I grew up at Casas Church. I remember how you occasionally closed each service by asking the congregation to bow their heads and close their eyes. Then, you guided us through a meditation on a particular biblical passage or story.
I use meditation as part of my quiet times. These meditations often take me into a Bible passage where I see and learn things that I have never noticed before. I often hear God speaking to me very clearly during those times.
I remember one particular meditation that you led us through from Hebrews 12:2, about the crucifixion of Jesus. If you remember it, will you please share it with me? I’d like to begin using it again. It meant so much to me.
I remember. That passage is foundational to me. In fact, meditating on the crucifixion has been key to my personal spiritual growth. I will walk you through it.
But first, let me share how I begin my meditation times.
First, I find a secluded place, close my eyes and breathe slowly and deeply.
Second, I quiet my mind.
Third, when the time seems right, I think of a biblical passage, verse, or Bible story that I want to dig into and discover more.
Fourth, I try to imagine what people are saying and feeling as if I were a participant. I meditate not just on what people say, but upon the feelings and emotions behind their words.
For example, I like to meditate on the man or woman who was last in line to make it through the Red Sea. Do you see him running as fast as he can? She sees the Egyptian chariots getting closer and closer. Do you see the fear in his eyes as Moses lifts his staff in preparation for closing the sea? Look at the relief as she reaches Moses and safety. Imagine what she learns from her experience … “God rescues. If He rescued the Israelites, then He certainly will rescue me.”
Try meditating on each phrase in the Lord’s Prayer. I suppose we could spend 20 or 30 minutes just on, “Our Father.”
We could spend a week on “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.“
Finally, I always end my meditation with time spent thanking Jesus for meeting with me and then tell Him how much I’m looking forward to next time.
Join me in a meditation on Hebrews 12:2: “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Take a few minutes to pray, quiet your mind, and prepare your heart. Now, let’s meditate together:
1. “Looking Unto Jesus”
How do you picture Jesus? I picture Him like this:
He is wearing sandals with dusty feet. His homespun robe is girded with a short piece of rope. I think about all the things that rope saw during three years of His earthly ministry. Jesus has a light olive complexion. His hair is the color of ripe chestnuts, falling down past His shoulders, parted in the middle.
His eyes are light brown and filled with delight as He gazes at me. Our eyes meet. He has an incredible look of love and compassion. I am drawn into His presence.
2. “The Author and Finisher of Our Faith”
I see Jesus sitting at a table with pen and pencil in hand, sketching out His plan for the salvation of mankind. He’s enjoying the moment…thinking about the ultimate outcome of overcoming sin and death, restoring relationships with all of humankind.
The cross will be hard; nevertheless, “for the joy saving us,” He believed that the pain is worth it.
3. “Despising the Shame”
No one likes to be shamed. I hate being shamed.
I had a terrible case of acne when I was in the seventh grade. School was almost out for the day and some of the students were talking with the history teacher, Mrs. Horne. One of the students brought up the subject of complexions and the next thing I heard was Mrs. Horne shaming me: “What’s the matter with Roger, doesn’t he wash his face enough?
I froze with embarrassment and shame. I’ve never gotten over that moment. It took me a long time before I could forgive her—the old hag.
Look at Jesus Christ. He despised the shame, being hated even by those He served and loved. I try to imagine how that must have felt…the sorrow and pain. And yet He endured the cross, for the joy of saving us.
A Shameful Rejection
When Jesus came to His hometown, He faced incredible rejection. Imagine how he must have felt as some of his childhood friends tried to throw him over an embankment (Luke 4:28-30). Imagine how he felt as he walked out, never to return home? He’s thinking, “How could they do this to me.”
Look at His face as His heart was breaking.
A Shameful Accusation
See him standing before the Priests, Annas and Caiaphas. They charged him with blasphemy (Mark 14:56-64) … with turning His back on His own Father.
Can you imagine his feelings? He who loved as He loved … He who obeyed as He obeyed … to charge Him with blasphemy must have caused him intense sorrow and suffering.
Mocking His Kingship
They took him to Pilate: “Are you a King?”
Here stands the King of all creation. He was there at the beginning of time, the ultimate King of Kings. And He deliberately humbled Himself: : “And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)
So, what did they do to the King? Did they bring Him robes and bow down to worship the King of Kings? No, they placed a crown of thorns on his forehead, spit on Him and mocked Him. Try to place yourself in His sandals; do you sense His sorrow.
Mocking His Deity
They dragged Jesus before Herod. The Roman soldiers stripped and blindfolded Him, and they began to poke the Son of God with sticks, saying “If you really are God tell us who struck you.”
How did it feel for Jesus to hear, “Do some tricks to prove that you are God,” and we’ll let you go free”? Did He feel angry? Hurt? Frustrated? How would you have reacted?
Mocking His Prayers
Never before do we read in the annals of execution that anyone mocked the prayers of a dying man … except for Jesus’s crucifixion. Villains about to die ask, “Give me a minute or two to pray.” “Well, of course.”
Look at Jesus. Every prayer is an object of jest. “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani… My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” The religious leaders made a pun. “He calls for Elijah! Let’s see if Elijah will come and rescue Him!” (Mark 15:33-37).
The sorrow. The pain. The hurt.
The Shameful Cross
Men have devised many horrible ways to kill: guillotine, gas chamber, electric chair, mustard gas, nuclear weapons, hanging, and firing squad … among others.
Nevertheless, I suppose nothing is more shameful than the cross.
Modern forensics sheds much light on the manner of crucifixion. Take some time to imagine this…
Death begins with scourging, which progressed slowly for maximum suffering. The whip quickly pierced the epidermis. Little bleeding occurred as the veins contracted. As the whip cut deeper into the tissue, larger vessels began to bleed freely. The whip cut through the intercostal muscles into the spine and lungs. Imagine … think about the level of pain … Jesus’s whipping has been compared to a shotgun blast at short range.
Our traditional view of Jesus’s feet crossed and nailed in front of the cross is challenged by the 1968 archaeological discovery of a complete skeleton of a crucified man in his early thirties that dated to the first century. A five-inch nail was hammered through the side of his heel.
In other words, instead of crossing his feet in the front of the cross, his feet were positioned, one to each side of the cross and the nails driven through the side of the heel and into the wood. The knees are bent back for maximum pain.
To take a breath, Jesus had to push up on those excruciatingly painful legs with all of His strength. One agonizing push … one agonizing breath …
The question about ropes to hold his arms and body up is easy to answer. He needed ropes. Whether nailed in the hand or wrist, a crucified body will pull away from the cross with only 40 to 60 pounds of pressure.
What Caused Jesus’ Death?
A combination of things contributed to Jesus’s death: dehydration, exhaustion; hypovolemic shock; blood loss; and/or hypoxia when he was no longer able to push up to open his lungs to breathe. Imagine the agony of each breath … do you feel His pain? His suffering?
Frankly, I think that Jesus died from a broken heart.
Under stress, his heart literally rips open. It feels like an intense heart attack. Jesus cries out just before death: “It is finished; into your hands I commit my spirit.” All is quiet. He’s gone.
Perhaps 30 minutes after his death, a soldier thrust his spear into Jesus’ side and out gushed blood and water. Today we know that a tear in His heart likely began to fill the pericardial sac with blood. The sword pierced the pericardial sac and out gushed blood and clear pericardial fluid which looked like water.
Now, meditate on the musings of the crowd. Don’t you know that His tender heart bled as He was put to death by the very ones He had come to save!
This was His world, His men; His nails, His cross … and they did not recognize Him.
His head fell on his breast. They said, “He’ll never lift that head among the multitudes again!”
They said, “Look at his hands. Those were the hands which healed the sick, raised the dead, touched lips, made mud and opened blind eyes, commanded the winds to calm the storm. He will never use those hands again.”
By the way, to the crowd he was just another crazy rebellious Jew to add to long list of others crucified by Rome … how far from the reality could they be?
Jesus Suffered a Significant Death
Consider what made Jesus’s death different from all other deaths.
His death on the cross was a divine transaction to take upon Himself the sins of the whole world. He took the punishment we deserved for our sin so that we could be forgiven, fit for heaven and experience eternal life.
What does that mean to you? He took on your sin … He died for you. Take that in for a moment. Then reflect on John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
One more time, read and reflect on Hebrews 12:2; “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Why endure it? Why? Why? Because He could see the joy on the other side of the cross—the joy of saving us … saving you.
Catch the end of Hebrews 12:2: Jesus “has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus’s story doesn’t end with bleak suffering on the cross. He was brought back to life. And He is now at right hand of God.
Today is the day to bow before Christ and confess Him as your Savior and Lord. Who is He to you? What does His life, death, and love mean to you personally? How does knowing Jesus change you?
Now, imagine the scene as you close your meditation. You’re standing in an unending crowd of people stretching out in all directions. Suddenly Jesus appears and everyone kneels in unison and cries out: “Jesus Christ is Lord.”
And you know that He is.
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Editor’s Note: Pastor Roger Barrier’s “Ask Roger” column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at email@example.com.