What Held Jesus to the Cross? – Matthew 27:33-50

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Several years ago, I shared this illustration, but it is so appropriate to this message, I’ve decided to use it again. For some time, a man named Juanito Piring, imagined himself in the spot light, with 20,000 eyes watching him. Eventually all the details were worked out, and he laid himself down on a cross similar to that upon which our Saviour died. He had bought four 3 inch stainless steel nails. And with blessing of his Filipino priest, several of his friends nailed him to that cross. Why would a sane man do such a foolish thing as this? Mr. Piring claimed that it was to atone for his sins.

It grieves me to tell you, Mr. Piring, but somebody has deceived you. Your friends were not truly friends, and your priest was not a minister of Christ. The ONLY cross and the ONLY sacrifice that can ever atone for sin, has become a part of history. 2,000 years ago when Jesus of Galilee hung by the roughest of nails, in the fierce Judean sun, on the nastiest of Roman crosses – that was to atone for sin. It was specifically for the sins of those whom the Lord intended to save. It is not YOUR blood or pain, Juanito, but the blood of the Lord Jesus, that God, the Father, accepts. And Christ did not die as a martyr, as an illustration or as an example for us to follow Him into death. He died as the real thing; the only perfect satisfaction for the demands of the law of God.

I don’t profess to understand any but the most rudimentary elements of the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice. There are many mysteries, questions, and even problems involved, but I know enough to weep in response to the love of my Saviour, and in my love towards Him. The cross doesn’t make me think of myself and what I must do before God. It turns my heart toward the Lord. And I know enough to weep in pity and sorrow for Juanito Piring and the millions of others who have believed the various lies of the Devil. I know enough to understand why Paul once wrote: “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.” And “the preaching of (Jesus’) cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

My purpose this morning is to encourage us all to “look unto JESUS, the author and finisher of our faith.” If Juanito Piring was here, I’d encourage him to look upon the Saviour, high and lifted up. And to those who are saved, I say, How can you not love Him more, after all He’s done you?”

My simple question this morning is this: “What held Jesus to that Cross?” Can you guess how long Juanito Piring was held by those nails? Maybe others might have withstood the pain longer, but he lasted little more than 60 seconds. Simultaneously four friends drove in the nails, and then quickly lifted that cross to an upright position. It was held vertically for only a few seconds, then it was quickly lowered and the nails were removed. Immediately, that young Filipino was rushed to a hospital which was already waiting for him. In fact, all this might have taken place on the grounds of the hospital. But unlike Piring, my Saviour hung upon the cross for hours, with hardly a whimper. What held Him to that cross?

Immediately we can rule out some possible answers.

For example the nails had nothing to do with Him remaining on that cross. The hands of Jesus Christ have never been bound by anything – except His own promises. He stands above and beyond all the laws of physics and biology — both of which He created. Do think He who brought Joseph out of an Egyptian prison was restrained by mere nails? Do you believe that He who walked on water could not have vanished from that cross and reappeared in the Holy of Holies within the temple? Christ later walked through locked doors without any hindrance. I don’t imagine that even if there were lock-washers on those nails that they could have held Jesus to the cross. It’s like confining a tiger inside a cage of tooth picks to try to hold the Saviour with just three or four meager nails. The Old Testament Judge Samson, derived his strength from this same Divine Person. Lions couldn’t kill Samson – ropes and chains couldn’t hold him, and temples couldn’t confine him. But Samson was a 90 pound weakling compared to the Lord Jesus. Lazarus was sealed up in a dead man’s tomb, but Christ released him. He who did that, couldn’t be held by a handful of pieces of iron. Certainly, the nails weren’t what kept the Lord upon that cross for six or eight hours.

Neither can we say that Jesus’ weakness or helplessness kept Him up there. There never has been a man any stronger. But, oh, how they tried to weaken our Saviour. First, there was a night without sleep followed by the trials and mockings. We remember that the Hebrews had a law which limited the number of strokes of the whip to 40, but the Romans had no such regulation. And the Romans had a officer called a lictor, whose specialty was whipping with the flagrum. But there doesn’t appear to be any lictor, or scourger, on this occasion. The Lord Jesus was beaten by common soldiers, so who knows to what extent they went. The historian Eusebius says that when the Romans scourged men, veins were laid bare and the very muscles, sinews, and organs of the victims were exposed. Then came the walk with the heavy cross from Pilate’s Judgment Hall to Golgotha. Any ordinary man would have been physically emptied even before the actual crucifixion. And even though these things had their effect upon Christ, listen to His testimony: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I LAY DOWN my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” John 10:17-18. That is statement of superhuman ability – no, it was divine ability.

And it’s also a statement of dedication to duty. Besides these things, the Christian hymn is quite correct, “He really could have called 10,000 angels.” It wasn’t that Jesus was too weak to extricate or remove Himself from the cross. But He had a work to do, so He didn’t call on anyone to assist Him.

And He wasn’t drunken or drugged into stupefaction either. As they prepared to drive in the nails, “they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not” verse 23. As most of us know, drugs make people do some pretty insane and asinine things. My records don’t say, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Juanito was drugged somehow. Liquor starts fights, makes quiet people boisterous, relaxes inhibitions and creates fools. A huge percentage of violent crimes, such as murder, have alcohol at their roots. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. “Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.Drugs have sent people diving off buildings, blinding and destroying minds. Cocaine, meth, and even marijuana turn simple children into thieves and even murderers. But it wasn’t any kind of drug, even to the mildest of pain killers that kept Christ on the Cross. Follow Jesus’ example: reject them all except those necessary pain killers.

And by the way, it wasn’t loneliness or depression that held Christ to the cross either. This wasn’t the suicide of a depressed and confused person. It wasn’t that He didn’t have friends and loved ones to whom to return, if he had chosen. Actually – it was for His special friends that he remained upon that cross. Oh what a horrible condition and emotion loneliness can be. There are thousands of people every year who attempt suicide because of loneliness. One of the great blights of our society are nursing homes where ungrateful children incarcerate and forsake their elders to solitary confinement. But Jesus wasn’t lonely, slowly whimpering His way out of the world. John tells us that Jesus was not destitute of all His companions as He hung there. At the very least there was the Apostle John and some of the ladies there.

And the soldiers weren’t holding him to the cross either. There weren’t any spears pointed at Christ to keep him up there. For the soldiers it was a kind of party – for them it was just another Jew dying. We are told that they had the opportunity to sit and relax – to watch. And besides, Christ had already proven His sovereign supremacy over those armed men, when His voice knocked them to the ground back at the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus was not held to cross by stupor, loneliness, soldiers, weakness or helplessness. Neither was His death a martyrdom. Juanito Piring, and the church which spawned him, think that Jesus died as an example or martyr. Christ’s death was not for a cause, but for a curse; the curse of the law of God. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” The Lord doesn’t want us to follow Him into a similar kind of crucifixion. Christ doesn’t want us to die for Him as much as He wants the saint of God to live for him.

What was it that held the Saviour to that cross so many years ago?

Without any doubt the hymn is correct LOVE sent my Saviour to die in my place.” Jesus was once speaking to his disciples and said: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” There has been no greater love displayed in any man than that which Jesus showed on Cross. But there was an equal, if not greater love, displayed by God the Father. “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And “hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.”

Listen to Romans 8:35-39: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We usually look at this as declaration that our sufferings cannot outstrip the blessing of God. But can’t it also refer to the great love that Christ has for his people? Unselfishly, the Saviour gave His life for His elect. No amount of shame, pain, heat or cold interrupt that love or that sacrifice.

He was held to that cross by His submission to the will of the God-head. Jesus was the “lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.” He was held to the cross by the plan and covenant of God. He was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknolwedge of God.” I Peter 1:18-21 – “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.” Christ Jesus was kept upon that stake, like Moses’ brass serpent, by a desire to fulfill Father’s will. In THIS way, Jesus should be used as our example. The Love of Christ should constrain us to live for the Lord. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” – I Peter. 2:21-23.

Closely connected to that submission, was Jesus’ desire to fulfill the scriptural prophesies about Him. The crucifixion itself was prophesied in Psalm 22. He was offered gall and vinegar as prophesied in Psalm 69. He prayed for those who crucified Him as prophesied in Psalm 109:4. Some of the words that He uttered were demanded by scripture in Psalm 22 and Psalm 31. His death between two malefactors was prophesied in Isaiah 53. That the others had their legs broken, but Jesus didn’t was according to prophesy in Psalm 34. That he was stabbed with a spear was prophesied in Psalm 22 and Zechariah 12. That he was buried with the rich was prophesied in Isaiah 53. The Gospel of John says: “Jesus, knowing all things must be fulfilled, said, I thirst.”

Although Jesus could have leapt from the cross, He chose not to do it. If He had not remained there, our sins would still be standing against us. Isaiah 53:3-6: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Galatians 3:10-13: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” Christ Jesus, stayed upon the cross to take away my sins. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” “Ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him is no sin.”

The Lord Jesus Christ endured the cross, despising the shame, in order to bring many sons to glory. Are you one of those who are looking unto Jesus for your salvation? Or are you trying to do something spectacular, like having yourself crucified, in order to impress God? Have you – and are you – living in repentance toward the Lord? Is your faith in the dying Saviour to deliver your sinful soul from the judgment that it deserves? If your faith is in anything other than Christ to take you to Heaven, you have no hope. If your faith is in baptism, church membership, godly living, generosity, helpfulness, then you are lost. Only unless you have humble faith in the suffering and death of Christ, is there any promise of salvation. Are you trusting your own efforts as Juanito Piring was doing? Or is your faith in Christ?