Focal Passages: Matthew 27:28-31, 45-50, 54
On July 2, 2014, Louis Zamperini died, but it wasn’t the first time he was declared dead. In World War II he spent 47 days adrift in the ocean after his plane crashed. Japanese soldiers captured him and tortured him almost to the point of death multiple times. Zamperini’s grit and spirit kept him alive; unbroken against overwhelming odds.
Because of the media efforts of Laura Hillenbrand, Franklin Graham and Angelina Jolie, millions of people across the globe know the Zamperini’s story. The U.S. government once classified him as “killed in action.” Their mistake was understandable. After 97 years, Mr. Zamperini’s body did in fact fail him.
In some ways the capture and torture of Jesus bears similarities to the capture and torture of Louis Zamperini.
The Gospels tell the story of Jesus being stripped naked, beaten, whipped to the point of exhaustion, mocked and publicly humiliated. The Roman form of capital punishment known as crucifixion was barbaric to the extreme – reserved for the worst criminals on earth. Death was a welcome relief after hours of sun-exposure, loss of bodily fluids and asphyxiation.
In ancient Rome many thousands of men suffered death by crucifixion. So, what was different about the death of Jesus of Nazareth?
Jesus’ death was far more than a physical struggle. It was primarily spiritual. We see it at Gethsemane, and we see it in Matthew 27:46 when Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1.
Jesus was alone. Jesus was forsaken, and not just forsaken by the Sanhedrin and the Roman government and his closest friends. Jesus was forsaken by God the Father.
Although Jesus had the power to avoid and avert this horror, it was not to be. Why?
Because this was the Father’s plan, and the Father’s plan was to be honored. He who had no sin became sin; our sin. His death was truly like no other.