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Friday, April 14, 2006

O Sacred Head Now Wounded

The torture and murder of Jesus Christ is one of the strangest events in all of human history. How utterly embarrassing this must have been for the first disciples....

Jesus was a mysterious figure in his day. Some people believed that He was the One sent from God who would set everything right. Others believed he was a dangerous fraud. But I suspect that for many average Joe Israelites, the jury was still out. A lot of them probably thought, “Well maybe he is the Savior. Let’s wait and see what happens.” And for those many who were in the mushy middle, the death of Jesus on the cross must have been supremely disappointing. Crucifixion was such a shameful way to die that the average Jew at the time would have thought that God surely would not allow a righteous man to suffer innocently that way. The fact that He did not save Himself and the fact that God did not come to his aid was proof positive, for many, that Jesus may have been a lot of things, but the Messiah he was not....

You know about His sufferings because you’ve seen it in movies, heard about it in sermons and read it in the bible for yourselves.

He was arrested and falsely accused. His friends abandoned him. The guards mocked him and spat on him. They ripped his beard off his chin. They struck him with rods and with their fists.

Then came the flogging, the terrible brutal torture with the scourge. Long leather straps with bits of metal and bone so that it catches the skin and shreds it like paper. After a good thorough lashing, Jesus’ flesh hung off his back in quivering strips of bleeding meat.

Then came the crown of thorns pressed hard upon his brow. And the Romans always crucified you naked, adding insult to injury. So they nailed him up, bare and bleeding, in between two thieves. And they left him there to die.

Only his mother and one or two others were there to comfort him. But what kind of man wants His mother to witness His execution. Her presence there probably brought to Jesus more grief than solace.

But all of that – as terrible as it most undoubtedly was – was nothing. That was a piece of cake. All the Romans could do was poke and jab His body. It’s not what happened before the cross that hurt Jesus the most. It’s what happened ON the cross. For there God laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. The anguish of having to bear the weight of the guilt of every sinner’s sin far overpowered the nails and lashes. And God despised His Son. He poured out His vengeance and wrath onto Jesus. And for those moments while he hung there, suspended between earth and sky, Jesus of Nazareth was the most cursed human being of all time.

As you return home this evening, take a moment and think this over very carefully. It is because you lied, that Jesus died. It is because you were unkind that Jesus suffered. It is because you are selfish that Jesus bled. It was because of you. You did this. It’s your fault. ...

In a sermon on the death of Christ, Martin Luther wrote, “You should deeply believe, and never doubt, that in fact you are the one who killed Christ. Your sins did this to Him. Therefore, when you look at the nails being driven through His hands, firmly believe that it is your work. Do you see His crown of thorns? Those thorns are your wicked thoughts.”

But don’t despair. No one did anything to Jesus that He did not allow them to do. He gave Himself into death for our salvation. He submitted to these sufferings willingly, to pay for your sins, to satisfy the wrath of God, and to spare us from going to hell....

My prayer is that each of every one of you will be able to go home tonight with the assurance that whatever you may have done, whatever lies upon your conscience, that you have been reconciled with your Heavenly Father. ...

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