Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller


The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ

Matthew 27:32-54

Matthew portrays Jesus as the rightful King of Israel, of earth, and of heaven. It seems so counterintuitive to us that a king should die the death of a criminal. Most of the kings of Israel died from assassination, war, disease, or natural causes. I can\'t think of one that was executed as a criminal. It\'s not expected.

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Matthew also portrays Jesus as the Messiah-the savior we didn\'t know we needed. It is also counterintuitive for the one who came to rescue us to Himself become a victim. His crucifixion seems like a loss rather than a win. Everyone rejects Him, mocks Him, and abandons Him (or nearly everyone). The crucifixion just isn\'t right.

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Yet God in His incredible wisdom makes it not only right but the only way that works. We don\'t like to study the crucifixion because the torture makes us uncomfortable, and the abandonment of Jesus by the Father makes us realize He was abandoned because of our transgressions.

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But even in this very dark (literally) account, we see the seeds of terrible defeat turned into absolute victory. Let\'s take that difficult journey with Jesus to and through the cross.

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32 - 37

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32: Jesus started to carry His cross (this was normal to show submission to Roman authority) but was simply too weak after the severe beating he\'d received. The cross piece, called the patibulum, weighed 110 pounds. Roman soldiers could force anyone to perform tasks for them so they make Simon, who was from the North African nation of Cyrene, to carry it. Mark tells us that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus. Rufus may be the man Paul mentions in Romans 16:13 and thus Simon and his boys may have become believers through this incident.

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33 - 36: Golgotha is Aramaic for skull. \"Calvary\" comes from the Latin word for skull: calvaria. It may have been named for the skull like appearance of the cliffside. There is such a place that is located near a bus terminal in Jerusalem-outside the city but in a public place where an example could be made of the criminals executed there.

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The wine offered, whether mixed with gall (to make it bitter) or myrrh (Mark 15:23) was likely to fulfill Psalm 69:21 \"they...gave me vinegar for my thirst.\" Some have suggested that the drink was meant to deaden the pain of crucifixion. If that\'s the case, Jesus refused-as He would face the cross fully conscious.

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Here is a good link to the description of Roman crucifixion:

http://www.allaboutjesuschrist.org/roman-crucifixion-faq.htm

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I\'m not going to go into all the gruesome details, but basically the Roman soldiers would pound 5 - 7\" nails through the medial nerve and into the patibulum. The prisoner would be hoisted up and the cross attached to the stipes. His feet would then be attached with another spike so that they were in an unnatural sideways position. Above their head was placed the titilus which identified the prisoner.

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If we take all the gospel accounts together, the titilus above Jesus\' head read: \"This is Jesus the Nazarene the King of the Jews\" written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. It was Pilate\'s way of mocking the Jews, which the religious leaders didn\'t like at all (John 19:20-22). Since Jesus had not been convicted of anything, the only \"charge\" they could write was that He was a king. He was crucified for something absolutely true.

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Prisoners were crucified naked. The soldiers had the right to the clothing. Four parts they divided equally among them, but the tunic was of one piece so they cast lots for it, fulfilling Psalm 22:18 - John 19:23 - 24).

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38 - 44

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38 & 44: The two men are described as \"robbers\" which is the same term used for Barabbas, so they are likely insurrectionists like him. Luke tells us (Luke 23:29-31) that one of the robbers repented and Jesus would see him that day in paradise. It is a beautiful picture of salvation. In the end there will be only two kinds of humanity, one on the right and one to the left of Jesus. Each must deal with the cross. To those that revile and reject Jesus there is nothing but separation. For those that repent there is salvation, paradise, and eternal joy.

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We are all insurrectionists against God. Jesus took the place of Barabbas, and took our place as well.

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Matthew focuses on the rejection of Jesus. The people who derided Him had either been at or heard of the Sanhedrin trial where the charge was made that Jesus could rebuild the temple in three days and thus must be able to save himself from death.

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The chief priests, scribes, and elders had apparently followed to make sure their evil plan was carried out and would not let it rest at that-they also mocked him, crowing about their victory.

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Several things were said:

  • \"If you are powerful, come down from the cross\"
  • \"if you are the Messiah, save yourself, come down from the cross\"
  • \"You are the king, come down and we\'ll believe\"
  • \"He must not be approved by God because He will not save Himself\"
  • And finally, \"He saved others, but could not save Himself\"

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They misunderstood and misstated some vital truths: Yes, Jesus is powerful, that\'s why He didn\'t have to come down. Yes, He is the Messiah, but to save Himself meant He would not save us. Yes, He is king, but belief will not come by power but by the prompting of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Finally, he could and does save others and purposefully did not save Himself so He could save us.

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45 - 50

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From noon to 3pm it was dark, symbolizing the dark deed being done, and the darkness of evil that really surrounds and permeates humanity without a Savior. Jesus made seven statements on the cross, Matthew ?records only one - but it is the most crucial. The Father turned His back on Jesus so He could turn His face towards us. Here Jesus is absorbing all the evil of mankind, from the sin of Adam and Eve, to the sins of the last person born. By the way, Psalm 22 follows much of this exactly!

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2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

John tells us that Jesus declared His thirst. Sour wine was offered in fulfillment of Psalms 69:21. The wine may have been there for the soldiers to drink. Others had thought Jesus was calling for Elijah and wanted to see if the prophet would save Him.

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Then Jesus \"yielded up His spirit\" after crying \"It is finished.\"? This is a different phrase ?than \"to breath his last\". It means \"to send forth.\" Jesus was not executed in the sense that the cross killed him (usually by suffocation). Jesus offered himself.

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John 10:17-18 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.? 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.? This charge I have received from my Father.\"

51 - 54

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Four very crucial things take place at the moment of Jesus death. And they are hugely symbolic of what took place.

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1.????? The curtain of the Temple was town in two from top to bottom. That curtain separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest could go once a year to make atonement for the sins of the people.

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Heb 9:11-14 But when Christ appeared as a high priest? of the good things that have come, then through? the greater and more perfect tent ( not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he? entered? once for all into the holy places, not by means of? the blood of goats and calves but? by means of his own blood,? thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with? the blood of goats and bulls and with? the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will? the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit? offered himself without blemish to God,? purify our conscience? from dead works? to serve the living God.

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Hebrews 10:20 tells us that curtain was Jesus\' flesh. By allowing His flesh to be torn, Jesus secured an open way to God, once for all! By the way, after Jesus gave up His Spirit, he went to heaven and hell. To hell in order to preach to a certain group:

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1 Peter 3:18-21For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. NKJV

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I won\'t get into all the various interpretations of this verse-but one that makes sense to me is that Jesus proclaimed to demons held in prison of his complete and total victory over Satan\'s rebellion. The next miracle illustrates that victory on earth:

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2.????? The earthquake and the rocks splitting to me signifies Jesus\' ownership of planet earth. Satan offered Him the planet if He would bow down and worship him (Matthew 4:8-10). Satan owned the planet. Jesus bought it back with His life and will come back to claim it. When that happens an entire mountain will split in two (Zechariah 14:3-4).

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3.????? People were raised from the dead, signifying that Jesus\' death gives us new life. Some suggest that these didn\'t go into the city until after Jesus resurrection and returned with Him to heaven.

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4.????? The soldiers marveled. They saw Him die (on His own) and they saw the response. These hardened soldiers were \"filled with awe\" and declared that Jesus was the \"Son of God\" (or \"a son of God\"). Those that read of the life, and death of Jesus, hardened by sin, can still declare the Lordship of Jesus in their lives. Many centurions, by the way, came to faith in Christ.

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Conclusions

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So how do you react to the crucifixion? Do you mock the cross and declare that because there is no evidential truth that proves it to you, you will not believe?

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Or do you, like the soldiers at the cross, realize your hands held the hammer and your arm nailed the spikes into Jesus\' hands and feet? Do you realize that the evil in you sent Jesus to the cross?

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As He dies then experience the miracles...the way to God opened, the earth and your life returned to its rightful owner, and death turned into life!