December the 5th finds us in the book of Isaiah chapter 53, verses 3-7:
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem.
Surely He took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered Him punished by God,
stricken by Him, and afflicted.
But He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on Him,
and by His wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet He did not open His mouth;
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so He did not open His mouth.
When Jesus was crucified by the Roman soldiers, He was nailed to the cross. I once read a piece on the death of Jesus that was part of a study on death by crucifixion done by the Mayo Clinic. The article said that the Romans didn't invent crucifixion, but they perfected it. There were two ways that the victim could be put on the cross, tying or nailing. The Romans, though, preferred nailing. The Roman crucifixion was one of the most disgraceful and cruel methods of execution known, and was usually reserved for foreigners, revolutionaries, and the vilest of criminals. There are several Old Testament prophecies that speak of the Messiah having His hands and feet "pierced," like Psalm 22:16 and Zechariah 12:10.
Before Jesus was crucified, however, He was scourged by the Romans. The following information is out of the same study done by the Mayo Clinic. The Roman scourge was a short whip with several single or braided leather thongs of varying length, into which small iron balls and sharp pieces of sheep bone were tied at different intervals along the length. The iron balls would cause deep contusions and the leather thongs and sheep’s bone would cut into the skin. As the beating continued, the sheep’s bone would cut into the underlying muscles, producing quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss set the stage for circulatory shock.
Scourging was required by law to be a preliminary to every Roman execution. For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothes and tied to an upright post. The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged by two soldiers, one on each side. The direction of the lashes was downward from the outside of the back toward the spine, from both sides. They had to get the soldiers drunk before they scourged the prisoner because it such a brutal way to punish a person, even for battle-hardened Roman soldiers. It is not known if the scourging of Jesus was limited to 39 lashes, in accordance with Jewish law. The severity of the beating was really at the disposition of the soldiers. A detailed word study of the ancient Greek text for the word translated “wounds” in 1 Peter 2:24 indicates that the scourging of Jesus was particularly severe.
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
The Roman soldiers were probably amused by this Man claiming to be a King, as evidenced by the robe and the crown of thorns they placed upon Him. It would make sense then that the Romans would beat Jesus as severely as they could.
After the scourging was finished, the prisoner was typically made to carry his own cross:
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others - one on each side and Jesus in the middle. (John 19:17-18)
This prophecy in the book of Isaiah, again, points us to the death of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The two parts of Isaiah 53:5 that are highlighted in red above are the operative parts for the purpose of the Advent calendar. "But He was pierced for our transgressions" and "by His wounds [sometimes translated "stripes"] we are healed," a result of the crucifixion and scourging.
We find in the Gospel of Mark chapter 15, verses 12-15:
What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
Crucify him!” they shouted.
Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Jesus died a horrific death on our behalf. He is the Son of God but He left heaven and came to earth, was born as a baby, grew into a man, healed the blind, the deaf, the mute, the lame, the demon possessed, etc. He was hated by the religious establishment because He had the authority they craved but could not have. They shouted “Crucify Him!” at His trial and, even though Pilot could not find any fault in Him, he gave in and handed Jesus over to the soldiers to scourged and crucified. Read Isaiah 53:6 (highlighted in blue above) again please, "and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." He loves you so much. Please, never forget that.
In Psalm 22, verses 1-18 we find the heartbroken prayer of David, prompted by vicious attacks from enemies that he hadn’t even provoked. So much of this Psalm foretells the details of Jesus’ crucifixion:
My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer;
And by night, but I have no rest.
Yet You are holy,
O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
In You our fathers trusted;
They trusted and You delivered them.
To You they cried out and were delivered;
In You they trusted and were not disappointed.
But I am a worm and not a man,
A reproach of men and despised by the people.
All who see me sneer at me;
They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying,
Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him;
Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”
Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb;
You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts.
Upon You I was cast from birth;
You have been my God from my mother’s womb.
Be not far from me, for trouble is near;
For there is none to help.
Many bulls have surrounded me;
Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me.
They open wide their mouth at me,
As a ravening and a roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
And all my bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It is melted within me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And my tongue cleaves to my jaws;
And You lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs have surrounded me;
A band of evildoers has encompassed me;
They pierced my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones.
They look, they stare at me;
They divide my garments among them,
And for my clothing they cast lots.
We see in Matthew 27:46 that Jesus quotes Psalm 22:1 on the cross, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” This was not just an anguished cry from the lips of Jesus, although it was that. God, His Father, really had forsaken Him. He had to turn His back on Jesus because Jesus had taken the sin of the world upon Himself.
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” (Matthew 27:46)
Thomas Aquinas said that “Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus remained in a constant state of intimate communication with His Father. The vision of the unveiled glory of God was something Jesus had enjoyed every minute of His life, until the cross, when He was exposed to the wrath of God.” Try to imagine how agonizing that would have been for Jesus.
Psalm 22:6-8 mirror what we are told in Luke 23:35-37:
And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” (Luke 23:35-37)
Psalm 22:14-15 describe extreme thirst and exhaustion. The Death by Crucifixion study (mentioned above) tells about the pain the victim endured just taking a breath. Inhalation was done while lowering the body, putting the full weight of the body on the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints causing probable dislocation of those joints. Exhalation was accomplished by raising the body upward, putting the full weight of the body on the nails through the feet. Not only did this cause excruciating pain on the feet, but the hands twisted around the nails through them and the wounds on the back caused by the scourging were scraped against the rough wood of the cross.
In Psalm 22:16 David describes his enemies as “dogs” and says “A band of evildoers has encompassed me”. Jesus was not executed by His fellow Jews (who used stoning as the means of execution), but by the Romans.
And in Psalm 22:17-18 David said “They pierced my hands and my feet” and “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots,” both facts of Jesus’ crucifixion.
There is no doubt that crucifixion is a horrendous form of execution. But many people have been crucified and many have suffered even more painful deaths. But there is only One who had weight of every sin committed (past, present and future) placed upon Him. Jesus had His own Father forsake Him. He was separated from the love of His Father. That is how much He loves you. Never forget that.
The ornaments that go on the tree today are a small scourge and a small nail.