GUARD THE GOSPEL

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Cross
 

Suggestion: See the movie” Passion of Christ” first before you could do this lesson.

Purpose : “ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)

Here, the gospel message reaches its peak. We are saved through grace. We are saved through Jesus’ loving sacrifice. We need grace, and this study in grace will be powerful. We need to take responsibility for Jesus’ death. Establishing personal responsibility will later reap great gratitude and joy for Jesus’ personal love and forgiveness. This is a very serious study, where we’ll be looking at the physical, emotional and spiritual sufferings of Jesus as he went on the cross. Let’s pray.

1. Mark 14:32-42
32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray."
33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.
34 "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch."
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.
36 "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?
38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing.
40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41 Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"


Q: How was Jesus feeling at this time? (Deeply troubled and sorrowful overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death)

Q: Did Jesus want to go to the cross as he started to Pray? (No.) What was Jesus attitude by the end of his prayer (v.42)? (He was ready to die) In the same way, you need to be ready to overcome your struggles by praying until your heart changes.

Q: Have you ever been letdown by a friend when you really needed him? ** SHARE

Q: Do you know why Jesus was doing all this? (Because he loves us. Because of our sins; our lies, our pride, our selfishness.)

2. Mark 14:43-50
43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.
44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: "The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard."
45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Rabbi!" and kissed him.
46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him.
47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
48 "Am I leading a rebellion," said Jesus, "that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?
49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled."
50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.


Q: Judas betrayed Jesus. Have you ever been betrayed? **SHARE

Q: If Jesus had wanted to, what could he have done here? (Sent down 12,000 angels to destroy them (Matthew 26:53)

Q: What did all the disciples do when Jesus was arrested (v.50)? (They all deserted him and fled.)

Q: Have you ever felt lonely, like no one in the world cared about you? **SHARE

Q: Do you know why Jesus was doing all this? (Because he loves us. Because of our sins: our lies, our pride, our laziness etc.)

3. Mark 14:53-65
53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law came together.
54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any.
56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him:
58 "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.'"
59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?"
61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"
62 "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
63 The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked.
64 "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?" They all condemned him as worthy of death.
65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, "Prophesy!" And the guards took him and beat him.


Q: Jesus went to trial here. What kind of trial was it? (An unfair trial)

Q: Have you ever been unjustly treated? **SHARE How do we respond?

Q: Out of all the people he had healed in the past three years, did anyone come to Jesus defense at his trial?

Q: Have you ever felt unappreciated, that no one noticed the good things you had done? **SHARE

Q: They blindfolded Jesus mocked him, spat on him and beat him. Have you ever been spat upon? Have you ever been beaten?

Q: Do you know why Jesus was doing all this?(Because he loves us. Because of our sins: our immorality, pride, our anger etc.)

Q: Next, they asked Peter if he knew Jesus. Three times he denied him. The Bible says in Luke 22:54-62 that Jesus knew it, and he looked right at Peter. Peter then went out and wept bitterly.

Q: Have you ever overheard someone talking badly about you behind your back? How did you feel? **SHARE

Q: Do you know why Jesus was doing all this? (Because he loves us. Because of our sins: our lies, drunkenness, our lust etc.,

4. Mark 15:1-15
1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
2 "Are you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate. "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied.
3 The chief priests accused him of many things.
4 So again Pilate asked him, "Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of."
5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
6 Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested.
7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising.
8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
9 "Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate,
10 knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him.
11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
12 "What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?" Pilate asked them.
13 "Crucify him!" they shouted.
14 "Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"
15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.


C: Jesus has been up all night, beaten and spit upon. Now he faces yet another trial.

Q: Jesus was compared to a murderer (Barabbas). The crowd was asked to choose between them. How do you think he felt?

Q: Pilate was sitting in the judge’s seat. He had to make a decision about Jesus. Do you think he liked Jesus?

Q: Pilate tried to reason with the crowd (“what crime has be committed”?) Did they like him? (No, they shouted louder)

Q: How do people respond when they are losing an argument? (Shout)

Q: According to Matthew 27:24, Pilate tried to wash his hands of the matter. Did that make him innocent? (No. Pilate wanted innocence, but he was not willing to pay the price. So his indecision became a NO decision against Jesus)

Q: The Bible says Jesus was flogged. Do you know what flogging is like? (They strip you. They make a leather whip with bones or glass at the end and they whip you again and again. The blood flows. The pain is intense. And they whip you until your back is like minced meat.)

Q: And each time the whip came down, do you know why Jesus was willing to go through all this?(Because he loves you. Because of our sins: our smoking, our selfishness etc.)

5. Mark 15:16-20
16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers.
17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him.
18 And they began to call out to him, "Hail, king of the Jews!"
19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him.
20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.


Q:They took Jesus and all the soldiers mocked him. Have you seen a group of people encircling someone and mistreating him?

C: They stripped Jesus and put a robe on him. Then they put a crown of thorns on him on the head with a staff. Then they took off the robe and led him away to be crucified.

Q: What happened to the crown of thorns as they beat him? (It dug deeper and deeper into Jesus scalp causing great pain.)

Q:How did the back of Jesus feel when they ripped the robe off him?(Very painful–like ripping a stuck Band-Aid off a wound).

Q: Do you know why Jesus was doing all this? (Because he loves us. Because of our sins; immorality, our drunkenness etc.)

6. Luke 23:32-34
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.
33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals--one on his right, the other on his left.
34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.


C: They put the cross on Jesus raw back and made him carry it. Then they stripped him and put nails through his wrists and ankles. He was then hoisted up on the cross, naked. And he went up and down all day long. His raw back rubbed against the cross. He was in agony.

Q: Do you know how someone who is crucified dies? (They can’t breathe so they pull themselves up using the nails. But then the pain is incredible, so they sag back down. This continues until all their energy is gone and then they painfully suffocate.)

Q: Do you know why Jesus was doing all this? (Because he loves us. Because of our selfishness, our smoking, our anger etc.)

Q: After you’ve had a terrible day, what are the first words that come out of your mouth? (Angry bad words.)

C: Let’s look at the first words that Jesus said on the cross: Q: In v.34 what did Jesus say? (Father, forgive them…”)

Q: Even as he died who was he thinking about? (Us-v.34)

Q: Who deserved to die on the cross – Jesus or us?

OQ: There were two thieves. According to Matthew 27:44, both of them heaped insults on Jesus, Yet here, one thief looked at the other thief and turned to Jesus with a repentant heart. And Jesus forgave him. This really does reveal the heart of God. God loves us. Jesus could have sent him to hell but he didn’t. And today, you too can be forgiven. Jesus isn’t here in person, but he’s given us the Bible to show us the way of salvation.

7. Mark 15:33-37
33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.
34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, "Listen, he's calling Elijah."
36 One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. "Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to take him down," he said.
37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.


C: Here we see Jesus dying. He cries out in pain, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?”

Q: The Bible says God was with Jesus from the beginning. Why did Jesus say here that God had forsaken him? (Because of sin) Let’s turn to 1 Peter to explain this further.

8. 1 Pet 2:24
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

Q: When Jesus died on the cross what did he bear? (Our sins)

Q: How do you feel when you sin? (Guilty, sad, painful)

C: Imagine feeling the guilt of all your sins at one time. Then imagine feeling all the sins of all men. All the rapes; all the lies; all the murders; all the injustice. Jesus felt the guilt, the pain and the anguish of all our sins, for all time. He felt as if he had done them all. And because sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2, Colossians 1:21), God was not with Jesus as he died on the cross. He died alone. Our sins separated him from God.

Q: Do you know why Jesus was doing all this? (Because he loves us. Because of our sins; evil thoughts, cheating, anger etc.)

C: There is a story that may help you understand the cross better.

Father/Son Illustration: God the father and his Son Jesus were looking down at the world. They saw all the people. They saw you and me. And Jesus said, “Father How can we help them? I love them, what can I do?” God said “Son you don’t understand – they are not like us”. But Jesus said, “Father, I’ll do anything for them- as long as you are with me.” God said, Son, you don’t understand. The only way to help them is if you go down to the earth yourself. You’ll have to live like a man, eat like a man, get dirty and tired and sick like a man.” Jesus said. “Father I love them, I will do anything as long as you are with me”. God said “Son you don’t understand. The people will laugh at you and reject you. Your own family will think that you are crazy. Your followers will desert you in the end and you’ll be all alone.” But Jesus said, “Father, I’ll do it, as long as you are with me”. God said, “Son you don’t understand. The people will falsely accuse you. They’ll beat you and spit on you and flog you. They will nail your bleeding naked body to a cross, and you will die.” Jesus said, “ I will do anything, as long as you are with me.” But God said, “Son you don’t understand. As you hang on the across in agony you will bear the sins of the world. You will feel their guilt, their shame, their pain; and their sins will separate you from me. In your greatest hour of need I will NOT be with you.” And Jesus said, “Father, now I understand. I’ll go.”

Q: Do you see how much Jesus love us? ****Read the Medical Account****

9. 1 Pet 2:21-25
21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22 "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
25 For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.


Q: According to V.21, why did Jesus have to suffer so much? (To set us an example that we should be like him.) He was without sin till the end.

Q: Do you realize that Jesus died just for you? Do you understand that even if you were the only one on earth, he still would have died for you?

Q: Are you willing to suffer for being a Christian? Are you willing to endure opposition?

Q: According to V.24 why did Jesus bear our sins? (So that we might die to sins and live for righteousness)

10. 2 Cor 5:14-15
14 For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.


Q: What motivated Paul to follow Jesus with all his heart? (Love)

Q: Do you know what motivates us to be so committed? ** SHARE

Q: According to v.15, why did Jesus die? (So that we would no longer live for ourselves but for Jesus)

Q: Whom do most people live for? (Themselves). Q: Up to now, who have you been living for? (Myself)

Q: Do you see why you need to be serious? Q: Now that you have seen how Jesus suffered, how do you feel?

CHALLENGE:
Be totally serious about changing your life and following Jesus. “…Live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…” [Ephesians 5:1-2]

Make no more excuses.



Other Useful Scriptures

a. Ephesians 5:1-2
1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children
2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.


b. Isaiah 53
1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied ; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.



MEDICAL ACCOUNT OF THE CRUCIFIXION

Hanging, electrocution, knee capping, gas chamber, these punishments are feared. They all happen to day, and we shudder as we think of the horror and pain. But as we shall see, these ordeals pale into insignificance compare with the bitter fate of Jesus Christ: crucifixion.

No one is crucified to day. For us the cross remains confined to ornaments and jewelry, stained-glass windows, romanticized pictures and statues portraying a serene death. Crucifixion was a form of execution refined by the Romans to an exercise art. It was carefully conceived to produce a slow death with maximum pain. It was carefully conceived to produce a slow death with maximum pain. It was a public spectacle intended to deter other would-be criminals. It was a death to be feared.

Sweat like Blood
Luke 22:44
And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

His Sweat was unusually intense because his emotional state was unusually intense. Dehydration coupled with exhaustion further weakened him.

Beating
It was in this condition that Jesus faced the first physical abuse; punches and slaps to the face and head while blindfolded. Unable to anticipate the blows, Jesus was badly bruised, his mouth and eyes possible injured. The Physiological effects of the false trails should not be underestimated. Consider that Jesus faced them bruised, dehydrated, and exhausted, possibly in shock.

Flogging
In the previous 12 hours Jesus had suffered emotional trauma, rejection by his closest friends, a cruel beating, and a sleepless night during which he had to walk miles between unjust hearings. Despite the fitness he must certainly have gained during his travels in Palestine, he was in no way prepared for the punishment of flogging. The effects would be worse as a result.

A man to be flogged was stripped of his clothes and his hands tied to a post above his head. He was then whipped across the shoulders, back, buttocks, thighs and legs, the soldier standing behind and to one side of the victim. The whip used the flagellum – was designed to make this a devastating punishment, bringing the victim close to death; several short heavy leather thongs, with two small balls of lead or iron attached near the end of each. Pieces of sheep’s bone were sometimes included.

As the scourging proceeds, the heavy leather thongs produce first superficial cuts, than deeper damage to underlying tissues. Bleeding becomes severe when not only capillaries and veins are cut, but also arteries in the underlying muscles. The small metal balls first produce large, deep bruises, which are broken open by further blows. The fragments of sheep’s bone rip the flesh as the whip is drawn back. When the beating is finished, the skin of the back is in ribbons, and the entire area torn and bleeding.

The words chosen by the gospel writers suggest that the scourging of Jesus was particularly severe: he was certainly at the point of collapse when he was cut down from the flogging-post.

The Mocking

Jesus was allowed no time to recover before facing his next ordeal. Meddle to stand, he was dressed in a robe by jeering soldiers, crowned with a twisted band of thorny twigs, and to complete the parody, given a wooden staff as a king’s scepter. Next, they spat on Jesus and struck him on the head with the wooden staff’. The long thorns were driven into the sensitive scalp tissue producing profuse bleeding, but even more terrible was the re-opening of the wounds of Jesus’ back when the robe was torn off again.

Further weakened physically and emotionally, Jesus was led away to be executed.

The Crucifixion
The wooden cross-used by the Romans was too heavy to be carried by one man. Instead the victim to be crucified was made to bear the detached cross bar across his soldiers, carrying it outside the city walls to the place of execution. (The heavy upright portion of the cross was permanently in position here). Jesus was unable to carry his load – a beam weighing 75 to 125 lbs. He collapsed under the burden, and an on looker was ordered to take it for him.

Jesus refused to drink the wine and myrrh offered him before the nails were driven in. (It would have dulled the pain) Thrown down on this back with arms outstretched along the cross bar, nails were driven throughout Jesus’ wrists into the wood.

These Iron spikes, about 6 inches long and 3-8 inches thick, severed the large sensorimotor median nerve, causing excruciating pain in both arms. Carefully placed between bones and ligaments, they were able to bear the weight of the crucified man.

In preparation for the nailing of the feet, Jesus was lifted up and the cross bar fixed to the upright post. Then with legs sent at the knee, a single nail was used to pierce both feet, one foot being placed over the other. Again there was severe nerve damage and the pain caused was intense. It is important to note, however, that neither the wounds to the wrists or feet caused substantial bleeding, since no major arteries were ruptured. The executioner took care to ensure this, so that death would be slower and the suffering longer.

Now nailed to his cross, the real horror of crucifixion began. When the wrists were nailed to the crossbar, the elbows were intentionally left in a bent position so that the crucified man would hang with his arms above his head. The weight being taken on the nails in the wrists. Obviously this was unbearably painful, but it had another effect; it is very difficult to exhale in this position. In order to breathe out, and then take in fresh air, it was necessary to push the body up on the nailed feet. When the pain from the feet became unbearable, the victim would again slump down to hang by the arms. A terrible cycle of pain began; hanging by the arms, unable to breathe, pushing up on the feet to inhale quickly before again slumping down, and on and on.

This tortured activity became more and more difficult as Jesus back was scraped against the upright post, as muscle cramps set in because of the inadequate respiration, and as exhaustion grew more severe. Jesus suffered in this manner or several hours before, with a final cry, he died.

Cause of Death
Many factors contributed to Jesus death. A combination of shock and suffocation killed most victims of crucifixion, but in Jesus case acute heart failure may have been the final trauma. This is suggested by this sudden death following a loud try, after only a few hours, a quick death, it seems (Pilate was surprised to find Jesus already dead). A fatal cardiac arrhythmia, or perhaps cardiac rupture, are likely candidates.

The Spear wound
Jesus was already dead as the executioners broke the legs of the criminals crucified alongside (in order to speed their deaths). Instead, we read that a soldier pierced Jesus side with a spear. Where on his side? The word chosen by John suggests the ribs, and if the soldier intended to make Jesus death certain, a wound to the heart was the obvious choice.

From the wound came a flow of ‘blood and water’ this is consistent with the spear blow to the heart (especially from the right side, the traditional site of the wound). Rupturing the pericardium (the sac surrounding the heart) released a flow of watery serum, followed by blood as the heart was pierced.

Conclusion
The detailed accounts given in the gospels combined with the historical evidence on crucifixion bring us to a firm conclusion; modern medical knowledge supports the claim of the scriptures that Jesus died on the cross.