By Joshua Stevens, Faith Contributor, Valley Ag Voice
This month flocks of Christians will crowd together in churches around the world. From different denominations, cultures, and languages together we will sing out in praise, adoration, and thankfulness that Christ came to die for our sins and was bodily risen three days after his crucifixion. From an outside perspective, this would most assuredly seem absurd. You could imagine someone who has never heard of Christ or the Gospel walking into an Easter service and thinking: “Why are they so excited that this guy died?” Or maybe even, “Where’s the nearest exit? Do they do these sacrifices often?” Growing up in the church, we may sometimes become numb to the brutality of the cross and the miracle of the resurrection. For a moment, step into the shoes of someone who has never heard the story and experience the gospel message for the first time.
1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (ESV), “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
The book of Corinthians was written by the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 1:1) to the church of Corinth in modern-day Greece sometime between 53-54 C.E., a few years after his first missionary trip there. His letter to the Corinthians is a response to what he had heard was going on in the church and covers a variety of issues. (Petruzello, n.d.)
He begins talking about the resurrection towards the end of the letter. This section starts by reminding those members what saved them. Since they lived in Corinth, these Christians knew what a crucifixion looked like, but for those of us removed from this culture, we may find it difficult to comprehend the significance of the pain and torment which Christ endured.
Before we get to the crucifixion, we should look at the night before. Jesus took his disciples into a garden to pray (Matthew 26). During that time, it is noted that He was sweating drops of blood; this is a condition called hematohidrosis caused by great stress or anxiety. This resulted in Jesus’ skin becoming more tender (Shrier, 2002). From the garden, Jesus was taken by the Pharisees, walked two and a half miles, received no sleep, and was beaten and mocked (Luke 22:63-65).
“Pilate orders Jesus to be flogged as required by Roman law before crucifixion. Traditionally, the accused stood naked, and the flogging covered the area from the shoulders down to the upper legs. The whip consisted of several strips of leather. In the middle of the strips were metal balls that hit the skin, causing deep bruising. In addition, sheep bone was attached to the tips of each strip. When the bone makes contact with Jesus’ skin, it digs into His muscles, tearing out chunks of flesh and exposing the bone beneath. The flogging leaves the skin on Jesus’ back in long ribbons. By this point, He has lost a great volume of blood which causes His blood pressure to fall and puts Him into shock” (Shrier, 2002). After getting flogged, Jesus has a crown of thorns placed upon His head and was given a robe to wear (Matt 27:28-29). After all of this, Jesus is unable to carry His cross, and so a man comes to help carry it for Him (Matt 27:32). Jesus wouldn’t have been expected to carry both the vertical and horizontal pieces of the cross but just the horizontal piece, and once reaching the hill, He would have been thrown down to have nails 7 to 9 inches long driven into His wrists. Then His feet, too, were nailed to the cross, most likely one over the other before He was hoisted up on the cross. His shoulders and elbows would have been dislocated and He would slowly suffocate on the cross. (Shrier, 2002)
After Jesus’ death, a soldier came and pierced His side with a spear to make sure He had died (John 19:34). Christ was taken down off the cross and placed in a tomb; then His tomb was guarded by soldiers (Matt 27:57-66).
While this is happening, Peter lies about being a follower of Christ (John 18:15-25). And what of the other disciples? They were frightened and despairing. Certainly, this is understandable: the man who claimed to be ushering in a new and glorious age who healed the sick, cast out demons, performed miracles, and drew crowds to hear Him speak suddenly was taken off by the government and brutally murdered as a spectacle. I think many would be fearful to call themselves a follower of Christ at such a time. Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there! What happens after the empty tomb holds the reason why we celebrate.
Three days later, it was the women who discovered Jesus’ empty tomb. Jesus appeared before the disciples, before hundreds of others, and before Paul on the road to Damascus. This resurrection serves as proof that Jesus’ ministry was the will of God–for the dead cannot raise themselves. Jesus suffered this horrible death so that we may have the opportunity to accept Him as savior, the perfect propitiation for our sins.
“How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory” (Townend, 1995)