Excruciating Joy

As we now exit the Easter period where Christians across the world celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus its important that we take what we heard and have been told into the rest of our year. We need to be reminded daily of the sacrifice of the man named Jesus who gave it all. For those who may not think much of him at the very least He was someone extraordinary whose life and death has something to say to all of us today regardless of our situations. The question is who do you say Jesus is? Once you examine this man and examine the way He died what are you left with? Let’s take a look at this man and the events that occurred on those days of his death and his resurrection.

First off after Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples, Judas, and led off to be put on “trial”. The word trial is something of a joke, Jesus was beaten repeatedly and mocked with false charges being presented to the High Priest and those who were in attendance. Jesus is asked point blank….are you the son of God?

And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Matthew 26:63–64

Jesus was asked directly if He was the son of God….this was His chance to avoid the excruciating death He was about to suffer…simply say they were mistaken….tell them what they wanted to hear….However Jesus lets them know exactly who He is….He is the Messiah they have been waiting for. When Jesus says He will be seated at the right hand of power Jesus clearly identifies Himself as the Messiah. In Psalm 110:1, Yahweh invites the Messiah to sit at His right hand in authority. Thus, Jesus is saying that He will be in the position of ultimate authority over humanity, as the Messiah.

Jesus is then placed in front of Pilate, who can find no fault in him however does lead him out to be flogged. This was also called a Roman Scourging. This was a vicious and intense form of torture. Author Lee Strobel in his Book “Gods Outrageous claims” states this

Jesus was tied to a post and beaten at least thirty-nine times – and probably more – with a whip that had jagged bones and balls of lead woven into it. Again and again the whip was brought down with full force on his bare shoulders, back, and legs … At first the heavy thongs cut through skin only. Then, as the blows continued, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first and oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows. Finally, the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons, and the entire area is an unrecognisable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. One witness to a Roman flogging gave this description: “The sufferer’s veins were laid bare, and the very muscles and tendons and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.”

Lee Strobel, “Gods Outrageous claims

Jesus willingly chose to take this punishment for us. Each strike of that whip was for us. You might ask why someone would do that? This was just the beginning of what Jesus would suffer for us. On our Behalf. The reason why is very simply, Love. His love for us drove Him to his knees so that others would rip open his back. A punishment that we deserve Jesus takes on himself.

Our picture of the cross today is something that is full of Joy. It’s pretty. It is sometimes lifted up high and gold in colour. We wear it around our neck as a fashion symbol. However the cross was not a fashion symbol back in the first century, it was a symbol of torture, death, humiliation and Roman authority. The cross would not be brought up in polite conversations. There is no art work from the first century of the cross because of the horror it symbolised. It wasn’t until after crucifixion was banned that people made artwork out of the death of Jesus on the cross. We see one account of the death of Jesus from the first century in Marks Gospel.

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way He breathed his last, He said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!

Mark 15:33–39

This darkness that is recorded in this passage is actually documented outside of the Gospel accounts.

Phlegon was a Greek historian who wrote an extensive chronology aroundAD137:

In the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad (i.e.,AD33) there was ‘the greatest eclipse of the sun’ and that ‘it became night in the sixth hour of the day [i.e., noon] so that stars even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia, and many things were overturned in Nicaea.

Maier, Paul. Pontius Pilate (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1968), p. 366.

Have you ever been in a season of life where you have felt surrounded by darkness? Ever thought that there was no more hope? The message of the cross is one that shouts in the midst of the darkness that there is hope. It may be Friday but Sunday is coming. The darkness will end and hope will come in the morning.

Jesus is the one who was forsaken and we are the ones who receive forgiveness. Jesus was abandoned and we are the ones who are accepted by God. Jesus is rejected by those around Him and we are the ones who are redeemed by His blood. Jesus is the one who takes all of that for us? This is scandalous grace. We do not deserve it but Jesus willingly gives it to us anyway. Why do I worship this crucified Messiah. It is because he first loved me and demonstrated that love in the most powerful way possible.

The message of the cross is Joy and confidence. Excruciating joy yes, but joy all the same. The statement that Jesus cries out on the cross is from Psalm 22. If you read this Psalm in its entirety it is not a complaint against God but rather a declaration of confidence that God will deliver you from the trouble that surrounds you.

The moment that Jesus died the curtain in the temple was torn in two. This curtain represented a barrier between God and the people. Only one was able to enter into the Holy of Holies and that was the high priest. Jesus death open up the way for us to come to God whenever we want too. The barrier has been removed, we are no longer prevented from encountering this God who loves us enough to die for us. Sometimes we feel that there is something preventing us from coming to Jesus and learning from Him, accepting Him as your Lord and Saviour. No matter what it you think it is, no matter what you have done, Jesus has removed that which prevented you from encountering this love and joy and all you need to do is walk freely into it.

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