Friday, April 02, 2010

The cross.....



Good Friday - what an ironic name. For on this day, Christians observe the suffering of Jesus on the cross. But sometimes I think Christians tend to sugar-coat what happened. It wasn't until Mel Gibson made his film a few years ago where the ugly details of the crucifxion truly came out. We have the Gospel narratives that tell us what happened, and historicl documents from that period that describe the Roman methods of capital punishment, and from those we can get a visualization of what happened.....

Jesus was stripped of his clothing, chained or lashed to a post or pillar, and then scourged. The cat-o-nine-tails was made of leather straps that containted on them bits of broken bone, pottery, rocks - designed to strip the flesh from the back of the intended victim. It was quite effective. The crown of thorns placed on his head were made from thorns from a local bush, and I've read and heard that there is a bush native to Palestine that has very long, very sharp thorns. Not short, rose-type thorns, but 2-3" long. This was forced down upon his brow. He was beaten, kicked, slapped, punched. He went from one mock trial to another, handed off from Pilate to Herod and back to Pilate, who ordered Jesus to be crucified just to placate the mob. Pilate, who as a practice released one prisoner at Passover, tried to get Jesus released, but the crowd, incited by the zealous religious leaders, called for a murderer instead. Finally, Pilate relented, and ordered Jesus to be crucified. And here was Jesus, probably clothed simply or naked, in front of Pilate and hundreds of people, during this charade, quiet, eyes downcast, and in incredible pain. The loose clothing congealing into the open wounds on his back. The sun beating on him. He was thirsty, probably dehydrated. Then he was pushed, probably knocked over, and given the cross-beam of his own tool of death, placed on his battered back. The pain of that heavy post of lumber must have been excruciating. No wonder, just after walking a short distance, he fell, and the Romans pulled out a man from the crowd to carry it. Jesus' fatigue, caused by loss of blood and incredible pain, must have made his journey to Golgotha long and difficult.

Then, when there, they place the post on the ground, stripping him of all his clothing. He was naked. They layed him on the ground, with those open wounds resting upon the rocks, and stretched out his arms on the beam of wood. Placing their feet on his hands to secure them, they nailed in these iron nails into his wrists, severing the nerves and tendons. They further secured him by tying him up with ropes, and then lifted the beam up and dropped it carelessly on the upright with a morticed joint, dropping it with a thud. The pain from that action would have been enough to make most men pass out. But remember, Jesus was a carpenter, he would have been physically strong. Then they nail his feet together - more pain.

But the suffering continued. The heat, the thirst, the flies. The blood dripping from his crown into his eyes. The constant need to push up with your feet (which have nails driven through them) so you can breathe. And to see your mother there.....

No wonder he died quickly. They pierced his side with a spear, the head of that spear reaching the sac around the heart, and released blood and water. He was dead.

And then the darkness.

And then, the curtain in the Temple, the curtain that divided the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. The curtain that ONLY the high priest could go behind, was torn.....from top to bottom.....

It was finished....

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