“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Most of us have one or two lying around our house. You may be wearing one right now. They adorn everything from book covers to cars to clothing. On a side note, I find it rather odd that some who wear them do not act like they care too much about them. It has become an adorning fashion. The mere mention of it has changed over the many years since it was known as a device of death. Those in the first century would find the wearing of a cross to a thing of disgust, but many see it is different. Josephus described death on the cross as “the most wretched of deaths.” (Josephus, Jewish War, 7.203)
(I am not in any way saying that wearing a cross is a sin before God. I just find it interesting that a thing of abhorrent death is used as a fashion statement. Stay with me and you will see further.)
The cross was more than two wooden beams nailed to each other. It was a device of torture used for the ultimate criminals.
There were conquerors who used crucifixion in there conquests. Alexander the Great crucified 2,000 survivors of his siege on the city of Tyre. They were crucified along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea to stand as a symbol of the power of Alexander. Josephus writes of there being 800 Pharisees being crucified in front of their wives and children in 267 A.D. (Josephus, Antiquities, 12.256) Six thousand were crucified along the Appian Way following there capture at the end of the revolt of Spartacus. It is further stated that 3,000 political opponents of Darius of Persia.
The Romans found the crucifixion as an interesting way to control an individual’s death. The historian Josephus in his writings the Jewish War mentions the crucifixion. He confirms the horrible actions of the Roman soldiers as they “out of rage and hatred amused themselves by nailing their prisoners in different postures.” (Josephus, Jewish War 5.11 and 451)
Archeological evidence has shown that the Romans would nail the ankle bone of the individual to a board then to the cross to provide a stable position for the victim to hang.
A Physician Looks at Crucifixion
As Dr. Truman Davis contemplated the story of Christ, it dawned on him that he didn’t know the actual immediate cause of death for a victim of crucifixion; so he began to study the ancient practice of torture and death by fixation to a cross.
The preliminary scourging was done with the victim naked, his arms tied to a post above his head. The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs. At first the thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue they cut deeper until the half-fainting victim is untied and allowed to slump to the pavement, wet in his own blood.
A heavy crossbeam is tied across his shoulders, but in spite of his efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious blood loss, is too much. He stumbles and falls. The rough wood gouges into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tries to rise, but human muscles have been pushed beyond their endurance.
At the site of execution, the crossbeam is thrown down, and the victim is pushed to the ground, his arms stretching over the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side. Jesus is hauled up and lifted onto the upright post.
The left foot is now pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The victim is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists excruciating pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain—the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places his full weight on the nail through his feet. Again there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.
At this point, as the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward. Hanging by the arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. The victim fights to raise himself up in order to get even one short breath. Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. It was undoubtedly during these periods that Jesus uttered the seven short sentences recorded.
The common method of ending a crucifixion was by crurifracture, the breaking of the bones of the legs. This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; thus the tension could not be relieved from the muscles of the chest and rapid suffocation occurred. This was unnecessary for Christ, who died after six hours of crucifixion.
Apparently to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance through the fifth interspace between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. There was an escape of water fluid from the sac surrounding the heart, giving postmortem evidence that our Lord died not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure (a broken heart) due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.
(Source: Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (Page 171). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers / Dr. C. Truman Davis, “A Physician Testifies About the Crucifixion,” in The Review of the News, April 14, 1976.)
As you can see, the cross was not a symbol of fashion but of the cruelest deaths known to man. To those who saw crucifixions or lost loved ones to this terrible death, it was a symbol of utter disgust. To hang on a tree was to be cursed in the sight of God (Deuteronomy 21:22-23; Galatians 3:13). To commit a sin deserving of death was bad enough; but to hang on a tree was to be accursed of God. The Son of God became accursed on the tree as our sin offering.
Throughout the life of Christ, He was rejected. He was rejected even though His words were amazing (Matthew 7:28-29). Even His miracles, preformed privately and in front of multitudes of people, were rejected (Matthew 9:1-8). He was rejected even though He was innocent (Luke 23:13, 14). While hanging on the cross, fulfilling Scripture, He was rejected (Luke 23:35-39). Even today, men reject Jesus as the Savior. To them it is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18). John the apostle says, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:11)
After all, why would the Messiah hang from a tree as one accursed of God? Wasn’t He supposed to come with power and glory with the presence of God in the highest to conquer the Roman Empire and the world?
How foolish for the Messiah to hang on a cross and never come down to show His power and glory! Matthew records the words of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders, “If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.” (Matthew 27:42)
Why would they believe Him if He came down from the cross? He had healed countless numbers during His earthly ministry. Would they really believe? Did they have their own selfish agenda in mind when no fault was found, a murder was let go and an innocent man was crucified?
They cross to them and many today represent two beams of wood. To the Christian, the cross represents the plan of God for our lives. It represents our personal cross bearing (Matthew 10:38)
“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Jesus)
So, are you are cross-wearer or are you a cross bearer?
Just some thoughts,
Have you read the news lately?
Have you been discouraged by what is on the television?
Our lives may become so enthralled with the physical that we can easily forget the beauty of the heavenly realm. The early church had similar problems, yet Paul reminded them the true treasure is not found with eye sight, but faith sight.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4.16-18; ESV; Emphasis Mine – CMG)
As followers of a man, if indeed we can call him a man, who left a rock-hewn tomb and walked among this world for the second time before he ascended to the Promised Land which awaits all of those sealed with the guarantee of the Spirit. Why should we focus on the daily headlines of doom and gloom when we should be proclaiming the heavenly land of promise to the earthly land blazon with leaders of unpromise?
Let us join together, knowing that we are surround by so great a cloud of witnesses, and begin sharing encouraging proclamations that there is more than a tangible world has to offer. The bricks and mortar of the earth will be replaced with the crowing jewels of a heavenly crown! The kitchen table of physical food will be put aside by the banquet table of the Father. The time on earth is just time, but in heaven, time does not exist or do any of the souls expire. The beauty of heaven is seen from non- beginning to non-end; for time does not exist. Where there is no time, there is eternity. Where there is eternity there is God. Where there is God, there you should be too!
Even before we made our mistakes, took our missteps and moved in the wrong way, God was sending His only Son for us. While we wandered from from the safety of Him, He was still encouraging us to follow His Son. He reached towards us as far as His almighty arms can reach and waited for us to turn back to Him. He, like the lost son’s father of Luke 15, waited by that eternal window and ran toward us with the garment of Christ when we came to Him. He bestowed grace on those not worthy of grace. It was that bestowing to the unworthy that brought grace into full existence. Grace brings mercy, mercy brings pardon, pardon brings cleansing, cleansing brings the blood of the innocent One to cover us so we may live…and live we can.
Why are you waiting? Reach out your hand to the discouraged and share with them the Saviors courage!
Though the nations rage and the mountains crumble, God will shelter us under the shadow of His wing, the refuge of our souls will vanquish the enemy of death and a room await — a room in the mansion of the Father awaits those who are found in the cleansing power of the Savior.
Who will you encourage today?
“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3.13; ESV)
Just a thought,
Since 2015, is right around the corner, many resolutions will be made and some will keep them all. In the midst of those resolutions, some will decide to change their spiritual life for the better and begin attending services on a more regular basis. Many people are seeking the perfect church (by worldly standards) to attend. I would challenge you to consider the points below in your search.
People want to find the perfect item to solve their problems. As people, we look for the newest and most improved item to conquer our issues. These new and improved items are the ones which glitter and shine in the midst of a sales campaign on television. Several years ago I drove past a church building which sign read, “This is the Perfect Church!” Regarding those thoughts, I have decided to share with you steps on finding the perfect church.
How to find the Perfect Church:
Step #1 – Leave Yourself Behind
- To find the perfect church, we must lay down our interests and pursuits and look to the One whose thoughts are greater than ours (Isaiah 55.8-9)
- To find the perfect church, look for the words of God not the words that you want to hear. (2 Timothy 3.16-17; 2 Timothy 4.1-5)
- To find the perfect church, find the worship of the Lord not the worship you might like. (John 4.24)
- To find the perfect church, find people to serve not a reason to be served. (Philippians 2.3-4)
- To find the perfect church, look for saved sinners not lying self-righteous. (1 Corinthians 6.15-20; 1 John 1.8-10)
- To find the perfect church, find not a building but a vision looking forward. (2 Corinthians 4.16-18; Colossians 3.2)
Step #2 – Repeat step #1 often.
Just my thoughts,
2015? Is it here already?
It is difficult to believe that 2014 is coming to a close and in a few short weeks 2015 will begin. With the New Year comes new goals, new resolutions and new opportunities for greatness. For many, the New Year brings an opportunity to start fresh and start working for the lifestyle they want: less eight, better fitness, read a few more books, do more with family, etc.
As the New Year approaches, may I offer a few simple thoughts as you plan your goals (resolutions)? They are simple thoughts you do not have to wait until the New Year to begin doing; instead, you can begin these today.
- A Proverb a Day – On Sunday morning I mentioned that Proverbs has 31 chapters and several months have at least 31 days. Take time and read a chapter of proverbs a day. (Example: on day 1 read Proverbs 1; day 2 read Proverbs 2)
- Make Service A Priority – To really grow as a Christian, you will find that attending services will help you grow in two ways: (1) Closer to God and (2) closer to your brothers and sisters. The Hebrews writer says that brethren can “stir up one another.” (Hebrews 10:24)
- Pray like Daniel – Reading through Daniel you find that Daniel prayed three times a day (Daniel 6:10). As a result, of Daniel’s prayer life, you see the benefits of strength. Schedule sometime to pray at least twice a day and make it a goal to achieve at least three.
- Teach the Young Ones – From the beginning, the Lord wants us to teach the young people about Him and the riches of His blessings. Teaching the young of the blessings, begins in our daily conversations. Take a moment and read Deuteronomy 6:1- 9. Make it a goal to mention God daily.
- Remember to Teach Others – One of the goals for every Christians should be to teach others the lifestyle of Christ. Paul mentions to Titus that the younger should teach the older in Titus 2 and this is a great pattern to learn about the walk of a mature Christian.
- Be Thankful – As the Lord blesses us each day, let us thank Him for His continual blessings. The blessings we have come from the Father (James 1.5). Remember to thank God daily in everything He has provided. (Colossians 3:17)
Just some thoughts…
Every Sunday you see her sitting in the same place. She arrives at service before you do and is already seated by the time you arrive. Her elderly, gentle voice does not carry across the aisle, so you have to lean and concentrate to try to hear how she is doing. You have not spoken to her in a long while and you do not know how she is doing today, but she is here, so she is doing ok; after all it is church – everyone does well at church.
Or do they? That elderly lady sitting in that pew may need a call, a hug and even a prayer. She may also need to share the joys of her children and grandchildren with you; but will you get close to her and share those joys together? Remember, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)
Contrary to popular belief, we are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper. The Bible speaks of the encouragement we should provide one another. (Romans 15.1; Galatians 6.1; Hebrews 3.13) Our encouragement for each other is something this world does not understand, because this world does not under- stand Jesus. Our joy and unity is found in the Savior sent by the Father…not a man created. Our church family needs as just as much as we need them.
Instead of watching people from afar, get to know them. Below are Five Steps to Get Closer to Your Christian Family. Try each one for three months and see if they work for you. At the end of three months, see how well you know your Christian family.
Five Steps to Get Closer to Your Christian Family:
- Get a Hobby or Loan a Hobby – Find a common interest with someone in the congregation and take part in it together. My greatest “church visits” have been fishing in a boat or on working on a project. Also, instead of always using your hobby, learn theirs. This means you will have to ask; but what better way to learn and get to know someone.
- Watch Their Children – I know, I know…I am a crazy one, but crazy works! How many couples never get a date night because they are worried about the kids and a babysitter? Be their babysitter and expect nothing in return…just do it as a spiritual family member.
- Drop, Knock and Run – Buy a gift for a member of the congregation, drop it on their front porch, pound on the door and run like crazy. It is awesome to listen to members talk about the “weird gift” they received and they may never know who it is. (by the way, do not leave food…it will not get eaten)
Just a thought…
Over the years, fantasy football has become a rising fad among many armchair quarterbacks and I am among them. After winning my league in crushing defeat eight years ago, my fantasy football teams resembles the heritage of the Detroit Lions. We are simply awful. I am gladly holding down last place in our league and still searching, praying, hoping and wishing for the first win of the season.
Every year I wonder the same thing about fantasy football, “Why do I do so bad?” Well, I know the answer – I do not pay attention to football or my fantasy football team as much as I need to in order to win. Instead, I casually glance at my team every few weeks to be sure it is still there. Since I do not watch ESPN or read the paper, so I have no idea what players are good and which are on the injured reserve list. Face it, my football knowledge is so bad right now that if Terry Bradshaw were a choice, I would have drafted him.
One interesting thing is, I have the fantasy football app on my phone, which is in my hands several dozen times a day. I just never check it.
The same thing happens with our knowledge of the Bible. When we do not use our knowledge, or keep up with our reading and study then we start lacking in knowledge. Those once simple memory verses have all been forgotten. As with my fantasy football app, there is a Bible app in my hands several times a day.
I wonder if many Christians need to carry the Bible in their hands every day.
Have we lost the touch and feel of God’s word in our lives?
Have we replaced God’s Word with the self-help, motivational philosophies of the day?
Here are five quick thoughts to see how familiar you are with God’s Word:
5 – Your favorite version on Sunday mornings is the “pew version.”
4 – You think Daniel’s three friends are Larry, Moe and Curly.
3 – The preacher gives a lesson on lying from Mark 17 and you tell him you read Mark 17 all the time.
2 – Your children read from 2nd Hezekiah last night.
1 – You favorite Bible verse is “cleanliness is next to godliness.”
Just some thoughts,
Recognized this post? This article is a previous post on the Preacher’s Pen and has been brought back, revised and reposted on the new website format. It is my hope and prayer, these posts are bringing you some thoughts to motivate and inspire you to greater service. Over the next few months, new articles will be written and older articles will be revised and reposted. Stay tuned for more!