Friday, March 29, 2013


Early Christian artists refrained from drawing scenes of Christ’s crucifixion until the early sixth centuries AD (about 200 years after crucifixion was legally abolished by the emperor Constantine). And while the literary sources indicate that tens of thousands of people were crucified in the Roman Empire, it was not until 1968 that a single victim of this horrifying method of execution had been discovered archaeologically. This discovery in some Jewish tombs in Jerusalem has significantly advanced our understanding of crucifixion and gives us a fuller appreciation of the suffering of our Lord.


Many people assume that crucifixion was a Roman invention. In fact, the Assyrians, Phoenicians and Persians all practiced crucifixion during the first millennium BC.

Crucifixion later became popular among the Greeks. After Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, crucifixion was employed by the Seleucids (who governed Syria) and the Ptolemies (who governed Egypt).

The traditional method of execution among Jews was stoning (cf. Deut. 21:22-23). Yet certain Jewish tyrants occasionally used crucifixion during the Hasmonean period. According to Josephus, Alexander Jannaeus crucified 800 Jews on a single day.

The Romans adopted crucifixion as the official punishment for non-Romans. Initially, it was a method of punishing slaves. Since its main purpose was to punish, humiliate and frighten disobedient slaves, the victims were usually removed from the cross before death occurred.

Later crucifixion was used by the Romans to execute rebels. During the revolt of Spartacus in 71 BC. the Roman army lined the road from Capua to Rome with 6,000 crucified rebels on 6,000 crosses. During Titus’s siege of Jerusalem in AD 70, Roman troops crucified as many as 500 Jews a day for several months.


Outside of Italy, only the Roman procurators possessed the authority to impose the death penalty. Thus when a local provincial court prescribed the death penalty, the sentence of the Roman procurator had to be obtained in order to carry out the sentence.


During peacetime, crucifixions were carried out according to certain rules by special persons authorized by the Roman courts. They were to take place at specific locations, usually outside the city walls (i.e. Golgotha).

Once a defendant was found guilty and condemned to be crucified, the execution was supervised by a Roman official known as the Carnifix Serarum.

1.      Taken from the tribunal hall, the victim was taken outside, stripped, bound to a column and scourged. The scourging was done with either a stick or a flagellum, a Roman instrument with a short handle to which several thick thongs were attached. On the ends of the leather thongs were lead or bone tips. The number of strokes imposed was not fixed, but care was taken not to kill the victim.

2.      Following the beating, the horizontal crossbeam of the cross was placed upon the condemned man’s shoulders. This he carried to the execution site, usually outside the city walls.

3.      A soldier at the head of the procession carried the titulus, an inscription written on wood, which stated the defendant’s name and the crime for which he had been condemned. Later this titulus was attached to the victim’s cross.

4.      When the procession arrived at the execution site, a vertical stake was fixed into the ground. The victim was then placed on the cross either by ropes or with nails.

5.      If ropes were used, the victim, who was already bound to the crossbeam, would simply be hoisted to the vertical beam and his feet would be bound with a few lashes of rope. If nails were used, the victim would be laid on the ground with his shoulders on the crossbeam. His arms were held out nailed to the cross. The victim’s feet were then nailed down against the vertical stake.


Without any body support, the victim would die from muscular spasms and asphyxiation in a period of two to three hours. In order to prolong the agony, the Romans devised two instruments which would extend the ordeal of the victim.

1.      A small seat (sedile) was attached to the front of the cross. This device provided support for the victim’s body and explains the phrase used by the Romans, “to sit on the cross.” To increase the victim’s suffering, the seat was pointed, thus inflicting great pain as body weight rested upon it.

2.      A second device was a foot support (suppedaneum). With the use of this support, victims could be kept alive on the cross for several days. Josephus refers to three crucified Jews who survived on crosses for three days.

3.      Normally the Romans left the crucified person undisturbed to die slowly of physical exhaustion, thirst, and asphyxiation. However, Jewish law required burial on the day of execution (Deut. 21:22-23). Therefore, in Palestine the executioner would break the legs of the crucified person in order to hasten his death and thus permit burial before nightfall. This practiced is mentioned in the Gospels (John 19:33).


1.   Edwards, William D., etc., “On the Physical Death of Jesus,” Journal of the American Medical Association (March 21, 1986): 1455-1463.
2.   Fitzmyer, Joseph A. “Crucifixion in Ancient Palestine, Qumran Literature, and the New Testament” in To Advance the Gospel (New York: Crossroad, 1981): 125-146.
3.  Vassilios Tzaferis, “Crucifixion: The Archaeological Evidence,” Biblical Archaeoloqy Review (January-February, 1095): 44-53.
GALATIANS 3:13, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Proverbs 16:25, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

Matthew 7:13, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.  For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.”

You can believe what you want and behave as you like on the broad way, the problem lies with its destination.  It is a well-traveled path.  The sons and daughters of Adam have a natural affinity for it (Romans 5:12; Colossians 1:21).  They are drawn to it.  That path is well-worn—the footsteps of countless generations have left their mark and the path is easy to follow.

The world, the flesh, and the Devil are glad to direct souls along that way (Ephesians 2:1-3).  Imagine it to be as a great multi-land freeway crammed with travelers.  Rush hour traffic is the rule.  People speed along the path, passing others at every opportunity, rushing “helter-skelter to destruction with their fingers in their ears.”  The Devil, the great deceiver, serves as tour guide, and keeps broad way travelers blinded to the truth (2 Corinthians 4:4).  The world, in its anti-God sentiment, entices weary travelers and keeps them hemmed in (1 John 2:15-16).  Most heroes and public figures (entertainers, politicians, many educators) of our day are proponents of the broad way--they tout its benefits as to fortune, fame, and fun.  All beliefs and behaviors are accepted on the broad path—anything and everything is tolerated except serious talk of Jesus and His cross.   People encourage each other along the way.  No one stops to ask where the path is headed.  It seems “right to a man” and that enough for them (Proverbs 16:25).

It is a hopeless and unhappy pathway (Ephesians 2:12), but no one seems to notice or care.  Broad way travelers are given to humanistic pride, selfishness, violence, greed and all kinds of sinful maladies (Romans 1:28-31; 2 Timothy 3:2-5).  Though enslaved in sin (John 8:34), they trumpet their supposed freedom to do as they please.  The strong bonds of sin’s enslavement constrain them to the path.  Everyone does what is right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). 

Billboards line the path with messages like: “There is no god (Psalm 14:1),” “What is truth (John 18:38)?”; and “If it feels good, do it.”  The unhappy travelers along the way give “hearty approval” to those who practice broad way living (Romans 1:32).  “Fools who march to win the right to justify their sin” defy their creator (Romans 1:18-27).  And everyone agrees that with so many following the path it surely must be the right way to go.

That destruction lies at the end of the path is without question. One by one broad way travelers fall untethered into an unfathomable abyss.  Their pain of their sin-burdened, short-lived lives pales in comparison to the agony of the Christ-less eternity that awaits each and every one (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Luke 16:24).  Though millions have gone that way, still “death and destruction are never satisfied” (Proverbs 27:20).

Most travel that path.  But there is another.  The path less-traveled knows of its own challenges and obstacles.  It is the path that Jesus, “the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2), first traveled.  It took Him to the cross.  He died there for broad way travelers, to rescue them from that evil way (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15).  He rose from the dead victorious over sin, and death, and the devil himself (Hebrews 2:14-15; Colossians 2:14).

The entrance to the narrow way is through a narrow gate.  Despite the deceiver’s claim, there is but One Way of salvation—by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9).  He is well-pleased to rescue lost sinners and put them on the better path (1 Timothy 2:4).  The narrow way leads to life—eternal and abundant (John 3:36; 10:10). 

Life on the narrow way is characterized by adherence to the truth.  Love for Jesus, love for others, and obedience marks the lives of the narrow way travelers (1 John 3:10; John 14:15).  Though they be mocked and threatened (2 Timothy 3:12), their provision and protection along the way is assured (Romans 8:32, 37).  God Himself will bring all narrow way travelers “safely home to His heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:8).  They will “marvel at” Him (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

The prodigal son was a broad way traveler, but then he came to his senses (Luke 15:17).  The thief on the cross was too, ‘til his eyes were opened to the truth (Luke 23:42).  Saul of Tarsus was on the broad way (there are plenty of religious folks on that way), until Jesus met him and changed his life (Acts 9:1-19; 1 Timothy 1:12-17).  What about you?  Do you know the destination of the path you are now traveling?  Jesus holds forth this invitation to all broad way people: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My load is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).  Jesus can put you on the better path.

Pastor Jerry

Saturday, March 9, 2013


From a sermon George Whitefield preached entitled “The Holy Spirit Convincing the World of Sin, Righteousness, and Judgment”: 

“We have seen how the Holy Ghost convinces the sinner of the sin of his nature, life, duties, and of the sin of unbelief; and what then must the poor creature do? He must, he must inevitably despair, if there be no hope but in himself. When therefore the Spirit has hunted the sinner out of all his false rests and hiding-places, taken off the pitiful fig-leaves of his own works, and driven him out of the trees of the garden (his outward reformations) and place him naked before the bar of a sovereign, holy, just, and sin-avenging God; then, then it is, when the soul, having the sentence of death within itself because of unbelief, has a sweet display of Christ's righteousness made to it by the Holy Spirit of God. Here it is, that he begins more immediately to act in the quality of a Comforter, and convinces the soul so powerfully of the reality and all-sufficiency of Christ's righteousness, that the soul is immediately set a hungering and thirsting after it. Now the sinner begins to see, that though he has destroyed himself, yet in Christ is his help; that, though he has no righteousness of his own to recommend him, there is a fullness of grace, a fullness of truth, a fullness of righteousness in the dear Lord Jesus, which, if once imputed to him, will make him happy forever and ever.”

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


It’s Tuesday, February 17th—our third day in Uganda.  I wake up to the sound of roosters crowing and birds chirping.  Getting a shower (cold) and coffee (hot) is my immediate concern.  Another beautiful Ugandan sunrise greets me as I make my way from the guest house.  I pray for the day as I walk through Kabaale Village—past the smelly cow stalls, the rustic outdoor school kitchen; the school, the outhouse, to the school yard—the sights and smells of the increasingly familiar village fill up my senses.
Breakfast is eggs and fruit and toast.  Then it’s time for devotions, prayer, and off to work.  Ben and Jennifer Bogle, Jennifer Fremstad, and Debbie Kennedy head off to the clinic where they will be joined by Ugandans who are receiving training in basic medical skills.  Julie Smith, Carissa, and me jump in the car and head off to Muge Village and Abundant Grace Bible Church (AGBC)—a seven mile trip on dirt roads and paths.

Enock Mujuni is pastor of AGBC and leader of Arise and Shine Christian School.  He privileged me to have a part in naming the church back when it was started.  Since then, LCBC’s been praying regularly for the church and helping financially in various ways.  The church recently moved from its too-cramped facility along the main road to its new temporary shelter on a one acre parcel. 

We bounce up and down in our seats (glad that the Toyota has handles to hold on to) as we drive down a path that’s not designed for vehicle use—but undeterred we make our way through farmland and then across a lumpy soccer field—through the goal posts—to the church.  Children run to greet us.  Enock leads me on a tour of the site as we wait for the conference to begin (Schedules are flexible and all functions begin and end on “African Time”).

The temporary church building has no walls—roofing (made up of a combination of tarps and metal sheets) is supported by a structure consisting of poles (vertical) and limbs (horizontal).  Only half the structure is covered, the rest awaits available funds.  Once the roof it finished, then the construction of the walls will proceed.  They will be made of clay. 

The conference begins with singing and prayer.  Attendees include church members and pastors from nearby churches.  Two women neighbors of the church, one Catholic and one Muslim, are also in attendance.  Our theme for the conference is “God’s Glorious Gospel.”  And I’m doing my best not to be distracted from it by either the flapping tarps or buzzing flies or hot African sun (or the breast-feeding Mom seated on the ground 10 feet in front of me).  We are in the second day and my plan is to summarize what we’ve learned by going step-by-step from the Lugandan gospel tract.  Once finished, I ask Carissa if she’d like to share using the “Wordless Book.”  At this point we’ve been sharing good news truth for a day and a half—needless to say we all rejoiced when both neighbors responded to the gospel and trusted in Jesus for salvation!

That was a special day.  I returned to the village glad-hearted for what God had done.  The work in the clinic continued on through our two week visit.  Workers were trained in the morning.  People came to the clinic in the afternoon.  Ben and the two nurses responded to some serious and difficult medical needs (including a 2 year old who drank some insecticide, a girl who stuck a bean in her ear, and several people diagnosed with HIV—one later died).  Julie and Carissa worked with the children at Arise and Shine Christian School and then at Desire Junior School.  They shared the gospel and played some games.  I finished the conference at ABGC by observing the Lord’s Supper with them (something I taught on for two sessions) and then repeated the instruction in another conference at Our God Reigns Church.  I also led a three day small group study for pastors in Bible study methods.  We visited Our God Reigns Church on our first Sunday and People of the Way Church on the second Sunday.  It was good, very good, to share from the pulpit in both settings (the people were quite attentive to the Word; at Our God Reigns seven people expressed their desire to trust in Jesus).

It was a good trip, a wonderful trip.  The people there are so welcoming, so loving, and so incredibly thankful.  We were blessed to be privileged to serve in various ways and left behind some tools that should prove helpful (Cf. Acts 20:35).  Thank you for your gifts that helped us to go and your prayers through which we were equipped and enabled to serve!  Praise God for all that was accomplished!

Pastor Jerry


By D. L. Moody
I do not think there is a word in the English language so little understood as the word gospel. We hear it every day. We have heard it from our earliest childhood. Yet there are many people–and even many Christians–who do not really know what it means.

The word gospel means "God’s spell," or "good spell," or, in other words, "good news." The gospel is good tidings of great joy!

No better news ever came down out of heaven than the gospel. No better news ever fell upon the ears of the family of man than the gospel. When the angels came down to proclaim the tidings, what did they say to those shepherds on the plains of Bethlehem? "Behold, I bring you sad tidings"? No! "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour" (Luke 2:10-11).

If a man received an urgent dispatch couldn’t you tell by his looks what kind of message it contained? If it brought good news, you would see it in his face in a moment. If it told him that his boy, away in a foreign land, a prodigal son, had come to himself as did the one in Luke 15, don’t you think his face would light up with joy? And if his wife were with him, he would not wait until they got home, or until she asked for the letter. He would pass it to her, and her face would also brighten as she shared his joy.

But the tidings that the gospel brings are more glorious than that. We are dead in trespasses and sins–and the gospel offers life. We are enemies of God–and the gospel offers reconciliation. The world is in darkness–and the gospel offers light. Because men will not believe the gospel that Christ is the light of the world, the world is dark today. But the moment a man believes, the light from Calvary shines on his path and he walks in an endless day of unclouded sun.

It was my privilege to go into Richmond with General Grant’s army, where I heard that the Negroes were going to have a jubilee meeting. These people were just coming into liberty; their chains were falling off, and they were just awakening to the fact that they were free. I have heard many eloquent men, but I do not think I have ever heard eloquence such as I heard that day in that black church from a chaplain of a northern regiment:

"Mothers!" he cried. "You rejoice today. Your children have been torn from your embrace and sold off to some distant state for the last time–you are forever free!"

"Young men!" he called. "You rejoice today. You have heard the crack of the slave driver’s whip for the last time–you are forever free!"

"Young maidens!" he exclaimed. "You rejoice today. You have been put on the auction block and sold for the last time–you are forever free!"

I was never in such a meeting. Men and women, boys and girls, everyone shouted, "Glory to God!" They believed that it was good news.

But my friends, I bring you better tidings than that. No slave ever had such a mean, wicked, cruel master as those who are serving Satan. And to the poor sinner who has been so rebellious and wayward the gospel brings a message of forgiveness: "Be ye reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20). It is His message of friendship. He died that we might be reconciled to Him. Is not this gospel of reconciliation a glad gospel?

God offers a pardon to every sinner on earth if he will take it. I do not care who he is or what he is like. He may be the greatest libertine that ever walked the streets, or the greatest blackguard who ever lived, or the greatest drunkard or thief or vagabond; but I come with glad tidings for him..

"Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17). I know that the word whosoever means every man, woman, and child in this world. It means a growing lad, a gray-haired man, a maiden in the blush of youth, a young man breaking his mother’s heart, a drunkard steeped in misery and sin. My friends, will you not believe this good news? Will you not believe that it means you?

[taken from Select Sermons, Moody Press]