He was cru·ci·fy·ed for our sins,

scourging_lg

cru·ci·fy

ˈkro͞osəˌfī/

verb

past tense: crucified; past participle: crucified

  1. 1. – to put (someone) to death by nailing or binding them to a cross, especially as an ancient punishment.

For as long as I can remember I have always loved the impact that taking the Lord’s Supper has had on me. As a boy, and a young believer, I would hold the small cup of wine in my hands before drinking it and solemnly think of the sacrifice that Jesus laid before the Father as an atonement for my sins.

Author Michael Card (A Violent Grace) calls us to reflect on the tremendous display of God’s redeeming love toward us by experiencing the agony of Christ suffering through the power of our imagination.  Card writes,

Josephus (First Century Jewish historian)revealed the ferocity of Roman flogging when, commenting on the fate of a prisoner of the Jewish War, said that the man was lacerated to he bone with scourges.  In face, the only stipulation Roman law made was that a man would be flogged until the flesh hung from his back.  The blows fell until the skin split open and the muscles were severed; until ligaments tore and bone chipped.  Some men were disemboweled.  Many did not survive.

To intensify the suffering of the victim, flogging always preceded a crucifixion.  As an unintentional mercy, it could hasten death when it resulted in a massive loss of blood.

Imagine it with me.

Jesus is standing there stripped, shackled, and alone in the circle.  The legionnaire steps forward, opens his reach, and begins.  The scourges hiss through the air in a wide arc and sink with a thud into Christ’s skin.

The crowd howls.

The scourges rise again and again in the soldier’s fist.  And fall.  And rise again.

Soldiers sneer and spit.  The scourges hiss and thud into purple flesh.  Blood flows.  God’s chosen people scream for more.

The tormentor grunts and sweats, but keeps reaching back for that terrible, wide arc.

Jesus crumples.  Guards rush to jerk Him to His feet.  The scourges rise again, and fall.

Look!  The righteous anger of God, diverted for all time, is pouring down on this man, His Son.

But the fault is mine, and I must look away.

It is one think to speak in theological terms about an obligatory sacrifice for a fallen world.  It is an entirely different thing to stand in the presence of brutal men and their instruments of torture and try to watch, realizing that Jesus endured all that and more for you and me. (Michael Card, A Violent Grace, p. 65-66)

When I partake of the communion elements, I cannot help but think to myself, “Why did He do it.”  “Why would God’s Son die for a miserable, evil, and undeserving sinner like me?”  The only answers that I have ever come up with, and the only ones that have ever made since, are these: 1) Jesus loves me, and 2) God is gracious.

Romans 5:6-8  ¶ For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare towd how die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that  while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Glory in this: God’s grace

cross and prayer png

Jeremiah 9:23 ¶ Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;  24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the LORD.

2 Corinthians 12:9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

For many years I have lived with the conviction that if I think that I have found a hidden truth in the Bible that no one before me could see or figure out, or if I think I have gained a new insight or revelation from God about a particular Bible truth that has been lost for ages, or if I think that I possess a deeper understanding of the gospel than all of the other saints who have walked the faith road before me,  then it is more than likely (99.999% sure) that my newly discovered truth, revelation, or understanding of the Bible is heresy.  For this reason I like reading the words of the saints of old; Godly men that God has wonderfully used in the past to feed and shepherd his people.  I truly believe that better minds than mine have been at this thing for a long time, and if I humble myself, and suppress the inward inclination within me to think more of myself than I ought, then I can learn many things from the elders of the church that will help me navigate my own spiritual journey.  With this said, I love Martin Luther’s words below concerning the wonderfully humbling grace of Jesus.  Luther said:

God wants to regard and does regard us as completely righteous and holy, for the sake of Christ our mediator.  Although sin in the flesh is still not completely gone or dead, God will still not count it or consider it.

….. Therefore we cannot boast about the great merit of our works, where they are viewed without grace and mercy.  Rather, as it is written, “Let the one who boast, boast in the Lord.”  If one has a gracious God, then everything is good.  Furthermore, we say also that if good works do not follow, then the faith (the faith we say we have in Christ) is false and not true.”  (Martin Luther, The Schmalkald Articles – translated by Wm. R. Russell)

How to kill a giant

david-versus-goliath

1 Samuel 17:33, 37 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine {Goliath} to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” …… David said, “The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Humanly speaking, Saul spoke the truth when he said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine.”  Take a quick look at David’s resume below and see if you don’t agree with Sauls words

  • David was merely a youth (a lad) when Saul shared his assessment of David’s chance of success against Goliath.
  • David was not even the choicest of his own fathers children.
  • David was a shepherd to this point of his career, and unskilled in war.

Goliath, on the other hand, was a powerful man, a giant, and a seasoned warrior;  Goliath was someone whose visage and words made Saul, Israel’s champion and giant, tremble. (1 Samuel 17:11) Nevertheless, what Saul said was impossible, David believed was possible with the Lord on his side.

Perhaps David remembered the Bible lessons that he would have been taught from his childhood; lessons about how God had delivered the sons of Anak (giants!) into the hands of his forefather Caleb. (Joshua 14:7-15)

Caleb said, “As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in.
12 “Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.” (Joshua 14:11,12)

Perhaps David believed that God was not a respecter of persons; thinking to himself, “If God graciously did this for Caleb, then why would He not do it for me?”

……… Believing that God is no respecter of persons is essential to becoming a doer of the word, and not a hearer only–doers hear or read the Word, and believe it; letting their beliefs govern their actions.  On the other hand, hearers only listen or read the Word, and what they have heard or read has little to no impact on their actions ……..

It seems obviously from the text that David, as a youth, had already come to the conclusion that God has never asked Saul, David, Moses, Caleb, or anyone else for that matter, to do anything in their own strength or to walk by their own sight.  God in His word ask us to:

  • “walk by faith and not by sight,” (2 Cor. 5:7)
  • “lean to your own understanding, {but} in all our ways acknowledge him,” (Proverbs 3:5,6)
  • know that His “strength is made perfect in weakness.”  (2 Cor. 12:9)

Yes, by human standards Saul was right in saying that there was no way that anyone in Israel could defeat this giant. However, by God’s standard, the standard of faith, the giant was already defeated.

1 Samuel 17:43 So the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!”

1 Samuel 17: 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 “This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.

David was a lad when he defeated his giant.  Caleb, on the other hand, was 85 years old.  No matter what station in life you find yourself, by faith the giants will fall!  Faith in God, not your own strength, is the victory!

But what is genuine faith? I like Watchman Nee’s observation below on what constitutes genuine faith and what doesn’t. Watchman Nee (The Life That Wins) wrote:

What is genuine faith? Genuine faith believes in the Word of God exclusively, it is not believing in one’s own experience, feeling, or dark environment. If environment and experience coincide with God’s word, we praise and thank the Lord. But if these disagree with His word, then the word of God alone stands true. Whatever is contrary to God’s word is false. Satan may insinuate to you, saying: How can you say you have victory? Where is your victory since you are as corrupt and weak as you were before? But you can counter him with this: “Indeed, I am still I, I will never change, but God says Christ is my holiness, my life and my victory.”

Though Satan suggest to you that you are still corrupt and weak, God’s word remains true. Whatever the enemy whispers to you is false; only the word of the Lord is true!