The Tortures of His Tree

Title: The Tortures of His Tree

Bible Book: Mark 15 : 15-25

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Cross; Crucifixion



This morning, I want you to join me in a journey that will ultimately lead us to an empty tomb. The first stage of the journey leads us to “The Travesty Of His Trial.” Today, we’re considering the second stage of Jesus’ journey … the stage that I would call “The Tortures Of His Tree.” The third stage of this journey is “The Triumph Over His Tomb.”

In 1943, a woman from Brooklyn, New York named Betty Smith (who in the 1930’s was a student and in the 1940’s was an instructor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) published her first novel. The book was a semi-autobiographical account of a girl from Brooklyn named Francie Nolan. The character of Francie is developed in the novel from a young girl to a mature teenager, and it is the story of how she flourished like a tree in spite of her poor family and hostile environment. The title of the book was “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”


This morning I want to share with you the account of another tree that was planted in a hostile environment. This story could be called “A Tree Grows in Jerusalem.” It is the tree that we call the Cross of Calvary. Peter speaking to the high priest and his council in Acts 5 said, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree” (Acts 5:30). This tree surely seemed like a tree of grief and not a tree of growth, for consider with me…

I. The Vicious Aspect Of This Tree

A. Consider The Suffering Of Christ Until The Cross

1. The Tortures Of Gethsemane Matthew 26:36-38; Luke 22:40-44

(Matthew 26:36-38) Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. {37} And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. {38} Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

(Luke 22:40-44) And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. {41} And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, {42} Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. {43} And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. {44} And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Dr. David Terasaka said…

Of medical significance is that Luke mentions Him as having sweat like blood. The medical term for this, “hematidrosis” has been seen in patients who have experienced extreme stress or shock to their systems. The capillaries around the sweat pores become fragile and leak blood into the sweat. (Medical Aspects of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, JoshuaNet, 12 Apr. 2003) <>

2. The Tortures Of The Guards

While in the custody of Caiaphas

(Luke 22:63-64) And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him. {64} And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?

(Mark 14:65) And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands.

After the Jews insisted to Pilate that Jesus be crucified…

(John 19:1-3) Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. {2} And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, {3} And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.

(Mark 15:19-20) And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him. {20} And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.

In A Doctor's View of the Crucifixion, Dr. Dan Bowden writes, “Two soldiers usually carried out the actual scourging with the victim stripped of his clothing, tied to an upright pole by his hands. The soldiers would then alternate their blows flogging the back and legs. The severity was dependent upon the disposition of the soldiers.” (

In an article entitled Medical Aspects of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Dr. David Terasaka writes, “The Romans used a whip, called a flagrum or flagellum which consisted of small pieces of bone and metal attached to a number of leather strands. The number of strikes is not recorded in the gospels. (However) the number of blows in Jewish law was set in Deuteronomy 25:3 at forty. Roman law did not put any limits on the number of blows given.” (

The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a pre-shock state. Moreover, hematidrosis had rendered his skin particularly tender. Moreover, when the soldiers tore the robe from Jesus' back, they probably reopened the scourging wounds. The physical and mental abuse meted out by the Jews and the Romans, as well as the lack of food, water, and sleep, also contributed to his generally weakened state. Therefore, even before the actual crucifixion, Jesus' physical condition was at least serious and possibly critical. (

Then, until Simon the Cyrenian was compelled to bear his cross, He walked the 650 yard stretch of pavement that came to be known as the Via Dolorosa (the way of suffering), carrying the 100 to 150 pound cross piece.

B. Consider The Suffering Of Christ Upon The Cross

1. As Described By The Psalmist Psalm 22:1, 11-19

Notice the Devilish Element (vs. 12-13), the Dislocation Element (vs. 14), and the Dehydration Element (vs. 15)

When the cross was erected upright, there was tremendous strain put on the wrists, arms and shoulders, resulting in a dislocation of the shoulder and elbow joints.

2. As Described By The Prophet Isaiah 52:14; 53:1-8

II. The Vicarious Aspect Of This Tree

vi·car·i·ous - adj. 1. Felt or undergone as if one were taking part in the experience or feelings of another: read about mountain climbing and experienced vicarious thrills. 2. Endured or done by one person substituting for another: vicarious punishment. 3. a. Acting or serving in place of someone or something else, substituted. b. Committed or entrusted to another, as powers or authority; delegated.

A. Consider The Pains Of The Hill

1. The Torments Of The Hill

(Mark 15:24-25) And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take. {25} And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.

Without getting into a lot of graphic physical and medical description concerning crucifixion, let me just read the words of Joe Zias who wrote:

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.” (

Excruciate - to cause great agony, torment. Latin: ex: out of, from + cruciate: cross. “From the cross.”

2. The Thirst Of The Hill

(John 19:28) After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

3. The Tragedy Of The Hill

(Matthew 27:46) And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

4. The Travail Of The Hill

(Isaiah 53:11) He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

B. Consider The Pains Of Hell Luke 16:19-31

1. The Torments Of Hell vs. 23

2. The Thirst Of Hell vs. 24

3. The Tragedy Of Hell (A Total Separation From God) vs. 26

4. The Travail Of Hell vs. 27-30

Somehow in those few hours upon Calvary, Jesus suffered the concentrated, compounded pains of my hell and your hell.

III. The Victorious Aspect Of This Tree

A. Through His Excruciating Wounding We Have Healing with his stripes we are healed

1. For Our Transgressions

(Isaiah 53:5) But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

2. On The Tree

(1 Peter 2:24) Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

B. Through His Excruciating War We Have Harmony

(Colossians 1:20-22) And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. {21} And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled {22} In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

1. Peace With God

2. Pardon From Guilt


The story is told of a man who, during the days of the Civil War, visited the Chicamauga Battlefield. In the burial ground close by he saw a man kneeling beside a fairly new grave. He approached the man and asked him if this was the grave of a friend or relative to which the man replied, “Neither. This is the grave of a man whom I’ve never met. But when I was called to go to war, this man learned that all of my brothers had already been called to the war and therefore volunteered to go in my place. He hadn’t fought long until he was killed on this field of battle. I have come to honor him.” And then the visitor saw the man raise up a makeshift, wooden cross as a grave marker upon which had been carved these words: “This Man Died For Me.”

I remember that when I was young, my dad would get horticulture catalogues in the mail from which you could order seeds and saplings. In the catalogue there would always be a vivid picture of what the tree would one day look like. But when the sapling arrived, it didn’t look like it could ever produce leaves much less fruit.

Similarly, as we look at this torturous, terrible tree that was planted in Jerusalem it would appear to be a bitter end instead of a bountiful beginning. Paul, echoing the words of Deuteronomy 21:23, said, “… for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). But the amazing thing is that year after year, for nearly two thousand years, this tree – or more accurately, the One whom Isaiah called “the Branch” (11:1) – this Branch has continuously produced fruit.

Is it any wonder George Bennard wrote the following words…?

The Old Rugged Cross

Words & Music: George Bennard, 1913.

Verse 1

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,

The emblem of suffering and shame;

And I love that old cross where the dearest and best

For a world of lost sinners was slain.

Verse 2

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,

Has a wondrous attraction for me;

For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above

To bear it to dark Calvary.

Verse 3

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,

A wondrous beauty I see,

For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,

To pardon and sanctify me.

Verse 4

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;

Its shame and reproach gladly bear;

Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,

Where His glory forever I’ll share.


So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,

Till my trophies at last I lay down;

I will cling to the old rugged cross,

And exchange it some day for a crown. (George Bennard - 1913)

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