Preaching the Cross By Numbers (Part 1)
This feature lesson begins an intriguing study pertaining to the cross of Christ and certain numbers that are mentioned or can be deduced from the Biblical record.

Perhaps the first thing a child learns to do mathematically is count. Counting is a critical skill that we use throughout life. We will begin a special study on counting and the cross in today's feature lesson. There are thirteen numbers in all that we will be considering. We're simply going to count up from zero through twelve and relate each number in a Biblical way to the crucifixion of our Savior. Some numbers will have more than one point associated with them.

It is our hope that this study will underscore some important truths pertinent to the cross of Christ as well as present them in a way that is easy to remember.

Stoning was the usual form of capital punishment for the Hebrew people. This would certainly result in broken bones! However, Jesus did not die in a typical Jewish manner. Due to the fact that the Romans had subjugated the Jewish nation, permission had to be sought from the Romans before the Jews could execute any of their criminals. This is why the Jews brought Jesus to Pilate, a Roman official (cf. John 18:31). In fact, the Romans took over from that point and implemented their own form of execution (i.e., crucifixion).

Note some of the typology and foreshadowing regarding no bones of Christ being broken:

Consider the fulfillment of these prophecies in John 19:31-36:

"Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, 'Not one of His bones shall be broken.'"

The legs of the other crucifixion victims were broken to hasten their death (breaking their legs made pushing up for breathing exceedingly difficult and asphyxiation would follow). However, since Jesus was already dead, none of His bones were broken.

We find more Passover details foreshadowing the true Lamb of God in Exodus 12:5 - "Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats." To be without blemish is to be perfect or flawless. Spiritually speaking, to be without blemish is to be sinless.

The Bible declares the sinlessness of Christ in many passages. For example:

Ephesians 4:4-6 declares, among other things, that there is only one Lord. There is only one Savior and salvation cannot be found in any other name except Jesus' (cf. Acts 4:12).

John 10:14-18 illustrates the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus. He laid down His life of His own volition and had the power to take it up again.

I John 2:2 teaches - "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." Jesus died to make atonement possible for all the sinners of the world--including you and I.

John 19:25-27 - "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, 'Woman, behold your son!' Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold your mother!' And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home."

Jesus once asked, "Where are the nine?", after healing ten lepers and only having one come back to thank Him (Luke 17:17). I wonder if He thought as He hung on the cross: "Where are the eleven?" Jesus invested over three years into this group of men. His time wasn't wasted, but it certainly looked like it at that moment. There was only one of His apostles present with Him as He perished! Is it any wonder why Jesus loved John so much?

Jesus was both mortal (a man) and divine (God). He had a physical body that could feel pleasure and pain as we do. As a carpenter, no doubt He felt a sense of accomplishment when He finished a project. And, in contrast, when He accidentally cut Himself or smashed His thumb with a hammer, He suffered.

Every human being has an immortal spirit within his body. In fact, it is more accurate to state that we are immortal spirits presently housed within physical shells. Jesus, in the flesh, was still God because of the divine spirit that His earthly body contained. There was nothing extraordinary about His physical body or His looks (cf. Isa. 53:2). He had the appearance of a common man. But, the fact that His spirit was divine is significant.

I've heard people say before: "Jesus was 100% man and 100% God." I find that statement to be confusing at best and contradictory at worst. I believe we should be more specific and affirm that Jesus' physical body was 100% man and His spirit was 100% divine. Remember John 4:24? God is spirit; deity is not flesh and blood.

Mark 15:27,28 reads - "With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'And He was numbered with the transgressors.'" This scene unfolded as it had been predicted in Isaiah 53:9,12 - "And they made His grave with the wicked--but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit found in His mouth...He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

It's been said that at Calvary, one died in sin, one died to sin, and One died for sin! Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost--He died for sin! Consider Luke 23:39-43 on this point:

"Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, 'If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.' But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, 'Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.' Then he said to Jesus, 'Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.' And Jesus said to him, 'Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.'"

Our Lord predicted that He would rise from the dead on the third day and His enemies remembered this (even though His disciples were still in a state of confusion).

"On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, 'Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, "After three days I will rise." Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, "He has risen from the dead." So the last deception will be worse than the first.' Pilate said to them, 'You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.' So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard" (Matthew 27:62-66).

Despite their efforts, Jesus did arise from the dead on the third day, which was Sunday--the first day of the week!

The fulfillment to Psalm 22:18 is recorded in John 19:23,24 - "Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, 'Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,' that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: 'They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.' Therefore the soldiers did these things."

Four soldiers split four parts of Jesus' garments. Some speculate that the four parts would have been: a head covering, sandals, some type of undergarment, and also an outer robe. However, they cast lots for the fifth piece--a seamless tunic--instead of tearing it. Why would there have been a need for four soldiers? The likely answer: three to hold the victim down securely and one to pound the nails.

Jesus suffered five major wounds during His last day:

Mark 15:25 states - "Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him." We learn from Luke 23:44,45 - "Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two." Many men survived more than six hours on a cross, but probably not after being scourged. As noted earlier, many died from scourging itself.

Can you imagine agony to this degree for six hours (i.e., from 9 AM until 3 PM)?! It is impossible to know with certainty exactly how Jesus was crucified. He was probably nailed to the cross while it was lying flat on the ground, and then it was raised and its base violently dropped into an appropriately-sized hole. If His hands were nailed through the palms, as is thought by some, then His arms would also have been tied down in order to prevent the nails from tearing through the hands (due to the weight of His body). Others believe, however, that the arms were nailed through the wrists (which would prevent the flesh from tearing loose). One foot was probably placed on top of the other and a single spike driven through both feet into a small ledge.

Crucifixion was considered to be the most horrible way to die because its victims would often linger in the throes of the most excruciating pain for several days (they could last this long since no vital organs were affected by the nails). Throbbing with pain, burning with fever, and tortured by thirst (not to mention the intolerable headaches, labored breathing, and inflammation), crucifixion victims often prayed for death (which they considered relief). The purpose of crucifixion was not just execution, but also terror. Crucifixions were typically performed in public places where the dying (and usually afterward, rotting) person would be a warning to anyone contemplating doing what the victim had done (which is why their crimes were written and posted publicly).

We will continue this study in our next feature lesson. Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.