Monday, September 14, 2015

The horror of crucifixion

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 19:16-37

TO CHEW ON: "And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of the Skull which is called in Hebrew Golgotha." John 19:17

As someone who is accustomed to seeing the cross as a religious symbol, it's hard to conceive of it as an instrument of execution. However, a footnote in my Bible says:

"Crucifixion was the most hideous Roman method of execution, reserved only for slaves and criminals" - Siegfried Schatzmann, Notes on John,  New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1477.

A little research fills in the blanks as to what crucifixion involved. Here are a few facts about crucifixion which help us understand why it was such a dreaded death:

  • Before crucifixion, the victim was often beaten or scourged, leading to blood loss and shock.
  • The condemned person was often forced to carry the crossbeam on his shoulders (though an entire cross could weight about 300 lbs., the crossbeam was between 75-125 lbs.).
  • The condemned person would be attached (nailed or tied) to the crossbeam while on the ground: "Upright posts would presumably be fixed permanently in that place, and the crossbeam, with the condemned person perhaps already nailed to it, would then be attached to the post" - "Crucifixion" article on - Wikipedia.
  • Crucifixion was not only a means of death but a public humiliation. The condemned person was completely vulnerable and on display. Victims were usually crucified nude. Urination and defecation were on display and became an attraction to insects.
  • The legs of the crucified person were often broken or shattered to hasten death and act as a further deterrent to onlookers.
  • The length of time till death could be hours to days.
  • The cause of death could be one or a combination of blood loss, sepsis because of wound infection from the nails and/or the pre-crucifixion beating, dehydration or asphyxiation.
  • Victims were often left on display after death (as a warning to others who might be contemplating committing similar crimes) - from "Crucifixion" on Wikipedia.

It's ugly, isn't it; a far cry from the gold-plated, bejewelled crosses we wear around our necks or dangling from arms or ears.

And just think—He suffered this humiliation, pain and death for you and me.

Dear Jesus, depictions of You on the cross in art and film can only begin to get at the horror of what You experienced in the hours before You cried, "It is finished." Burn the immensity of what You went through for me deep into my mind and heart. And Thank you! Amen.

MORE: Holy Cross Day

Today is the day the church celebrates the cross. "While Good Friday is dedicated to the Passion of Christ, and the crucifixion, these days (September 14th and sometimes the days just preceding and following) celebrate the cross itself as the instrument of salvation" - "The Feast of the Cross" - Wikipedia.

The liturgy for this day begins with the prayer:

"Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen."

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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