Pastor Mark Driscoll is a Jesus-following, mission-leading, church-serving, people-loving, Bible-preaching pastor. With a skillful mix of bold presentation, accessible teaching, and unrelenting compassion for those who are hurting the most particularly women who are victims of sexual and physical abuse and assault.
“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” – Jesus in Luke 6:26-28
To discover what people who do not go to church think about people who do go to church, I had six focus groups gathered by a professional moderator in three major U.S. cities who recorded their conversations with their permission. Admittedly, sprinkled among these negative comments were occasional positive remarks about a specific aspect of Christianity or acts done by Christians. But these comments were few and often subdued. One participant noted that she held mixed feelings despite having a relatively positive experience with Christianity in the past:
“I think of a lot of my former friends because I used to be involved in the church. A lot of my former friends are more like, I don’t know, medium-tempered Christians. That was my experience with it, so I think of them. My first reaction is like, ‘Oh, my old friends. I wonder how they’re doing.’ It was a part of my past so it’s almost close to me—but part of me is also—because of my history with it—it’s like half ick.”
Then there were decidedly negative thoughts about Christianity, like this comment from a woman in Austin:
“I feel it’s very stifling and it’s not very open, and it was almost designed to be a group of people to go against a lot of other types of faiths. I think a lot of times Christianity is just this overarching thing that is almost like something to be scared of because of what the Christian church has done…. It breeds hate and intolerance and fear. You’re teaching children that if you mess up you go to hell. You’re teaching people to help other people so that you don’t go to hell and to ostracize people.”
“I think when you go into a place that Christianity is the major influence, it’s not that everyone is super nice and sweet and friendly and living the way that Jesus taught you. I don’t think that Jesus really even has that much to do with Christianity now. I think that a lot of times, it’s judgment, and that people who have nowhere else to go to answer these questions. Instead of looking inside themselves, they look for authority in the church. I think that it gives people an excuse to be hateful to other people and to feel like they’re better than them…. And the rules of how they treat women too—it’s very overwhelming and I think that’s why Christianity almost seems like this dark cloud to me when I hear it.”
The responses from the other focus groups for men and women in other places were similar. Christianity was “a turn off” and “a bunch of rules.” Others said, “Conversion, coercion, it’s the same.” One added, “It’s like radical Muslims in that there’s no talking to them. Nothing is up for discussion.”
CHRISTIANS ARE BRAINWASHED IDIOTS
Another common assumption that emerged in every group is that Christianity is intellectually inferior to other beliefs. As Daniel in San Francisco said:
“Where are these people coming from? Where are we drawing these Christians from? Is it from here? Is it from Missouri? I guess what I’m saying is that the label itself is almost meaningless. Unless we were talking about the average American Christian, which I see as… they’re white people. They’re from the middle of the country. They have not very progressive views. They have probably very regressive views about social and cultural issues. I’d say they’re probably less intellectual, less curious, less affluent. Those are all the things that I think about when I think about the average American Christian.”
When it came to making decisions, participants argued that Christians are unable to think for themselves:
One man in San Francisco said, “I don’t care what [the Bible] is telling you to do. What do you feel internally? What do you actually believe, and then go with that. Be true to yourself. Screw this whole other higher power that you think is telling you to do something. I want you to do what you feel is right.”
In Phoenix a woman said: “They’re [Christians] saying that this is the authority, this is the one in charge. How can that be when ultimately it’s my decision and I’m in charge of my own self, my own choices?”
A man in Phoenix said: “A lot of people lean on religion, or Christianity to say, ‘Christianity told me that I can’t commit sins, I shouldn’t adulterize [sic], I shouldn’t murder, and I shouldn’t steal,’ and that kind of thing. I don’t feel, for me personally, that I need that to tell me, the religion or Christianity to tell me, that I shouldn’t be doing these things.”
And getting right to the point, another woman in Austin said: “In Christianity you’re essentially closing off your common sense and closing down your ability to think and you’re worshiping an idea or a book or a thought. Christianity itself is based on the idea that you can’t trust yourself because you are bad. Common sense, your primal feelings, your primal actions, your primal desires can’t be trusted.”
The conversations occasionally dripped with academic snobbery, including a man in Boston who said of most Americans who identify as Christians:
“I bet we’re all college educated. I don’t want to say all of us, but some of us have beyond college educations. The average American is not college educated. College education equates to 25 percent of the population. Seventy-five percent have not gone to college. The vast majority are idiots.”
How should Christians respond to a world that thinks we are immoral idiots? That is the complex question for our troubled times.
This series of 30 daily devotions are adapted from the first chapters of Pastor Mark Driscoll’s new book “Christians Might Be Crazy” available exclusively at markdriscoll.org for a tax-deductible gift to Mark Driscoll Ministries. For your gift of any amount, we will email you a digital copy of the book (available worldwide) and also send you a paperback copy of the book (U.S. residents only). Pastor Mark also has a corresponding six-part sermon series that you can find for free at markdriscoll.org or on the free Mark Driscoll Ministries app. Thank you in advance for your partnership which helps people learn that It’s All About Jesus! For our monthly partners who give a recurring gift each month, this premium content will be automatically sent.
“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I [Jesus] have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
Telling everyday people that I am a Christian—much less a pastor— ranks as one of the top 10 worst things to say at a party. It is a conversation stopper. I might as well say I do animal testing for a cosmetic company.
I understand why the conversation shuts down. I was briefly a Catholic altar boy who did not meet Jesus until I was a 19-year-old college student. I once had a long list of my own problems with Christianity, and I would have felt uncomfortable discussing them with a pastor. So, I’m not surprised that non-Christians who do speak up often pull their punches in an e ort to be polite in person. While I appreciate that consideration, I would prefer to get their thoughts about Christianity unedited. This is not so I can crush their argument, but so I can respond with truth, grace, and, above all, love.
A growing number of people who profess to be Christians have beliefs that are often at odds with historical biblical Christianity. This is particularly true of younger generations. What began as the Emergent Church many years ago has expanded to include so-called Red Letter Christians, Progressive Christians, Inclusive or Accepting Evangelicals, and the Spiritual but not Religious folks, to name a few.
The sentiments driving these groups seem to be an underlying current of deep dissatisfaction with Christianity combined with an unwillingness to abandon it in total. In the meantime, expect their e orts to be trumpeted as prophetic acuity by the Left and pathetic apostasy by the Right. Time will tell, but maybe an entirely new religion will emerge from these Christian movements, much like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons in the past, claiming to still be Christian but rejected by mainstream Christianity.
Regardless what the future holds for such movements, I think it’s clear that the research captured a sentiment and mood regarding historical biblical Christianity that has existed for some time and is just now welding into a moral, political, and spiritual coalition because of the current political and social pressure.
But why now? What has changed that seems to be unifying people’s underlying objections to Christianity into an increasingly unified and combative voice? In part, I think the right atmosphere has been made possible by such things as blogging, social media, and other platforms which allow people to gather into hives online with their own version of the Queen Bee—that is, their own version of whose view is right or perhaps more importantly, whose is wrong. At times, multiple hives can then swarm together like bees to attack a common enemy. For most people, a bee sting or two is not deadly. Hundreds of stings, however, is an entirely different matter. So it is in our digital day where hate, intolerance, and fear are on the rise.
While the phone survey revealed people’s most common objections to Christianity, it didn’t reveal why they held those objections. For that insight, I wanted faces instead of numbers. We needed free- owing conversations rather than one-sided responses. As an objective means to that end, I commissioned focus groups of men and women in four major U.S. cities: San Francisco, Phoenix, Austin, and Boston. These eight focus groups met for roughly two hours each. Most had eight or nine participants, ages 18–44, with an emphasis on 25- to 34-year-olds. Each group was moderated by Susan Saurage-Altenloh, who has personally facilitated more than 1,700 focus groups on a wide variety of subjects in her nearly three decades of work leading Saurage Research, Inc.
Focus group participants all had at least a high school diploma. Roughly two-thirds held a college degree. The majority was Unchurched—that is, these people do not attend either a Protestant or Catholic church, nor have they ever. Some were Dechurched, maybe attending as a kid or at some other time in life, but not anymore. A few Dechurched folks reported going to church for holidays or other occasional visits. The groups included adherents of other religions as well, along with a good mix of Nones who classify themselves as spiritual but not religious.
Notably, participants also included some folks who seemed like they’d be fun to spend a few hours with eating chicken wings and throwing darts. Melissa in Phoenix introduced herself saying, “I’m a mom of three. I have a 17-, 15-, and 12-year-old. I am married to my partner. Been married for a little over 15 years to my wife…. I’m probably an extreme individual. I wouldn’t choose life any other way. Born into a Jehovah’s Witness family with a Baptist father. A good mix. I choose not to go to church today. Swear to God.” Melissa seemed like she’d have fun camp re stories to share.
Lee in Boston jumped in to the conversation saying, “I’ve had a lot of great conversations, for instance, with what I would frankly call ‘more cool,’ laid back Christians, who identify themselves as being very religious, but for example, they have no issue talking openly and plainly with me and my husband. They don’t recoil, like ‘Oh my god, I’m talking to a gay, I might catch the gay.’ That kind of thing. Then there’s the other end of the extreme, like the people who instantly yell out at my husband and me, ‘Repent, ye sinners!’… Things like that are a very big turnoff to me.” Lee was honest, even gracious, and consistently revealed a great sense of humor and wit.
CHRISTIANITY IS VERY OPPRESSIVE
The aim of each focus group was to generate honest conversations about Christianity. Participants were asked about four key concepts used by a number of evangelical Christian groups to de ne Christianity—the Bible, the cross, activism, and conversion.
Bible The Old and New Testaments are the authoritative source for all matters of faith.
Cross God died as a man to save sinners.
Activism Belief in Jesus Christ should lead to practical change in how a person lives and treats others.
Conversion People must be converted to faith in Jesus to escape eternal punishment.
In each group, the moderator explained the goals and ground rules before asking the first question: “What are your thoughts when I say ‘Christians’ and ‘Christianity’ and ‘the Church’ and ‘Jesus’?” What we heard in response was nearly all negative. Many of the women in Austin, for example, said things like:
“I have a negative connotation with all of those words. I feel like they might try to recruit me or the place might go up in flames when I walk through the door. I feel judgment.”
“Part of me goes on the defensive. I feel like I have to defend myself.”
“When you say you’re Jewish, people try to convert you, and it’s like, ‘Okay, met the guy. Not interested. Thank you.’”
“Pushy and unrespectful [sic], because growing up I just felt like I was pushed into going to church.”
“The evil Southern Baptists. There are great Southern Baptists that you drink beer with, and then there are the evil ones that you just want to get away from.”
“I often associate those words with extremists. Though I know that that’s not the case—I have lots of friends who are Christian and go to church every Sunday—but those words generally tell me the extremist view. Extremists of all religions terrify me. It almost invokes fear in me.”
“The concept of Christianity is very oppressive, and it ****es me off most days.”
Loving our neighbors includes sticking around to hear their honest impressions and questions. As soon as you are outted as a Christian in some social setting, people tend to hide what they really think about your faith. Sure, rare people start a discussion. A few want to let us have it on the spot. But the average person wants to sit down and talk about Christianity about as badly as they want to sit next to someone on a flight who has a nagging cough caused by the flu. That’s why we need to find a safe way for real folks to have real conversations about what they really feel about Christianity.
The Bible predicted that Jesus would be in the grave for three days. However, Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and rose on Easter Sunday… If you are confused about how that adds up to three, you aren’t alone.
Today, Pastor Mark answers this common question as we get ready for Easter.
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. – 1 Corinthians 3:18-19
“Yeah, Christians might be crazy.”
That was my honest answer to the guy who asked if I had considered I might be nuttier than a Planters factory. I had just finished preaching that God had become a man, was born of a virgin, lived without sin, cast out demons, healed the sick, waterskied without a boat, died on a cross for the world’s sins, rose three days later, ate breakfast, hung out for 40 days, and ascended to heaven to take His throne and rule over creation until He returns to judge the living and the dead.
The guy was new to church. I had spent an hour highlighting the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But this non-Christian felt like he had wandered into a lecture at the Flat Earth Society.
This guy and I did not agree on whether or not the Bible was true, but we did agree it sounds odd if you stop to think about it. As he processed the sermon, he doubled back to make sure he heard me right:
“If there is a God living in heaven, why would He come down here to work some dead-end job?”
“Virgins don’t have babies.”
“Nobody is perfect. How could anyone conclude that about Jesus?”
“How in the world can some guy just do miracles?” “So all our sin got hung on Jesus?”
“Dead people don’t come back unless it’s in some crazy zombie horror film.”
“You think I’m going to hell to burn forever?”
After he unloaded those thoughts, there was a silence like an awkward elevator ride. The look on his face was exactly what you would expect if I had told him I was a taco.
My first instinct was to spin my message to make the Bible more reasonable to a secular worldview. I could soften some claims and smooth out some of the rougher edges. But I had preached what I actually think—what God’s Word actually says—so I owned it.
“That’s what I believe,” I said.
“Did you ever consider that you might be crazy?” he politely replied.
I couldn’t help but laugh as I responded, “Yeah, Christians might be crazy.” I appreciated his honesty, and I told him so. I respected his effort to understand what Christians believe even if he didn’t accept it.
Our conversations were incredibly helpful to me as a pastor. He had provocative questions. He was open about his disagreements. And the more we talked, the more we understood each other, even though our views remained at odds. Sensing that Christians would benefit from more insights like this conversation lead to a research project and now a book and sermon series called Christians Might Be Crazy.
I was hoping to release the findings of the massive project along with a book some years ago, but a complicated season kept that from happening. As I’ve thought and prayed about it, though, I’ve come to believe that God intervened specifically to keep this project for this time—the painful culture war that we’re now living through—so that these findings would find an eager audience among believers struggling to genuinely and effectively live out their faith in a culture turning against it.
This research was conducted in 2013, before the 2016 presidential election that ushered in the current culture war. Perhaps the findings of this research were a bit prophetic, revealing what was on the horizon and what has now become our current political, moral, and spiritual crisis. If the research is in fact accurate, then a deep and profound tectonic spiritual shift was well under way in Western culture and has since erupted onto the surface.
Another recent shift that has precipitated the release of this project was the passing of Billy Graham, the beloved Christian leader who helped de ne evangelicalism to generations of Americans. His passing leaves in question what will become of that movement. Widely associated with the political Right, evangelicalism now lacks a singular primary leader, and it seems impossible in the current contentious climate that anyone will be able to assume the mantle Billy Graham gracefully carried for so many years.
But it’s precisely because of these massive changes and the uncertainty of what lies ahead that I believe the time is right to provide a thorough, researched, and charitable analysis of spirituality, morality, and politics in America—to help Christians reengage our culture with the authentic, life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
To get at people’s real questions, I commissioned a rigorous study examining the attitudes and perceptions of Christianity among the Unchurched Nones and Dechurched Dones.
The Unchurched Nones attend worship services every few months—or less—and did not regularly attend worship services at any point of their life, including as a child.
The Dechurched Dones attend worship services every few months— or less—but at some point in their life regularly attended worship services, including as a child.
For reliability and credibility, we secured one of the world’s leading market research firms to conduct the survey. GfK Public A airs & Corporate Communications randomly dialed 913,425 telephone numbers to obtain a reliable and nationally representative sample of a thousand Unchurched Nones and Dechurched Dones. Three-quarters of the survey participants were Dechurched Dones. One quarter was Unchurched Nones. The people who took the call and engaged in conversations that lasted an average of 12 minutes were all between ages 18 and 44, with a median age of 31. Here is an overview of what we discovered:
Religious Affiliation (“Which of the following best describes your religious affiliation?”)
Other religion: 13%
No religion: 30%
Christian History (“Have you ever, at any time in your life, affiliated with the Christian religion, or not?”)
Yes, a Christian: 60%
No, not a Christian: 39%
Religious Participation (“How often do you attend worship services, not including special events such as weddings, funerals, or major religious holidays such as Easter, Yom Kippur, or Ramadan?”)
Every few months: 13%
Once in a while: 50%
Childhood Religious Participation (“As a child, did you ever attend worship services regularly—by regularly we mean at least once a month or not?”)
Yes: 75% (Dechurched)
No: 25% (Unchurched)
People who identified as Christians: 77%
People who identified as non-Christians: 22%
When we undertook this survey, my main objective was to discover the primary objections to Christianity from the Unchurched Nones and Dechurched Dones. The following list of their objections comes from a subset of the survey, those people interviewed who claim to be Christians. This research reveals that, in addition to non-Christians, even those who say they are Christians are opposed to beliefs that are historically held by mainstream, Bible-based Christians from a wide variety of denominations and traditions. Participants named numerous objections, but seven rose to the top and we will explore them in more detail throughout this series.
TOP SEVEN OBJECTIONS TO CHRISTIANITY
1. Some Christian groups are too intolerant.
2. The Christian faith and I have different views on social issues like abortion or gay marriage.
3. I don’t like how some Christian groups meddle in politics.
4. Many Christians are hypocrites.
5. There are lots of religions, and I’m not sure only one has to be the right way.
6. Christians believe that all people are not created equal.
7. I don’t share the beliefs that the Christian faith tells me I should.
The Dechurched Dones and Unchurched Nones listed the same top five objections to Christianity in the exact same order. The survey showed that older participants objected to Christianity less because their views differed with Christianity and more because of the intolerance they perceive in Christians. The survey showed that men and women posed similar objections to Christianity, yet women objected more often to perceived intolerance while men disliked Christians meddling in politics.
“My kingdom is not of this world.” – Jesus in John 18:36
“You don’t want to know.”
That was my British friend’s answer to my question, “What do Brits think about politics and culture in America right now?” He shared his thoughts as we sat munching on nachos in Dallas, Texas. Born in Africa, living in London, and often traveling the world, he said that most people outside of the States are utterly shocked and ultimately confused by the acrimony in America.
I explained to him that America is currently one big dysfunctional divorced family. As one social commentator rightly said, the Republicans on the Right are the Daddy party and the Democrats on the Left are the Mommy party. Those who feel unsafe vote for Daddy to increase military spending, crack down on crime, and protect the family. Those who feel uncared for vote for Mommy to increase social spending to improve health care, housing, and education.
So in our last election, some would say, the family of America was forced to choose between a mommy and a daddy. Many would say the choice was between a bad mommy and a bad daddy.
The election was a bitter custody dispute to decide who would keep the house (in this case the White House) and get custody of the kids now that Mommy and Daddy were officially divorced and not going to reconcile.
THE DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA
Today, we’re living in the aftermath of that bitter divorce. Mom and Dad really don’t like each other, and all the kids know it. Some of the kids sided with Dad and think crooked and conniving Mom is to blame for all the pains and problems we’re suffering. Some of the kids sided with Mom and think Dad is a domineering and dangerous bully. Some of the kids are caught in the middle, overwhelmed with stress and anxiety because they can’t bear to see the family always fighting. While still other kids ran away from home and are trying to ignore everyone and everything because they’re just sick of being drawn into all the family drama.
How about you? Did you side with Dad or Mom? Are you trying to bring the family together, or have you checked out and decided to run away?
Wherever you fall, if you’re a Christian, you likely feel the precariousness of how this defective situation affects your faith—particularly what it means for how you live it out in public. Most believers aren’t able to wholeheartedly endorse the dysfunction on the Left with Mom or on the Right with Dad. We live in a very polarized culture, which seems more divided than ever. And I even sense that spirit and attitude seeping into the evangelical church. Many people are afraid to identify with any group—be it political, religious, or ideological—as they could be attacked for it.
Add to this climate the overwhelming and often negative effect of the 24- hour news cycle and constant social media bombardment, and you begin to see a society at its breaking point.
But the heart of the matter is still the same, and that means our heart as Christians cannot change. Despite all the apocalyptic rhetoric, I’ve discovered as a pastor that most individuals are still concerned with the issues that affect them personally: family, finances, work, and finding fulfillment and meaning in life. People have their own problems and need help. They’re looking for strong teaching that can encourage and equip them to keep going. They long to become overcomers, instead of merely being overcome. This provides the church an opportunity to do something especially unique in our day: to be a healthy loving family where disagreements result in discussion but don’t require divorce. In an age where seemingly everything is political—including entertainment, sports, and even funerals—you and I can be a third family, the family of God. Made up of members of the Left and the Right who love one another and seek to honor the same Father who is over the entire family, we can speak life and hope into our broken culture.
Sadly, as you’ll see in our project findings, many people think that Christianity is old, outdated, and irrelevant. But in fact, Christianity is timeless and its biblical message is always timely. Writing to a church in a culture just as fractured, frustrated, and faulty as ours, an early Christian leader who was familiar with riots and prison said that there are only two ways to live your life: You can plug your soul into the world of godlessness, or you can plug your soul into the Spirit of God.
If you plug your soul into the godless world, Paul promises that you will experience the following: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Gal. 5:19–21). Sound familiar? This is a natural life. This is Western culture, especially in America.
If you plug your soul into the Spirit of God, Paul promises that you will experience the following: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23). Sound fanciful? This is a supernatural life. This is Kingdom culture where Christians choose to live by the power of God’s Spirit.
That’s the life you and I are called to lead today.
So what does a supernatural, spiritual life look like? It looks like Jesus. Jesus lived under the godless rule of Rome, was constantly harassed by mobs, suffered smear campaigns against Himself and His mother, was falsely accused, wrongly tried, declared guilty though He was perfect, and murdered amidst a cheering riot.
As a Bible-teaching pastor, I have great news for you. You may not change the world from being an ugly place, but you can keep the world from changing you into an ugly person. The key is to live by the same power that Jesus did. You can experience God’s power, have emotional health, and live a fruitful life that feeds others hope and joy in a starving world filled with grief and fear—and you can do that in today’s culture. Helping you embrace and pursue that mission is the aim of the Christians Might Be Crazy project.
John 19:31-37 – “Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
Despite his young age and good health, Jesus was so physically devastated from his sleepless night, miles of walking, severe beating and scourging that he was unable to carry his cross alone. A man named Simon of Cyrene was appointed to carry Jesus’ cross. Upon arriving at his place of crucifixion, they pulled Jesus’ beard out—an act of ultimate disrespect in ancient cultures—spat on him and mocked him in front of his family and friends.
Jesus the carpenter, who had driven many nails into wood with his own hands, then had 5-7 inch, rough, metal spikes driven into the most sensitive nerve centers on the human body, through his hands and feet. Jesus was nailed to his wooden cross. His body twitched involuntarily as he screamed in sheer agony.
Jesus was then lifted up, and his cross dropped into a prepared hole, causing his body to shake violently on the spikes. In further mockery, a sign was posted above Jesus that said, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19). A painting later discovered from a second century Roman graffito further shows the disrespect of Jesus at his crucifixion. The painting depicts the head of a jackass on Jesus’ body being crucified, with a man standing alongside of it with his arms raised. The caption reads, “Alexamenos worships his god.”
At this point during a crucifixion, the victims labored to breath as their body went into shock. Naked and embarrassed, the victims would often use their remaining strength to seek revenge on the crowd of mockers who had gathered to jeer them. They would curse at their tormentors while urinating and spitting on them. Some victims would become so overwhelmed with pain that they would become incontinent, and a pool of sweat, blood, urine, and feces would gather at the base of their cross.
Jesus’ crucifixion was a hideously grotesque scene. Hundreds of years in advance, the prophet Isaiah saw it this way: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isa. 53:3–4).
Crucifixion was painfully slow death by asphyxiation. As the victim hung on the cross, they would struggle to fill their lungs with air and pass in and out of consciousness. To gather air, they would push themselves up on the spikes through their feet. To hasten death for such things as a holy day, soldiers would break the victims’ legs hastening their suffocation. Jesus legs were not broken in fulfilment of prophecy. Exodus 12:46 said, “Do not break any of the [Passover lamb’s] bones.” Psalm 34:20 said, “…he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.” The final Scripture quoted is from Zechariah 12:10, “they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him.”
The spear through Jesus’ side ensured He was dead. This fact makes it laughable when proponents of the “swoon theory”, including some Muslim scholars, purport that Jesus did not die but merely passed out on the cross.
At the cross, we see the full revelation of the evil of this world and love of God. If Jesus walked the earth today, we’d kill Him again and, to add to the pain, we’d livestream it and then gloat about it on social media while advertisers profited from His pain.
What most shocks you about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ?
John 19:28-30 – “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
As a new Christian in college, I had a strong desire to learn the Bible. Out of pure personal enjoyment, I spent far more time diligently reading the Bible than any of the textbooks for my classes. I can still remember reading about the crucifixion of Jesus as a freshman and thinking that the giving of Him a drink on the cross was a kind thing to do. I thought the same thing until one fateful day many years later.
Our family led a tour of the places mentioned throughout the New Testament in modern day Israel, Turkey, and Greece. We hired a professor of history to help us learn and were overwhelmed by the archaeological dig in the ancient city of Ephesus. It is likely the most intact excavation of any ancient city and breathtaking to explore.
In the middle of the ancient city was a large public restroom. The seats were marble and under the seats were open areas that seemed odd. Curious, I asked the professor what the open areas were for. He explained that slaves would use that hole to reach under the person who had gone to the bathroom to scrub them using a long stick with a sponge on the end that had been dipped in sour wine as an antiseptic to kill the bacteria.
In that moment, I remembered the words of John 19:28-30. I asked the professor if that was this what was shoved into Jesus’ mouth to shut Him up and stop talking about forgiveness. He had not seemed to make the connection before but said it was likely. In his studies, the ancient soldiers in that day had as part of their field kit a sponge that they used to scrub with after going to the bathroom and they too would have dipped it in wine vinegar to kill germs. So, it seems when Jesus spoke in Psalm 69:21, “I thirst”, a soldier thought it would be fun to stick his sponge in Jesus’ mouth to add insult to injury. With this taste on His mouth, Jesus then declared “It is finished” as He laid down His life for our sin. Importantly, Jesus died as a victor and not a victim as He’d promised earlier in John 10:18. “No one takes it from me but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”
If you believe Jesus died for your sin, take a few moments right now and thank Him from the heart.
John 19:25-27 – “standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”
I will never forget the look on my wife’s face each time she held one of our newly born five children. The look of love, devotion, concern, and affection radiated from her. Holding each of our babies, she counted 10 fingers and 10 toes. Jesus’ mother Mary likely did the same thing, not foreseeing that one day those same hands and feet would be nailed to a Roman cross.
Hanging, perhaps at eye level, Jesus and Mary were in anguish. Since her husband Joseph is not mentioned after the earliest years of Jesus life, many think she was a widowed single mother. Although Jesus has half-sisters and brothers, none are mentioned to be present at His death. Standing with Mary is her sister who is Jesus’ aunt. These are the only members mentioned from Jesus’ biological family.
Standing with them watching in horror, are Jesus’ spiritual family members. Mary Magdalene was a woman devoted to Jesus’ ministry. Also present was John, Jesus’ best friend and the “one whom Jesus loved”. John was the epitome of Proverbs 18:24, “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” The fact that Jesus assigned John to pastor His mom tells us everything we need to know about the care and character of John.
Judas stopped following Jesus. Peter followed Jesus at a distance. But, John followed Jesus closely until the end. Writing John’s Gospel as an older man many years later, he was the last living disciple and remained faithful to His Friend and Lord until the end. John serves as an example and encouragement that you can follow Jesus faithfully as a friend.
What do you think the hardest part was for Mary to watch Jesus die on the cross?
“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.”
At first read, it is easy to come to the concern that if you lose your salvation, you can never get it back.
Take a deep dive with Pastor Mark into the Bible, learn the importance of context, and the difference between an immature Christian and a non-Christian.
I will never forget one of my first Bible studies as a new Christian in college. Our pastor had a humble spirit and a brilliant mind with a PhD in Hebrew. Sitting in a circle with maybe a dozen other young men, the few months he spent carefully taking us through the Old Testament showing us prophecy after prophecy about Jesus Christ shocked my mind, changed my soul, and altered my life.
Perhaps the greatest argument for the divine inspiration and perfection of the Bible is the fulfilment of prophecy. Roughly 25 percent of the Bible was prophetic when written, predicting the future and preparing God’s people for it.
On this point, one scholar has said of the Bible, “The ancient world had many different devices for determining the future, known as divination, but not the entire gamut of Greek and Latin literature, even though they use the words prophet and prophecy, can we find any real specific prophecy of a great historic event to come in the distant future, nor any prophecy of a Savior to arise in the human race . . . [Islam] cannot point to any prophecies of the coming of Mohammed uttered hundreds of years before his birth. Neither can the founder of any cult . . . rightly identify any ancient text specifically foretelling their appearance.” 
Regarding the importance of prophetic biblical prophecy about Jesus, Bible scholar J. Dwight Pentecost says, “some people have given such intensive study to the subject of prophecy that they have completely missed seeing the Lord Jesus Christ in their study of the Word. The Scripture was given to us to reveal Him. He is its Theme. He is the Center about which all the Scripture revolves…The first great result of the study of prophecy is that the prophetic Scriptures prove to us the authority of the entire Word of God. The Bible is different from every other religious book. There is no other book upon which a religion has been founded which includes prophecy within it…There is no greater test or proof of the inspiration, validity, authority, and trustworthiness of the Bible than the proof of fulfilled prophecy.” 
In our lengthy study of John’s gospel, we discover one example of fulfilled prophecy in John 19:23-24. When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things.
This was a fulfilment of prophecies given roughly 1,000 years prior in Psalm 22:1, 16-18 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?… For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
Do you believe that Jesus is the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy? Why or why not?
Wilbur M. Smith, The Incomparable Book (Minneapolis, Minn.: Beacon, 1961), 9–10.
J. Dwight Pentecost, Prophecy for Today (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1971), 14–15.