Understanding the Passion
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 9, 2004
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
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.
Passion of Jesus included:
1. Severe Stress even before the
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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 would He do that? And why would God
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.