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
drives a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly
he moves to the other side and repeats the 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 wrists 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 the muscles,
knotting them in 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. Finally carbon dioxide
builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subside.
Spasmodically he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.
Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent
partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves
up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins: a 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 a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. He can feel the
chill of death creeping through is tissues. . .Finally he can allow his body to die.
All this the Bible records with the simple words, "And they crucified Him."
(Mark 15:24). What wondrous love is this?
Adapted from C. Truman Davis, M.D. in The Expositor's Bible Commentary Vol. 8.
At one point early in Julius Caesar's political career, feelings ran so high against
him that he thought it best to leave Rome. He sailed for the Aegean island of Rhodes, but
en route the ship was attacked by pirates and Caesar was captured. The pirates demanded a
ransom of 12,000 gold pieces, and Caesar's staff was sent away to arrange the payment.
Caesar spent almost 40 days with his captors, jokingly telling the pirates on several
occasions that he would someday capture and crucify them to a man. The kidnappers were
greatly amused, but when the ransom was paid and Caesar was freed, the first thing he did
was gather a fleet and pursue the pirates. They were captured and crucified ... to a man!
Such was the Romans' attitude toward crucifixion. It was to be reserved for the worst of
criminals, a means of showing extreme contempt for the condemned. The suffering and
humiliation of a Roman crucifixion were unequaled.
Today in the Word, November 23, 1992.
On February 15, 1947 Glenn Chambers boarded a plane bound for Quito, Ecuador to begin
his ministry in missionary broadcasting. But he never arrived. In a horrible moment, the
plane carrying Chambers crashed into a mountain peak and spiraled downward. Later it was
learned that before leaving the Miami airport, Chambers wanted to write his mother a
letter. All he could find for stationery was a page of advertising on which was written
the single word "WHY?" Around that word he hastily scribbled a final note. After
Chambers's mother learned of her son's death, his letter arrived. She opened the envelope,
took out the paper, and unfolded it. Staring her in the face was the question
No doubt this was the questions Jesus' disciples asked when He was arrested, tried, and
crucified. And it was probably the questions Joseph of Arimathea asked himself as he
approached Pilate and requested the Lord's body (v.58). It must have nagged at him as he
wrapped the body in a linen cloth, carried it to his own freshly hewn tomb, and rolled the
massive stone into its groove over the tomb's mouth. In the face of his grief, Joseph
carried on. He did what he knew he had to do. None of Jesus' relatives were in a position
to claim His body for burial, for they were all Galileans and none of them possessed a
tomb in Jerusalem. The disciples weren't around to help either.
But there was another reason for Joseph's act of love. In Isaiah 53:9, God directed the
prophet to record an important detail about the death of His Messiah. The One who had no
place to lay his head would be buried in a rich man's tomb. Joseph probably didn't realize
that his act fulfilled prophecy. The full answer to the why of Jesus' death was also
several days away for Joseph and the others. All he knew was that he was now a disciple of
Jesus -- and that was enough to motivate his gift of love.
Today in the Word, April 18,
Statistics and Stuff
Order of the Events of the Crucifixion:
Arrival at Golgotha (Calvary), Mt 27:33; Mk 15:22; Lk 23:33; Jn 19:17
Offer of a benumbing drink, Mt 27:34
The crucifixion, Mt 27:35
Cry, 'Father, forgive...', Lk 23:34
The parting of Christ's garments, Mt 27:35
Jesus mocked, Mt 27:39-44; Mk 15:29
The thieves rail on Him, but one believes, Mt 27:44
Second cry, "Today you will be with me...', Lk 23:43
Third cry, 'Dear woman, here is your son,' Jn 19:26-27
The darkness, Mt 27:45; Mk 15:33
The fourth cry, 'My God, my God...', Mt 27:46-47; Mk 15:34-36
Fifth cry, 'I am thirsty,' Jn 19:28
Sixth cry, 'It is finished,' Jn 19:30
Seventh cry, 'Father, into thy hands...,' Lk 23:46
Jesus dismisses His spirit, Mt 27:50; Mk 15:37
Merrill F. Unger, The New Unger's Bible Handbook, Revised by Gary
N. Larson, Moody Press, Chicago, 1984, pp. 397-398.