Over the past few months I have had the privilege to share part of the gospel with anyone who has wanted to hear it.

Through those words I have spoken of the gift of life given us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

I was listening to a song the other day, the old hymn "Were You There" and as I listened to the words chills traveled down my spine and tears welled in my eyes. The song asked a few questions of us sinners, Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb? Were you there when the stone was rolled away?

Those questions really hit home; I wasn't there for any of it. I didn't see my Lord letting himself be hung on a cross. I wasn't there and didn't see Him being placed in the tomb. I wasn't there and didn't see Him come from his tomb?

While I wasn't there, He bore and paid the penalties for my many sins — so in essence I, along with everybody else, was the cause of His sacrifice and with that comes a sense of guilt for my vile nature.

I think of that, and just like the words of the song — I tremble.

So many times during our prayers we thank God for our lives; we thank Him for our families; we thank Him for our health and all the wonderful things He has done for us; if we think about it we will thank Him for our salvation; but do we ever stop to thank Him for his sacrifice and all He went through while hanging on the cross?

Let's ponder that for a moment and search the scriptures; from the prophets to the apostles so that we can somehow get a grasp on the enormity of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

For one of the first mentions of what Jesus would go through on the cross we should read Psalm 22. In this Psalm attributed to David, written more than 1,000 years before the birth of Christ, we get a description of the agony Jesus would go through during the crucifixion.

I will forego the opening verse for now, perhaps the most important verse in the Psalm, and return to it later. For now I will focus on the physical tortures Christ went through during the crucifixion.

"I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax and it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." — Psalm 14-18

For those familiar with the description of the crucifixion in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — this description by David, who somehow wrote through the eyes of one being crucified, centuries before crucifixion became a form of punishment, more than a 1,000 years before the actual crucifixion describes in vivid detail some of the tortures Jesus went through on the cross.

Then again in Isaiah, the suffering Christ was to endure was foreshadowed by the prophet.

"Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." — Isaiah 53:4-6

All of the sins of the world were borne and paid for that day, just as the prophet said, and all we need to do for our account to be marked, "paid" is to put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. But there was so much else he had to endure on the cross.

To describe in brief what Jesus went through physically all we need is to look at these verses and at the accounts of the crucifixion in the gospels to find that he was scourged (beaten mercilessly with a Roman whip ripping most of the flesh off of him); a crown of thorns placed upon his head; spit upon him while being publicly mocked; he was forced to carry his own cross; he was nailed to the cross and then crucified.

Crucifixion, in essence, suffocated those hanging on the cross by causing the weight of the body to slowly cut off air to the lungs. A painful and humiliating death.

The physical torture Jesus went through cannot be fathomed. For those who are not convinced Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, God incarnate — then ask yourself who would go through that torture if they didn't have to.

The physical pain Jesus went through was immense. Everybody who saw Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ saw the physical torture Jesus went through — but do we really understand the real torture Jesus had to endure. The torture beyond the pain.

So far all I have described is just physical pain. Many humans undergo physical pain. All the Apostles endured physical torture at some point during the ministry, with most being put to death for their teaching of the gospel.

The pain, one could say, is not what hurt Christ, it was the weight of all the sins of the world before a perfect God that tortured Jesus more than anything.

Christian writer Dave Hunt described it best when talking about God's justice and the requirement of Jesus' sacrifice.

In paraphrase, Hunt said God is perfect and requires perfect justice, something no human would ever be able to provide, so in order for us to be able to stand before God, a perfect sacrifice had to be made; and in Jesus (God with us) that sacrifice was fulfilled.

On Friday we will delve further into the tortures Christ suffered and we will look through the Scriptures to find that separation Christ felt from God — caused by him taking on our sins — hurt him more than any physical pain he could suffer and made him cry out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me." — Psalm 22:1 and Mark 15:34.


Be sure to read the conclusion of this two-part column about the suffering of Christ in Friday's Herald-Press. Beginning next week, this weekly column will be featured in the Friday editions of the Herald-Press. For those who would like to contact Wayne Stewart, he can be e-mailed at etagnews@dctexas.net

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