Friday, April 6, 2012

Six-hours on Friday - a crucifixion, the ultimate sacrifice made, atonement completed, wholeness returns to humanity.

SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 13:12 (NIV)
And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.

From The Message: He was crucified outside the city gates - that is where he poured out the sacrificial blood that was brought to God's altar to cleanse his people.

QUOTE: by Max Lucado, “Six Hours One Friday,” page 103
The King turns away from his Prince. The undiluted wrath of a sin-hating Father falls upon his sin-filled Son. The fire envelops him. The shadow hides him. The Son looks for his Father, but his Father cannot be seen.

STORY: Adapted from C. Truman Davis, M.D. in The Expositor's Bible Commentary Vol. 8.

What is crucifixion? A medical doctor provides a physical description: The cross is placed on the ground and the exhausted man is quickly thrown backwards with his shoulders against 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 deep into the wood. Quickly he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flex and movement. The cross is then lifted into place.

The left foot is 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 flexed. The victim is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery 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 the full weight on the nail through his feet. Again he feels the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of his feet. As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small 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 life-giving oxygen.

Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins: a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins 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 heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues--the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. He can feel the chill of death creeping through is tissues. . .Finally he can allow his body to die.

All this the Bible records with the simple words, "And they crucified Him." (Mark 15:24). What wondrous love is this?

There is little in our present day life that even begins to come close to the pain and suffering endured by Jesus during his time on the cross. The experts tell us that crucifixion was the most horrible means of putting a person to death ever devised by humankind. It was horrible. It was painful. It was humiliating. It was for the likes of you and me.

The role of sacrificial blood plays no part in our religious observances today, but it does in the time of Jesus. Sacrificial blood was a great offering to God. As Leviticus 17:11 (NIV) states: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.” A life for a life. Becoming one with God again. Coming back into a relationship. Whole again.

Throughout the Bible there was no covenant made without the shedding of blood. Circumcision in the early days of the Old Testament to the ultimate covenant of Christ on the Cross. Sin demands a sacrifice. Relationships were broken. Through covenant there is healing.

And so we stop in our busy lives and remember. Good Friday. Six-hours one Friday. The weight of humanities sin falls on one person. The earth shook. The sky turned black. God was angry ... very angry. Jesus cries out. Dies. It is finished. Buried in a borrowed tomb. Hastily buried because Sabbath is about to start. Official preparation of the dead will have to wait until the first day of the week. It is finished … at least for now.

We cannot wrap our minds around the pain of Jesus’ death, Eternal Father. We try but we just cannot go there. Don’t know if we really want to understand. Help us today to embrace the atonement that was so gracious made on our behalf. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Amen

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