In our current series we’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in 1648. In previous weeks we’ve been looking at how Christ was humbled in order to bring us eternal life. We’ve seen that Christ was humiliated throughout his life on earth and also by his death which involved Judas’ betrayal, the disciples’ desertion, the world’s rejection, the condemnation of Pilate, the torment of his persecutors, his experience of God’s wrath and becoming sin. This week I want to show that Jesus was humbled by dying a painful death.
Pain is a humbling experience. It is a stark reminder that we are not as invincible as we might like to think. Pain is the body’s alarm system that all is not well in our lives. And if we have any power to alleviate pain, we will seek to do so. If we don’t have the resources to do so, we must experience the humility of having our lifestyles adjusted accordingly, possibly even ended by death itself.
Jesus also endured excruciating pain in his death. The Bible records that Jesus was crucified: ‘Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. 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). Here they crucified him, and with him two others–one on each side and Jesus in the middle’ (John 19:16-18).
But what does it mean to be crucified? Wilkins, a commentator on the Book of Matthew in the ESV Study Bible, writes about crucifixions: ‘Crucifixion was widely practiced by the Romans, and the early Jewish historian Josephus mentions thousands of people crucified in first-century Palestine (mostly during rebellions against Rome). There are stories of Roman soldiers cruelly playing with different postures for crucified victims…though the use of nails and a crossbar appear to have been common. Modern medical explanations for the cause of death on a cross have focused on either asphyxiation or shock. Crucifixion was widely believed to be the worst form of execution, due to the excruciating pain and public shame. Hanging suspended by one’s arms eventually caused great difficulty in breathing, which could be alleviated only by pushing up with one’s feet to take the weight off the arms. But that motion itself would cause severe pain in the feet, arms, legs, and back, causing the exhausted victim to slump down again, only to be nearly unable to breathe once more. Eventually, the victim would succumb to suffocation, if he had not already died as a result of the cumulative effect of the physical trauma inflicted on him.’
So why would the Son of God, who never needed to experience pain, humble himself and endure great pain? Because of our sin we deserve to be humiliated for eternity in hell. But thankfully Jesus takes the eternal humility we deserve so we can have eternal glory instead. This eternal glory comes by trusting that Jesus was humiliated for you, including his experience of excruciating pain.
Do you trust in Christ’s humiliation for you so that you will have eternal glory in heaven