Christian Basics- Chapter 5, Christ's death and...
Written by: Guenther, Herb and Debbie Posted on: 05/05/2003
Category: Bible Studies
Christ's death and resurrection
In 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.
As 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. Ex 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 Gen 6:5-7 tells us that our actions actually made God
sad that He had created us. See also Ez 18:4
Mankind is Gods most special creation (Read Gen 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
(Gen 9:21). Again a failure to live a godly life.
God 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
Abraham (Abram) chose to serve God. We are told that his faith
was credited to him as righteousness (Gen 15:6, Rom 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
During 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.
To 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
Exodus 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 (Heb 10:1-4).
During 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 Cor 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.
In 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.
The physical crucifixion of Jesus
NOTE 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 definatly not suitable for
children, and some other people, so use your judgment. A line marks
the end of the passage describing the crucifixion.
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.
The 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.
When 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.
Because 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.
When 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 miscounted.
After 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.
In 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.
When 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
The 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.
After 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.
Jesus 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.
In 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.
Why 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 truely a man. Secondly it shows us how
much He loved us and points us toward the expectation of Easter
The words to the following hymm 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.
The Old Rugged Cross
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best.
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above.
To bear it to dark Calvary
In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so devine,
A wondrous beauty I see;
For 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died.
To pardon and sanctify me.
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true,
It's shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He'll call me some day to my home far away.
Where His glory for ever I'll share. 2
Christ the perfect sacrifice
In the Old Testament sacrificial system the people of God were
told to offer only the best for sacrifices to God (Lev 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)
Christ's 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
Second, 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
judgement when Jesus became the sacrifice for our sin.
Third, 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 was.
Fourth, 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 recognised. Here Jesus, newly risen from the grave went to find
His errant disciples and forgives them.
The 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
(Ex 12). Jesus, First born of God, became the lamb for all of us and
shed His blood to purchase our eternal life.
There 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. Lets 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.
Propitiation comes from the word propitiate which means to gain or
regain the favor or goodwill of: APPEASE, CONCILIATE 1 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
Justification is the act, process, or state of being justified by
God. 1 Through the ministry of Christ's death we are lifted from our
natural state, to that of fellowship with God. We appear to be living
in a justified manner, that is according to the righteous law of God.
Substitution, the substitution of one person or thing (as a
mathematical quantity) for another. 1 Here of course Jesus died in our
place. He took the punishment we deserved. Because Jesus is God He
had victory over death where we could not.
Redemption, the act, process, or an instance of redeeming.
Redeem, to buy back, or to free from captivity by payment of a ransom.
1 In this case the doctrine states that Jesus bought our freedom and
life by using His death as the ransom.
Lets 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 (Mat 16:21, 17:9, 17:22-23, Mark 9:10, Luke 9:22-27,
John 2:18-22 and many other places).
As 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
(Matt 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.
The 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
How 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 (Matt 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 guard 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.
The 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, Jn 20:19-24, 26-29,
21:1-23, Matt 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 team.
In all Jesus appeared to many people over a period of 40 days
after He had risen from the dead (1 Cor 15:6). In Acts 2 Peter's first
sermon is recorded. The central theme is that of the risen Christ. We
are told that 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.
The 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
The institution of the Christian Church also shows His power.
Even with all of it's 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
For more information on the resurrection I recommend Evidence that
Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell. 3 It responds to many of the
objections made by some to the death and resurrection of Christ.
1. Why did Christ have to die? (Eph 2:12,13, Rom 4:25, 1 Pet 3:18)
2. Did it have to be Christ who died for us?
3. What does Christ's death show you personally? (Rom 5:8)
4. What does Christ's death tell you about God. (John 3:16)
5. What does Christ's death tell you about God's attitude towards sin?
(1 Pet 1:14-15)
1 Definitions are from Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary c 1976 by
G. and C. Merriam Co.
2 The Old Rugged Cross by George Bennard c 1913 renewed 1941 The
Rodehever Co. owner.
3 Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell c1972 by Campus
Crusade for Christ
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