Weight Of The Wood
The ancient history about crucifixion puzzled me, so I researched explanations of it, prompting me to write about it and to compose this poem about crucifixion .
Josephus wrote in the Jewish War 7.203…”undoubtedly, one of the cruelest and most humiliating forms of punishment in the ancient world was,according to ancient sources, crucifixion. The Jewish historian Josephus best described it following the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 66-70 as ‘the most wretched of deaths.’ Whereas, in Seneca’s Epistle 101 to Lucilius, he argues that suicide is preferable to the cruel fate of being put on the cross.
This form of state terror was widespread across the Roman Empire which included Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. It originated several centuries before the Common Era and continued into the 4th century AD when the practice was discontinued by Constantine, the emperor of Rome. While he origins are obscured in antiquity, it is clear that this form of capital punishment lasted for around 800 years and tens if not hundreds of thousands of individuals were subject to this cruel and humiliating death. Mass executions in which hundreds and thousands died\..such as the well known crucifixion of 6,000 followers of Spartacus as part of a victory celebration along the Appian Way in 71 BCE…appear in the literature.
While many people believe that crucifixion was reserved for criminals only as a result of Plutarch’s passage that “each criminal condemned to death bears his cross on his back,” the literature clearly shows that this class of individuals were not the only ones subjected to this ultimate fate. Alexander the Great had 2,000 survivors from the siege of Tyre crucified on the shores of the Mediterranean. In addition, during the times of Caligula AD 37-41 Jews were tortured and crucified in the amphitheater to entertain the inhabitants of Alexandria. Women are seldom if ever mentioned specifically in the ancient sources aside from two passages in the Mishna, one in Tractate Mourning 2.11 which suggests that women may have been sacrificed as well. The second reference is found in Sanhedrin 6.5 in which Simeon B. Shetah had 70 or 80 sorceresses hung in the city of Ashkelon. However, as crucifixion was widely employed with slaves, one can assume that, in the ancient world its use was thus not limited by gender.
Let us refer to Scripture reading about Jesus Christ…John 12:32 “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” This has inspired me to the subject of “The Weight of the Wood.”
The cross as a base design motif appears in pottery, weaving, carving and painting of many cultures. It may be simply decorative or have symbolic meaning. The tau cross, for example, was a symbol of life to the ancient Egyptians when combined with the circle as in the Crux ansata, it stood for eternity. The most ancient peoples the Greek cross was a metaphor for the four indestructible elements of creation; air, earth, fire and water, thus symbolizing permanence. The swastika, with the ends of the cross bars bent to the right were common in both the Old World and the New World. It originally represented the revolving sun, fire or life and later by extension good luck. To the Buddhist a swastika represented resignation. To Hindus a swastika with arms bent to the left symbolized night, magic and the destructive goddess Kaloi. In Mid 20th Century Germany the right facing swastika was the Nazi party emblem.
The cross was also used in the ancient world as a symbol of execution by crucifixion. In Roman times only the lowest class of criminals were crucified. In Christianity the cross became not only a symbol of the shame full death of Jesus Christ as a criminal on a tau-shaped Roman cross but also of his subsequent resurrection to eternal life and of his promise of salvation to Christian believers.
The cross, in reference to Jesus, is mentioned in Scripture as prophecy fulfilled, Jesus being crucified by His death on the cross. However, it should not become an icon, no more that the spear that pierced Jesus’ side after his death, nor the sponge that was given to him with vinegar on it. We must focus on the person of Jesus, why He came to this earth to save us from our sins, and he suffered for us and took upon our sins, the cross being the ugly instrument of his death.
For Christians, the cross is a sign evolving a historical event akin to the history of salvation, the crucifixion and death of Jesus at Calvary. For some, throughout all ages and to the present age,a crucified god as a dying Savior is an apparent contradiction, causing some people to separate from the Christian faith, unable to resolve a god in shameful punishment as Jesus Christ submitted to, with his crucifixion on the cross. To the Christian church, this great mystery is the decisive event of salvation as well as creation. The cross has many symbols, five of which are listed below:
1. The cross means self sacrifice. In the Gospels, Jesus on at least three occasions affirmed the necessity for those who would follow Him to taking up the cross. See Matthew 10_38, 16-24. Luke 9:23 and Mark 10-21. The words imply a prophetic anticipation of His own experience on Calvary, but even although on Christ’s earliest use of them this special application is hidden from His disciples. In Galilee multitudes had been crucified after the rebellion under Judas the son of Hezekiah, in Jerusalem, as we see from the execution of two robbers side by side with Jesus. Crucifixion must have been an ordinary incident under Roman administration.
2. A cross is a thing of shame. The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus endured the cross despising the shame. Both to the Roman and the Jew the death on the cross was the most shameful death a man could die. To Jew and Gentile alike this was “the great stumbling block of the cross.” The apostle Paul himself regards death on a cross a low point in Christ’s long pathway to humiliation.
3. The apostle Paul uses the cross as a summary of the Gospel, such as the word of the cross, the preaching of Christ crucified. In Galatians Paul speaks of suffering persecution for the cross of Christ and he glories in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. He uses it as a clause showing the saving work of Jesus Christ for us and in us for our salvation.
4. The apostle Paul uses the cross as a symbol of the great instrument of reconciliation as the blood of Christ shed on Calvary affects reconciliation between God and man taking away the bonds of sin if we but believe and are willing to choose to have him Lord as well as Savior in our life.
5. The cross is a symbol of a mystical union wit Christ Himself, the cross being an imitation of Christ representing a possession of the indwelling life of Christ, Galatians 2:20. In Romans 6:6 we read the old man, our self, as crucified, that a new man is risen from the dead. The flesh is crucified with its passions and lusts that the Christian may walk in the Holy Spirit so as to never lose sight of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ throughout man’s stay in the world.
Let’s go to John 17: 1-6 and read from Scripture. Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, “Father the hour has come, glorify thy Son so tat the Son may glorify thee as Thou has given Him authority over all mankind so that he may give eternal life to all whom thou has granted Him, and this is eternal life, to know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent. I have glorified Thee on earth, I have completed the task Thou gavest me to do, now glorify Thou me, Father, with thine own glory which I had in the presence before the world existed.” Further, in verse 20-28, Jesus said to His apostles. “I am praying only for them (His apostles and His church) but also for those who will believe in me through their message, so that all may be one, as thou Father are in Me, and I in Thee, so they may be in us and so that the world may believe that Thou has sent me, I will leave the world and return to the Father.”
When Jesus was through talking to his apostles He went with them across the Kidron valley where there was a garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, which they entered.
My prayer in these poetic words,written for My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, would mean to you personally what He would have you and I do in our lives, as you and I would serve Him as He bore the ….weight of the wood.
Father God, you waited centuries long for your Son’s bridge to gap sin in man
When on that dark night in a garden alone, Salvation’s sufferings began
Visions of Jesus comes into my view causing me to tremble along dread way
When he carried that beam surely it would seem all heaved quieted that day.
Heavy grief gripped Our Lord to mourn. Could this cup bitter withdraw?
Jesus wept as sin’s burdens plagued Him. Such violence you never saw!
Lies tore His mind ripping the Truth, slander His words precious to abide
Gossips gloat plague the Son of god, as lusts of Man’s flesh collide.
Sexual pursuits wanton waste wander, sins crawl choking His mind
Filthy stench on a Savior so pure, yet, Jesus prays for humankind
Demons of murders thrust stained knife in, chambers of His heart burst in love
Blood of the Lamb finds no escape. His Father shrinks back from above
Curses on His Holy name shout, screams pierce sounds out of control
Jesus rests His head on Gethsemane’s cold stone, more sin spills into His bowl
Generations of children reckless withdraw pleas from parents to obey
Grief grips a Savior once also a child. Stricken, grieved, continues to pray
False witnesses probe, wrap round His mind, remarks vex to sway God’s trust
Interruptions of concentration on a Savior, oppression hovers Satan sin thrust
Heavied, Jesus lifts man’s indifference to His Father’s name so revered
“Forgive them, Father, my Father”, he says, Satan’s angels attack and jeered
Chide Jesus, “:Where are they who love you, believed all you said?
Beyond this garden they sleep in the dark, another waits to betray you for dead”
Distress dumps heavy on Jesus, for the day when worship would cease
Changing Sabbaths from the beginning to deny a Creator’s masterpiece
False doctrines clothed him in sorrow attempting to hinder His breath
Squeezing the Word to destroy the Way. Sin scrambles to remind Him of death
By now the blood of the Savior seeps from veins through His skin
Drip, drop, dripping on Mother Earth, becoming man’s ransom for sin
Thieves stole strength from our Savior. He begs disciples to watch with Him’
Just an hour. He was so lonely. His bitter cup still unfilled to the brim
Crowds crowd through the garden, seek His sweet Soul to claim
Without protest walks our Lord Jesus, Alone, abandoned to shame
To religious leaders of falsehood goes the Truth, the Life, the Way
To tormentors of civil law stands a King, to the world Jesus a castaway
Peter denies Him in the courtyard, “I don’t know Him” three times he said
Then remembers Jesus said “Before the cock crows you will disown me instead”
Before Pilate and Herod stood Jesus, claimed to be King of the Jews
Civil authorities submit crowds to crucify, free thief Barabas, Barabas they choose
Beaten for blasphemy He speaks not, blows pound against holy skin
Mocked, crowned head with sharp thorns, more blood loss, dread cursed chagrin
They led him away, this Jesus, put a cross on bruised shoulders they say
As daughters of Jerusalem weep for Him. “Weep not for me” Jesus says on the way
“Weep for yourselves, weep for your children, one day barren women will be blest
Breasts that nursed not will be glad, Weep not for me ” He did request
The weight of the wood bears on Jesus, His body aches of wounds, blood loss
He knows soon all sins forever of mankind will pour out on Him on the cross
Simon of Cyrene passes Jesus’ struggle, is forced to help lighten the load
As they come to the place of crucifixion, the end of the walk on the road
Nails pound through hands of a world’s Savior,mocked, spit at, though sinless was He
As the weight of the wood holds him fast, crucified on sin-scarred tree
Demons drag ungodly demons, spirits of rebels tear at His soul
Lusts of flesh ages old spill, Jesus cries for His Father to console
No answer calms the Christ Jesus. He cries, “My God have forsaken Thou me?
Sins stain collide against God’s only Son. Sins from you. Sins also from me
Hours pass past third and sixth hour. Satan tries torture some more
Hell bent to keep Jesus form dying…to open Salvation’s graced door
“It is finished” words said of Jesus echoed. At last at ninth hour He cried
On the weight of the wood where he hung of a broken heart Jesus Christ died
Earth responds to the silence. Temple curtains split torn in two
Rocks crumbled, tombs break open, holy dead raise clearly in view!
Jesus did rest on the Sabbath. Jesus rose again as He said!
Jesus lifted the weight of the wood. Jesus’s nail-scarred hands now outspread
Without the cross is no promise. Without that garden no shame
Without the Lord dying for us. Without Him we’d die in our blame
Remember His great commission to make nations disciples to tell?
Of the Father, the Son, Holy Spirit saving souls from Satan’s black hell?
Would you visit the sick and the dying?
Would you minister to sufferings today?
Would you defend His Name, His honor?
Would you watch with Him daily to pray?
Would you keep your tongue from lying?
Would you hallow your body as blessed?
Would you keep your marriage faithful?
Would you love your neighbor as guest?
Would you love an enemy who torments you?
Would you give to needy your own?
Would you store your treasures in heaven?
Would you serve God only alone?
Would you judge not others before you?
Would you seek your own repentance?
Would you fall on your knees to the Father?
Would you desire God’s obedience?
Would you believe when faith is not easy?
Would you open doors to the Master’s calls?
Would you ask forgiveness of a friend?
Would you admit sin after your falls?
Would you work hard for soul’s harvest?
Would you teach crowds Gospel news?
Would you have compassion on the helpless?
Would you work for your church, not refuse?
Would you praise God in your worship?
Would you honor God’s commandments well?
Would you sow seeds for His kingdom?
Would you tell of sin and of hell?
Would you feed the poor and the starving?
Would you shelter homeless and lost?
Would you seek and search for the wandering?
Would your forgive, not counting the cost?
Would you visit those emotionally frayed?
Would you follow the Master today?
Would you pray as He did to God?
Would you be faithful to Him always?
Would you tender the sick and the lonely?
Would you visit prisoners in cold cell?
Would you clothe the naked and the poor?
Would you desire His Holiness to dwell?
Would you educate those who need it?
Would you search for a sinner today?
Would you tell them of your Lord and Savior?
Would you seek His will daily and pray?
Would you love God with your all?
Would you love your neighbor as your own?
Would you study the Golden Rule Bible penned?
It was the weight of the wood that bought you
It was the Pearl of Great Price for us paid
Would you wait on the Lord; serve only Him?’
Would you remember Calvary’s crusade?
Would you carry a burden so heavy?
Would you die for enemies you know?
Would you love all unlovely sinners?
Would you be humbled so although
The weight of the wood mocked with curses
Weighted your soul to the ground?
Weight of beatings without mercy
Weighted cords brutally found?
Pain, suffering unequalled
On Holiness unmarred with sin
Heaviness burdened beyond relief
Weight of the wood, so genuine
Would you remember Calvary’s crusade?
Would you wait on the Lord; serve only Him?
“I’ll be with you always,” Jesus said.
This promise He wants understood
Remember the price paid and bought
Is made by the weight of the would
As you follow Christ, the worlds’ Messiah,
You must be weighted where Jesus trod
As new soldiers for Him, the crucified
Precious Gift, King of Kings, Son of God.
Let your song and mind forever be grateful
Faithful in His victory!
Forgiven after complete surrender
Confessed by you, confessed by me!
Would you commit yourself for Him crucified”
As your brow bears His seal why He died?
If you would wait upon this Christ Jesus!
If you would wait on His will to be done!
If you would wait and would make Him Your Lord!
Then, the weight of the wood has been won!
Lord, can I walk that lonely road with you?
While You bear the weight of the wood?
Lord, help me tread Your last steps back and blue
Help me lighten Your load, if I could?
Lord, can I cool Your forehead baked in blood?
While You bear the weight of the wood?
Your body bruised, smeared in spit and mud
Jesus, You are so misunderstood!
Lord, must this journey be like this?
Forgive my neglect, forgive me when I could
Have pondered your suffering, agony weighed by the wood
Lord, I am sorry for my sins you bore on that tree
Thank You for Your suffering in Gethsemane
Your freedom’s release is my only peace
Help me follow Your pathway
Tell me Lord, which way to go
Because You loved me so
Lord, help me lift you up
On life’s way, if You please
Weighted by life’s trials with You, if I could
Help me follow you sinless, my Savior and Lord
Give me more of Your weight of the wood
Copyright Nov 1, 2011 Imelda Dickinson