My personal testimony concerning my relationship with Christ:
Christ on the Cross—How wrong I was about it!!
This is a personal understanding, by me, Bill Watts, (neither a theologian, nor Bible scholar, but a grateful sinner who believes with all my heart that I am saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ) — and if you ‘are not’ — you can be, its ‘your choice.’
Many ‘know who Jesus is’ — ‘or who they think He was’ if in their minds they do not accept Him as deity, and thus only as a ‘historical figure.’
In this manner, Josephus, a Jewish Historian — neither a Christian nor a follower of Christ, who was born around 37 AD — and eventually became a ‘turncoat’ to the Jews — and collaborated with Rome — becoming the Roman advisor on Jewish affairs — he wrote the history of that era, and wrote of Jesus historically.
I’ll even paste an article from this website at the end of this for you — but his ‘third party’ validation of Jesus Christ in a historical sense, certainly validates Him being on history’s stage as the Bible states. (As do other records of antiquity.)
But what I am speaking here of, is in relation to ‘knowing Jesus as God,’ — as Lord! — of His eternal divineness as deity, as our Savior, as our Lord.
He was and is the only begotten Son of God, who came to save us from our sins — by ‘taking our place’ and paying the ‘price’ demanded by a just and holy God the Father in relation to the penalty for sin — and thus, to provide redemption for us, and to reconcile us to God the Father, forever!
He was born of woman, of Mary — a ‘virgin birth’ — walked the earth without sin — died for our sins on a Roman Cross — was buried — three days later He arose from the grave — and after appearing to over 500 witnesses, He ascended into Heaven.
He is our ‘risen Savior.’ He lives!
I have accepted Him into my heart and mind as Savior and Lord, and have accepted His free gift of salvation by grace, and eternal life with Him.
By Him and through Him, my destination is Heaven.
That is what I mean by ‘knowing Jesus.’
It is a ‘personal relationship’ that began the day, the moment I accepted Him into my heart, and will continue through this life, and then, eternally.
This is my understanding of ‘what He did for us,’ — for you and me at Calvary. (This is my response to His love.)
First, to paraphrase a thought by Keats in one of his poems: At this time in the world — “when the best lack conviction, and the worst are filled with passionate intensity” — it is important that I (we all) declare ourselves — and hopefully with passionate conviction.
Second, a hypothetical: If you ‘were God’ (the Alpha and Omega, without beginning and without end, a spirit, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent) and had ‘created all mankind’ and ‘desired to have a personal relationship with them’ — how would you do it — how would you reveal yourself to your creation in a way they could fully understand?
I once heard someone use this form of analogy: If you were God, and had created ‘ants’ and they were in dire straits, and you wanted to warn them, to save them, wouldn’t the best way be to ‘become an ant?’
If you became an ant, couldn’t you ‘better communicate with them?’
God, in the ‘fullness of time’ revealed Himself to His creation through His Son. Jesus Christ became human.
In His incarnate form, He was perfect God and perfect man.
Let me share with you what He’s done for me — and you.
This is not about religion, but about a deep personal relationship with the Jewish Messiah, Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior — who gave His all for me, and has accepted me with all my transgressions and flaws — and loved me enough to die that horrible death for me — (actually He took my place — and yours as He paid the price for our sins) — and He loved me enough to seek me out and reveal that to me, and He loves you that much, too.
Let me share with you my understanding of this, and what John 3:16, 17 means to me.
John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
I believe that act by God demonstrates the greatest love ever revealed here on earth (or in the entire universe) — that He loves us so much, and desires a ‘unique and personal and eternal relationship’ with each of us so much, that He sent His only begotten Son to ‘redeem us’ and to ‘take our place’ in relation to ‘judgment for our sins’ — and ‘pay our price in full’ — the just and righteous demands by a holy God for the penalty for our sins — by dying on that Roman cross.
Three days later, He rose from the dead, and now sits at the right hand of God.
His resurrection was God’s stamp of approval for His sacrifice — for what His Son did there at Calvary.
That reveals His Person. And if we will but ‘fully acknowledge Him as our Savior’ and ‘accept His free gift’ of eternal life in Him, we will forever be ‘reconciled to God the Father’ — and His resurrection from the grave also provides us with the knowledge that we too will ‘be resurrected’ when our time here on this earth is over, and be with Him in eternity in Heaven.
Those are the basic tenets of my faith, of what I believe.
He loves you! He loves me!
He is our Creator. He hates our sins against Him, but loves us unconditionally….only God could do this.
In His merciful grace (which is ‘unmerited favor’) — Jesus Christ is His provision for our ‘redemption’ and ‘reconciliation’ to Him, ‘forever.’
His ‘gift’ is freely available to anyone who accepts it. It is each person’s choice.
Religion is ‘mankind’s attempt,’ generally well-intended, to define it, and to create mechanisms of representation with rules and policies and rituals, and even ‘to use it to control their followers, and proselyte or convert others to it’ — and as all things ‘done by mankind’ it can be flawed, even misused, misunderstood, and even become ‘an agent’ of persecution.
That is ‘done by mankind.’ That is ‘religion.’ In their ‘process’ they often miss ‘relationship with Him.’
This I am sharing, is NOT about ‘religion’ and ‘ritual,’ but about my ‘relationship with Christ, my Savior, my Lord, my God.’
One question I’ll ask you, “What has Jesus Christ ever done to hurt you?”
When that was asked me in 1984, it penetrated my callused heart!
(I may have issues with organized religion, but that is ‘not the issue’ — the issue is Christ and His love, His merciful, saving grace — and that relationship with me — and you.)
He loves me (and you) enough to have died for us on that Roman cross — that is what this is about.
He has never done anything to ‘hurt me.’ He only loves me — and you.
My life, as those who know me can certainly attest, has been a mercurial testimony (with the ups and downs so associated) to what I am now relating.
But, He is faithful, and even in my periods of darkness, His light penetrates and shines; and once you are His, He never lets go (no one or anything can ever take you away from Him — not even you can) — and, He never quits contending and striving for your heart to conform to His will for you — praise Him, thank Him for His undying and unconditional love!
So, then you accept His free gift of salvation, and are ‘saved by Him,’ (which is referred to as being ‘reborn,’ because that is when you instantaneously and miraculously experience your ‘spiritual birth’ in Christ) you become for lack of a better description, “a work in process”, until the day you are called home to Him.
In this ‘process’ there have been periods in my life wherein He has illuminated so much of Himself to me, as He does to all of His own.
Those moments have been breathtaking and humbling!
This was such a moment — as His Spirit used the means needed to illuminate to me, again, the lack of understanding I had, how ‘limiting’ I’ve been, and in that, how woefully wrong and shortsighted I was, and am — thus: Christ on the Cross — How wrong I was about it!
This is not written as that I am “holier than thou”, or from any point of criticism except of myself; but hopefully that it stimulates your thoughts.
Maya Angelou has a poem that ‘captures’ how I feel about ‘being a follower of Christ.’
I AM A CHRISTIAN
by Maya Angelou
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not shouting “I’m clean livin.”
I’m whispering “I was lost,”
Now I’m found and forgiven.
When I say…”I am a Christian”
I don’t speak of this with pride.
I’m confessing that I stumble
and need CHRIST to be my guide.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not trying to be strong.
I’m professing that I’m weak
and need HIS strength to carry on.
When I say.. “I am a Christian”
I’m not bragging of success.
I’m admitting I have failed
and need God to clean my mess.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
but, God believes I am worth it.
When I say.. “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain,
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.
When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not holier than thou,
I’m just a simple sinner
who received God’s good grace, somehow.
Now, whether you accept this or not, this is ‘my understanding’ of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion on that Roman cross: reflecting on His suffering and what He went through during that event for us.
To illustrate, I had in some periods of my life considered that Jesus Christ, at the time of His death on the cross, was a young man in the prime of His life, a very strong man, a carpenter by trade — so He worked with His hands — His labor was very physical, He was forceful, intimidating when angry — as when He drove the money-changers out of the temple; yet He died sooner than either of the two thieves crucified on either side of Him — Why?
Or, that He was Deity (and as such, supernatural), so it really did not hurt Him as bad — and seemingly, when He had accomplished the task, He just gave up His life — and the suffering ended.
Now consider this: Here is God almighty, who comes to earth to redeem His fallen creation — the God of the universe, through Whom everything was created, Whom every day for eternity has been in the heavenlies with God the Father, praised and glorified by angelic choirs, sung to by His entire creation; and He must come to earth to redeem his own creation who has fallen.
He divested Himself of all that glory and honor!
Think about that for a moment.
Now, think of all the forms he could have “come in”: as an angel, as a king, as a conqueror, or any of a myriad of supernatural forms.
But, He comes in all the physical frailty of humanity, and as a baby, without pomp or ceremony, of the lowest estate, born in total poverty.
He never accumulated any earthly trappings or honors for Himself — total humility — a servant. He was sought to be destroyed by kings and authorities, misunderstood, accused, hated — a man of sorrows, without estate, or huge followings or servants or wealth (whose total wealth is everything in this world which He created — He is the Creator.)
He was tested by Satan, accused by the “religious leaders”, rejected by His chosen people, and came here not to conquer, but to serve — and to die for our sins — He who sinned not.
Then, His death: If dying was all He had to do, then there were so many ways so much less painful, much quicker, and less humiliating and shameful.
But, He endured the very worst death ever devised by mankind to that date.
He was beaten and tortured, and made spectacle of by every representative of government on earth, and without being found guilty of being anymore than who He said He was, condemned to that horrible death in order that we might live, nailed to that cross, later thrust through with a spear.
A death that took hours! Dying between two criminals — the God of the universe.
(And think of this, all He had to do to avoid dying like this was to ‘deny He was the Son of God!’ Then both Jewish religious leaders and Roman leaders would not have condemned and crucified Him.)
But, He did not waiver, He declared to them all that He was God’s Son — that He was deity. He is.
For you, either He was who He said He was — and Is… or He was a liar! And if He was a liar — then all of this means nothing…
So, as I analyzed this event, here were my thoughts:
Yes, He had suffered — been scourged, by Romans — which were not bound like the Jewish law to limit any scourging (whipping) to not over 40 lashes — lest they kill the person — but by battle-hardened Roman legionnaires, conquerors of the world, known for their vicious effectiveness, certainly never cited for mercy, any life other than their own not highly valued…
(And, as I’m sure Jerusalem wasn’t a “cushy” post that got the sophisticated, or highly intelligent, or especially kind — but rather like the “Russian front was for German soldiers” the feared banishment for the disfavored or incompetent of the German army in W.W.II.)
Therefore, it was certainly very brutal, certainly their whip had those sharpened bits of metal in the braids, to rip and tear the flesh; and they were masters at making a person suffer — whipping them right up to the point of death — their very inner organs exposed through their shredded backs!
He had also been struck, spit on, a crown of those huge thorns indigenous to that area (much longer than any thorns I’ve ever seen), and sharp, and I’m sure with their own natural toxin that would increase the pain, had been more than likely very forcibly jammed on His head as a mock crown, causing Him to bleed!
He had been forced to carry His own cross (the horizontal cross member), no small physical feat — especially under such duress, — certainly, food and drink withheld, the stress of the confrontations, the trials, — and His divinity knowing how it was to end, (think, how we dread something bad, or that could hurt, and how that stress “drains our strength” before we even experience it!)
And then of course, the extreme brutality of the actual crucifixion — being nailed to the cross, — certainly these weren’t slender, fine sharpened, stainless steel surgical nails, (as if that would make it less painful), but very likely rough, large diameter, ponderous, heavy nails (by some accounts 7″ long) — driven through the hands or wrists, into the rough splinter protruding cross, can you even imagine — then that cross member roughly hoisted, unceremoniously into position on the vertical part — and more nails driven through His feet or ankles!
The terrible ripping, tearing pain to the joints and nail pierced limbs — to an already pain-wracked body, in front of the very jeering masses, His very creation, that He had come to save!
The shame heaped upon an innocent man, our Lord!
The power of that emotion and pain washing over Him and engulfing Him like a tidal wave — and Him an innocent man!
He refused the drink they gave in those days to “deaden the pain and awareness” so He would have the complete fullness of all His faculties to endure to His mission, our salvation — as He faced God the Father in judgment for our sins.
I am the sinner that but for Him, should have to endure God’s righteous judgment — not a crucifixion, but the eternal sentence of Hell — and yet, I had somehow still diluted that event of Christ on the cross, tweaked all of that in my own mind to where it just wasn’t that bad — or that others (but certainly not me) had endured worst than that in history (the physical torture)– oh, the sinful pride of man — the ever present desire to elevate himself to equality with God, or to mentally or subliminally reduce God to our own understanding. And mine was full-blown in this.
As just to the emotion of hatred He endured, let me share of personal experience with you that might help you perceive:
As a young 25 year old man, I wrestled in Madison Square Garden (a simulated Roman Coliseum), before over 18,000 screaming fans, the largest crowd ever in that “old” MSG for any event in its history — fans screaming for my blood, their hatred of me, the “bad guy” or “villain” wrestling their “hero”; was washing over me in waves, like a physical force!
Prior to that event, I had always been “their hero” too.
The adulation of that huge crowd, also like the even bigger crowd at Owen Field in Norman, Oklahoma, playing football for the Sooner’s of Bud Wilkinson — when you’d “take the field” coming down the ramp just prior to the kick-off, and the crowd would come as one to their feet with a roar of adulation, you’d actually be “lifted” up emotionally to where you felt invincible — like you could keep on running right down the field to the other end zone, and run right through the concrete wall, and not even feel it.
So certainly your opponents couldn’t stop you!
That is how powerful that focused mass emotion is, it’s almost physical.
That’s why the “home field advantage” is so fought for in pro-sports.
Now, because of events preceding that match, I am faced with a hostile crowd, in a setting and magnitude I’d never before faced, in the Mecca of Pro-wrestling (in an era when fans still took their wrestling seriously), and as I said, a crowd screaming for my blood, a crowd insane with rage — all directed at me — and it hits with such a force, that it seems physical!
It completely changed my entire demeanor. It was worse than being “slapped” as far as the personal affront to my senses, and more powerful than the strongest blow — and as treacherous to me, their former “hero”, as being kicked in the groin.
My reaction, as I knew I had to combat it, or it would dominate me, and I’d lose to that fear — I attacked all that emotion with my own anger!
I became enraged, and hated all those faceless people — I loathed them, and that permeated my very being, that rage projected back at them like a weapon itself — and I was able without any remorse or conscience to react toward those people; transformed by the force of all that emotion focused at me, to become like them en masse, into a blood-lusting beast!
So, that emotion: for or against, love and adulation, or anger and hatred, is such a powerful force of itself — as history has recorded in “lynch mobs”, racial riots, wars, wherein the atrocities perpetrated against innocent non-combatants, civilians, women and children, the aged and infirm — wherein that emotion literally feeds on itself, and whomever is caught up in it, or that it’s directed toward.
After that, I was in other situations like that in my career in that godless venue, but then knew what to expect — it still was felt, but then since I understood it, could control it in my own respect — even though the violence of my reaction was “just barely under control”, and quickly struck when at certain times, things got “out of control”.
I hope you’ll pardon my seeming to digress from what’s on my heart, but I hoped to share with you of something that helped me to maybe understand even better what I’m trying to relate — but first more of my “lack of understanding”, of my ignorant pride of man that elevates self, and tries to reduce God to less than He is — down to our understanding.
And back then to the cross, to our Suffering Servant, the Lamb of God, who loved His Heavenly Father so much, and us — you and me — so much, that He, who could immediately have summoned an army of angels, couldn’t (wouldn’t) summon any “weapons” (whether even just personal righteous anger in self-defense of the innocent versus the frenzied forces controlled at that moment in time by evil) to strike back at the hatred and emotion of that kill-crazed, blood-lusting crowd.
He loved us, you and me, so much that He “endured the shame”.
But can you just glimpse from my revealing to you, how the power of mass emotion directed at you can feel, and how this innocent Lamb of God must have felt!
This gentle man of sorrows, at the helpless mercy, the focal point of the combined rage and fury, the epi-center, the very vortex of this mob, this blood-lusting beast that an out-of-control mob becomes, seeking the flesh the very life’s blood of our gentle Savior, the Lamb of God; and He, “being very God of very God, and true and perfect man,” was thrust into it as the very helplessness of a “lamb led to slaughter”, into this maelstrom of hate — what a sensory overload, a horror — with no where to hide — no sanctuary.
Then, in my mind, I also thought I understood as in Matt. 27:46, where He cried out from on the cross, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?”
And, it may be one of the most ‘misunderstood verses in the New Testament that Christ spoke in this context…
(Taken from the 22nd Psalm, in His divinity, with His last breath, knowing this “event” would be preserved, and scrutinized, and even stumbled over; He, for our sakes not only quoted the scriptures already written centuries before His birth concerning Him, and validated and verified them again by fulfilling one last prophecy that pertained to Him at that time.)
That this only begotten Son of God, who had been with our Father God for all time, who had been there with Him; and through Him, Jesus, the world was made — who divested Himself of all that to come to earth, be born of a virgin, to give Himself as a sacrifice, a holy God without sin, be the substitute for us in relation to the penalty for our sins — to save you and me — to provide the ‘bridge of redemption and reconciliation’ for you and me to come to the Father through Him — and during His entire time on earth, He was in perfect communion and harmony with the Father in heaven.
I even thought that for that “instant” that Satan had some “access” to His mind, and that facing that evil without God the Father was so horrible, that He cried out.
But somehow I overlooked such a key to the intensity of what He endured, and in my mind thought it was for just that instant moment when He cried out those words — “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
BUT, He who knew no sin was made sin on our behalf, and as such, nailed to that cross as the eternal sacrifice, to die, to pay for my sins, to take sin to the grave, to satisfy the holy righteous demands of the Father as to the just penalty for sin, (the Just became the Justifier) — and as God the Father will not allow sin in His presence, and as Christ became our sin on the cross, that communion, for that time, that eternal bond had to be severed — He had to suffer as sin and die all alone on that cross — He had, as the sacrifice for us, to be separated from God!
And in that moment ‘in the fullness of time’ His Father in Heaven, became His judge as He became our sin.
Deserted! God could separate from His own essence rather;
And Adam’s sins have swept between the righteous Son and Father;
Yea, once, Immanuel’s orphaned cry His universe hath shaken
It went up single, echoless, “My God, I am forsaken!”
It went up from His holy lips, amid His lost creation
That no believer e’er should use those words of desolation.
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning
He faced this ‘horrible valley of the ‘shadow of death’ — and ‘death in judgment for all sin’…by Himself…so that for those of us, who ‘accept His sacrifice…His free gift of salvation…will never have to cry out this cry…
Yet even then, the really abominable concept that would on occasion seem to just “creep” into my mind, as I previously mentioned — that after all, He is God — as God, even in the flesh, He was “supernatural” — so all this didn’t hurt Him as much as it would me.
And, He seemingly died when His “job” was done — He gave up His own spirit — so He was “in control” to some extent, of the endurance of His suffering….Oh profane and prideful man that I am…I was so wrong!
Yes, I’ve read the comments about crucifixion, that the joints slowly just pull out of their sockets, as the muscles can no longer resist, and just “give in”; that the pain from the nails hurts so bad that each breath which requires one hanging thus to put pressure on their supports, their legs, which in this case are anchored to the cross by nails, to even draw a breath) and that finally the victim dies of suffocation, because as all the joints become disjointed, and the muscles relax and tear, you can no longer breathe!
(And traditionally, they would break the condemned person’s legs to deny that support to breathe and insure their death — but did not do that to Christ as was prophesied in the Old Testament, years before He was even born.)
I’m familiar with how prolonged pain defeats our will to resist — in athletics, our training plus emotion and reactive action distracts our concentrating on the effect of our own pain, unless we are defeated by it; and that allows us to react, to inflict pain back…
Conversely, I hate to even get a shot, or my blood taken in a doctor’s office, because I have to be passive, to just endure it and can’t retaliate.
The most significant pain I know that happens on a regular basis in our culture, (even though I only know it as a spectator), where you can’t “fight back”, but must endure in a passive way, is illustrated by pro-longed labor in childbirth — I do not know how a woman endures it!
(And now many have pain-killing drugs to help them endure — still I would never want to go through such long, and prolonged pain.)
So, I’m not trying to reduce what He endured — I sure couldn’t endure it without crying out, and if it was prolonged, (more than a very brief moment), certainly to beg and plead for mercy!
Certainly in my case, to beg for mercy just in anticipation, even prior to enduring it.
But also, I’m an avid reader, and read many accounts of prisoners of war, and the inhumane treatment and torture many of them endured — for so long in many instances, and they survived!
(So, you see, I was “watering down”, or diluting, discrediting, or belittling what He endured.)
I’ve seen and heard in sports of people withstanding and enduring great pain. I’ve read accounts of the Christian martyrs in the Roman persecutions, and in the Roman coliseum, being fed to the wild beasts, burned alive, and all the other fiendish savagery man can inflict.
So, yes, the pain and suffering He endured based on that perspective was horrible, but not worse than others have endured.
But, keep in mind that everything that I’ve discussed thus far, is what He’s suffered at the hands of “man”, and all in broad daylight, where everyone could see—and was predominately physical — by that, I mean inflicted by mankind…
What I hadn’t yet really grasped, much less considered and understood, was the real issue, the real trial, the real truth, the unbearable aspect that no one has ever experienced except Jesus Christ — having to face the wrath of our Holy God the Father in paying the penalty for sin!
I hadn’t yet grasped that.
But then, my brother Bobby was sharing with me in Isaiah 52 and 53, (Scripture already written several hundred years before Christ’s birth too — concerning the prophetic descriptions of Christ on the cross) — and we came to the 52 chapter, the 14th verse, the second half of it says in the NAS translation:
“So His appearance was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.”
In the KJV version it says,
As many were astonished at Thee; His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.
(Even Scofield’s notes on it say, The literal rendering is terrible: “So marred from the form of man was His aspect that His appearance was not that of a son of man”—-i.e. not human.)
And I, with all this “worldly wisdom” said, “How was His visage marred more than any man — I just don’t see it — yes, He suffered — but not that much!”
Then he took me to Is. 53:4-6 (Again, ‘prophetic’ Scripture written several hundred years before He was even born, concerning His crucifixion);
It says: Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell on Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
Is 53:10; But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering,…
Wait a minute! What is this? Strong words: smitten, stricken, afflicted, crushed—and by God, a supernatural, omnipotent power — not by man!
Am I missing something, is there something I’m not seeing (foolish, ignorant man that I am).
Consider this: three of the Gospels in their recounting of the crucifixion, Matt 27:45,46; Mark 15:33,34; and Luke 23:44,45; all state that from about noon to 3 PM, that total darkness fell at Calvary.
What is the significance of that?
We know in everything, God has a purpose, and in His word, there is such completeness — so, for three long, excruciating, horrible, indescribable hours Christ was crushed for our sin!
Not just “an instant,” but for three long interminable hours of anguish unbearable by even Jesus Christ, our Lord!
He suffered this for me — and for you!
All this in addition to the physical pain — on top of all of that!
I believe “What marred His visage more than any man” was what He endured facing our Holy God’s wrath in receiving the judgment for sin!
The spiritual and mental anguish — and punishment — not just the physical anguish by mankind.
God’s son, Jesus Christ became sin. He was sacrificed.
The penalty for sin is death. That payment of sin is before a wrathful God in judgment, a God who has declared, “I hate sin!” No one has yet faced our wrathful God in relation to judgment for sin. No one that is, except Jesus Christ.
But, there will be a final judgment for all.
I believe, Jesus Christ facing God in wrath is what marred His visage more than any man, (not just the physical torture of men,) — I believe that was so horrible, even the physical shrank in comparison.
I believe that God the Father “covered” His son by darkness on the face of the earth while He underwent judgment for sin. He didn’t allow His creation to actually view the resulting effects of His wrath as He punished Him, and dealt with our sin, and crushed His own son for it, for us.
I believe that’s what marred His visage more than any man — that made Him unrecognizable as a human being as Scofield’s notes indicated. That happened from within His very being, and was so horrible that God didn’t want the world to actually see it.
(Some scholars speak of the “blood and water” referred to in John 19:34; that came out when the soldier thrust the spear into His dead body — as the sign of one dying of a “broken heart”. If so, I surely now can understand. His ‘heart was broken.’ Recently there has been a report in a medical journal verifying that the blood and water signified His death.)
Another custom was the Roman’s broke a crucified person’s legs on the cross — thus disabling their ability to get the support necessary, no matter how painful — to “drive off their legs” to be able to breathe.
That was the custom — but they did not break Christ’s legs — as God had prophesied they would not, through Old Testament Scripture concerning His death hundreds of years earlier too.
My God, My God, forgive me for my ignorance, my futility, my darkness, my lack of understanding.
The exclamation point of my life this reveals, is that most all of my life, I have only considered self; that all my thoughts and efforts were focused on self, and my desires rather than on Christ — else, I’m sure His Spirit would have revealed all this to me so much sooner.
Also, I pray that this understanding strikes into the hearts of man, that without Christ, each person will face that same wrathful God our Savior faced on the cross in judgment for their own sins — and just try to imagine the forces that will come to bear in extracting that penalty — that would not spare even His only son, in His role as substitute for our sin, and certainly will not spare anyone facing His wrath in judgment; that crushed Him, that marred His visage more than any man!
And that realization should cause each person to really examine themselves, and their personal relationship (or lack of) with Jesus Christ.
If you are reading this, then it’s not too late for you to come to Him — to accept Him as Savior.
Now, back to the purpose of Him being ‘our substitutional sacrifice for our sins on that cross’
–first is He was totally obedient to the Father, He glorified Him as He satisfied Him completely in relation to sin — He fulfilled God the Father’s righteous and just demands in relation to the penalty for sin, He appeased Him without compromising any of His attributes — the Just became the Justifier…
–the second joy is His love for us, that He could sacrifice Himself for us.
And in this God the Father was and is forever glorified and satisfied — and He then glorified the Son — He raised Him from the dead!
He is risen, and sits at the right hand of God the Father in heaven.
Praise Him! As horrible a sinner as I am, still living in this garbage dump of flesh — my body, but because I have ‘accepted Jesus as my Savior, I have been ‘washed by His shed blood,’ I won’t have to face a wrathful God in judgment for my sins. He paid that price for me (and you.)
Yes, as long as I’m in this “body of flesh” I will sin, and live the consequences of that sin while here on earth; — but, I am still saved from its eternal penalty, and His Spirit will contend with the war waged in my flesh that is contrary to His will for me.
Thus I am freed from the “bondage of my sin”, and have within me through Him, the strength to resist — even though my flesh in its self-centered rebellion, will always compete with that will.
There is a ‘struggle in me’ between my ‘nature as fallen man’ and my ‘spirit born in Him.’
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul speaks of this. And, he never says that ‘divine election dulls human responsibility.’
Thank you Jesus for setting me free of my sins, and washing me white as snow in your precious blood.
Thus, this verse is so real to me: John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
He came ‘first to save’ — yes, He will return, and at that time, He will judge.
So, the issue for each person is one of ‘position and advocacy.’
If we ‘are in Christ’…He will be our Advocate…if not, we ‘are on our own’ before a righteous and holy God in reference to the sin in our life…
I would never want to have to face God for my life…and my sins…I want Christ ‘as my Advocate’…to ‘be His’…for Him to ‘mediate’ for me…
Another analogy of ‘salvation and our choice to accept it or reject it’: To ‘receive our pardon from Christ’ is ‘conditional.’
Here is a horribly inept attempt to explain that in ‘simplistic terms’ — if you ‘are old enough’ and ‘have the means to buy a car’ — there is ‘car insurance available.’
But if you ‘fail to purchase it’ — and have a wreck, — you are not covered.
It was ‘available’ but you did not get covered, because ‘you made the choice not to get it.’ So, they will not pay for the damages of your wreck.
So too, with Christ’s provision of ‘taking your place’ and dying as the penalty for your sins (and mine) on that Roman Cross. He ‘paid the price for you’ (and me) — but unless we consciously accept His free gift (His pardon for us), it doesn’t cover us.
What is your ‘position?’ And, in the ‘judgment’ who will represent you? Where will you spend eternity?
I am in Christ — I am His. It is not what is on the outside…but what is on the inside…in our hearts in relation to Christ…as Savior and Lord…
So, in judgment, He will be ‘my advocate, my High Priest’ — to stand for me and to ‘represent me’ and to ‘present me as washed in His blood’ and forever cleansed.
What security! What peace!
Please do not take my ‘faith’ and understanding as ‘arrogant.’
It is that I am secure. (My natural nature is ‘of arrogance’ — so, maybe the way I project has that remnant or feel, but is not my intent.)
In my heart, I am broken before Him in grateful humbleness and love.
If you already know Christ as your Savior, I hope this brings you even closer to His love–and how intensely He loves us.
Low at Thy feet, Lord Jesus,
This is the place for me;
Here I have learned deep lessons,
Truth that has set me free.
Free from myself Lord Jesus,
Free from the ways of men;
Chains of thought that have bound me,
Never bind again.
None but Thyself, Lord Jesus,
Conquered this wayward will,
But for Thy love constraining,
I had been wayward still.
(Found in a man’s Bible after he died.)
This is my prayer too of thanksgiving and praise for all He has already done for me. I can rest because I am in Him, and He is in me.
I accept that my salvation is only by and in the Lord Jesus Christ — and I cling to His love and His righteousness — not mine, which is so corrupt and fallible and human and self-serving and conditional and flawed.
Excerpts of poetry by George West Frazer, who went to the Lord Jan. 24,1896:
1) God’s house is filling fast—
“Yet there is room!”
Some soul will be the last–
“Yet there is room!”
Yes, soon Salvation’s day
From you will pass away,
Then grace will no more say–
“Yet there is room!”
2) Down to the depths of Woe
Christ came to set me free:
He bared His breast,
Received the blow,
Which justice aimed at me!
3) On that same night, Lord Jesus,
When all around Thee joined
To cast its darkest shadow
Across Thy holy mind,
We hear Thy voice, blest Savior,
“This do, remember Me!”
With joyful hearts responding,
We do remember Thee.
As William MacDonald wrote in his commentary, Believer’s Bible Commentary:
“This question must precede every genuine case of conversion.
A man must know he is lost before he can be saved. It is premature to tell a man how to be saved until first he can say from his heart, ‘I truly deserve to go to hell.'”
If a person is not, or has not, or doesn’t become aware of their being lost, and of their sins against the only righteous and holy God — and that the only thing they have “earned” is to be condemned to an eternity in Hell…
(that is each person’s choice, they are ‘in control’ of their own eternal destiny by their choice — to ‘accept or reject Christ as Savior’ — thus, God ‘does not condemn them to Hell,’ they ‘make their own choice’)…
But, if a person does not ‘acknowledge their being lost,’ repent, and accept Jesus Christ as Savior, then nothing that I write here will have any meaning, nor will they grasp the enormity of their personal situation in relation to God, and where they will spend eternity.
First and foremost, I believe we must acknowledge our “position” in relation to our God, and our Creator.
In the autumn of my life, knowing I am saved (in spite of myself), and that it’s by God’s grace (His gift, unmerited favor) that I am saved — and that “once saved, always saved”; and, no one ‘can manipulate God to love them more’ — as He has already demonstrated the highest love by sending His Son to die for you…and you cannot ‘surprise God’ — He knows your every thought before you even think it…He is God!
(for as I John 5:10-13 reveals: He that believeth on the Son of God has the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.)
So, I am not afraid to die, because I know without any doubt that I’ll be with my Savior, Jesus Christ — but, as I look back on my life, and how I’ve wasted it in relation to Him — how disobedient I’ve been — and yet His faithful love of me, then I am ashamed to die!
Isn’t it wonderful — that it’s His love and His righteousness to which we cling (which is infallible and unconditional) — and not our own (that is so fallible and humanly fickle, flawed, and conditional).
And, because of Him, I will be in Heaven’s rest with Him forever, and share with Him as an heir, all that God the Father has given Him…and this is all available for you too…
Do you know Him? Is He your Lord and Savior?
That is the real issue—the only issue with eternal consequences.
There is no “in-between” — “no neutral ground.” Each of us makes a choice. To make ‘no conscious choice’ is to ‘choose Satan’ and ‘reject God and His Son’…for those of us who are ‘in Christ’…this short caption by ‘Donne’ captures it…our eternity with Him in Heaven…
“I shall rise from the dead…I shall see the Son of God, the Sun of Glory, and shine myself as that sun shines. I shall be united to the Ancient of Days, to God Himself, who had no morning, never began…No man ever saw God and lived. And yet, I shall not live till I see God; and when I have seen Him, I shall never die.”
Now as promised earlier:
This is an article about Josephus — who was NOT a Christian, nor follower of Christ — but his ‘historical writings’ validate the person of Jesus Christ as being a real person:
The Jewish Historian Flavius Josephus
Here is a direct link on him: http://www.facingthechallenge.org/josephus.htm
Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian. He wrote around the end of the first century AD, and his two most significant works were the ‘Jewish War’ and the ‘Antiquities of the Jews’.
Josephus was born around 37 AD, and became a Pharisee. He then joined the zealots who rebelled against Roman rule between 66 and 74AD, becoming a leader of their forces in Galilee, and living through the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
He was captured by the Romans, and would have been executed, but he went over to them.
Josephus became the Roman emperor’s adviser on Jewish affairs, and died in about 98 AD. ‘Josephus’ was his Jewish name, and he took the name ‘Flavius’ in honour of the family of his imperial sponsor.
His ‘Jewish War’ was largely based on his first-hand experiences. It focuses on the period AD 66 to 73. ‘Antiquities of the Jews’ covers the whole of history up to AD 66. Out of twenty books, six cover the period from the reign of Herod the Great to AD 66 – i.e. the period when Jesus lived.
In his writings, Josephus mentions the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians. He mentions Caiaphas, Pontius Pilate, John the Baptist, Jesus (twice) and James the brother of Jesus.
He also mentions the Essenes – the strict religious sect within Judaism that founded the Qumran community, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
In fact, Josephus says that he spent some time with the Essenes. This is how he describes it (Cited by Carsten Peter Thiede in ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewish origins of Christianity.’):
When I was about sixteen, I wanted to gain first-hand experience of our different movements. There are three: first, the Pharisees, second the Sadducees, and third the Essenes – as I have noted frequently. I thought I would be able to choose the best, by learning about all these schools. Thus I steeled myself for the task and studied the three courses with some effort.
In book 18 of the Antiquities, 63-64, the text of Josephus as we have it today says:
About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed it is lawful to call him a man, for he was a performer of wonderful deeds, a teacher of such men as are happy to accept the truth. He won over many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the leading men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again on the third day, as the prophets of God had foretold these and ten thousand other wonders about him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day.’
In fact, this text is a bit too much of a good thing for our purposes. It seems unlikely that a Jew such as Josephus would have written some of the things in this passage. Most scholars today agree that it has been altered by early Christians seeking to ‘improve’ it. It seems more likely that Josephus originally wrote something like this:
About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, for he was a performer of wonderful deeds, a teacher of such men as are happy to accept the truth. He won over many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. When Pilate, at the suggestion of the leading men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him at the first did not forsake him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day.’
Even without the questionable additions, notice what this passage tells us about Jesus:
* He was a real historical person
* He was a teacher
* He was a worker of wonders (miracles)
* He gathered a band of followers, who continued to follow him after his death.
However, there is a second reference to Jesus in the works of Josephus.
In Antiquities 20.200, he describes how, in AD 62, the high priest Ananus was deposed because he had illegally convened the Sanhedrin [the highest Jewish religious court / governing body].
He had brought before them the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, who was called James, and some other men, whom he accused of having broken the law, and handed them over to be stoned.
Notice the following points from this quotation from Josephus:
* Jesus had a brother called James
* James was executed by the Jewish leaders in AD 62
* There were claims that Jesus was the Messiah (that is, the Christ).
There is one other important point to notice from this quotation. Most scholars do not doubt the authenticity of this second reference to Jesus.
Yet this passage refers to Jesus as the ‘so-called Christ’. This brief comment appears to link back to Josephus’ earlier reference to Jesus, and may even show that what he originally wrote there included some such comment as ‘Jesus the so-called Christ.’ Several of the books listed include some discussion of these passages from Josephus.