Some good in-depth reading on Christ’s Passion. What it is and what it means: (Taken from the book “Ryrie’s Basic Theology”)
The basis of all the facets, accomplishments, and benefits of the death of Christ is, of course, the historical event of His death on the cross. “Passion” means suffering, and particularly the sufferings of Christ between the night of the Last Supper and the Crucifixion.
I. THE NEED FOR HIS PASSION
Because of man’s sinfulness and helplessness, someone else had to step in and aid him if he was to find acceptance and fellowship with a holy God. Sin brought and brings estrangement from God, and depravity means that nothing man can do will merit any favor or consideration from God as far as salvation is concerned.
Without repeating the material under the doctrine of sin, the salient points need to be reviewed. Everyone born into this world stands condemned because of (a) his relation to Adam’s sin (Rom_5:12) and (b) because of the sin nature with which everyone is born (Eph_2:3). In addition, (c) all commit sin, which is the inevitable fruit of the sin nature (Rom_3:9-23). This not only means universal condemnation but also establishes a universal need that all have to be saved from sin’s penalty.
Everyone born into this world is helpless to do anything to gain soteriological favor with God. Depravity, you remember, does not mean that people cannot or do not perform actions that are good in man’s and God’s sight; nor does it mean that sinful man has no conscience to judge between good and evil for himself; nor that people indulge in every form of sin or even in any particular sin to the greatest extent possible. But depravity does mean that because man’s entire being has been corrupted he can never do anything that would merit saving favor with God. In relation to salvation this means that help will have to come from someone who has not been affected with that corruption, someone who is sinless.
II. THE PERSON OF THE PASSION
The person involved in that atoning sacrifice was the God-man. Only this kind of Being could have effected our salvation. Again, without repeating material under Christology, let me review some of the salient features of His person that bear on His atoning work.
Though a number of reasons are stated in Scripture for the Incarnation, the principal one was that He might save His people from their sins (Mat_1:21). To do this required Incarnation; that is, God in flesh. God has declared that the penalty for sin has to be death. Since God cannot die, there had to be an Incarnation in order that there be a human nature to experience death and thus pay the penalty for sin.
The God-ordained means of accomplishing the Incarnation was the Virgin Birth. Whether He could have done it some other way and still preserve the sinlessness of Jesus Christ can only be a matter of conjecture. The fact of the matter is that He did do it through the Virgin Birth. The feminine singular relative pronoun “by whom” in Mat_1:16 undebatably links Christ to one human parent, His mother. It was a Virgin Birth.
The result of the Virgin Birth was a God-man. God always was. The total human nature was conceived by the Spirit in the womb of Mary, and the Baby born was fully God and a perfect human being, united in one person forever. This is called the hypostatic union.
This God-man, unique in all history, alone qualifies to be an adequate Savior. The Savior had to be human in order to be able to die, for God does not die, and the Savior had to be God in order to make that death an effective payment for sin. When a sinful person dies, he or she dies for his or her own sins. A sinless person can atone for the sins of others.
Notice this truth in the opening verses of Romans 1. When Paul described the Gospel (Rom_1:1), he said that it concerns God’s Son (Rom_1:3); and that Son was human (from the seed of David, Rom_1:3) and divine (designated to be the Son of God, Rom_1:4). In other words, we have a Gospel simply because we have a God-man Savior-man who as man is able to die, and as God can make that death a satisfactory payment for the sins of the world. No other kind of savior can save.
III. THE SUFFERINGS IN THE PASSION
The sufferings of Christ in His death have been labeled His passive obedience in classical Protestant theology. This passive obedience stands in contrast to Christ’s active obedience, which refers to the obedience exhibited during His lifetime. His life was, of course, one of obedience, beginning with His willing acceptance of the Incarnation (Heb_10:5-10) and continuing throughout His entire life on earth (Luk_2:52; Joh_8:29). Through suffering He learned obedience (Heb_5:8).
The sufferings of Christ’s life, though real, were not atoning. Nevertheless, the merit of His atoning death is inseparable from the sinlessness and perfection of His life, which was attested to by His life of obedience. Thus while theologians have made this distinction between life and death sufferings (active and passive obedience), it fails to be very significant, since only the sufferings of His death and His obedience in being the sacrificial Lamb were atoning.
Strictly speaking, then, only the sufferings on the cross were atoning. It was during the three hours of darkness when God laid on Christ the sins of the world that Atonement was being made. The abuse and scourgings that preceded His time on the cross were part of the sufferings of His life.
IV. THE OUTLINE OF THE PASSION
As we noted at the beginning of this chapter, the Passion usually includes the events from the Last Supper to the Crucifixion. Here is an outline of these events and the nature of the things involved in those last hours of Christ’s life.
A. The Trials
The traditional site of the Passover is in an Upper Room in the southwest corner of the city of Jerusalem.
From there the group made their way across the city to the Garden of Gethsemane (on the slope of the Mount of Olives to the east of Jerusalem) where the Lord was betrayed and arrested, and where He also restored Malchus’s ear. This happened perhaps around 3 a.m.
Back again through the city the Lord was taken to the house of Annas for a hearing. Both Annas’s and Caiaphas’s houses were in the southwestern part of the city, not far from the Upper Room where the Lord and His disciples had been earlier.
Then they moved to the court of Caiaphas’s house where at least a quorum of the Sanhedrin gathered and passed sentence on the Lord.
When morning came the full Sanhedrin confirmed the sentence passed a few hours before.
The Lord was then taken before Pilate since the Jews did not have the authority to carry out a sentence of death. Pilate’s judgment hall was near the northwest corner of the temple area, across the city from Caiaphas’s house.
An examination by Herod followed. His palace stood at the western wall of the city. So once again the Lord traversed the city.
Across the city and back to Pilate, the Lord was condemned to be crucified.
The site of the Crucifixion is debated. The two candidates are the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, west of Pilate’s judgment hall, and Gordon’s Calvary, northwest of Pilate’s judgment hall. Either location required another trip across a major portion of Jerusalem. The total distance covered by our Lord in His enfeebled condition was about two and one-half miles.
B. The Day
The traditional view of a Friday crucifixion has everything to commend it and nothing to contradict it. All the Gospels state that the day following the Crucifixion was Sabbath (Mat_27:62; Mat_28:1; Mar_15:42; Luk_23:56; Joh_19:31). All the Gospels state that the women visited the tomb of Jesus on the day after the Sabbath, that is, on the first day of the week, Sunday (Mat_28:1; Mar_16:2; Luk_24:1; Joh_20:1). It was a common practice of the Jews to refer to a part of a day or night as the whole day (Gen_42:17-18; 1Sa_30:12-13; 1Ki_20:29; 2Ch_10:5; 2Ch_10:12; Est_4:16; Est_5:1). Therefore, to fulfill the “three days and three nights” of Mat_12:40 required that the Lord be in the tomb the part of Friday before sundown (day #1), all of Saturday (day #2), and the part of Sunday after sundown on Saturday and until the Resurrection occurred (day #3). And, of course, the Scriptures say He rose “on the third day” (1Co_15:4).
C. The Method
Crucifixion was Eastern in origin. The Persians practiced it, and Alexander the Great seemed to have learned of it from them. Phoenicia, famed for its barbaric practices, frequently employed crucifixion. Rome apparently borrowed it from Carthage and perfected it as a means of capital punishment. The extent to which Rome used it staggers the imagination.
After being sentenced, the condemned person was flogged with a leather whip loaded with metal or bone. He was then required to shoulder the cross beam and carry it to the place of execution. This beam was approximately six feet long and weighed about thirty pounds. This was affixed to the upright stake, which was already in place at the execution site. Nails about seven inches long with a head (to keep the body from sliding off) were driven through the hands and feet of the victim. Sometimes ropes were also used to keep the body on the cross.
The Romans had learned to push the feet upward when they nailed them to the cross so that the victim could lean on the nail and push himself upward momentarily in order to breathe easier. This kept the victim alive longer. Death rarely came in less than thirty-six hours, and most people survived two or three days before they died. Insatiable thirst, pain from the scourging, cramps, dizziness, public shame, and the horror of knowing what lay ahead before the release of death all combined to make crucifixion a horrible means of dying.
This is what men did to our Lord. And God laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He died to pay the penalty of sin, and He died for you and for me.