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The Death of the Cross Duncan Heaster  
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1-1-4-3 The Bruising Of Christ

2 There is great emphasis on the Lord being led (Mt. 26:57; 27:2,31; Mk. 15:16; Jn. 18:13,28; 19:16; and notice how Acts 8:32 changes the quotation from Is. 53 to say that Christ was led (this isn't in the Hebrew text). His passivity is another indication that He was giving His life of His own volition, it wasn't being taken from Him.

3 Having been flogged until the skin was left hanging in bloody shreds (Josephus), His clothes would have stuck to the skin. Taking the clothes off would have ripped some shreds away. The process of dressing and undressing would have done the same. And then the cross was laid on that bare back.

4 The thorns were growing between the cobbles of the courtyard? Or were they using thorns on their courtyard fire? The thorns on the head would have reminded Him that He was being temporarily overcome by the result of the curse in Eden. As with several aspects of His mocking, His tormentors unknowingly gave Him spiritual stimulus by what they did (see 24). His mind was certainly in Eden, for He spoke of the Kingdom as " paradise" , with evident allusion to Eden (Lk. 23:43). Note that the Lord was beaten up at least three times: by the Jewish guards, by Herod's men and by the Roman soldiers. In a literal sense He was bruised for our iniquities, and chastised for us to obtain the peace of sin forgiven (Is. 53:5). And the Father surely foresaw all this back in Gen. 3:15, where the promised seed was to be bruised. He willed (not " pleased" , as AV) this bruising, and this putting to grief (Is. 53:10). The parallel here between the bruising, beating and putting to grief may suggest that the beatings up ('bruisings') really grieved the Lord. And note that the final sacrifice of which Is. 53 speaks was not only achieved by the hours spent hanging on the cross. This earlier beating and abusing was just as much a part of His final passion, as, in essence, His whole life was a living out of the principles of the cross.

It has been suggested that the crown of thorns was not only a mockery, but a significant part of the physical torture of crucifixion. If the net of nerves and veins under the skin of the scalp are pierced, profuse bleeding and stunning head ache would occur. His hair would therefore have been bloody.

It would have been a wreath, a stephanos similar to that worn by Tiberius. The mock homage to the crowned Saviour-Lord was surely in the Lord’s mind at His ascension, when all the Angels of God bowed before Him in true worship (Heb. 1:6).

5 J.D. Crossan mentions a Jewish tradition, quoting Mishnah passages to support it, that the bruised scapegoat had scarlet wool tied to it, and that the Jews spat on the scapegoat in order to place their sins upon it(1). It could be that the Roman soldiers were doing all this in mockery of this tradition. It would have given the Lord something more to fill His holy mind with. He knew that He was actually doing what they were mockingly suggesting- carrying Israel’s sins. God worked even through the spitting and mocking of men to work out the finest details of our redemption.

The spitting is in the context of their mocking His Kingship. “Hail, King of the Jews!" was in parody of ‘Ave, Caesar’. It was customary to give a kiss of homage to royalty. Their parody of this was to spit at Him, in the face, according to the type of Job 30:10. Earlier, at the trial, the Jews had spat in His face (Mt. 26:67). Now He tasted Roman spittle. And this was the face from which the glory of God had shone (Mk. 9:15?). One of the themes of the crucifixion records is that the same abuse and suffering was repeated to the Lord. Hence the frequent usage of the continuous tense. During the trial by Pilate, the Lord underwent mock worship and spitting (Jn. 19:3). Then later it was mock worship, spitting, hitting on the head (Mt. 27:29,30). And then hitting on the head, spitting, mock worship (Mk. 15:19,20). It seems they alternated brusing / spitting on Christ with bruising / kneeling before Him in mock homage. The reed was used as a mock diadem, although instead of touching His shoulder with it they hit Him on the head with it. They put it in His hand as a sceptre and then snatched it back to hit Him on the head with it. Wave after wave of the same treatment. Notice how many times the word “again" features in the Greek text (palin). This is the essence of our temptations. And it was a big theme in the Lord's final human experience. Likewise a comparison of the records shows that " Come down..." was clearly said more than once, the continuous tenses notwithstanding (Mt. 27:40 cp. Mk. 15:30). However, it is worth cataloguing the use of continuous tenses in this part of the record: The crowd kept on crying out (as demons did), " Crucify him" (Mt. 27:23); the soldiers kept on clothing Him (Mt. 27:28), kept on coming to Him and kept on saying... (Jn. 19:3 Gk.), Pilate kept on seeking (imperfect) to deliver the Lord (Jn. 19:12), thereby agitating the tension in the Lord's mind. They kept on kneeling (27:29), kept on spitting (v.30), kept on passing in front of Him on the cross and kept on shaking their heads (v. 39), kept on saying " thyself" , kept on mocking and asking Him to come down from the cross (vv. 40,41), the soldiers kept on coming to Him and offering Him their vinegar in mock homage (Lk. 23:36), they kept on offering Him the pain killer. They kept on and on and on. This is an undoubted theme.

The shame of the cross is another theme of the records. The reproach broke the Lord's heart (Ps. 69:20). It could even be that He suffered a heart rupture, a literal broken heart, some hours prior to His death- hence when His side was pierced, blood flowed out- and corpses don’t usually bleed. It has been commented that severe emotional trauma is enough to cause such a rupture. He wasn't hard and impervious to it all. He knew who He was, and where He was going. To be treated as He was, was such an insult to the God of all grace. And He keenly sensed this. Heb. 12:2,3 parallels the Lord's enduring of the cross with His enduring " such contradiction of sinners against Himself" . These mockings were therefore part of " the cross" . The " cross" process began before His impalement; in the same way as some verses which evidently concern the crucifixion are applied to the Lord's earlier life. His was a life of cross carrying. And we are asked to live the same life, not just the occasional 'cross' of crisis, but a life embodying the cross principles. As " the cross" means more than the impalement which epitomized it, likewise " the blood of Christ" means far more than the red liquid. These concepts found their physical epitome in the crucifixion process, but there is so much more to these things than the physical. The blood of the covenant, the Son of God and the Spirit of grace are bracketed together in Heb. 10:29. The Lord was His blood. The pouring out of blood from His side, the trickles down His cheeks from the crown of thorns, quickly drying in the hot dust beneath... this was Him. We take the wine in memory of Him; not just His blood. And He is the Spirit of God's grace. By Himself He purged our sins (Heb. 1:3); and yet this purging was through His blood (Heb. 9:14). He was His blood; His cross was the essence of all He was.


(1) J.D. Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994).