CSI: Jerusalem Part 1
The Scene of the Crime
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
March 25, 2005

 

This morning, we’re going to do something a little bit different. I’m not sure how this is going to work, but we’re going to give it a shot. There are no sermon notes for you to fill in today… no outline to follow. Instead of you just listening to me talk, I want you to do a little work. I want you to imagine. Imagine that you are a member of the crime scene investigation team… the CSI team… in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion.

I’m going to walk you through the details, but I want you to put yourself in the role of the Investigator. Some of the content today is a bit graphic, but that’s part of what Good Friday’s all about. It’s not my aim for you to be disgusted, but I do want you to realize what Jesus went through for you. Now, I’m not actually going to be reading much Scripture this morning. Instead what I’ve decided to do is put various Scriptures up on the screen here as we work our way through the investigation. We’ll be talking about the events of those Scriptures, although we won’t be reading them directly. If you can listen and read at the same time, go ahead. If not, then just sit back, listen, and imagine.

Imagine you’re sitting in your office on a Friday afternoon. It’s been a strange day to say the least… there’s been an unexpected solar eclipse, some vandalism in the Temple, a localized earthquake, and even some bizarre reports of graves that had opened up and were now empty. And on top of all this, a man named Jesus has just been sentenced to death. His sentence was to be carried out at the hands of Romans based on the testimony of the Jews, and normally you wouldn’t investigate a case like this. You would usually assume that a state execution was correctly carried out, that the person sentenced to death was guilty of a heinous crime, and that proper procedures were followed.

But not this time. This time, there are rumours… rumours of conspiracy, rumours of witnesses lying under oath, rumours of a set-up and a lack of due process. Was this execution lawful? Was the alleged crime worthy of the death sentence? Had the prisoner actually committed a crime in the first place?

Plus, this was not exactly a low-profile execution. It involved a popular rabbi, a mob of Israelites, and conflicting witnesses. The rumours have been spreading since the arrest was made… and that was just last night! Hard to believe the courts acted so quickly. So you decide you need to get to the site and investigate while the scene is still fresh.

You arrive on the scene late that Friday afternoon. It’s a long weekend in front of you, so you’re not exactly thrilled about having to work. It is the Passover celebration, after all. But you’re committed to doing you job and doing it well, so you arrive all set to investigate. You’ve made good time. The body’s still there and most of the witnesses are still around. Maybe you could wrap all this up by sunset. So you start your investigation.

First, you need to take a visual scan of the area. What do you see? Well, you’ve already noticed that the body is hanging on a cross. Apparently Roman Crucifixion was the method of execution. Nothing out of the ordinary there. The body’s just hanging limply now… how different it must have been just two or three hours earlier as he writhed in pain. They’re in the process of taking the body down… somebody must have claimed the body. Probably the rich guy who’s supervising the removal of the body. You can tell by the way he’s dressed that he’d be able to pay for a tomb for Jesus. Well, You’ll soon be able to examine the body up close and personal before they take it away to be buried.

At the top of the cross you notice a sign. What does it say? You walk over a bit closer so you can see. Hmmm… you notice a statement written in three different languages… Hebrew, Latin and Greek. All three identify this man as “The King of the Jews.” What’s that all about? Is that supposed to be His crime? What kind of a crime is that?

You scan the rest of the area. You notice that this man Jesus was crucified on a cross between two other crosses. The bodies of those criminals had apparently not been claimed, since they were still hanging there.

Off to the side you notice some women, sobbing loudly. The one in the middle looks like she might be in her mid to late 40s. Possibly His mother, although a little young for that. If she is the mother, you wonder what it must have been like for her to stand there watching her son die such a cruel and violent death. Looks like the other women and a young man are trying to console her. You make a mental note to talk with them after they calm down a bit.

Other than them, there are the typical soldiers and onlookers hanging around. You also notice a few important religious leaders, looking even more proud of themselves than usual. Maybe there is something to those rumours after all. You make a notation on your clipboard to see what they’ve been up to during the past 24 hours.

This whole area is the crime scene… at least the main part of it. Technically, the crime scene would have to include a stretch of the main city street… the Via Dolorosa. You’ve already been informed that Jesus was forced to carry His own cross down that street and up this hill to this very spot. What had this man done to deserve this? Thankfully, he had some help carrying it. The soldiers are detaining a man named Simon of Cyrene for questioning. Apparently he had shared the weight of the cross.

Oh, good. The body’s down from the cross now. You’ll be able to examine it before they take it away.

You know, as many times as you’ve seen a crucified body, you’re still shocked by it. And it’s not just because of the nails; it’s all the beatings and torture beforehand that sickens you. If you didn’t already know, you’d be hard pressed to identify this body as a man. Pull it together… you’ve got to do this.

The body of Jesus is lying there pretty much naked, so you’ve got a good clear view of its condition. The first thing you notice about the body is how torn up it is. This man had endured some rather serious flogging. Those Roman soldiers… sometimes they just enjoy their work too much. You even notice that in some places the flesh is completely torn away and you can see bare bone! This man would have suffered severe hypovolemia from the loss of blood… you’re surprised that He survived long enough to be crucified. Maybe you should talk to the Senate about the soldier’s brutality and their use of excessive force. Yeah, right. As if the Senate would give you the time of day.

Let’s start at the top and work your way down. What’s that on top of his head? Could it be… yes… it’s a crown woven together out of thorns! Obviously connected to the sign at the top of the cross. That has got to be the handiwork of the soldiers again. They just did that to ridicule this man! Somebody really needs to do something about them. Under the best of circumstances, that would be painful. But combined with the extra sensitivity caused by the flogging and the blood pulsing through his veins, that must have been unbearable.

Next, you take note of some bruising on His face. It’s hard to say for certain, but your best guess is that the soldiers had beat Him. But then, the Romans weren’t exactly known for their compassion.

You work your way down to the shoulders. Something looks odd here. Is he deformed in some way? All of a sudden you realize, His shoulder’s been dislocated. Must have happened when they were stretching his arms out to nail him to the crossbeam. Again, that’s not unusual to see in a crucifixion.

Time to examine the nail holes in the wrist. More of a tear than a hole, really. You glance at the feet and notice it’s the same thing there. Looks like it was originally just a nail hole but had developed into a tear. You remind yourself that the typical person being crucified has difficulty breathing on the cross… they would hang there with their lungs filling with liquid, and then they’d have to pull themselves up in order to breath. They would stay there as long as they could until the pain became too great, and then they’d let themselves down and begin the cycle again. And each time they pulled themselves up it would tear just a little bit more.

Crucifixion was anything but quick and painless. No, in fact crucifixions could drag on for days. It was even common for birds to begin plucking at the eyes and feeding on the body while it was still alive. Thankfully no sign of that here. Jesus had been nailed to the cross at 9:00 that morning, and the time of death was about 3:00 in the afternoon… about the same time as the earthquake and the eclipse. So Jesus had lasted only 6 hours. Not surprising, considering how much other abuse His body had taken.

You check His back. As expected, splinters from the up and down motion against the rugged cross.

Then you notice something else. You almost missed it in the midst of all the torn flesh, but you notice a stab wound in his side. Was He actually pierced by a spear? How many ways did they want to kill this man? You call over the captain of the guard to explain this to you.

He explains that the Jewish leaders had insisted that no one be left hanging on a cross on the Passover, so he had sent the soldiers out to break the legs of the criminals. That way they wouldn’t be able to push themselves up to breath and would die much quicker. But when they got to Jesus, they found He was already dead. There was no need to break His legs… so they just stabbed Him to make sure He was dead. And then he adds, “When He was pierced, what looked like a mixture of blood and water flowed out of Him.”

You immediately recognize what that means… Jesus’ heart rate would have been racing because of the loss of blood. This would have resulted in a buildup of clear liquid around the heart and lungs. So when they stabbed Him the spear must have gone right through a lung and into the heart. That would account the appearance of blood and water, and would also confirm that Jesus was indeed dead at the time He was stabbed.

You pause for a moment. You think to yourself, “The nails through the wrists and feet would have been bad enough, but the flogging, the crown of thorns, the beatings, the splinters, the ridicule, the public humiliation… this kind of death must be absolutely excruciating.” Then, in spite of yourself, you just kind of chuckle. You realize how ironic it is to describe a crucifixion as excruciating. After all, the word “excruciating” literally means, “out of the cross.”

Well, you’ve seen all you need to see of the body. No need for an autopsy. Looks like a typical crucifixion… maybe a bit more violent than most, but nothing too out of the ordinary… except maybe the crown of thorns and the stab wound in the side which have been explained. You conclude that, like with most crucifixions, the cause of death was a cardiac arrest brought on by hypovolemic shock, suffocation, and respiratory acidosis. There’s only so much the human body can endure before it shuts down.

Next in your investigation you need to get a grasp on who this man was. Well, you already know His name was Jesus. The sign on top of the cross identified Him as the “King of the Jews,” whatever that means. Couldn’t mean much, since we are all under Roman Rule now. Of course you had heard the stories before. You knew of His reputation as a Rabbi, a moral leader, and a miracle worker. It’s been about three years now since you first heard about Him… He had been at some wedding party and as the story goes had actually turned water into wine! Your cousin Zach had been a caterer at that party and had told you all about how Jesus covered for him when he ran out of wine.

Now, if memory serves, Jesus had a background in carpentry… a trade He picked up from His father. His father. Yeah, it’s all coming back now. You remember there was something about his father and his mother. What was it… 30… 33 years ago? My, how time flies. It was quite a scandal… a young teenage girl gets pregnant… not even married yet. They try to claim she was still a virgin… riiight. Like that could ever happen. You wonder, could this have been that child?

Oh, good. The mother looks like she’s calmed down now. Still obviously shaken up, but hopefully able to answer a few questions…

She identifies herself as Mary. She was indeed the mother of Jesus. Her husband Joseph had died a few years ago. You decide to start with something basic… “Tell me what Jesus was like.” She explains to you that there was always something special about Him. Sure, she’s His mother. She has to say that. But there’s something about they way she says it that makes you want to believe it. She goes on to claim that her Son was a good man… devoted to the Scriptures and committed to doing God’s will. He spent His time doing good and teaching others to do the same. And above all He proclaimed the Kingdom of God. She even goes so far as to call Him the Son of God. Wow, this really is a mother!

According to her, this was all a set-up… He had done nothing to deserve this. But oddly, she doesn’t seem mad about it. Sure, she’s grieving, but it’s like there’s more to the story. So you press a little harder and ask her to go on.

She explains to you that His death was all part of a greater plan. It was somehow meant to be. Denial? Maybe. Just a couple more questions. You ask her the identities of the others who were with her. Would you believe that out of the four women who were there, three of them were named Mary! This is going to be really fun to write up. One of them, Mary Magdalene had been demon-possessed and Jesus had freed her. And then there was a man there, too. His name was John. You’re told that he was one of the students of Jesus… a real disciple. Odd that he’s the only one there. After all, Jesus had a dozen or so disciples who traveled with Him. Where were the rest? You were going to have to track them down later. But Mary explains that Jesus and John were especially close, and that while Jesus was dying on the cross He made a point to instruct John to care for her.

You’ve got all you need from Mary, but as you finish you can’t resist asking one more question. And yes, with a smile she still maintains that it was a Virgin birth. And yes, Jesus was the child.

This man is sounding less and less like a criminal to you. Plus, you’re well aware that He had a reputation as a strong moral leader. Not a stereotypical sociopath. Oh, He had enemies. Mainly people who were jealous of Him or felt threatened by Him. And strangely enough, most of those enemies were the religious leaders from the Temple! Huh, the Temple had become a little too political for your liking, anyway.

What role did they play in all of this? You decide it’s time to check the court documents to see what exactly led to Jesus being sentenced to the death penalty. What you find shocks you. You’ve never seen a case where so many rules were broken… so many unanswered questions and breeches of conduct. In fact, you would say that this verdict was arrived at illegally. Some of the things you notice are…

  • Jesus was arrested at night. According to the law, an arrest could not be made at night.

  • The time and date of the trial were illegal because it took place at night and on the eve of the Sabbath.

  • You see that the Sanhedrin… the Jewish Supreme Court… instigate the charges themselves. But it doesn’t have that authority. It’s only supposed to investigate charges brought before it, not formulate the charges themselves.

  • Reading on, you discover that the charges against Jesus were changed during the trial. He was initially charged with blasphemy based upon His statement that He would be able to destroy and rebuild the Temple of God within three days, as well as His claim to be the Son of God. But when He was brought before Pilate, the charge was that Jesus claimed to be a King and did not advocate paying taxes to the Romans.

  • Also according to the law, you needed two witnesses in agreement to merit the death penalty. But all you can find are conflicting testimonies. And as far as you can see, most or all of them were trumped up charges.

  • But even with these conflicting witnesses, Jesus was not permitted a defense. Under Jewish law, an exhaustive search into the facts presented by the witnesses should have occurred.

  • Plus, the court did not meet in the regular meeting place of the Sanhedrin, as required by Jewish law. They met in the house of the High Priest instead.

  • But there’s more. The Sanhedrin initially pronounced the death sentence. Once again, that’s beyond the scope of their authority. Under law, they were not allowed to convict and put the death sentence into effect.

  • And to top it all off, there was not sufficient time for deliberation! A guilty verdict could only be pronounced the day following the trial, not the day of!

You consider filing a grievance, But what’s the use? From what you can see, the abuse of authority permeates through every local level of both Jewish and Roman leadership. And if they’ve colluded in a conspiracy, they’re sure to try a cover-up. You could appeal directly to Rome, but the chances are slim that they’d hear a case from this backwater part of the Empire.

You’re greatly disturbed by the blatant abuse of power, but there’s something else that bothers you, too. Why did Jesus allow it all to happen? Wasn’t He a miracle worker? And how about all the times the religious leaders had tried to do away with Him before? Every time He had been able to deflect their attempts by just saying the right thing at the right time. He was obviously aware that they didn’t like Him and were trying to set Him up. What went wrong this time?

You decide to interview one of the arresting officers… a Roman centurion. First, he reveals to you that Jesus was betrayed by one of His own students. You ask how you can contact this student, and he informs you he has already committed suicide. Guess you won't be interviewing him. You're told that he had been paid off by the Religious leaders. That sounds pretty suspect. Next, he tells you that Jesus provided no resistance. It was as if He was waiting for them. In fact, when one of His own disciples pulled out a sword and tried to defend Him, Jesus stopped Him. Not before this disciple had chopped off the ear of one of the guards, though.

Then the officer told you something amazing. Here’s this man, Jesus, being arrested… but He stops, stoops over, picks up that ear, and somehow reattaches it on the spot. The officer admits that this surprised him and even frightened him. After all, if this man had the power to do something like that, what if He wanted to resist the arrest? What damage could He have done? But He would put up no resistance at all.

Okay, so Jesus didn’t physically resist the arrest. Did He at least try to defend Himself verbally? You’ve got to talk to some members of the Sanhedrin to find out what took place during the trials. But you’re frustrated when most of them won’t cooperate.

Finally you find one that will talk off the record. He expresses to you that he was absolutely shocked at the injustice of the trial. In his opinion, Jesus was railroaded. He was convicted before a trial even occurred. He and some of the others in the Sanhedrin had tried to object, but they were stifled by the leadership. So they could only stand by and watch as Jesus was abused and unjustly convicted and sentenced to death.

But since only the Romans were able to execute criminals, Jesus was sent to Pontius Pilate, the local Roman governor. Pilate, deferred the case to King Herod because Jesus was from the region of Galilee, which was under the jurisdiction of Herod. Herod questioned him a bit, and then returned him to Pilate. Your source had followed Jesus through all four of these trials, plus a couple of other interrogations along the way, and explains to you that at this point something bizarre happened. Both Herod and Pilate found Jesus “not guilty” of any crime, but then sentenced Jesus to be flogged and executed.

This obviously makes no sense to you, so you’ve got to speak to Pilate himself. After all, Pilate was ultimately responsible for pronouncing the death sentence.

So you track him down. And to your surprise, he actually seems to be relieved to talk to you about it. Now Pilate doesn’t exactly have a reputation for showing compassion, but this particular decision hasn’t been sitting well with him. He didn’t think Jesus was guilty of any crime, he could tell that the witnesses were lying, his own wife urged him to let Jesus go, but he gave in to the political pressure of the religious leaders and sentenced Jesus to death anyway. But then, trying to justify what he had done, he declared that Jesus never tried to defend Himself, none of the disciples spoke up as character witnesses, and not even one of the people Jesus had healed came to His defense. It seems that Pilate is aware he did something wrong, but wants to wash his hands of the whole matter.

You’re more confused than ever. Why did Jesus choose to remain silent? And make no mistake, it was His choice. He had plenty of opportunity. Did Jesus have a death wish? That disciple… John… is still nearby. Time to talk to him.

You decide to question John about Jesus’ state of mind just before He was arrested. John tells you that the night before he and the other disciples has supper with Jesus. And during supper Jesus had told them He would be betrayed by one of them, and taken away to die. So you wonder, was Jesus suicidal?

John goes on to say that after supper they all went out with him to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus went off by Himself to pray, but John was close enough to overhear Jesus pleading to God the Father to let Him live. But He continued that He was willing to go through whatever He had to go through as part of the Father’s plan.

And then John added, “I don’t know if this means anything or not, but when Jesus came back from praying it looked like He had been sweating drops of blood.”

You check your medical handbook, and discover that this is a condition known as hematidrosis and is a response to extreme stress. It appears that Jesus was almost desperate to live. He had no death wish at all.

So why did He just allow it to happen? What was His motive for going through with it? There’s got to be a reason. Because from everything you know of Jesus, He was more than capable of preventing it. You’ve just got to know why, but you can’t figure it out.

But you’re running out of time… it’s beginning to get dark, which means the Passover celebration is about to begin. Hmmm, the Passover. You allow your mind to wander a little bit, thinking about the Passover and why you celebrate it. It, of course, refers back to almost 1500 years earlier when the Israelites were freed from captivity in Egypt under the leadership of Moses. You recall that in order to force the Israelites to be freed, God sent several plagues on the Egyptians… the last being the death of the firstborn child in every home. The only homes that were spared were the Israelite homes, which God had instructed to identify themselves by slaughtering a one-year-old lamb and smearing the blood on the doorframe of the house. Those homes did not experience death that night. And that very night Pharaoh called for Moses and freed all the Israelites from their slavery.

Oh, you’ve got to get back to this case. By this time you’re back in your office reviewing your notes, trying to put it all together. You start to think about how ironic it is that you’re dealing with this case at Passover. This man Jesus was basically slaughtered just like a lamb is slaughtered. In fact you remember something that the prophet Isaiah had written years earlier. You pull out your copy of the scroll of Isaiah and find that passage…

Isaiah 53:4-9, 11 (NLT)
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the guilt and sins of us all.
He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. From prison and trial they led him away to his death. But who among the people realized that he was dying for their sins—that he was suffering their punishment? He had done no wrong, and he never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal…
And because of what he has experienced, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.


Hmmm. Didn’t John the Baptist actually call Jesus the Lamb of God? What if this prophecy in the Scriptures was actually referring to Jesus? That couldn’t be, could it? If that’s the case, this man was not just a man… He really was the Son of God. And that means that His death was part of a greater plan, just like His mother had said. As the death of the Passover lamb meant freedom and deliverance for the Israelites 1500 years ago, the death of the Lamb of God could mean freedom and deliverance for you… freedom from slavery to sin and temptation and deliverance to a new live with God.

That’s it. You’ve finally discovered the motive. You finally understand why Jesus allowed Himself to be killed. It’s all summed up in one four letter word… love. Love is what motivated Jesus to subject Himself to torture and such a violent death… because He knew that His death meant life for you.

You know that history will record that Jesus was put to death at the hands of the Romans at the urging of the Jews. But even though you are convinced there was a conspiracy to kill Him, your official report will read, “Jesus willingly gave His life for me.”

And as you close your report, you know that if you’re right, this isn’t the end of the story. And you smile as you contemplate what the next few days may hold.

 

Now come back to the present. We’re here this Good Friday morning remembering what Jesus went through and recognizing that what He did He did for you and for me. It was an incredible act of love and compassion. Jesus knew that because none of us are perfect, we all fall short of His Holiness. And because of our sinfulness and rebellion against God, we deserved the death sentence ourselves. But in effect, on that Good Friday Jesus served that sentence in our place. The penalty had been paid for you and for me.

Romans 5:6-11 (NLT)
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God's sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God's judgment. For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by his life. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God—all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God.

One expert, a medical doctor who has examined all the details of the crucifixion, explained it this way…

“Jesus knew what was coming, and He was willing to go through it, because this was the only way He could redeem us—by serving as our substitute and paying the death penalty that we deserve because of our rebellion against God. That was His whole mission in coming to earth.”
~ Alexander Metherell, M.D., Ph.D.

Jesus, who is Himself God, became a man for the purpose of dying for me and for you. And the one great motive behind everything He did was love.

Now, Jesus never wanted us to forget how much He loves us so He gave us a symbol. It’s called the Lord’s Supper or Communion. The night before Jesus went through all of those trials He sat down with His followers and He said, “Here’s bread and wine. From now on I want you to use this to remember the blood and the body that I’m giving for you. It’s just a symbol, but it’s to help you to remember how much I love you.” So this morning, as we conclude our time together, we’re going to do just that.
 

 

 

Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2005 SunriseOnline.ca