Summary: A sermon on the crucifixion of Jesus

The Crucifixion

Mark 15:25-39

Picture of Jesus being crucified. The Romans practiced crucifixion as a means of putting fear in the populace. If one saw a crucifixion, you would want to be sure that you never do what it takes to end up on a cross. It was a frightening, terrible and excruciatingly painful death. Seneca said that if you knew it was a likelihood that you were to be arrested and crucified then better that you commit suicide. Sicero said it was one of the most vile and disgusting ways to put someone to death. Crucifixion was something that was horrible to watch but also a mar on the human race. But, it was a very effective deterrent to crime. The Romans specifically chose the place of crucifixion along the busiest thoroughfare in and out of the city of Jerusalem so as many people as possible could witness could witness how horrible it really was.

As we learned last week, victims were flogged first where the skin was literally ripped from their backs and blood loss was common. The goal was to put them in so much pain and agony and weaken them to such an extent that their crucifixion would not last long. Yet someone could linger on the cross for more than two days. After the flogging, they were forced to carry their own cross, that is the horizontal beam of the cross while the vertical beam was let in place secured in the ground. It could weigh up to 100 pounds. Picture of Golgotha They walked approximately 1/3 of a mile to the place of the crucifixion, Golgotha which means the place of the skull. It was called this perhaps because it looked like a skull or more likely because there were so many skulls from hose who had been crucified. Typically when someone was crucified, the body was left as a reminder for the Jews of what could happen if they committed crimes. But it was also left there until the birds had eaten the flesh. The bones were then probably just pushed to the side unless there was someone there to claim them. In other locales, the Roman just placed the remaining bodies on a trash heap and the families could not take them. That is not the case in Jerusalem.

How were they hung on the cross? This form of punishment was practiced for more than 800 years and it was done in a number of ways. They were affixed to the cross with nails through their hands and feet but they were not killed by this. Nails were not always used. Sometimes ropes were used or whatever was convenient for the executioners. Sometimes they were tied or nailed to a tree. Picture of heel bone In 1968, a bone box or ossuary was found for a man named Jehohanan. Inside they found a heel bone with a nail through it. Now this is the only example of this to let us know how this happened. What you see to the right of heel bone and the nail is a piece of wood. It is thought that the wood was placed up against the side of the ankle and the nail was then driven through it and then into the cross. The wood was designed to hold the leg in place against the cross to shore it up. This clearly shows that the foot would have been nailed through the side into the cross. Drawing of crucifixion The most recent evidence shows that the crucifixion would have looked something like this next image with the legs driven into the side of the cross and the hands tied or nailed into the cross bar. This is thought how Jehohanan died because we see no evidence in his hands. Jehohanan had undergarments on but this is not how the Romans crucified people as they stripped them naked to increase the humiliation of the experience.

We don’t know how people actually died on the cross though we know it was not from the nails. There have been theories set out by doctors, scientists and archaeologists. The problem is that you cannot run any current day studies on crucifixion. But here are some of the ideas. Some believe you die by asphyxiation that as you were suspended, it was possible to breathe in but you couldn’t exhale without raising yourself up. If that is the case, the longer you hung on the cross, the harder it was to pull yourself up to exhale. And so your breathing became more and more shallow until you finally suffocated. Another is that there is an increase of fluids around the heart and congestive heart failure occurred. Some have said there is a loss of bodily fluids through the nail holes and sweat and so death by dehydration occurred. We’re not exactly sure but what we do know it was an effective way to kill someone and that was what happened to Jesus. Jesus though he was innocent was crucified and hung there for 6 hours until he died.

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