April 09, 2019

The life of Jesus: - The Crucifixion Of Jesus Christ


Flogging was a legal preliminary to every Roman crucifixion. The victim was stripped of his clothing. His hands were then tied over his head to an upright post. The weapon of choice was a short whip with several leather thongs to which small iron balls or sharp pieces of bone were tied. The victim’s back, buttocks and legs were whipped until his skin was cut into ribbons. The lacerations frequently dug into the man’s muscles. The objective was to whip the victim to a point just short of death or collapse.
The goal of crucifixion is to cause as much pain as possible for the longest possible time until a man dies in agony. The ordeal could take several hours. Women and children were not crucified. They might make it back to their community, be enslaved, or punished in other ways.

Early Friday morning the Levites took Jesus to stand accused before Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of the Roman province of Judea. Summoned by the Levites, a crowd had gathered to vilify Jesus. They were in a vindictive mood, callous, malicious, and unruly.

Peter had not gone to Jericho with the others. Instead he cautiously returned to the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives. Standing by himself in the angry crowd, he said nothing.

Rested, but still upset he had to deal with Jesus, Caiaphas was very persuasive. He presented a convincing case. But Pilate was less certain.

“So you believe this man is a threat to Roman rule. You know that means he should be crucified.”
“We have shown you proof of his planned rebellion,” Caiaphas responded with a shrug “do as you wish.”

Pilate thought for a moment. “Why do I have to pass judgement? Have you not said he is from Galilee?”
“Yes, of course.” Caiaphas was frustrated by Pilate’s indecision. But his frustration turned to outright anger when the Prefect announced:
“Take him to Herod Antipas. If Jesus is from Galilee, then he is Herod’s problem.”

With a wave of his hand, Pilate ended the hearing.

Fuming with increasing anger, Caiaphas quickly arranged for a trial to be set before Herod Antipas. Later that morning, he stood before Herod and again repeated his accusations against Jesus.

Like Pilate, Herod feared the crucifixion of a man as popular as Jesus would set off a rebellion. He was actually happy to see Jesus and hoped he would perform a miracle for Herod’s entertainment. But when Jesus refused, Herod grew angry. He asked Jesus several questions. But Jesus refused to answer. There was a brief silence. Then Herodias, his wife, whispered in Herod’s ear
.
“He should be crucified. But you are in Pilate’s jurisdiction. Let him take the blame. If you do nothing, he will be forced to see that justice is done.” Herod looked at the poor man before him.

“Did you really think you could lead a rebellion against Rome? You have nothing, you are nothing, and by tonight you will be nothing.”

Herod motioned for the guards to take Jesus away. They began to punch him with their fists and poke him with their spears as they walked toward the door. Peter, standing among the people who were screaming obscenities against Jesus, did nothing.

Caiaphas closed his eyes in frustration. Would this never end?

Before Pontius Pilate started the third trial, he received a message from Herod. He walked through the halls of the fortress to a small waiting room. Herod Antipas immediately began to speak.

“How dare you send this upstart to me? He is your problem, so deal with him. If you fail, I will tell Rome you are too weak to rule against traitors. Then I’ll ask Rome to let me rule all of Judea and Samaria. Do your job or lose it!”

Herod abruptly turned away and walked out of the room. Pilate was stunned by Herod’s assertions. He knew Herod Antipas had been plotting against him in Rome. Angry at Herod’s nasty demeaning words, Pilate shrugged his shoulders and walked to the chamber where the trial would be held. He was greeted by a crowd of jeering people. He took a long look at Jesus. Here was a tired and pitiful man, dressed in a dirty robe. How could he possibly be the King of the Jews?

It was a very short trial. Pilate asked Jesus if he was King of the Jews.
Jesus responded: “So you say.”
The noise from the mob of people in the room was deafening. “Crucify him! Crucify him!” they chanted. For a third time, Peter did nothing.
Pilate had his guards bring another prisoner by the name of Barabbas into the room. He stood up and shouted to the mob.
“Shall I crucify Barabbas or Jesus?”
“Jesus!” the mob roared.
With a wave of his hand, Pilate ordered Jesus to be flogged and crucified. His Roman troops were eager to carry out the sentence.
But as he was being taken away, Pilate walked to the window and looked out over the mob below. He interceded one last time.
“I give you a choice,” he shouted to the mob “shall we crucify Jesus or punish Barabbas.”
The mob began to chant again “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Pontius Pilate turned his back on the mob. Jesus was led away. Pilate went to his bath and ritually washed his hands.

***

The Romans flogged Jesus until his backside was bleeding from his neck to his ankles. Jesus almost passed out from the intense pain.

The Roman soldiers mocked Jesus after his flogging. They spat on this man who claimed to be a King. They found a robe, placed it on his shoulders, and crowned him with wreath of thorns. When they had finished amusing themselves, they yanked the robe off his body, reopening his wounds. Jesus cried out. Deprived of water, food, and sleep; bleeding from his wounds; and in intense pain, Jesus was close to collapse.

Ten or more of Pilate’s Roman soldiers, led by a Centurion, escorted Jesus to Golgotha, just outside the wall of the City. To mock him, the soldiers again placed a crown of thorns on his head. Jesus was forced, as was the custom, to carry the cross arm of his own cross to the crucifixion site outside the city. The cross arm was placed across his shoulders behind his neck. His outstretched arms were then tied to the cross arm.

Jesus was able to walk with the heavy wood cross arm for less than a block. Exhausted and close to death, Jesus stumbled and fell to the street. Although the soldiers whipped him, he could not get up. Frustrated they looked around for another man to carry the cross. They spotted a man by the name of Simon of Cyrene who looked as though he wanted to help Jesus.
“Take the cross,” a soldier ordered “and follow this King to the hill where he will be crucified.”
Filled with compassion for this poor man he did not know, Simon did as he was ordered.

Once at Golgotha, Jesus was thrown to the ground on his back. The soldiers assembled the cross. Then the soldiers laid him upon the roughhewn wood of the cross which would bite into the ribbons of flesh on his back until he died. They nailed his wrists and ankles to the beams with 5 inch iron spikes, secured his wrists with rope, and placed a sign on the cross proclaiming he was Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.  The soldiers raised the cross into position. It was noon on Preparation Day. The mob began to jeer Jesus.

“Make a miracle!” shouted one “and release your body from the cross!”
Another spat in the direction of the cross. “There is no Kingdom, you liar!”

Numb with the agony of searing pain, and almost unconscious, the limp form of Jesus hung from the cross. A man to his right screamed out. Jesus managed to turn his head just enough to see a man who had been crucified at the same time. His wife and five badly frightened children huddled together down the hill. Jesus took pity on the man.

“Come with me,” Jesus managed to gasp out the words “follow me to the Kingdom of God.”
“Help me,” the man responded “help me to follow you.”
It took Jesus several minutes to get enough breath to respond. He was finally able to call out:
“Today you shall be with me in paradise...”
But Jesus could say no more. 
The man looked at Jesus. “You are the one...”

A scream pierced the air as soldiers raised another man they had nailed to a cross. Jesus turned to his left to see him and spoke the same words.
“Come with me,” Jesus called out “follow me to the Kingdom of God.”
The man looked at Jesus for several moments, recognized who he was, and mocked him.
“Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself! Save us.....  as if you can.”
The man taunted Jesus again.
“You sinner! You liar! You heretic! I’ll never follow you anywhere!”
Drifting into unconsciousness, Jesus could only manage to mutter his response.
“Go your own way.”

Weeping because of the horror they were witnessing, Mary, his mother, Mary of Magdala, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Salome of Bethsaida stood together on the street below the hill. Jude, James and Peter, despite the risk of staying in Jerusalem, were standing far away from the throng watching the crucifixion. Joanna the wife of Chuza, and Susanna of Caesarea stood across the road, devastated by the painful agony of their teacher. After an hour, the crowd began to disperse, leaving them alone with several Roman guards and a handful of disciples to watch as Jesus, in terrible pain, slowly died. Blood continued to ooze from his wounds. Every time he moved, the ribbons of flesh on his back would be reopened. His breathing became more and more difficult.

Jude could not stand to see his brother in pain any longer, and left for Jericho to join the other Apostles. James, choked with sorrow, joined the women. Mary, Salome, Mary Magdalene and James came to the foot of the cross and looked up at the man they all loved.  Just before three PM Jesus managed to gather enough strength to ask his brother if he would care for their mother.
“Of course I will take care of Mary,” James responded with tears in his eyes.
Then Jesus turned his head to look at his mother “Woman, here is your son.”

At three PM, Jesus - his lungs unable to exhale - delirious, thirsty, exhausted, and numb with intense pain called out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

A Roman soldier carefully examined the dead man on the cross, and according to custom, thrust his spear into upward into the man’s chest in order to be sure he was dead.

..........................

Ron

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