The temple priests did not want Jesus and the two thieves to be alive and hanging from crosses the next day, which was a special Sabbath Day. So, they requested that the legs of all three be broken the same day they were nailed on crosses. Jn. 19:31.
People who are crucified do not die from loss of blood or starvation. They mostly died of asphyxiation. In order to breathe, they must lift themselves up so their lungs can take in oxygen. They are forced to push down on the nails in their feet and pull themselves up by the nails in their hands. Searing pain would wrack their body each time they had to breathe and after a day or two or even three, the suffering became so unbearable and the body so weakened that they could not push their body upwards one more time. Their lungs would be compressed by the weight of their body and they no longer had the strength to push or pull up against the nails, no matter how hard they tried. Crucifixion was meant to be public and long in duration so as many as possible could view the bodies and be horrified. With broken legs, one cannot push upwards. The end would be swift thereafter.
When the soldiers came to smash Jesus' legs, they were surprised that He had already died. It had been less than half a day since He was put on the cross. Jn. 19:32-33. Jesus died of a broken heart. When I preached that years ago, my knees buckled as the Holy Spirit confirmed it. Jesus, the Son of God, took upon Himself all the sins and curses of the world and it tore His heart apart. The angels cried that day and wrung their hands in despair.
To make sure that Jesus was dead, a centurion thrust his spear through Jesus' ribs and into His already-shattered heart. Jn. 19:34. More blood and water poured out of Jesus' side and unto the earth. The blood and water agree with the Spirit. All are on the earth today (1 Jn. 5:8), working with power in the life of every born-again Christian and calling the world unto salavtion.
Every demon in hell and on earth is afraid of the blood of Jesus. They flee at mention of His blood.
The Word of God is alive and dynamic - like a hammer that breaks rocks in pieces. Jer.
23:29. It is powerful and dynamic. When the Holy Spirit hears the Word spoken in faith, He moves in agreement. The sick are healed, demons are cast out and the dead are raised.
The Holy Spirit is still on the earth and has not returned to heaven as some denominations claim. He still comes when the blood and the Word of God are prayed with faith. He is still casting out devils, healing the sick, raising the dead and doing all manner of miracles on earth.
To the world, blood and water pouring out from a spear-wound in the side means death; but to Christians everywhere it means life and healing. The spear pierced Jesus' heart, but He was already dead. The cross was meant to pierce your heart too, to convict and bring you to righteousness, you who are already dead to the world. The apostle Paul put it this way: "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Ga. 6:14.
Satan laughed hilariously at the scene, but if he only knew what the Lord Jesus Christ had done that day for you and me, he would have wrung his hands and screamed in defeat.
A BRAZEN SERPENT
In the days of Moses, the Israelites rebelled against God and He sent fiery serpents among the people and many died because of it. Nu. 21:5-6. Moses interceded for the people and God instructed Moses to make a serpent, set it on a pole and raise it so the people could gaze upon it. As each person bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent that Moses made, he was healed and lived. Nu. 21:8-9.
Why a serpent? It was because one day the Son of God would be raised on a wooden cross or pole and take upon Himself all the sins of the world. He would become filled with sin like the devil himself - a serpent. The devil sinned from the beginning of his creation. 1 Jn. 3:8. A serpent is the personification of evil and sin, like the devil. Even today, all who look at Him on the cross and accept the incredible and precious sacrifice of His body and blood, will be healed and saved from everlasting death. No plague shall come nigh thy dwelling. Ps. 91:10.
The Lord Jesus Christ did far more than bring us salvation through the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, He bore our afflictions and our diseases. By His stripes we were (are) healed. Is. 53:5; 1 Pet. 2:24. We are the ones that deserve those stripes, but He took them for us. Derek Prince and other Christian writers point out that the Lord Jesus wore a crown of thorns that pierced His scalp and dug into His skull. The thorns were an inch and a half long, according to historians. He wore our crown of thorns so that one day we would wear His crown of righteousness. His righteousness is imputed or given to us who believe. Ro. 4:11.
That is not all. He was slapped, punched, kicked and beaten for our sake. We are the ones that deserve those beatings but the King of all creation took it for us. He was virtually naked for our sake so that we would never have to be naked, hungry and thirsty.
The Lord was spat upon, taunted, yelled at, humiliated and laughed to scorn so that we would never have to bear such humiliation throughout eternity.
He was rejected by God and mankind for our sake so that we would be accepted and loved throughout eternity. Jesus, the Son of God, who knew the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and moved in the presence of God and the anointing from the throne of the Father, suddenly felt the depression and loneliness of being rejected and abandoned by his Father. He cried out, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?" Mt. 27:46. It is us who deserve to be abandoned in hell for eternity, where there is no hope or love, only darkness and despair. But the Lord Jesus bore it all for us so we could be in paradise forever with Him. The cross of Jesus is far more than just salvation.
A couple of years after being water baptized, I heard a song about how Jesus had me on His heart when He went to the cross. I began praying and asking God if it was true - that He knew me by my name when He went to the cross. I prayed it off and on. Within a few weeks, I was standing in church, eyes closed and singing in tongues when a vision suddenly came to me. I found myself crawling up a hill or mound of dirt. All I could see was the ground. Suddenly, there was something in front of me. I had my two hands clasped together and something fell on my left hand, between the thumb and the forefinger. I looked and it was blood. I slowly looked up. I saw Jesus on the cross. There was blood dripping from His chin and falling on His chest. The crown of thorns had ripped into His skull and tore away His scalp. Blood was coming down His arms from the nails in His hands, and from the nails in His feet. There was blood coming down His side. I looked at His face and all I could remember were His eyes. He slowly opened them and looked at me. "Son," He said, "when I went to the cross, I knew you by your name."
It was so exciting. My heart trembled and I wept. But, within a few days I was asking myself, "Was that for real? Maybe it was my imagination." I began to pray, "Lord, if that vision was from you, please confirm it."
Then, one early Sunday morning about three months later, I was on the second floor landing of the building where our church met, looking down at the parking lot. A Yellow Cab drove into the parking lot and a man snappily dressed in a suit and English-type hat (he reminded me of a picture of Sir Winston Churchill) stepped out of the car. I met him at the top of the stairwell and introduced myself. His name was Keith Gerner, and he was an evangelist from Northern Ireland on the way to the island of Maui to meet a pastor friend. Someone told him about our church and he looked it up in the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory. At the time, we had only a single line in the directory and were located in an industrial area far from the main thoroughfare. We had about twenty-five members.
My pastor asked Keith Gerner to share about what was going on in Northern Ireland. In those days, Protestants and Roman Catholics were killing each other there. When he went up to the podium, Keith Gerner said, "Before I share the word, I want to tell you about a vision that I had three months ago." He began to describe the exact vision that I had three month previous - almost word for word.
That's the kind of God we have. The Lord sent a man all the way from Northern Ireland to a small church hidden among warehouses and industrial businesses to confirm a vision He gave me. Gerner had no idea. Before I even asked for confirmation, God had already set things up. I was not able to find exactly when evangelist Gerner had his vision, but he related that it was three months before his arrival. That was about when I had my vision too. I can only believe that God gave both of us the same vision at the same time. That is not important. What is important is my privilege of seeing the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross and hearing Him say, "Son, when I went to the cross, I knew you by your name." Seeing Him hanging on the cross caused me to love Him even more.
I am forever grateful that I saw the Lord on the cross. What He did for you and me is more vivid and etched on my mind and in my heart than ever before. I know what the apostle John meant when he said, "We love Him, because He first loved us." 1 Jn. 4:19. He loved you before you were even conceived and born. He suffered and died for you two thousand years ago. It was not as if He died for the whole world in general. He had you on His mind when He went to the cross. He knew you by your name.
Time has no limit with God. It was as if He suffered and died for you just before you came to believe in Him. How can we not love Him more than anything after seeing Him suffer and die for us?
MY FIRST TIME
When I was around ten years of age, I accompanied my family to church at night on a Good Friday. As we sat in our pew on the right side of the church, we gazed at the altar. On the altar were gold plated crosses covered with black veils. I saw Jesus on the cross in my mind's eye and started to sob uncontrollably. People looked at me and I was so embarrassed. In my heart, I promised to serve God and be a minister one day.
My favorite person, besides my family members, was my pastor, Reverend Savannack. I have forgotten his first name now. He was always smiling and so very gentle and kind. He was in his sixties and looked almost exactly like President Harry Truman, with his white hair and eyeglasses. When I took English Composition in college, we were asked to write about the person we most admired. I wrote about Reverend Savannack.
Years later, I was asked to be ordained as a minister by three different individuals - my pastor, an elder and Dr. Kevin Dyson. I turned each one down. I was over fifty years old at the time, was a real estate broker and attorney-at-law and owned several businesses, including a real estate brokerage firm, a travel agency, a collection agency and a bi-monthly newspaper. Why would I want to be a minister? One day after refusing for the third time, Dr. Frank Hultgren came to Honolulu. Dr. Kevin Dyson joined us for lunch. During lunch, Dr. Frank Hultgren turned to me and said, "The Lord said that you are disobedient. You promised Him that you would serve Him and be a minister when you were ten years old." I was absolutely stunned. There was no way I could have consciously recalled that Good Friday night, but when Frank Hultgren said that, the memory came up to the surface like a huge air bubble from the bottom of the sea. It burst into my conscious mind. I was ordained soon thereafter and the rest is history. Dr. Frank Hultgren later became the official prophet to the faculty of Oral Roberts University.
The sacrifice of His body and shed blood on the cross on Calvary is the singular, most important event in the history of mankind that defined man's relationship with his Creator. The first time, it was the Ten Commandments, the written law, through which God revealed His righteousness and man's need to obey God. God commanded that the scriptures given to mankind be bound upon their hands and placed as a frontlet between their eyes. They were to be reminded every day by scriptures written on the posts of their houses and front gate. How more are we to be reminded of His great love for us through the incredible sufferings He took upon Himself on our behalf and the sacrifice of the most righteous and beautiful life in the universe. All for you (and me). He knew you by your name when He walked up the hill to Golgatha.
People have asked me, "How is it that you and others in the church love God so much? I cannot seem to come to that same level of love. I want it too." I truly believe that our love for the Lord grows each time we remember what He did for us on the cross. We need to remember His body and blood daily and each time we partake of a meal. It will change your heart.
We need the cross in our lives. The world needs the cross. It doesn't know the cross and the body of Christ that was given for the world and the blood that poured out of His body to bring life and healing to all who believe. There is no other gospel of salvation, no other way to be saved but through the cross. The apostle Paul knew this clearly. This is what he said:
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 1 Co. 1:17-21.
Paul recognized that the greatest task given him by God was to preach the cross. Baptism could be done by any born-again Christian, but the preaching of the true gospel of salvation was a greater mission. At the time, few knew the importance of the cross. To the unsaved, the cross was and is a stupid message. "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom. But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness." 1 Co. 1:22-23. It's easy to believe in God when someone comes with a sign that removes all doubt. Jesus came to give the world a New Covenant based on faith. The righteous shall live by faith. Ro. 1:17; Heb. 10:38. The Jews reasoned, "How can God curse Himself?" After all, their law says "cursed is every one that hangeth from a tree." Deu. 21:23; Gal. 3:13.
The cross made no sense to the Greeks. How can someone that died on a cross be God? How ridiculous! Those that were crucified were high criminals, humiliated, shamed and made public examples. This is a god? Where is his power? After all, the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses were not mere humans. They had incredible power that could control nature and wipe out their enemies. No human could do this to a Greek or Roman god or goddess.
In his book entitled Hard to Believe, John MacArthur characterizes the unsaved world's viewpoint of the cross: An idiotic message given by a bunch of morons. Indeed, the idea of a crucified person being Lord and Savior is ridiculous to the unsaved, given by a group of common laborers - fishermen and uneducated people, a motley group of ignoramuses. Jesus' disciples were mostly illiterate, unschooled in religion and considered to be both stupid and ignorant. But the cross is "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." Ro. 1:16; 1 Co. 1:18.
So powerful is the message of the cross, of the sacrifice by the Lord Jesus Christ of His body and blood, that the apostle Paul trembled at the thought that he might unintentionally preach another gospel and deliver a false invitation to salvation and life. The apostle states:
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 1 Co. 2:1-5.
Paul was certainly not a novice regarding public speaking and wisdom. He was a top student of the most famous teacher of Judaism of his time, Gamaliel. Paul held the body and blood of Jesus of such high esteem that he recognized that it was the only gospel of salvation. No other message will do, neither peace, nor prosperity and blessings from God, nor the promise of acceptance and love by the members of the local church or any other invitation or enticement. The power of God unto salvation is in the cross. If it was so for the apostle Paul, the more it should be for you and me in these dark times. If Paul gloried in the cross, so should we.
As Christians, we should know and see the cross daily. We are to move on into perfection in Jesus Christ, and it is the cross that compels us forward. In us is the power of God unto salvation.
Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, which is the image of God, should shine unto them. . . . But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 2 Co. 4:1-4, 7. (Underlining added)
How much of the cross is in you? How much do you glory in it? How often do you remember and body and blood of Jesus?