The Truth of Crucifixion
“So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.” – Mark 15:15 (NLT)
This week in Mark, we see the most horrible and terrific act in history enacted upon the Son of God, the Messiah, the Word of Life. For Mark, crucifixion was an established facet of life, hence there was no need to go into further detail upon the mention of the word. While we may recognize what crucifixion was, we rarely choose to remember exactly what was involved. If any one of us has seen the 2004 film “Passion of the Christ,” then you know almost exactly what the process and act of crucifixion entailed. This film is rightly rated “R” for it’s intense scenes of gore and violence, but unfortunately, the facts of the crucifixion of our Savior are “R” rated material and to honestly portray the murder of the King, these details must be shown and talked about. With the realization of exactly how the death of Jesus proceeded, our devotion to Him should be radically transformed each week as we remember Him through the Lord’s Supper and the preaching of the Gospel.
“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” – Isaiah 53:5 (NLT)
The process of crucifixion often did not solely involve being nailed to a cross, as horrible as that alone would be. A common part of crucifixion was a lashing with the flagrum. Mark describes it as a lead tipped whip, which was only part of the device. The whip would also contain sharp bone fragments and/or hooks which would catch in the flesh and, with a mighty pull of the torturer’s hand, would brutally tear apart the victim’s skin and muscle tissues, causing massive blood loss and oftentimes would result in death from the whipping alone. This is the kind of torture Christ endured even before carrying His cross through the city of Jerusalem to the “Place of the Skull” (Golgotha, Calvary).
“He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away.” – Isaiah 53:7-8 (NLT)
Following a brutal session with the flagrum and continual beatings and mocking, Jesus was lead to the place called Golgotha (Place of the Skull) to be crucified. This was no fun walk through the park, rather it was an excruciating journey of 200 yards or more to outside the city, all the while carrying a 100+ lb. cross bar upon his back. Imagine the pain of the clothing digging into His open wounds, with a heavy piece of wood pressing in on top of that! It is also very likely that the cross itself was used from previous executions. Upon arrival to the site, soldiers would complete the act of placing Jesus upon the cross. Please read the following excerpt, the whole of which can be found at http://www.allaboutjesuschrist.org/crucifixion.htm:
“Spikes about 7 inches long and 3/8 of an inch in diameter were driven into the wrists (or in the hands with ropes tied to support). The spikes would hit the area of the median nerve, causing shocks of pain up the arms to the shoulders and neck. The victims feet would then be nailed down creating an awkward position for the body placed on the cross. At this point, there was tremendous strain put on the wrists, arms and shoulders, resulting in a dislocation of the shoulder and elbow joints. The position of the nailed body held the victim’s rib cage in a fixed position, which made it extremely difficult to exhale, and impossible to take a full breath. Having suffered from the scourging, the beatings and the walk with the patibulum, Jesus was described as extremely weak and dehydrated. He was probably losing significant amounts of blood. As time passed, the loss of blood and lack of oxygen would cause severe cramps, spasmodic contractions and probably unconsciousness. Ultimately, the mechanism of death in crucifixion was suffocation. The historical record is very clear — Jesus suffered numerous hours of horrible and sustained torture on the cross of Calvary.”
The Crux of the Matter
“But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.” – Isaiah 53:10 (NLT)
The process of crucifixion was a specialized and methodically produced form of toruture used by many and perfected by the Romans to ensure that the “Pax Romana” (Peace of Rome) was maintained, and anyone wishing to do otherwise better take heed. The illegitimate trial and murder or our Savior was fully realized on the Roman cross, a physical picture of the weight and severity of our sin against God. Liberal scholars will say Jesus died as a leader of a rebel cause, or perhaps as an innocent victim among many of Roman rule and will place little to no significance upon the spiritual implications of His death. The fact is that the cross was no accident. Even though the cross was a horrible act against innocent blood, God’s divine plan was fully accomplished upon the cross of Calvary. I personally believe that God so ordained human history to the point that His plan would be enacted during this specific time in which the most brutal form of execution would exist for us to look and truly see the brutality of our sinful nature (Romans 5:6). Paul tells us that Christ “emptied himself” and took on the form of frail man in order to be obedient to the Father and die as a sinless sacrifice for our sins, fully justifying those who believe and removing the wrath of God upon us (Philippians 2:6-8, Romans 8:1). What a freedom we enjoy for those who believe! Such a freedom should draw us deeper and deeper into communion with the God who so loved us that He gave us His only Son (John 3:16). The death of Jesus is a wonderful tragedy in which we sorrowfully rejoice, but that is not the end. Please join us next week as we finish our study of Mark and see the full hope that we have in Christ Jesus our Lord. I pray this weekend and throughout the week that your families will take the opportunity to discuss the severity of the crucifixion and what His sacrifice means for your soul, and how to share that with others. Take care and have a great week in the Lord!
By His Grace,