A Roman centurion -a skeptic and questioner- watches Jesus Christ die on a Roman cross. This man has seen a lot of death in his day — a lot of pain and a lot of men die pleading and crying for their life.
1. The Scorching Post
Jesus was placed on a scorching post, imagine a post like this, only 10 foot tall. The subject being whipped would have his hands tied and a rope would be strung through a ring on the top of the post so the victim could be “stretched” upward on his tiptoes for the beating. Then a short whip would be held by the Roman executioner and the whip strands would contain pieces of metal and bone that would literally rip into the flesh and meat of the prisoner. Most men didn’t survive the beating… Jesus did. Jesus survived it, but was left in barely human condition.
In Isaiah 53: God says that Jesus was Smited or Beaten By God Himself.
Why would God allow himself to be beaten? Some of us in this room beat ourselves up all the time through guilt, condemnation, shame, or perfectionism. For others, it’s self-hatred and trying to punish ourselves for what we’ve done wrong.. as a dad, as a son, as a mom, or by wrecking a marriage or business. Here at the scourging post, Jesus is beaten thoroughly and completely… so you and I don’t have to beat ourselves. Is what we’ve done bad? Yes. Really bad? Yes. But, when you see how he was beaten, you realize that he took the blows, the hits, and pains for you. You can now be free. Free from perfectionism… Only he was perfect and He makes you perfect in God’s eyes. Free from self-hatred, because he was beaten enough, you don’t need to add to his punishment. You can instead thank him for taking the hits and freeing you from self-hatred to Unconditional love.
2. The Cross
The Romans invented a word: “Excruciating” It literally meant, “out of the cross’ The pain and cries were so bad from those on the cross that they invented a word for what came out of people..As nails were pounded into his hands and feet, screams came from the prisoner. His beard is ripped out. His friends leave him. A nation turns against him. A Crown of Thorns are jammed into his skull. (Stop pounding, pick up the piece of metal that I was pounding on) Out of the fire and pounding of the anvil came cursing against the Rome, against the soldiers, and even against God…. But that’s not what came out of Jesus. (PAUSE)
This Roman is ready to hear it…. Every man placed on the cross, might as well be thrown into a fire. The furnace of the cross was so blazing because the prisoner would eventually die of suffocation when he lost the will to push himself up on the nail in his feet to get more air. With nails pounded into his arms and feet, Jesus pushes up to let out one of those blood-curdling screams, but instead… Out of the fire of pain… comes a cry of love. This Roman hears Jesus cry out -to his executioners- “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” What kind of a man is this? When he is placed into the fiery torture of a cross… out comes a beautiful instrument of love. The Great Blacksmith of God had come to earth, and pull out of the fire the greatest demonstration of love.
This Roman skeptic is stunned by the Honor, power and toughness of Jesus Christ. This irreligious commander proclaims, “Surely this was the Son of God”, even before he saw Christ’s final act. (Mark 15:39)
3. The Resurrection
But The Blacksmith wasn’t done. He was about to pull the ultimate beautiful instrument out of the fire. Three days later, when everyone had given up hope. When the fires of hopelessness had seemingly one. Jesus came out of the fire of death itself. He burst onto the scene overwhelming four Roman guards, pushing back a several hundred pound boulder in front of the tomb. Jesus appeared as a beautiful instrument with a real body, a overcoming power. AS he revealed himself in all his beauty, skeptical disciples, doubting Roman commanders, and Jewish traditionalists chose to believe
Any man or any God who could take on the fire of deaths and come out victorious was worthy of giving your life too. God tells us that Jesus, who was the perfect God man was made more beautiful through the fires of the cross.
Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
How could he be more perfect? If Jesus was the perfect God, how could suffering make him more perfect? His overcoming the fire allowed him to identify with us. His overcoming the fire revealed his power and love in a way comfort never could. His suffering IN THE fire made him worthy as a captain or commander. His suffering created a beautiful instrument that could “bring sons to glory.” Out of the fire of death, the Blacksmith made a way to offer a confident, guaranteed entrance to Heaven for anyone who trusted Him
And to those who trust in Christ, he offers this promise…. “I will work all things together for good for those who love me.” I will use any and every fire in your life to bring forth instruments of beauty.
Max Lucado has a little book called On the Anvil. He says: All of us are in the blacksmith shop.
Some of us of broken tools in the corner. Some of us are in the fire. Some of us are in the blacksmith’s hand as he pounds out the imperfections on the Anvil of life.
Others of us are formed tools in his hand being used to change the world all sitting in the hands of a trustworthy blacksmith.
Where are you in a blacksmith shop? Blaming the blacksmith for the fires of the furnace? Sitting in the corner, withdrawn from a blacksmith you cannot and will not trust?, patiently but fearfully waiting on the anvil -as he pounds out your imperfections?, or fully formed into a tool created to accomplish all purpose in this life?
A few years ago, I lost my Craftsman hand drill. My kids had my drill in a boat as we were doing some work. As we made our way back across the lake, my tool feel into the bottom of the lake. I was mad. Mad at the kids, “I just said, ‘be careful!’” I was mad at myself, “Why didn’t I just put the tool away.” That evening, I came back to the lake with a snorkel and goggles, there was a man and his son watching this crazy guy wade out into the lake. I dove deeply into the lake looking for my lost tool. It had fallen somewhere in the midst of a giant forest of seaweed. I would come up for air and get very weird looks from the fisherman and his son. I would dive down again, and then… Suddenly, I felt my hand grasp the handle. I pushed my way back up to the surface. As I burst through the surface of the water, I screamed, “I found it!! It was lost, but I found it!!!” Then I pulled the trigger, and… “IT WORKED!!!” I yelled out, “I LOVE CRAFTSMAN!! What was lost has now been found…” The fisherman and his son looked very nervous now! I loved this tool enough to go after it when it was lost. Easter is the same. God made you and I, but we were lost, he dove down into our world and searched for us, died for us, and when we are found and choose to trust Him, God cheers and celebrates that you are “back” with him, in relationship with him.
It all comes down to 1 question, “Can I trust the blacksmith with my life?” Do I trust him knowing he’s been in the fire with me? Do I trust him to use the fire and pounding of this life how to make me into a beautifully crafted tool of purpose? Will I admit that I was a tool that was lost, but he found? The Blacksmith pulls Beautiful Things out of the fire… and out of the water?