I. The historical perspective of the crucifixion of Jesus.
A. History of crucifixion in the ancient world.
1. Assyrians, Phoenicians, and Persians practiced crucifixion in the first millennium B.C.
2. During the Hellenistic period crucifixion became more popular among the Greeks.
3. At the end of the first end of the first century B. C. , the Romans adopted it as an official
punishment for certain legal transgressions.
4- Crucifixions took place outside the city because they were offensive to the citizens.
B. Purposes for crucifixion in the Ancient World.
1. Main purpose was to punish and frighten disobedient slaves.
2. Its original purpose was not to result in death.
3. Later on in the first century A.D., it evolved into a method of execution for conviction of
4. Captured enemies and rebels were often crucified in masses during times of war.
5. In times of peace, crucifixion was carried out for conviction of certain crimes prescribing
the death penalty.
C. Procedure of a crucifixion
1- Once the defendant was found guilty, he was condemned to de crucified.
2- The victim was taken outside, stripped and scourged with a flagellum.
3- Care was taken not to kill the victim when whipped with the flagellum.
4- Following the beating, the horizontal beam (patibulum) was placed on the victim's shoulders
5- The victim was then to march from the tribunal to the outside of the city.
a- The march was intended to humiliate the victim.
(hence to bear or carry the cross).
b- They were naked.
c- They wore a titulus that displayed the offense of the victim.
6- Vertical stake was fastened to the ground on the crucifixion site.
7- Victim was attached by rope or nailed to the cross, depending upon the purpose.
8- To support the body and prolong the agony, the sedile would be added to the cross.
9- Foot supports were also added to prolong the ordeal, sometimes for even days.
10- Without these added supports victims would die off asphyxia within two to three hours.
II. On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ (Mark 14:32 - 15:47)
1- Thursday Jesus observed the Passover meal with His disciples
2- He walked with some of His disciples to the Garden.
3- Knowing His death was near He suffered great mental anguish
a- So much so, that His sweat became like blood
(hematidrosis or hemohidrosis).
b- Blood loss was minimal, but in the cold night air it
probably produced chills.
1- Jewish trials
a- After Jesus was arrested by the
b- First taken to Annas, and then to Caiphas, the high priest.
c- From about to daybreak He was tried before Caiphas
at the political Sanhedrin.
d- After daybreak, probably at the
, He was tried at Temple
the religious Sanhedrin before the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
e- He was found guilty of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death.
guards blindfolded Him, spat on Him and beat Temple
Him with their fists.
2- Roman Trials
a- Permission for an execution had to come from the governing Romans.
b-. Early in the morning He was taken to the Praetorium, where Pontius Pilate resided.
c- Since he was the procurator of
Judea, he could give them the
authorization for execution.
d- Jesus was presented to Pilate as a self-appointed king, not as a blasphemer.
e- Pilate made no charges against Jesus and sent Him to Antipas, tetrarch of
f- Antipas sent Jesus back to Pilate.
g- Pilate was pressured by the people to crucify Jesus.
C- Health of Jesus at this time.
1- Jesus was a very strong man.
a- Walked many miles.
b- Worked as a carpenter.
c- By the way He overturned the tables we know He was in excellent physical condition.
2- However, between that Thursday and Friday He had suffered great emotional stress.
a- At the Garden- hematidrosis
b- Abandonment by His closest friends.
c- Physical beatings after the religious trial.
d- Sleepless nights since that Thursday that He was arrested
e- Forced to walk more than 2.5 miles from trial site to trial site under these conditions.
D- Scourging (flogging)
1- Always done before an execution to further weaken the victim and leave him vulnerable to the effects of the crucifixion.
2- Flagrum or flagellum: short whip with sharp pieces of bone and small metal balls.
3- Victim was stripped of clothing
4- Deep lacerations caused considerable blood loss and further weakness.
5- The soldiers flogged 39 minus 1 times. In other words, short of collapse from death.
6- This set the stage for circulatory shock, because of the loss of blood and the deepness of the lacerations.
7- This flogging and the hematidrosis experienced before probably left Jesus' skin extremely tender and susceptible to much pain at the slightest pressure.
1-Perfected by Romans to be the grimmest, most painful , slowest method of execution.
2- Reserved for the vilest of criminals.
3- Jesus had to carry the patibulum from the flogging site to the crucifixion site.
4- The march was usually done with the victim being naked.
5- The fact that Jesus was so weakened that He couldn't even carry the cross shows the extent of the damage already done by the previous events¾ possibly hypovolemic shock.
6- Each victim was assigned a Roman guard that would not leave their side until death was assured.
7- The cross used for Jesus probably had a sedile and a foot support.
8- Victims were given wine mixed with myrrh (gall) as a mild analgesic.
9- Nails 5 to 7 inches long were driven into the wrists to secure victims to the patibulum.
10- The victims were hoisted and the cross lifted¾ then the feet were nailed.
11- Since the feet were nailed one on top of the other, it caused prominent flexion of the knees.
12-. Soldiers divided up the clothes at this point.
13- If death needed to be hurried, the soldiers would break the knees of the victims to accelerate asphyxia.
14- To further assure death, the soldier in charge of the victim would then pierce the chest of the victim with a spear 5 to 6 feet long. This would sever the heart.
15- Each step of the crucifixion was designed to be, in every sense of the word, excruciating (Latin: excruciatus, "out of the cross")
a- The scourging
b- The nails going through major nerves
c- Your beaten backside scraping the pole of the cross.
d- Breathing and speaking from the cross were even very painful things to do.
*-Jesus spoke seven times from the cross.
16- Jesus early death surprised Pilate.
What is crucifixion?
A medical doctor provides a physical description
The cross is placed on the ground and the exhausted man is quickly thrown backwards with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He forcefully drives a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist deep into the wood. Quickly he moves to the other side and repeats the grueling action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flex and movement. The cross is then lifted into place. The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees flexed. The victim is now crucified.
As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain - the nails in the wrist s are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places the full weight on the nail through his feet. Again he feels the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of his feet. As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through his muscles, knotting them deep relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath. Then, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subsided. Spasmodically, he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen. Hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-renting cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against rough timber. Then another agony begins: deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. It is now almost over the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level - the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues the tortured lungs are making frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. He can feel the chill of death creeping through his tissues...
Finally, he can allow his body to die... All this the Bible records with the simple works, "and they crucified Him " (Mark 15:24). What wondrous love is this? Many people don't know that pain and suffering our Lord, Jesus Christ went through for us... because of the brutality, crucifixion was given a sentence to only its worst offenders of the law. Thieves, murderers, and rapists would be the types of criminals who got crucified. Yet, here Jesus is being crucified between two hardened criminals.... what did Jesus do? Did he murder anyone? Did he steal anything? Jesus did nothing to deserve this type of death, yet he went willing to die, in between 2 thieves, so that we might be saved. And there, in between the sinners, was our Savior, slain for our sins.
III- The Scandal of the Cross
A- Deuteronomy 21:23 - Cursed is anyone who is hung on a tree...
1- Hebrews considered this a shameful and scandalous execution reserved for vile offenders.
2- The rabbis of the first century referred to Jesus as Ha Taluy, or , "The hanged One".
3- The cross was the essence of the repugnant and the grotesque for the Jew, and the Roman Gentile (Philippians 2:8 - "Even death on a cross...")
B- I Corinthians 2:2 - "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus and Him crucified."
1- Stumbling block for the Jews - I Co.1:17-25
2- They were expecting a messiah that would deliver them from Roman reign and re-establish the Davinic Kingdom¾ but this man died on a tree!
3- For the Gentiles and the Jews this was "foolishness"
4- The message of the cross had little hope to offer the Jews and Gentiles of the day.
5- Maybe the young Christians of the day were ashamed of mentioning the message of the cross in these settings.
6- Paul was not ashamed when he emphasized: "Jesus and Him crucified" (literally, "Jesus and Him continually on the cross".)
7- The hatred, scorn and resentment the message caused could not deter Paul from proclaiming it on the rooftops and to every living creature!
8- He would not dilute it or sugarcoat it, because it represented the wisdom of God (I Co.1:24).
9- Paul would not present the "scandal" in any other way but the way it was intended to be presented. (Galatians 5:10ff).
C- Colossians 2:13-15 Canceled all our debts and nailed them to the cross...
1- To reject the scandal of the cross was to reject its glory and to compromise the victory we have gained by the triumph of Jesus over death on the cross. (I Co.1:17-25)
2- Galatians 6:14 - Paul wanted to boast in the very thing that brought shame to the world. This humility only accounted for the new creation in us. This new creation was made possible through the crucifixion of Jesus.
3- Peace was made possible by the cross of Jesus (Colossians 1:20).
4- It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16-17)