Good Friday 2004
Understanding the Passion
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 9, 2004


Main Passage: John 19:17-37 (NLT)


Two months ago, people thought it would be a flop. The prevailing feeling was that it was too religious and would appeal only to a narrow audience. Plus, there were reports of gratuitous violence and anti-Semitic content. It was surrounded by controversy.

Then The Passion of the Christ was released in theatres. People flocked to see this depiction of the last 12 hours of the life of Christ in record numbers. It’s already ranked as number 10 all-time domestically, and is just being released around the world. It has the potential of becoming the highest grossing movie of all time. How many of you have seen it?


The Passion of the Christ. When you think about the word Passion, you probably think about the romantic, fiery, sexually charged kind of passion. Seems like a strange word to apply to the death of Jesus. What’s with the word Passion?

Passion: literally, suffering
Refers to the last twelve hours of the life of Christ, resulting in His death on the cross

This Good Friday morning, as we remember that Jesus died on a cross for you and for me, I want you to understand what Jesus endured. And I want you to understand that what He endured He endured for you and for me.

If you’ve seen the movie, then you already know some of the facts of how Jesus died. For those of you who perhaps have not seen it, I want to tell you about some of the components of the death of Jesus. I don’t want to get too graphic, especially since we have children here, and I’m not going to show you any excessively gruesome images on the screen. But I do want you to understand this morning that what Jesus went through was torture. When you read in the Bible about what he endured, and when you study and understand the details of Roman crucifixions, you couldn’t imagine a worse way to die. The punishment before a crucifixion was designed to push you to the point of death, but not kill you. They were designed for maximum pain.

Plus, it was a very public event. People could hit you, spit at you, and throw things at you. For a person tried and convicted as a criminal and sentenced to death, there could be no greater humiliation than crucifixion. In the movie, they did a pretty good job of showing the type of treatment Jesus would have received. But in reality, it would have been even worse. Many people who have gone to see The Passion are shocked and offended by the violence in the movie, but the Bible tells us…

Isaiah 52:14 (NLT)
Many were amazed when they saw him—beaten and bloodied, so disfigured one would scarcely know he was a person.


The Passion of Jesus included:


1. Severe Stress even before the abuse began

Remember, Jesus is 100% God. He knew what was coming. But He was also 100% man. He didn’t want to go through it. When you talk about Jesus being tempted, you usually think about the time He spent in the desert. But I believe the greatest temptation Jesus faced was to not go through with the crucifixion. He struggled with this temptation. He pleaded with God the Father…

Matthew 26:39 (NLT)
“My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.”

In fact, we’re told that Jesus sweated… perspired… sweated drops of blood. Which is medically possible given the level of stress Jesus was experiencing.

Jesus didn’t want to go through it. He know the incredible anguish and suffering he would be facing. But He concluded in His prayer…

Matthew 26:39 (NLT)
“If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.”


2. A total of six trials in a span of eight hours

There are a lot of famous trials going on right now. We’ve got Michael Jackson. We’ve got Martha Stewart. We’ve got Kobe. We’ve got Scott Peterson. We’ve got Enron. There are a lot of very famous celebrity trials. But none of them compare to the circus that were the trials of Jesus. It was a total sham, a total joke, a farce. Overnight, in a period of about eight hours, Jesus actually went through six different trials. Remember O.J.? Remember how long that trial seemed to drag out? Jesus had six trials in eight hours! Three Jewish trials and three Roman trials. All of them were illegal because by Jewish and Roman law, you couldn’t have a trial at night. So they were all just a sham.

First they took Jesus. They got Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. The soldiers came to get Him. Peter says, “We’re not doing this without a fight!” and he pulls out his sword and he lops off one of the soldier’s ears. Jesus says, “Hang on Peter! Put your sword away. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you realize, Peter, that I could call tens of thousands of angels instantly, if I didn’t want this to happen?” Jesus said “This is for a purpose – what’s about to happen. So you don’t have to defend Me, Peter. I’m going to do this voluntarily, willingly.”

So first they take Him to a guy named Annas who was a religious leader. Annas gives Him a little trial then he sends Him to a guy named Caiaphas who was the high priest. Caiaphas does a little trial and he sends him to the religious supreme court, which is called the Sanhedrin. They give Him a little trial. Then they popped Him off to Pilate who was the Roman governor in Jerusalem. Pilate gives Him a little trial and decides there is nothing to accuse Him of. He wants to pass the buck and he sends Him to a guy named King Herod of Judea. Herod looks at Him, plays with Him for a little while, finally says, I don’t want Him. And he sends Him back to Pilate. Pilate has another trial.

They go through six different trials in about eight hours. What did they come up with to accuse Him? Nothing. Nothing! Zero! He hadn’t done anything wrong. He had committed no crimes. So they trump up some false charges against Jesus. They bring in phony witnesses, which they paid. These paid accusers come in and these guys start making up stories and they start perjuring themselves. Then what happens is they actually start contradicting each other’s stories. So they couldn’t accuse Jesus of anything. They couldn’t pin anything on Him. They had nothing to blame Him for.

Finally they made one accusation that stuck. Just one. This one was true. This is what they killed Jesus for – this one accusation. Finally after they couldn’t get anybody to witness against Him they finally said, “Tell us this. Do You claim to be the Son of God?” And Jesus said, “Yes, I am the Son of God!” They said, “OK! That’s it. We’re killing the guy.”

You might think to yourself, “I just can’t see how this could happen. There’s no way religious leaders would put Jesus to death because He walked around patting babies and talking about peace and love.” All you have to do is read the Bible where Jesus said, “I am God!” To those religious leaders that was blasphemy. That was worthy of death. They said, “We’re going to kill the guy. He thinks He’s God. We’re going to kill Him.”

Think about this. Jesus never claimed to be a religious leader. Jesus never claimed to be a good teacher. Jesus never claimed to be a prophet. He never claimed to be a moral and ethical leader. Jesus never claimed to be a man of God. He said, “I’m God.” That changes things just a little bit doesn’t it? It’s like an either/or. It’s not like there’s a whole lot of options here.

If I were to stand up here today and say, “My name is Greg Hanson and I am a teacher. I am a good teacher. I’m a godly teacher. I teach the truth and I am a man of God.” How would you respond? You might say, “I don’t have a problem accepting that. I can accept that.” Or you might say, “Hold on there, Greg. You’re not that good a teacher.” But if I came up here today and said, ”My name is Greg Hanson. And by the way, I’m God.” Wouldn’t that change your feeling toward me? I think so.

So Jesus was tried and convicted for claiming He was God. And He was sentenced to death.


3. Roman Torture, including scourging, a crown of thorns and abuse

After being exhausted from the all night trials and obviously going without food, Jesus was turned over to the Roman guards just so they could make fun of Him, just so they could play with Him, just so they could be brutal to Him. So the Roman guards covered Him with a blindfold and they began to beat Him, and beat Him and beat Him. They began to spit on Him and slap Him. They began to taunt Him, “Who hit You, Jesus?” And they’d spit on Him, “Who spit on You, Jesus?” They’d slap Him, “Who slapped You, Jesus? If You’re really God, tell us. Tell us who did this!”

You need to know, Jesus could have given their name, their father’s name, their grandfather’s name, their great-grandfather’s name. He could have traced their family tree back to Adam. He saw those actual tortures in their birth because He knows everything about everyone. But He remained silent.

Then just to mock Him they said, “Oh, You’re the king of the Jews. You need a crown.” So they made a crown of rose thorns. They crammed it down on His head so that the thorns would go into His skull, into His scalp. He began to bleed.

Then the Bible said just out of meanness they began to pluck out His beard. Just pulled it out. You can only imagine how painful that was. So they made fun of Him and they beat Him up, they tossed Him around.

Then the Bible says they took Him to be scourged. Scourging is no mere whipping. When you see the movie, The Passion, you see what a terrible torture, scourging was. A scourge was a whip. At the end of it was a cat-of-nine-tails. It had nine different pieces of leather coming out. At the end of that leather, they would tie either bits of bone to rip a person’s flesh out or lead to bruise a person’s flesh. So every time you gave one strike with the scourge, it left nine marks on the body – every time. One scourge would be nine marks. It would pull out the flesh, pull out the skin and it would bruise.

This torture was so painful that there was a Roman law that said you could never give more than forty strikes because forty would usually kill a man from blood loss. There was also another law that prevented them from giving more than that. It said, If you give more than forty strikes then the person who administered the punishment will be given the same punishment. So they always, Roman tradition, always only gave 39 strips, just in case they miscounted. They didn’t want to be given the same amount just in case they miscounted.

Think about this – 39 times 9. That’s nearly 400 marks on the body of Christ, before He even went to the cross. His back, His stomach, His legs were one bloody pulp long before He even went to the cross.


4. Crucifixion

Then under the load of all of this that had happened they said, “Now You’ll carry Your cross up the mountain.” So He picks up the heavy cross and begins to carry it up to Golgotha, the mountain where He’s going to be crucified. Up on the hill Calvary. As He’s carrying it up, from the loss of blood and the lack of sleep and no food and all of the torture He’s been through He collapses under the cross. He falls. They get a man out of the crowd, a stranger named Simon of Cyrene. They bring him out of the crowd and they say, “You will help carry Jesus’ cross.” So they take the cross and carry it together to the top of the hill.

When they get to the top of the hill, they lay the cross back. They stretch Jesus out. They would nail the man’s arm to the cross. Then because the other arm wouldn’t reach as far they’d put a rope around the other arm and stretch the arm, pull at it, usually dislocating the shoulder so that it would be stretched, totally stretched out as far as you could be.

You have never hung in this position. But once you’ve hung in this position for a period of time the muscles around your chest cavity begin to paralyze – pectoris major and the other muscles. So it allows you to breathe in but you can’t breath out. You can breath in but you can’t breath out in that position. So what happens is, death on the cross would have been a simple death by suffocation in a matter of minutes.

But the Romans didn’t want it to be that easy. So what they would do is take a person’s legs, bend them at the knees, and nail the feet to the cross. Why would they do that? Because you would breathe in, until the pain in your lungs began to be unbearable – unbearable! And you would stand up on your feet that were nailed on the cross to breathe out. You would hold that position until the pain in your feet would be unbearable and you would let yourself down again.

The death on the cross was up and down and up and down and up and down and it often took days! It was a horrible way to die. You would be left to the elements. Birds would come and pick at you. Rodents and dogs could come and nip at you and bite at you. You were left for days in the wiles of the weather.

Any time the Romans wanted to hasten death they would come and break the person’s legs. Why? Because once you break the legs you can’t stand up any more. So it would be a matter of four or five minutes and then you’d suffocate.

When they came to break Jesus’ legs they didn’t have to do it because He’d already died. The Bible tells us that a Roman centurion took a spear and stabbed Jesus in the side, on the cross. Why did he do that? To see if He was alive. To see if He would twitch. He had already died. The Bible said that when he stabbed Him that water co-mingled with blood and came out and ran out together.

I am not a doctor but I have read many, many medical and scientific reports on what actually happened at the crucifixion including a very famous one in the Journal of American Medicine which said the only way that blood and water would co mingle in the chest cavity is if the heart tears.

You can call it symbolic or whatever you want but Jesus’ heart was ripped on the cross. Jesus’ heart exploded on the cross. Jesus died of a broken heart.


Why Did Jesus Die?


Why would He do that? And why would God allow it?

Well, we’re going to get into that a bit more on Sunday. But for now, let me show you one passage…

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.

Jesus, who is God, became a man for the purpose of dying for me. And for you. This is how God showed His great love for us. When Jesus stretched His arms out on the cross, He was saying to the world and to you, “I love you this much! This is how much I love you. This is how much I care about you. I love you so much it hurts!” You and I had committed the sin of treason against God, and as a result we deserved the death penalty. But Jesus served that sentence in our place. That’s the extent of His love for you and for me.

Why did Jesus die?

One Word. Love.

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.” This morning, as part of our service we’re going to take communion together.



Copyright © 2004