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Reading through the Gospels #198




Mark 15:22-41, Matthew 27:33-56, Luke 23: 33-49, John 19:17b-37

In all four gospels

(Created April 12, 2017; I am reading Liz Curtis Higg's new book The Women of Easter and it inspired me to create this Digital Bible Journaling page. I usually dislike creating art for "blood" and "pain" because I really do not like the red or darkness it would take to depict the theme in art. I love what I did here though being able to share a very dark and difficult theme while keeping it light at the same time. I feel as if I can actually look at this and ponder Jesus's suffering rather than being repulsed to look away because of art portrayal.
I kept it simple and did not use much color, just black and white and a little red, focusing on the scripture. I made bold the text that stood out as painful. Can you spy the other subtle things in the layout? There is an earth with a heart next to it. There are light red brush strokes for His stripes that heal. There is light grey brushwork for the bruising of all the blows to his skin and humiliation to his heart. There is a light bulb representing the Light of the World.)


April 7 2023, Good Friday: See index to the 2023 Lenten study

Simon of Cyrene (mentioned in Mark and Luke) is called a passerby, so he was not even involved in the crowds who were hating on Jesus. He was just someone at the right place at the right time to do something significant for Jesus. He was compelled (forced) to carry Jesus's cross. It does not say he "felt compelled" such as out of compassion, but rather just compelled so that would mean forced to do it. Jesus was brought to Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). Golgotha was right outside the walls of the City of Jerusalem where criminals were crucified. Luke 23:32 tells us two criminals were also led away to be crucified.

As Jesus and Simon of Cyrene made their way through the streets, a great multitude (tons of people), and women who were mourning and lamenting for Jesus, followed Him. There are two groups of people following Jesus, those, both men and women, who wanting Him crucified, who are many, and women who love Jesus and are compassionate for the suffering He is enduring. These may be the same women mentioned that stood at a distance while He hung on the cross. Jesus turned to the weeping women and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’  Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’  For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Jesus says some words on the cross, but these are Jesus's last words said to the crowds (and only recorded in the book of Luke).  Jesus addresses their weeping as today a parent might say, "if you are going to cry, I'll give you something cry about!" My paraphrase might go like this: "If you want to cry, don't cry for Jesus and His suffering, instead cry for yourself, a sinner, and your children, who deserves the punishment of death and has no ability to get out from underneath that punishment on your own. See, a day is coming that will be so bad that you will wish you were never pregnant, never had children, and never nursed those children. The very thing women want the most, they will not wish for anymore. It will be so bad you will want to ask the mountains to fall on you and take you out of your misery. If these people today do these horrible things to me, Jesus, while I am here on earth alive and in front of them, imagine what will happen and how different it will be when I am no longer visible to people on earth. Imagine what they will do." This paraphrase is just what came to my mind as I was reading the words for the first time and they seem difficult to understand. Regardless of complete meaning, it is obvious Jesus is warning them. He wants them to recognize their sins and repent while giving a prophesy of what is to come, similar to the prophets in the Old Testament.

"These words are Jesus's final plea to the people to repent and believe in Him. If you were to have only a few words left to say to your loved ones, what would they be? 'Don't lose faith." As His blood runs through the street He is warning the people one last time - Repent! Jesus came to forgive." Carolyn Biri

He did not take the wine mixed with myrrh (Mark) or gall (Luke) (to reduce the sensitivity to pain, like the cowboys in western movies who use whisky to numb the pain before a bullet is taken out) that was offered to Him. Luke 27:34 indicates he tasted it before not drinking it.  Jesus followed God's Will that He should suffer by not reducing his pain.

Then they crucified Jesus on the third hour, taking his clothes and dividing them up by random draw (casting lots). Psalm 22:18 states "they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots" as if David's words are a prophecy fulfilled. The Romans commonly crucified men naked (Artemidorus II.61) but the Jews permitted a loin cloth (M. Sanhedrin VI.3) Luke 27:36 adds that the men who divided His clothes sat down to watch over Jesus. It must have been their job to carry out the torture procedure and then to stand guard to be sure no one took him down. Matthew 19:23 adds that his clothes were divided by four, so there must have been four soldiers, and then his tunic was also cast lots over.

Some notes on commonly known history of the torture of crucifixion:

A. Slow death with maximum pain.

B. Back torn open by scourging; ripped open again when clothes were removed; dirt from the ground sticking to blood; each breath on cross scraped the open wound on the back along the wood

C. Nails pounded through wrists and the large nerve going to the hand

D. Posture on cross made it hard to breathe; no oxygen caused muscle cramps; had to push feet and flex elbows to pull up shoulders to get a breath, causing pain in the nail-pierced feet and hands, was exhausting just to breath

E. Insects were attracted to the open wounds, eyes, ears, and nose

F. Death was often by suffocation being unable to breathe, or from blood loss, dehydration, or stress heart attack

G. If death was not quick enough, the legs were broken so one could no longer lift the body to breathe

Luke 15:25 says it was the third hour when he was crucified and John19:14 says that it was at the sixth hour (about noon). We do not know why there is a time difference, whether they calculated the time of day differently or whether a scribe copied the text in error. Traditionally the first hour was the break of dawn and the sixth hour was traditionally noon, or half way through the day. An hour was not 60 minutes like it is today, but the day was divided into twelve equal parts.

The charge against Him that was inscribed on His cross was “The King of the Jews.” It was meant to mock Jesus and insult Him. If the men on either side of Jesus had signs above their heads they would have said "thief" or "robber."  John 19:19-20 adds that it was Pilate who had it inscribed as "“Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” and that it was written in three languages so everyone could read it. It was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. The Chief Priests asked Pilate to instead write, "This man said, I am King of the Jews," but Pilate would not change what he had already done. The Chief Priests did not like Pilate's inscription because they did not believe it was true. They did not believe Jesus was the King of the Jews and here was a sign declaring the same. They wanted it to say that Jesus alleged He was King of the Jews.

Golgotha was next to a well-trafficked road into the city intentionally. Those that walked by Jesus derided Him (ridiculed, expressed contempt) by mocking Him with His own words "You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days" and daring Him to save Himself.

The Chief Priests and scribes were like ring leaders of a gang mocking (laughing and teasing scornfully) Him as well saying that He has saved others but could not save Himself. It reminds me of hateful bullies that need to be set in their place. Little did they know that Jesus was about to set them in their place for good because He had something much bigger planned than taking Himself down off the cross in that He would be resurrected from death. They mocked Jesus some more using his own words that people should "see and believe" by witnessing Him taking Himself down off the cross.  He could have done that as God, but as Man Jesus suffered on the cross to follow God's Will.

Matthew 27:44 says that even the robbers on either side of Jesus also reviled Him. To revile is to criticize in an angry and insulting manner. The people walking by hurled insults, the people of the church hurled insults, and even the sinners beside Him hurled insults. These robbers were considered of the lowest position in society and even they felt higher than Jesus enough to put Him down.  In Luke 23:34 Jesus says, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This is an often quoted Bible verse.  Putting to the accounts of Matthew and Luke together brings more meaning in that even while Jesus was being mocked and insulted by these criminals on crosses hanging with him, Jesus forgives them.  Romans 5:8 says, "but

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." While the criminals were sinning with the words they used, Jesus intercedes for them asking the Father to forgive them and Jesus does the same thing for me today.

In Luke 23:39 one of the criminals railed (criticized in anger or severely) him to "save yourself and us." Little did he know that Jesus's suffering before them would be the very thing that does save. In 23:40-43 it says of the second criminal, "But the other rebuked him (expressed disapproval), saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he (Jesus) said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”  This criminal recognizes that all sin deserves the same punishment - death - and then acknowledges that Jesus did nothing wrong. This criminal has compassion and understanding. This criminal gets it. He knows that something special is about to happen and asks to be a part of Jesus's kingdom. Jesus gives this criminal what He gives all of us, that being hope. We have hope in that upon our death, we will be with Jesus in paradise, just like this criminal sinner. Jesus also gave the criminal assurance of heaven and we also have the same assurance of heaven.  We focus on the word "today" that Jesus uses. It is not something that happens after we sit in purgatory, but rather happens the day we die or immediately. We also put focus on the word "paradise"(paradeisos), which is Persian for garden or park and was used as a word in Genesis 2:8 for the Garden of Eden and also as in Isaiah 51:3.

Mark 15:33 And when the sixth hour (about noon) had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. The whole land, and possibly the whole world, was dark for about three hours during the middle of the day! Heavenly Father, today is a dark day as we remember the death of your Son, crucified in a cross. It is incredible the amount of love you must have for us to offer such a huge sacrifice to save us. I am in awe of your love and your selflessness and strive to be more like you every day. Amen Jesus, the Light of the World bore the darkness of my sin for three hours. All of creation went dark and mourned the death of Jesus. Luke 23:45 adds that the sun's light failed. I have seen a solar eclipse and have an idea what it is like to go dark in the middle of the day, but here the eclipse lasted for three hours which is not normal. I can imagine Jesus there, hanging on the cross, in the middle of the day, but in complete darkness of night. I wonder if God the Father did this to protect Jesus from some of the mocking and embarrassment and emotional suffering. The crowds would have been distracted by the darkness, looking for the sun, rather than looking at Jesus hanging on the cross. Surely the correlated the two events and contemplated the what-if, but probably missed that it was the power of God at work.

And then Jesus cried out “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 

This is a quote from Psalm 22:1 "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?"  Forsaken means to be abandoned or deserted. Jesus felt like God the Father was nowhere around. Sometimes I feel that way when things go on for so long and never seem to get better, only getting worse. I do not feel the presence of God anywhere nearby. I think of an abandoned house that sometimes I see alongside of roads that always captures my attention. They are empty of people. These houses are permanently abandoned with no intention of coming back to it, only left to rot a slow demise to the dust of the earth again. The permanence and intentional continuance of a forthcoming downward ending is evident. I can only stand and stare at these houses and wonder what a good life used to be within. There is no saving these houses. No one even seems interested in helping along their ending by knocking it down. It is separated from all human life, cut off from any love, with any existence having turned its back on it. This is how Jesus felt hanging on the cross feeling as if His Father had forsaken Him.  God turns his back on His own son and this is the only time Jesus is alone. Jesus pays the price for my liberation. I trust that You are always with me, Christ.

Some folks standing by said that He must be calling out to Elijah. When Jesus said "Eloi," did they think he said "Elijah?"

Someone (no name) ran (as in went fast to wherever) to get a sponge full of sour wine (a common drink at the time) and used a reed to lift it high to Jesus's mouth to drink and while doing so said that Jesus should wait for Elijah to come and save Him. This person made such a great effort by running somewhere to get the sponge-filled drink on a stick. What an attention-getting kindness. At first I read this as mocking Jesus, but upon a reread I see it is more like a compassionate person giving someone else a bit of hope to "give it a little more time and it will get better." This person ran so he was in a hurry which seems to me like he thought Jesus was about to die of dehydration and wanted to give him a little more liquid so Jesus could hold on a little longer while waiting for Elijah to save him. Luke indicates the man made the comment, but Matthew 27:49 says that "others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him," which seems to be more mocking. Maybe the man said it with kindness and others repeated it as mocking. Really? Jesus is almost dead and they have to continue their hate until the very last moment? It seemed hard enough to look at, much less to continue to contribute to the pain.

Jesus said "I thirst" as some more final words as detailed in John 19:28-29, and it may be why the man mentioned above ran to get the sponge full of sour wine which John mentions "stood there," so it was nearby. This is likely the same incident. John adds that the reed was a hyssop branch. John mentions that this was to fulfill a prophecy, and Psalm 69:21, says "They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink."

The last sound out of Jesus's mouth was a loud cry and then He took His last breath. Jesus was able to speak right up to his last breath. John 19:30b says, "He said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up His spirit." Matthew 17:50 says, "yielded up His spirit." Luke 23:56 says,  “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” The text of "it is finished" is one word in Greek, being "tetelestai," which means, “paid in full.” Often when loved ones are with the dying, they cannot tell when the last breath was taken and have to be decided by a pulse. Here Jesus's last breath was pronounced with a last deep breath in to be seen from below and then the dropping of His lifeless head. It jumps out at me that Jesus "gave up His spirit" or "yielded up His spirit." No one took His spirit, but He gave it willingly out of love.  In John 10:18 Jesus says, "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father." Who did He give it up to? God the Father? The enemy? The people He saved, as in He gave it up "for" them? Luke 23:56 tells us the answer in that He gave up His spirit to His Father's hands. Where did His go? It went to the Father's hands. When I die my body is buried and my spirit (or soul) goes to be with Jesus.

Some distance away the curtain at the temple tore completely in two from top to bottom at the same time as Jesus died. This curtain was a veil between the room in the temple called the "Holy of Holies" where the Ark of the Covenant was placed and the most important room called the "Holy Place" where only the high priest was could enter into God's presence once each year (Exodus 30:10; Hebrews 9:7) for all of Israel to make atonement for their sins (Leviticus 16). The people were separated from God as they could not enter into His presence. The temple being torn removed that restriction for the people who could now be in God's presence anywhere and at all times. No one any longer has to go to a temple to be near God. This fulfills the prophecy in John 12:32 which says, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 

Matthew 27:51-53 adds that the earth shook and the rocks split (like an earthquake) and that tombs were opened up "and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many."  Matthew seems to be getting ahead of himself when writing his accounting. He gets so excited that he jumps ahead in his story to tell us what happened after Jesus was resurrected in that not only Jesus was resurrected after the third day, but also all those "saints" who had fallen asleep. Dead people were now alive walking around everywhere, just as Jesus was found to be alive and walking. A "saint" is a follower of Jesus Christ, a person who is "holy" which means "set apart for God." Today we see a "saint" as believers or those who will be with Jesus at their death.  As a result, every follower of Jesus Christ is a saint. Here we see there were saints who died before Jesus's death. It would seem these people were raised like Lazurus to walk on earth and then have a physical death again because it is not like a spirit resurrection that we will have on the last day when Jesus comes again.

John 31-37 gives us a bit of the story not in the other Gospels in that because this was the day before Sabbath (Saturday), they did not want the men to remain hanging on the cross, so they hurried their death by breaking their legs so that they could not lift themselves to take a breath. They broke the first robbers legs and then came to Jesus and saw He was already dead. Instead, to check that Jesus was dead, a soldier pierced his side and blood and water came out. I suppose if Jesus was still alive when pierced, He would have cried out in pain or the piercing itself would have killed Him. This fulfilled two prophecies.  First, “Not one of his bones will be broken” is in Psalm 34:20, Exodus 12:46 and Number 9:12 Second, "They will look on him whom they have pierced” is in Zechariah 12:10 and Zechariah 13:6. There were many prophecies fulfilled in Jesus's death and seeing them all fit together in Scripture is amazing and faith confirming. Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee, let the water and the blood, from thy wounded side which flowed, be of sin the double cure; save from wrath and make me pure.

After seeing the earthquake and all that happened, a centurion and those watching guard over Jesus proclaimed, "“Truly this man was the Son of God!” What a great honor this centurion and guards had to make such a proclamation at His death. They probably did not even know how important that honor. He used the past tense of "was" because to him Jesus is dead and gone.

From a distance women were watching, that being (Mary Magdalene 1, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses 2, and Salome 3, and many other women 4 Luke 15:40-41) AND (Mary Magdalene 1 and Mary the mother of James and Joseph 2 and the mother of the sons of Zebedee 3 Matthew 27:56) AND (all his acquaintances 5 and the women 4 Luke 23:49) (his mother 6 and his mother's sister 7, Mary the wife of Clopas 8, and Mary Magdalene 1 John 19:25)  It jumps out at me that they were at a distance. I suppose that is so they too would not be lumped together as a follower of the one being crucified and bear a similar fate.

These women had followed Him on His journeys all along, ministered to Him (attended to His needs) and stayed with Him to the end. Scripture ends with the revealing of the presence of Jesus's faithful women. What is the significance of mentioning this in Scripture? These women were witnesses. They were first hand eyes on testimony for what happened to Jesus. These are women who will spread the news of what has happened and be believed by those they tell. The women were there at the cross, but the 12 disciples were not. The prophecy of Jesus was fulfilled in that Matthew 26:31 (and Mark 14:27) says, "Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: " 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered." This is a quote of Zechariah 13:7

John 19:26-27 shares that Jesus saw His Mom and said to her, "“Woman, behold, your son!” and then Jesus said to a disciple, “Behold, your mother!” The disciple took Mary to his home, so Mary was not present during the final moments of her son's life.  It is thought that this disciple is John himself as he wrote in the third person about himself in other Scripture (John 13:23, John19:26, John 21:7; and John 21:20). In addition, In John 19:35 John tells us that he was at Jesus' crucifixion and saw with his own eyes. However, to fulfill the above prophecy, he leaves to take Mary to his home.  By saying His Mom was "your" Mom, Jesus is saying that John should now take care of his mother as his own mother. While hanging on the cross, Jesus cared for others.

1 Mary Magdalene who had 7 demons cast out of her by Jesus (Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; John 19:25).

2 Mary, the mother of James the younger and of Joseph (John 19:25, Mark 15:40-41).

3 Salome, the wife of Zebedee, and mother of James and John, who were the “sons of thunder” and two of Jesus’ disciples (Mark 15:40-41, Matthew 20:20-28, Mark 3:17)

4 Many other women (Luke 23:27-31, Mark 15:41)

5 Acquaintances of Jesus (Luke 23:49)

6 Mary, the mother of Jesus (John 19:25)

7 Jesus's Aunt, His mother's sister (some think she is Salome) (John 19:25)

8 Mary, wife of Clopas (John 19:25)

Copyright Cheryl Rutledge-Brennecke
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