The Passion of Christ is covered in all four Gospels. The accounts give us different vantage points of the events which unfolded during that fateful week so many years ago. Have you taken the time to slow down and really consider what the words mean? I recently read No Greater Love: A Biblical Walk Through Christ’s Passion by Edward Sri and realized I had no understanding of the amount of suffering Jesus endured for me. The words were just a story; it didn’t come to life.
As we enter Holy Week and remember Christ’s Passion leading up to Easter, I’d invite you to sit and reflect on the suffering of Christ. Without understanding the depths of his suffering, we can’t appreciate the greatness of his resurrection.
Remember, Jesus Christ was no victim. Jesus willingly walked into what Edward Sri describes as “the great cosmic battle – the ultimate showdown between good and evil, light and darkness, the women’s seed and the serpent, God and the devil.” (No Greater Love, p.11)
The Garden of Gethsemane
Christ’s Passion begins in the Garden. It’s no coincidence, as Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. Jesus came to undo the curse of Adam: death. He came to defeat it. Jesus, along with Peter, James, and John, enters the Garden of Gethsemane to prepare for the ultimate battle about to take place. Jesus prays. Jesus feels the weight of all that is about to occur to the point that he begins to sweat drops of blood. He is agonizing over what is to happen. He asks God if possible, to remove the chalice (God’s wrath). Ultimately, he surrenders completely to God’s plan when he prays, “Not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
Jesus shows his full humanity with this prayer. No human would ever look forward to the pain Jesus was about to experience! He doesn’t resign himself to God’s will, wishing it could be different. He walks into God’s will with a wholehearted YES.
The Scourging of Jesus
After Judas’ betrayal and the “trial” before Pilate, Jesus was scourged. I didn’t understand the depth of this pain until it was explained to me. A Jewish whipping and a Roman scourging were two very different things. According to Sri, a Roman scourging “was much more severe and had no limits.” He goes on to explain that a scourging “involved leather thongs with sharp pieces of bone or metal that tore deeply into the skin, leaving skin hanging from the back in bloody strips and sometimes causing muscles and bones to be exposed” (p. 111).
Jesus received a brutal punishment, not for his own sins, but for ours. It is likely that following this scourging, Jesus’ bones were exposed to those around him. Skin hung off of his back. Blood poured down him. The scourging was a prelude to crucifixion, and Sri suggests the Romans “could control the length of a crucifixion by the severity of the scourging” (p. 111).
Crowned with thorns
After being scourged, Jesus was given a crown of thorns and a royal cloak. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of having a cloak put on after receiving such a horrific scourging. The material would have adhered to his wounds as the blood coagulated. The soldiers fashioned a crown of thorns, placed it on his head, and would “strike Jesus, spit on him, and hit him on the head with the reed” (p. 112). Blood would have poured down his face, matching the streaks on his back from the scourging.
Carrying the Cross
The Gospels differ slightly on the account of the carrying of the Cross. I believe they give us insight into the path Jesus took. As was custom, the criminal would carry the crossbeam on his shoulders through the city streets. Jesus would have been expected to do this. Perhaps he tried. Weak from the scourging, maybe the soldiers placed it on his shoulders. Imagine the pain of a wood beam touching the tender areas where flesh was ripped from bones. Jesus tried, and fell. The act was more than he could physically handle, and so we are told that Simon of Cyrene is enlisted to carry Jesus’ cross. Sri explains, “The fact that Roman soldiers enlisted someone to carry Jesus’ cross tells us that Jesus must have received such a severe scourging that he did not have the strength to carry his own crossbeam” (p. 124).
Jesus walks the streets he previously entered on a donkey. Instead of shouting, “Hosana!” the crowds are shouting “Crucify!” In addition to the physical pain Jesus endured, try to imagine the mental pain of hearing the jeers of those who hate you.
Jesus was nailed to the cross. His arms raised and extended, nails — stakes — pounded into his hands to hold him on the cross. His feet, crossed and a stake pounded through to hold him to the cross. Sri says, “Not being able to move, he was unable to cope with cold, heat, pain, insects, or animals that might bother him” (p. 135). I imagine flies and other insects attracted to the smell of blood buzzing around him as he hung on the cross.
Crucifixion was a torturous form of death that often took days. There was no damage to vital organs, so eventually the person would die of shock of asphyxiation. Jesus died after six hours. Sri suggests, “Jesus already may have been on the brink of death by the time he arrived at Calvary” (p. 135).
It’s not easy to read the graphic details of what Jesus endured. To know he willingly took on an indescribable and unimaginable amount of pain for my sins…it’s shocking. It’s surreal. It’s hard for me to imagine that kind of sacrificial love!
Thankfully, the story doesn’t end here.
After three days, Jesus rose from the dead. He was bodily resurrected and HE IS ALIVE!
Thank you, Jesus, for the cross.
**You can purchase a copy of Edward Sri’s book here.