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Early at the Foot of the Cross

Matt. 27:33-38; Mark 15:22-28; Luke 23:33-38; John 19:17-23

Victor M. Eskew




A.    Our last lesson brought us to “the place of the skull” (Matt. 27:33; Mark 15:22: Luke 23:33; John 19:17).

1.        The Hebrews referred to it as Golgotha.

2.       The Romans called it Calvary.

a.       This name is only found once in Scripture (Luke 23:33).

b.      However, this is the most common name for the place of the execution of Jesus today.


B.      In the Garden of Gethsemane, there was anguish and resignation.

In the court system, there was injustice and the sentence of death.

We now come to the cross.  There will be brutality and pain.


C.     We have entitled this lesson:  “Early at the Foot of the Cross.”  We will be looking at six points in this lesson.


I.             THE SIMPLE WORDS (Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:33; John 19:18)


A.    Jesus was going to be executed by means of crucifixion.

1.        The Romans had perfected this practice so that the victim could live and suffer for days upon the cross.

2.       Jesus’s hands were nailed to the cross beam.  His feet were nailed to the vertical pole.  These were not just any nails.  They were spikes.

3.       The cross would be lifted up and dropped into a hole that was dug to secure the cross in an upright fashion.

4.       The up and down motion of the victim would soon begin.  He would push up on the nail in his feet to breathe in.  He would sag upon the nails in his hands as he breathed out.

a.       He would have hung naked upon the cross.

b.      Jesus’ shredded back would have felt the rough texture of the tree as he moved up and down.


B.      The brutality of the crucifixion and the horror of this moment is summed up in four simple words written by the gospel writers:  “And they crucified him” (Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:33; John 19:18).


C.     We might ask:  “Why wasn’t the crucifixion elaborated upon more by the Holy Spirit?”

1.        We will not know the answer to that question in this life.

2.       Perhaps it was because when the gospels were written, crucifixion was well understood by those who read about it.


D.    It was a place of shame.

It was a place of embarrassment.

It was a place of humiliation.

It was a place of brutality.

It was a place of great pain.

It was a place of torment.

It was a place of the shedding of blood.

It was a place of death.


E.      Galatians 3:13


Christ hath redeemed us from the cruse of the law, being made a curse for us:  for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.


II.           THE SAYING OF FORGIVENESS (Luke 23:34)


A.    Jesus is now hanging just above the crowd, and He is the first to speak.  (NOTE:  Only Luke records this first of seven sayings of Jesus).


B.      Here are His words:


Then said Jesus, Father forgive them for they know not what they do…


C.     Amazing!  Astonishing!  Incredible!  How???  How could such words spring from the heart of one who had been falsely accused, rejected, ridiculed, and shown such injustice?


D.    Here is the heart of God.

Here is the love of God.

He is the desire of God.


E.      God wants all men to be forgiven of their transgressions. 

He wants no one to be lost.

He does not want to condemn any (I Tim. 2:3-4).


For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.


F.      Another lesson involves the ignorance of man.  Jesus said:  “…for they know not what they do.”  So many still do not know what they are doing.

1.        They, too, reject the Son of God.

2.       They worship false gods.

3.       They worship in vain teaching for the doctrines the commandments of men.

4.       Hosea was right (Hos. 4:6).


My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…


III.         THE SOLDIERS TAKE JESUS’ GARMENTS (Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:35; John 19:23-24).


A.    Jesus’ voice would have been the strongest at this point in the crucifixion.  Surely, those near the cross heard the words of forgiveness.  Let’s turn out attention to the foot of the cross to see the reaction of the people.


B.      Let’s first look at the soldiers.  All four gospel writers mention their actions.  John, however, gives the most complete account (John 19:23-24).



Then the soldiers when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat:  now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.  They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose is shall be…


1.        The soldiers had removed Jesus’ clothing from him and divided it among themselves, even if it involved tearing the garments.

2.       But, they came to Jesus coat and cast lots for it.

a.       This was His inner garment.

b.      It was woven from top to bottom.  It was seamless.  It had value.  It could have possibly been a gift that someone had given to our Lord.

c.       Thus, the soldiers cast lots for it.  The text does not reveal which soldier received the coat.

d.      LESSON:

1)       They recognized the value of a coat, but not the value of God’s Son.

2)      They would not tear the coat, but did not hesitate to rend the body of Jesus.

3)      They were more concerned about a garment than the grace of God.

4)      POINT:  How often do we get caught up in the things of the world instead of our attention begin focused on Jesus and what He has done for us?

3.       It is interesting that this action fulfilled a prophecy concerning the Messiah (John 19:24b)


…that the Scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, they parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots.  These things therefore the soldiers did.


a.       The passage is found in the Messianic psalm, 22, verse 18. 

b.      QUESTION:  Did any of the Jewish leaders who were present witness this action of the soldiers?  Were they reminded of the words of David about the Messiah in Psalm 22?

c.       God was still screaming to the Jews, this is your long anticipated Messiah.


IV.        THE SCORNING BY THE MOB (Luke 23:35-37; Matt. 27:34; Mark 15;23)


A.    Surely the Jews will come to their senses.  Surely, they will see Jesus as the Messiah through His words and by means of the fulfillment of prophecy. 


B.      No so!  They just continue their vicious attacks on Him through their poisoned mouths (Luke 23:35).


And the people stood beholding.  And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be the Christ, the chosen of God.


1.        Deride:  to turn up the nose, to sneer outright.

2.       Their test was His saving His own self. 

3.       Little did they know that He could have (John 10:18).

Little did they know that rather than choosing to save Himself, He chose to save them instead.


C.     The soldiers were also part of this derision (John 19:36-37).

1.        They first offered Jesus sour wine or vinegar (Luke 23:36).  It was mingled with gall (Matt. 27:34), a mild pain killer, and myrrh (Mark 15:23).  Matthew tells us:  “…and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.”

2.       They also spoke these words:  “If thou be the King of the Jews, save thyself.


V.          THE SIGN ABOVE THE CROSS (Matt. 27:37; Mark 15:25; Luke 23:38; John 19:19-21)


A.    All four gospel writers mention the sign that was put above the head of Jesus.  The complete sign appears to have read:  JESUS OF NAZARETH.  THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.


B.      Again, John’s gospel provides us with the most details (John 19:19-22).

1.        The author (John 19:19a)


And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross.


a.       It was Pilate who wrote the sign that was placed above Jesus’ head on the cross.

b.      We will always wonder:

1)       Was it written to warn others not to claim authority against Rome?

2)      Was it written to antagonize the Jews?

3)      Was it written in sincerity because of what he learned during the trial?

2.       The affirmation (John 19:19b)




a.       This was the charge the Jews brought to Pilate.

b.      Remember, Nazareth was a despised town.  This sign brought further reproach on the city.  The one who was from Nazareth and who claimed to be a King was now being despised.

3.       The awareness (John 19:20)

a.       Many Jews (John 19:20a)


This title then read many of the Jews; for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city…


1)       It would cause them deep concern.

2)      It would fuel their anger against the crucified Christ.

b.      Multiple languages (John 19:20b)


…and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.


1)       Hebrew was the language of the Jews.

2)      Greek was the common language of the day.

3)      Latin was the language of the Romans.

4.       The argument (John 19:21-22)

a.       The plea (John 19:21)


The said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews, but that he said, I am King of the Jews.


1)       The Jews did not want the sign expressed as a fact.

2)      They wanted it expressed as the claim of Jesus.

b.      The position (John 19:22


Pilate answered, What I have written, I have written.


1)       Pilate asserted his power before the Jews on this occasion.  It would have been better for him to have done this throughout the entire trial.

2)      The sign remained the same.


VI.        THE SAVIOR BETWEEN TWO THIEVES (Matt. 27:38; Mark 15:27-28; Luke 23:33; John 19:18)


A.    The final section of this lesson returns to the two thieves that were with Jesus that day.


B.      They, too, were crucified (Mark 15:27).


And with him they crucified two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on the left.


1.        These men were rightly suffering punishment.  They were thieves.

2.       They are never named in the Biblical text.

3.       They play a very crucial role in the crucifixion.


C.     Initially, they assist our Lord in fulfilling prophecy (Mark 15:28).


And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.


1.        The scripture is found in Isaiah 53:12. 

a.       It is part of a prophecy about the suffering servant.

b.      The question we ask is:  “How did Isaiah know that the Messiah would be numbered with the transgressors?”  He knew it through divine revelation given to him by God who saw down the corridor of time to the cross of Calvary.

c.       QUESTION:  Did any of the Jewish leaders recall this prophecy.  A multitude of things were happening that should have alerted the Jews to Jesus’ true identity.  Their hatred, however, clouds their reasoning.

2.       It is difficult for us to watch the Son of God placed in the middle of two thieves as if He were just like them.




A.    The crucifixion is now under way.


B.      Mark reveals the time of the initial execution (Mark 15:24b).


And it was about the third hour and they crucified him.


C.     It is going to be long day for all at Calvary, especially for our Lord.

1.        Awful things will be said.

2.       Unique events will transpire.

3.       People will make some changes.

4.       Jesus will speak six more times.

5.       And, death will eventually come to our Lord.