It's also at this time of the year when teachings in church services tend to become more reflective than usual, focusing on the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus and what it means to all of us. In some extreme cases, this time of the year is the time when they literally share in the agonies of our Crucified Lord by their partaking of His pain - some by depriving themselves of their usual diet, to those who inflict pain on themselves by literally whipping themselves bloody.
I am not sure if those that made it a self imposed pact to have themselves literally crucified on an actual cross will do so again this year, but it's become a tourist attraction to those that travel here to watch these people subject themselves to that self inflicted agony and take digital pictures of the event to show to their friends back home.
The best is reserved for what everyone knows as Easter Sunday, when the glory of the Resurrection is discussed at length as well.
My good friend and Pastor, Les Tilka of Quest Community Fellowship, started it early when he began to expose some of the facts surrounding the crucifixion last Sunday, getting people to rethink their preconceived notions surrounding that execution on Golgotha.
For a non academic, the teaching was quite a shocker, as Les detailed the difficulty that our Lord Jesus went through from the time he was arrested following the Passover Seder that he shared with the twelve. The continuous events, following the arrest at night, going into what transpired the next day - trials by three different courts and judges and subsequent lashing by Roman guards as well as other painful tortures, and finally carrying the heavy crosspiece to the place of execution and being nailed to the stake - caused some in the congregation to squirm at the thought of what had actually happened on that fateful day in history.
Les went on to describe how painful the death must have been, as the crucified persons would have to raise themselves in order to breathe and in the case of the severely whipped Jesus, He had to rub his severely wounded skin against the rough wood, causing more pain to Himself for at least six hours before He finally succumbed.
To an apologist in training, to be sure, there were more gory details available for study that were not mentioned in that teaching that Sunday. But it was enough to jolt the people into rethinking their concepts about the crucifixion.
What got me that morning was the realization that the Lord God actually took on the accusation and condemnation for our crime - in a literal sense - when the Lord Jesus answered appropriately and truthfully to the question: "Are you the King of the Jews?"
When He replied: "Yes, you say that I am" (Mark 15:2), the footnote of the Apologetics Study Bible that I continually refer to reveals much more: the context by which He answered meant that He said: "Yes, but not in the way that you think".
While innocently telling the truth of His claim to the throne, He Himself acknowledged the crime of rebellion against the state (Rome) by doing so. And in so doing, dying by execution for a crime that humanity had committed against His Father - rebellion by disobedience in Eden. An execution that He went to, voluntarily, in behalf of the humanity that His Father redeemed through Him.
And in the most horrible way imaginable.
To be sure, there were many Roman executions by crucifixion at that time, starting from the time of Alexander the Great down to the Third Century. Yet this crucifixion stands out as the most significant one to this day. A substitutionary death of one man, executed in the place of billions of men and women throughout time. God going where He had never gone previously - down the road of Death, so that we would all live.
Small wonder why there is a consistent, militant effort to discredit, or throw doubt on this One significant Life, the Substitutionary Death, and more importantly, the seeming incredibility of the Resurrection which He Himself had proclaimed would happen - and did, following a hasty entombment by Joseph of Arimathea- after dying on the cross, because it was against Judaic law to bury anyone during the Sabbath, which followed the day of the execution.
Les has reserved the best news for Sunday. May there be more who will understand it better - and decide to live because of it.