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Death of a Slave
Scripture: Mark 15:15; Matthew 26:14-16; Exodus 21:...
Track 7 of 8 in the Slaves of Christ series
Running time: 45 minutes
All of these images found in the Gospels are there to make a very important point; Jesus came as a slave to serve all mankind. Jesus was not a fugitive, he was not a criminal, in reality, He is God Almighty the Creator of Heaven and earth. He chose forever to wear the marks of crucifixion, the scars in his hands, feet and side. Slaves in every age are recognized by such scars.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

The Death of a Slave

I learned a lot about Jesus in this series. I thought I knew Jesus pretty well in the Gospels but after studying and teaching this series, I have a whole new perspective on him and how the Gospels were written to portray him as a slave and what being a servant really means. In so many places using so many illustrations, the Gospel writers recorded the heart of Jesus as someone willing to always serve others first and to out his rights and desires aside so others are lifted up. He did this to show us the depth of his love and we are to follow his examples in how we treat one another.

In contrast to James and John who sought after thrones alongside of Jesus, Jesus taught an unthinkable alternative. He, the master, came to serve and not be served. Masters bought slaves to be served by them but Jesus came to give his life to purchase his slaves. His life will be a ransom for his slaves by dying as a slave.

Have you ever wondered why God, before the beginning of time chose the act of crucifixion as the method for His death? Of all the ways to die, why choose this form of execution? It was the death of a slave.

The cross as ransom provides the link. They are forever joined – slavery and salvation.

We all know that the cross was used as a form of capital punishment by the Romans. This is how criminals were executed. By law it was illegal for a Roman to be crucified. This explains why Paul, a Roman citizen, was beheaded while Peter, who was not a Roman citizen, was crucified. But more importantly, crucifixion was reserved especially for slaves as well as flagellation.

Mark 15:15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

QUESTION: The Gospels record the scourging of Jesus. To be honest, I never quite understood why they did this to Jesus especially if Pilot felt he was innocent. Mark said he did it to satisfy the crowd but we all know that didn’t work. Why was Jesus flogged the way he was? What illustration does the Holy Spirit want us to see and understand? Jesus suffered as a slave.

Do you see anything ironic is this passage? 3A: Barabbas (bar abba – son of daddy) was set free so the real Son of God could fulfill all prophesy and die the death of a slave. One son was given as a ransom for the other son.

There is another fact that I find quite interesting that many of us don’t know about or see the depth in the meaning. A few days before the crucifixion, Matthew records that Judas went to the high priest asking:

Matthew 26:14-16 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Why 30 pieces silver coins? How did they come to that amount? How much for the betrayal? This wasn’t something that was part of a negotiation, it is actually a Biblical amount. They decided on the amount based on a figure buried in the Torah which came from Exodus 21.

Exodus 21:28-32 “If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull must be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull must be stoned and the owner also must be put to death. However, if payment is demanded of him, he may redeem his life by paying whatever is demanded. This law also applies if the bull gores a son or daughter. If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull must be stoned.

The rabbis of that time determined from this passage that the base price for any salve, male or female, sick or well would be 30 pieces of silver. Ironically, Jesus was sold at the price of a slave and hopefully would die like a slave on a cross. Clearly, Jesus did die as a slave, nailed to the cross, but he did not die like a slave.

Jesus had lived his life as a servant Savior when it came to his disciples. They watched him feed them when they were hungry. He also washed their dirty feet on the night of His betrayal by Judas. Perhaps it was Judas who decided that if Jesus was going to act like a slave, instead of the Messiah, then he should be sold as one and maybe even die like one. Judas most likely was least willing to embrace the call to become a slave as well as the servant image of his Master, Jesus.

Let me remind you of what we studied last week, Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. In a slave culture, none of the disciples ever dreamed that the Messiah would come armed with a basin and a towel. They wanted a Messiah armed with a sword to free them from the tyranny of Rome and elevate them to the greatness they thought Israel deserved. When Peter openly refused to let Jesus wash his feet, Jesus made it clear that if Peter didn’t understand Jesus as a slave, then Peter didn’t understand him at all – and he never will.

By the actions of the church today, do you feel the church as a whole understands Jesus as a slave? Why? By your own actions, do you feel you know Jesus as a slave and accept his role as well as your own?

Once Jesus is arrested in the garden, the image of slavery begins to take its final focus.

• The Gospels tell us that Jesus was bound. Slaves were bound.

• A “titulus”, a white gypsum-covered board accompanied him to the cross and was later hung over his head. It served as a description of him. In the open market places where salves were sold, gypsum covered placards were hung around the necks of the slaves describing where they were from and what skills they possessed. This was also done with the slaves in the American slave markets.

• Before Jesus takes his journey to the place of his execution, he was flogged with a flagrum, a scourging whip. Roman law dictated that a criminal would be flogged until the flesh hung from his back. Slaves also were flogged as a means of discipline.

The famous Roman play write Plautus said that slaves were born to be thrashed. This was literally true in Jesus case.

Hebrews 10:5-7 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, O God.’

What is the attitude the writer of Hebrews is trying to portray about Jesus?

Brutal floggings were very common in Roman times as well as in the American slave trade. Discipline was taught through the practice of flogging. It was a reminder that the master was to be obeyed at all times and all circumstances, no exceptions. Disobedience was not tolerated. In Jesus case, he didn’t disobey God, we did and He willfully put himself in our place to pay the price for our mistakes and disobedience.

In the Gospel accounts, a sponge soaked in sour wine is given to Jesus when he says that he is thirsty. Why give him anything on the cross when the cross was meant for execution? Why would anyone want to satisfy the request of a criminal or a slave? Let them him of thirst for that is why he is up on the cross in the first place.

Cato the Elder, in his detailed instructions on the care and feeding of slaves says that they should be given sour wine to drink. Sour wine was given only to slaves. It didn’t hurt them to drink but the Romans didn’t want to waste the better wine on a slave. Water was sometimes not good to drink so wine was used in its place. Don’t waste what is good on something so worthless. The giving of the sour wine to Jesus was another image of slavery.

All of these images found in the Gospels are there to make a very important point; Jesus came as a slave to serve all mankind. Jesus was not a fugitive, he was not a criminal, in reality, He is God Almighty the Creator of Heaven and earth. He chose forever to wear the marks of crucifixion, the scars in his hands, feet and side. Slaves in every age are recognized by such scars.

Often slaves that ran away were branded on their foreheads indicating that he was a fugitive. Of all the marks of a slave, this was not one of the images found on Jesus. Jesus did not run from his slavery. He embraced it so that you and I would know what the true identity is of those who decide to follow him. His command to us if we should decide to walk like him is to bear the marks of a slave.

Mark 10:37-39 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.