down more weight is put
on the nails in His wrist causing pain as the median nerves are compressed. This
causes pain to shoot through the arms. Because
the weight is supported by the extended arms the muscles begin to cramp and the
pectoral and intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the
lungs but cannot be expelled causing carbon dioxide to build up in the body.
Making a spasmodic effort He is able to raise Himself up by pushing down with
His feet and exhaling. It is during these times that He utters the seven short
sentences that are recorded.
hours of limitless pain and intermittent partial asphyxiation another agony
begins. The pericardium begins to fill with serum and starts to compress the
heart. It is now almost over, the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical
level, the compressed heart is struggling to pump thick sluggish blood, and His
lungs are making frantic efforts to gasp for air. A sponge soaked with cheap
wine is lifted to His lips but He does not take any.
makes one last effort and lifts Himself on His torn feet and utters His last
cry: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.”
He can now allow His tortured body to die.
order that the Sabbath not be profaned, the Jews asked that the condemned men be
dispatched and removed from the crosses. The common method was by crurefracture,
the breaking of the legs. The victim could then no longer push himself upwards
to breath and rapid suffocation then occurred. The legs of the thieves were
broken but when they got to Jesus this was not necessary.
To be doubly sure of His death a legionaire drove his lance upward between the ribs through the pericardium and into the heart (John 19:34). Blood and water flowed from the wound. We then have postmortem evidence that Christ died not from the usual death by crucifixion, that of suffocation, but by heart failure due to shock and a constriction of the heart from fluid in the pericardium.
did we look at this depressing and cruel event? We do it for two reasons.
Because some would have us believe that Christ didn’t really die, or that He
wasn’t truly a man. Secondly, it shows us how much He loved us and points us
toward the expectation of Easter morning.
words to the following hymn were written by George Bennard when he was preaching
in Sturgon Bay Wisconsin in 1913. If you visit Sturgon Bay you will find a cross
erected as a memorial to the song and to the meaning of the cross of Christ.
Old Rugged Cross
a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
emblem of suffering and shame;
I love that old cross where the dearest and best.
a world of lost sinners was slain.
that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
a wondrous attraction for me;
the dear Lamb of God left His glory above.
bear it to dark Calvary
the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
wondrous beauty I see;
‘twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died.
pardon and sanctify me.
the old rugged cross I will ever be true,
shame and reproach gladly bear;
He’ll call me some day to my home far away.
His glory for ever I’ll share.
the perfect sacrifice
the Old Testament sacrificial system the people of God were told to offer only
the best for sacrifices to God (Leviticus 1:10, 22:17–33). God in his law
requires all sacrifices be perfect and without blemish. This means that to be a
fit sacrifice Christ had to be without sin. Jesus was this perfect “Lamb of
God” (John 1:29)
death on the cross had both a practical side, the fulfillment of the law as well
as a symbolic side. First Christ’s
death on the cross shows all of us how much He loves us. Read John 15:13 and
Romans 5:8. It is a hard physical fact that Christ went voluntarily to the cross
to die. This historical fact demonstrates for all time that He chose love for us
over comfort. As we study the mechanics of our salvation we should always turn
back to the fact that God loves us. All of the doctrine regarding our
relationship with God and each other must ultimately be founded on the love God
has shown for us.
by Christ humbling Himself by dying on the cross, He showed God’s view of sin.
Christ became as sin to pay the penalty for us. Even though Christ remained
sinless and is God’s Son, as He took our sin upon Himself, God’s righteous
response to sin was the same. Sin produces death. God the Father made Jesus the
object of His judgment when Jesus became the sacrifice for our sin.
by raising Himself from the grave, Jesus demonstrated both that He is God and
also that there is victory over death. The resurrection Christ seen by thousands
(even five hundred at one time) gives us confidence that He was who He said He
it also showed His continued love for the disciples and for us. Look at how He
forgave Peter in John 21. How often we suffer from righteous indignation when we
make some small sacrifice that is not recognized. Here Jesus, newly risen from
the grave went to find His errant disciples and forgives them.
sacrifice of Christ’s blood for our protection and life are most easily
understood in the light of the Passover observance. If you will remember God
provided for His chosen people who were obedient to be saved from the angel of
death. By sacrificing a perfect lamb and sprinkling its blood on their door post
the firstborn would be saved (Exodus 12). Jesus,
firstborn of God, became the lamb for all of us and shed His blood to purchase
our eternal life.
are a couple of terms used to describe the mechanism that provides for our
salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ. Redemption,
justification, substitution, and propitiation are some of the terms we use to
understand the work of Christ. Let’s
define them as a gateway to understanding them. We will look at some of them
further in chapter 6 covering the believer’s assurance of salvation.
comes from the word propitiate which
means to gain or regain the favor or goodwill of: APPEASE, CONCILIATE.
The work of Christ is to satisfy God’s righteous demands for punishment
for the sinner. Christ’s death atoned for our sins to pay this debt owed to
God. Romans 3:25 and 1 John 2:2, 4:10 talk about this. The RSV Bible uses the
word expiation and the NIV uses the word atonement or atoning sacrifice instead.
is the act, process, or state of being justified by God.
Through the ministry of Christ’s death we are lifted from our natural state,
to that of fellowship with God. We begin living in a justified manner, that is
according to the righteous law of God.
the substitution of one person or thing (as a mathematical quantity) for
another. Here of course Jesus died on our behalf.
He took the punishment we deserved. Because Jesus is God He had victory
over death where we could not.
the act, process, or an instance of redeeming. Redeem, to buy back, or to free
from captivity by payment of a ransom. In this case the doctrine states that
Jesus bought our freedom and life by using His death as the ransom.
study the resurrection of Christ from the grave. Without the resurrection we
cannot have assurance of salvation. Two things are necessary if Jesus is to
raise from the dead. The first is His death of course. Jesus Himself told us
that He would die, but also that He would live again (Matthew 16:21, 17:9,
17:22–23; Mark 9:10; Luke 9:22–27; John 2:18–22 and many other places).
we studied in chapter 4, Jesus was born, grew up, and in other ways lived a
physically normal life. He did not exist as an image of a man but as a man in
body. In the same way the man Jesus died a physical death, as we will. When
Jesus was dead His body was taken to a grave carved out of stone. The grave was
owned by Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57–60).
Before allowing Jesus’ friends to have his body Pilate had asked for
proof that Jesus was dead (Mark 15:44–44). This evidence was provided by Roman
soldiers who were certainly very familiar with death. It is notable that though
Jesus had many enemies, none called His death into question.
body was prepared for burial with spices and washed. The body was then wrapped
in cloth and placed in the tomb. A stone was rolled over the entrance so that no
one could get in or out. Normally the body would have been embalmed at this time
but the Sabbath had to be observed first.
do we know that Jesus rose alive from the grave? Let’s look at some of the
evidence. The Jews remembered that Jesus had predicted His resurrection so they
requested and received a Roman guard detail from Pilate (Matthew 27:62–66).
Later on the third day an earthquake caused the Roman seal to be broken and the
stone to roll away, probably up out of a depression in which it was seated. The
Roman guards then ran to the chief priests who had asked for them. They did this
so that the chief priests could smooth things over with Pilate. The standard
treatment of soldiers who failed in duty was death.
disciples had dispersed after Jesus’ death, they had forgotten in their grief
and fear that He would return. Jesus
appears to some and then all of them. See
Luke 24:34, 36–43; John 20:19–24, 26-29, 21:1-23; Matthew 28:16–20; Mark
16:14–20, and Acts 1:3–12. Another
proof of the active ministry of Christ after His death is how the disciples went
from being a group of frightened depressed men, to an energetic and fearless
all Jesus appeared to many people over a period of 40 days after He had risen
from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:6). In Acts 2 Peter’s first sermon is
recorded. The central theme is that
of the risen Christ. We are told that the people were convicted in their hearts
by what they had done, and that three thousand were baptized that day. If it was
not commonly accepted that Jesus had indeed risen then surely some among them
would have objected to Peter’s speech. It is not reasonable that so many
people who were personally knowledgeable of these events would have accepted
this if it were not so.
proof of Christ’s living power continue to this day. For nearly 2000 years
Christ has been changing and renewing His believers. Many of us can testify to
His power in our own lives. The fact is that most of us believe because of what
He has done for us and in those who we know.
institution of the Christian Church also shows His power. Even with all of its
divisions and sometime apparent aimlessness, do you know of any other entity
that has continued to function for 2000 years? Do you know of anything else that
has effected human history to this extent?
more information on the resurrection I recommend Evidence that Demands a Verdict
by Josh McDowell.
It responds to many of the objections made by some to the death and resurrection
Why did Christ have to die? (Ephesians 2:12, 13, Romans 4:25, 1 Peter 3:18)
Did it have to be Christ who died for us?
What does Christ’s death show you personally? (Romans 5:8)
What does Christ’s death tell you about God? (John 3:16)
What does Christ’s death tell you about God’s attitude towards sin? (1 Peter