1997-03-27 - Grave Clothes
A few years ago, I was invited to a Maundy Thursday service. I had never been to one, mostly because Thursday comes during the week and my week nights are pretty busy. But a friend invited us, and we decided to go. This service turned out to be much more than I could have imagined.
The service began with a large wooden cross draped in black at the front of the sanctuary. The minister and congregation worked through the trials and the beatings and the scourging. We discussed that fact that most prisoners did not survive the thirty-nine lashes with the leather cat-of-nine-tails with bits of leather and metal and glass tied into the whips. The first few passes would remove the flesh from the back and side of the prisoner. The next several would expose the inner organs after tearing way the muscles. The pain can only be imagined as hideous. Jesus survived this without 'crying out'. If the prisoner would name his co-conspirators during the scourging, the soldiers would lighten the lash. If the prisoner did not, the lash came on heavier and heavier. Jesus did not name me. "Mike did it!", He could have said. And I would have been guilty. Neither did He name you.
During the walk to the place of final execution, Jesus fell under the weight of the cross. It is little wonder between the pain and the loss of blood, it was a wonder He was still alive. Supernatural one might say.
As Jesus was nailed to the cross, He by the power of His will, held the atoms in the nails together. He held the hammer and the soldier together, and the wood in the cross too. And, as the song says, He could have called 10,000 angels to destroy the world and set Him free. He could have destroyed all of creation by ceasing to hold everything together by a simple command. But He did not. If He had, we would not have a sure hope of glory, but an expectancy of eternal punishment.
Jesus friends scattered at Gethsemane. Only John and a few of the women who followed Jesus, and of course His mother Mary were there at the cross. Peter was out weeping bitterly for having denied even knowing who the man Jesus was! As Jesus hung on the cross He cried out, "My God! My God! Why have Your forsaken me." Even the Father turned His back on the Son, for the first time in all eternity. Jesus was more alone than any single man has ever been.
The one dignity done to this man Jesus, was to have a hasty, but proper burial. It was in a borrowed tomb. He was quickly as possible, laid to rest in the tomb. At the request of His enemies, the stone that was rolled in front of the garden tomb entrance was sealed with a signet ring. The tomb was guarded by 16 crack soldiers. If any one of these men had been found asleep on duty or the seal had been broken, they would have all been executed. This indignity was done to prevent His terrified disciples from stealing the body.
The 18th and 19th chapters of John record the events up to and including Jesus being laid in the tomb. Below, I have included a few clips from chapter 19. I would ask each one of you to go over these two chapters at least once. But stop with the end of chapter 19. Do not think past there. Spend a little time thinking about His death, and how the disciples where feeling. They had laid all there hearts and hopes on this man Jesus, and He was now dead.
John 19:1-3 - Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him. 2 And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and arrayed Him in a purple robe; 3 and they began to come up to Him, and say, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and to give Him blows in the face.
Meditate on these chapters, and I'll see you next week, Lord willing.
Grace & Peace,
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.