There They Crucified Him

by Tom Wacaster

Luke uses only four words to describe the extent to which wicked men will go when once they have developed a hatred for the God Who loves them. Arrested and quickly rushed through a mock trial in the courts of Annas and Caiaphas, our Lord was taken to the judgment seat of Pontus Pilate where He received no better treatment. False witnesses were brought forth to testify of the so-called crimes of this Jewish peasant. Evidence of wrongdoing was not just scarce – it was non-existent. Pressured by the mob that stood before him, Pilate eventually gave in to their demands and released Jesus to be crucified. A prisoner exchange gave freedom to an insurrectionist and murderer and sent the innocent Son of God to His death. Consider those four words that changed the course of history.

“There they crucified Him.” Matthew calls that place Golgotha. It is also called Calvary. It was called the place of the “skull,” perhaps because of the shape of the hill where criminals of the worse sort were executed. This hill was outside the gates of Jerusalem, situated on a thoroughfare leading into the country. Most of all, it was a place of death. Blood stains from previous crucifixions no doubt marred what otherwise might have been a beautiful field of grass and flowers. There may very well have been a stench from that blood-soaked ground. If ever a place had a connotation of woe and agony, surely it is this place called Golgotha.

“There they crucified Him.” Sermons have been preached about who it is that crucified our Lord. The Jews? Most certainly they took the lead. The Sanhedrin represented the nation. It was the political branch of a nation that had many centuries before wanted to be like other nations about them. Their long history of rebellion against God culminates in their rejection of the Messiah amidst their calls for His death. Pontus Pilate gave the sentence and the Roman soldiers drove the nails. What about us? You? Me? Did we crucify Jesus? Not directly, but certainly indirectly because of our sins.

“There they crucified Him.” Death by crucifixion was invented by the Greeks and perfected by the Romans. Never has anyone devised a death so horrible, so painful, so associated with shame as that of death on the cross. A Roman citizen was exempt from crucifixion, except under the most heinous of crimes. No doubt a newspaper reporter could and would have written volumes on the ignominy of death by crucifixion. Yet inspired historians use less than two dozen words total. The only distinct words among them were “when,” “there,” and “where” (Matt. 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:33, John 19:18).

“There they crucified Him.” What is it about the cross of Christ that draws men to Jesus? Surely it is not the fact that it was some instrument of death, for other means of execution remain to this day as symbols of only infamy and disgrace. Untold numbers of criminals suffered death upon the cross long before Jesus was crucified. So, I ask again, what is it about the cross that draws men to Jesus? It was Who was crucified upon that cross that has given the cross its notoriety.

For 2,000 years the cross of Christ has cast its beacon of hope across the tumultuous seas of human misery and sin, and the message of the gospel is so closely associated with that cross that to speak of the one is to bring to mind the other. It has been nine centuries since Abbot Rupert wrote the following tribute to the cross of Christ:

We venerate the cross as a safeguard of faith, as the strengthening of hope and the throne of love. It is the sign of mercy, the proof of forgiveness, the vehicle of grace and the banner of peace. We venerate the cross, because it has broken down our pride, shattered our envy, redeemed our sin and atoned for our punishment. The cross of Christ is the door to heaven, the key to paradise, the downfall of the devil, the uplifting of mankind, the consolation of our imprisonment, the prize for our freedom. The cross was the hope of the patriarchs, the promise of the prophets, the triumph of kings and the ministry of priests. Tyrants are convicted by the cross and the mighty ones defeated, it lifts up the miserable and honors the poor. The cross is the end of darkness, the spreading of light, the flight of death, the ship of life and the kingdom of salvation.

“There they crucified him.” Four words that will live in infamy!

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