We've heard the story before; Jesus came to die for our sins by being crucified on a cross. But really, what is so special about crucifixion? I, myself, did not understand why crucifixion was so emphasized. After finishing research on this topic I wondered, do other Christians really understand what happened on the cross and the events that led up to it? I would like to describe to you the process of crucifixion through looking at what happened to Jesus. I understand not all crucifixions throughout time were done as gruesome and disturbing as Jesus's crucifixion, but I still feel like this will allow you to understand what the significance of the cross and what Jesus went through. I think once you understand what Jesus went through, it changes the way you look at the cross. I also think this is a good topic that can help strengthen a Christian's relationship with Christ. It also gives great insight to why Jesus's crucifixion is highly significant to those who do not believe.
Please be warned. I am going to go into as much detail as I can. I found it difficult to write this because of how graphic it was. I purposefully left certain things out because I couldn't get myself to describe and write it down. So please don't carry on reading if you get disturbed easily.
Jesus was "lucky" enough to be born at a point in time where the Romans had invented the most painful and humiliating way to execute someone. Crucifixion had started approximately 519 years before Christ was born and they perfected it around 19 years before Christ was born. Let's look at what happened to Jesus.
What happened to Jesus
The Bible starts by telling us that before Christ was to go be executed, he was in prayer at the mountain of Gethsemane asking God to find another way to save mankind from His wrath. This tells us that he had known what was going to happen to him. We are also told that when he was there, he was so stressed out that he was literally sweating blood. Doctors tell us that this can only happen in high levels of stress and anxiety. This is rare even for people who are going to receive a death penalty. This tells us that Jesus understood the magnitude of pain he would have to endure.
Before Jesus was tried to determine whether he was guilty or not; the guards tied Jesus to a pole and came with scourges (also referred to as a cat 'o nine tails) to beat him. Scourges are short whips with shards of metal, bone or porcelain wrapped in leather straps. It is used to hit the legs, arms and back of someone. This weapon was designed to leave a person in their most medically vulnerable state after it hits them. When the scourge came into contact with someone, it caused blood to rush to the surface of the skin so when the bones latched onto it and ripped it off, they would bleed profusely and lose all energy. Eventually, when all the skin is off it would start latching onto muscles and tendons. Along this process, they rip through all the blood vessels supplying blood to these tissues. So blood is constantly being lost. This was done 39 times by Roman Soldiers. This is done to your entire body so when you are finally being crucified, you have no energy when nails are driven into your skin. Keep in mind that all of this is before he is tried or found guilty of a crime.
After he was beaten, about 2 to 3 hours later, only then he was afforded a trial. Pilate (the government official at the time) proceeded to give Jesus his trial. Pilate was puzzled as to what reason they had to want to kill him. Pilate asked Jesus whether he really thought he was the King of the Jews. Summarized, Jesus told him he was. Pilate told the Jews that he found no fault in Jesus but would be willing to allow the Jews to kill him since they wanted to do it so badly and for the sake of peace. So although the High Priests of the time wanted to kill him, neither they nor Pilate could find a good enough reason or a single fault in him (John 18: 28-40), let alone anything that would justify crucifixion.
After this, Jesus was supposed to carry his own cross to the place where he would be crucified. The splintered cross was estimated to weigh over 136 kilograms, keeping in mind how much energy he must have lost at this point. This took approximately 3 hours.
Around 12 noon, is when he had arrived and when they started proceedings of crucifying him. I will not even begin to go through the placement of the nails in Jesus's hands. I tried my best to read the detail but I couldn't finish it, much more write about it. Click here for an article that explains it from a surgeon's point of view. The first video at the bottom of this article also speaks about it. So they drove nails into his hands and hung him on the cross. What many people don't know is that crucifixion didn't kill you because of the pain. You would die because of suffocation. While hanging on the cross it is very difficult to breathe. You would have to use your feet and wrists (that have nails through them) to push your exposed body up on splintered wood to catch your breath and then down again. So while you are trying to breathe, your back is gets grated by splintered wood and your hands and feet are in excruciating pain. This is the reason they broke the legs of crucified people to finish them off. This is so that they couldn't push themselves up to breathe, so they then would suffocate.
After this, to make sure he was dead they drove a spear through him. So much blood was lost, that water spilled out of him. None of these injuries unless you are treated by a trauma surgeon with all the advanced equipment we have today, could have been survivable if not treated within a few minutes. There are medical doctors that have studied the above have agreed that he died that day. He could not have survived.
Click here to see the timeline of events leading to Jesus' death
Why did Jesus do it then?
Jesus knew all of this was going to happen when he was in the garden of Gethsemane. You can understand why he was so stressed that he was there sweating blood. If Christ is really the Son of God, then why did he decide to die in the way that he did?
Before I answer the question above, I have to explain a few things. You and I have sinned. We don't see it as a big deal because we do not understand the magnitude of what sin does. Sin is evil and can only originate from something inherently evil. For example, you wouldn't expect watermelon to come out of a litchi plant because that's not what comes out from litchi plants. Watermelon is produced from watermelon plants because that's what watermelon plants produce. In the same way, if sin comes out of humans then that means that humans have to have elements of evil within them. So humans are the main cause of evil on earth. If God is good and holy (as the Bible claims), then what should God do with evil people? If a criminal is standing in front of a judge for a crime he has committed, what should a good judge do? What would your reaction be if the judge said something like "I see you killed someone but I feel like letting you go because I am a good person and forgiving"? We all feel that would be unjust and unfair of the judge (think of the Oscar Pistorius and OJ Simpson trials). We would all cry for justice to be served. So God cannot just pardon us. Because you and I have broken his law, He has to punish us. The only problem is there is nothing we can do to please or satisfy God's punishment. We all deserve to go to hell because we broke God's law. God is so good and just, he has to punish us.
The good news, however, is that God is also loving. Since the only person that would be able to pay back our debt is God, He came up with a plan. He decided to come down to earth as a human to live a life we continually fail to live (a life without sin) and teach us more about Himself. When Jesus was going through crucifixion, it was a public declaration that the sin that we committed was about to be paid by Jesus once and for all. When Jesus was being whipped and tortured, he was thinking of you and I. When he was on that cross, Jesus took all the sins that had ever been committed, and all the sins that would be committed in future on himself. This was so that God would punish him for all our sin so that God would not have to punish us! When Jesus rose again, it was confirmation that God no longer has problems with humans because our sins have been paid by Jesus. The only way you get to enjoy the forgiveness is if you believe in Jesus and repent (saying you're sorry for your sins and striving not to do it again). That easy. No strings attached. It doesn't matter what you have done or will do. You are saved because of what Jesus went through on that cross.
All of the events I speak of the relation to the historical death of Jesus and resurrection, have been confirmed by historians and biblical scholar who are theists, atheists, and agnostics. Bart Ehrman, an atheist historian, says that out of the thousands of scholars he has interacted with, he knows of no scholar who doubts the historic death of Jesus Christ. The video below is a short clip of a conversation he had with a radio host. I encourage you to make the effort of watching the entire 16-minute interview. I have posted a 7-minute clip of what he says.
I wrote this post to shed a bit of light of how gruesome crucifixion is. I have found myself getting desensitized the concept of crucifixion. It is so easy to get used to the phrase "Jesus died on the cross". For a long time, as a Christian, I knew that the cross was important, but I would not be able to say why. Jesus's suffering on the cross shows me that he didn't just watch as humanity imploded through its evilness and suffering. But the greatest being of all didn't regard his heavenly status as something that would deter him from coming to earth and suffering with us and most importantly for us. Christianity is not about money and health and all that stuff. Through the cross, we can see that it is actually about being willing to lay your own life for those who suffer and even for those who hate you and doing what is right. This is the reason why Christians are so passionate and proud of Jesus for going on the cross. This is the very reason why I am a Christian.
Thank you for reading my post. I haven't been posting much because I'm busy with my Post Graduate studies. I will be posting more often from now on. Check out more resources by clicking below.
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