For over 2,000 years, Christians have held to the historical event that a man named Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by the Romans. This happened in Jerusalem at the hands of the Jewish leaders. Jesus was buried in a tomb, and was literally and physically raised from the dead on the 3rd day.
What is this resurrection and why is it so important?
This is a first for me, but I need to warn you: the rest of this article contains graphic descriptions of the events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
To begin, we have to back up to a Friday afternoon. In the Christian church, we call this Good Friday. It’s the day that marks the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This is the day that we commemorate when Jesus received the death penalty. In the Roman Empire, that means he was nailed to a wooden cross.
In Jesus’ case, prior to being hung by large iron spikes to the wooden device, he was beaten. And I mean beaten badly.
The Roman soldiers used a tool called a scourge or flagrum to administer this beating that was just short of death. This was a club wrapped with leather and had long, tentacle-like leather straps hanging from one end. Chunks of brass, lead, and bone were sharpened and embedded into those straps. The person receiving this form of punishment would be strapped face-down to the ground, tied to a post, or suspended in the air.
A Roman scourging was 40 lashes on the back. The scourge was designed to shred and rip the skin, peeling it from muscle and skeleton. It would typically expose arteries, internal organs, muscle, and bone.
The scourging was so horrible, it was actually illegal for any Roman citizen to receive the punishment. Many of Rome’s enemies that did get the scourge did not survive the beating to be later crucified.
This isn’t the “away in a manger” Jesus. This is Jesus willingly paying for mankind’s sin. This is how ugly the sin of the world looked when God took it upon himself and wore it for you, for me, and for every man, woman, and child.
After all of this, Jesus was ridiculed, spat on, slapped, kicked and stripped. In public. By now, his flesh was shredded, his face swollen, and he was covered in blood. He was unrecognizable. Then a crown made with thorns long enough to pierce his skill was forced down on his head.
“But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man.” Isaiah 52:14 (NLT)
Jesus was then forced to walk to a hill overlooking a well-traveled road that led into Jerusalem. And in his condition, he was forced to carry part of the cross that he would soon be nailed to. Most scholars estimate that a Roman cross weighed about 300 pounds. The horizontal bar that Jesus had to carry strapped to his back would have been between 75 and 125 pounds.
After the scourging, Jesus should have been barely able to carry himself the 650 or so yards to Golgotha. Not to mention with a 100 pound beam of wood strapped to his bleeding and badly wounded back.
Once they reached the hill, the Roman soldiers would assemble the crossbeam and the main beam on the ground. They would lay the victim on it, strapping wrists and ankles to the wood. After that, iron spikes were pounded through the feet and through each hand, possibly just below the thumb.
The cross was then stood up and heavily dropped into a hole so that it would remain upright. The cross had a sort of ledge built into it below the feet that the crucified would intermittently push on. This was to raise themselves a few inches in order to take a breath of air into their collapsing lungs. Typically, a victim’s legs were broken after they would hang for so long. Then they would suffocate and drown in the blood that filled their lungs.
This is where we find Jesus one dark Friday afternoon.
What’s So Good About Good Friday?
That’s a great question. To sum that up, it’s because that’s the day that Jesus endured what you just read about. Jesus did this willingly because he loves you, me, and every person that has ever lived or ever will live. His is a love that we do well to even barely comprehend.
“He was wounded for our rebellious acts. He was crushed for our sins. He was punished so that we could have peace, and we received healing from his wounds.” Isaiah 53:5 (GW)
It’s a good Friday because the price was paid on that day for your sins. Appropriately enough though, not all cultures call the day good. In some countries, the day is Holy Friday, in others it’s Silent Friday. In Germany, it’s called Karfreitag, which means “sorrowful” or “mourning” Friday.
Normally, those who were crucified in the Roman Empire were placed in common graves. After Jesus died on that hill though, his body was carried to a tomb. A huge stone was rolled in front of it that would take a few, if not several people to move. Then centurions were stationed in front of the tomb.
That happened because this case was a very politically charged one between the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, and the Jewish religious leaders led by the high priest, Caiaphas.
And what happened that Sunday morning is the culmination of history, from Eden to Eternity.
Jesus’ body was in this tomb during the Sabbath, which of course was Saturday. No preparation of his body would have been done prior to that because that Friday night happened to be the Passover. So bright and early on Sunday morning, 3 women went to the tomb with spices to prepare the body.
Except that massive stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty. Scandal erupted and blame was pointed in all directions. Jews, Christ followers, and Romans. The resurrection of Jesus Christ had come to fruition.
Why the Resurrection Matters
But what really happened with the resurrection is Jesus had conquered mankind’s greatest foe: death. Because Jesus had risen from the grave, he controlled death.
He died for all of mankind, and then, through his resurrection, he defeated death and broke it’s bondage for all time. The bondage of death came into the world because of sin. So in defeating death, Jesus also declared his victory once and for all over the bondage of sin.
You’re going to find this recorded in John 20 and 21. It’s too much for me to share here, but it’s desperately important.
The resurrection of Christ matters because it’s the lifeblood of the Christian faith. It’s who you are in Christ, your identity as a Christian. Without Christ crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected, we have no reason to hope in anything beyond our short lives on this planet. All we have to do is look at every sermon, book, and letter written in the New Testament. Take note, the theme of every one of them is Jesus Christ resurrected.
Too often, we Christians relegate the resurrection of Christ to one Sunday each year and call it Easter. But the cross is vacant and his tomb is empty. This is an every day celebration for those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ.