Jesus’ Crucifixion and Death
Jesus endured a very terrible ordeal on our behalf. Before going to the cross, He was scourged. Roman scourgings involved a short whip (a flagrum or flagellum) with several leather thongs in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied. Christ would have received repeated blows to His chest, back, and legs—tearing muscle, shredding skin, and turning His back into a bleeding mass of bruised tissue. Jesus also had a crown of thorns shoved down upon His head—thorns that were probably about an inch long. When the soldiers struck Him on the head, these thorns would have gone deeper into His scalp and forehead—causing terrible pain.
Pilate ordered Roman soldiers to make Jesus carry His own cross to the crucifixion site. Because He had gone without sleep, and had been beaten and scourged, He carried the heavy weight of the cross only some of the
way before He likely collapsed. The guards forced a by-stander, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross the rest of the way. When He arrived at Golgotha, outside the city of Jerusalem, Jesus most likely was thrown down backwards upon the cross. His back immediately felt the rough wood. (In those days, wood was not smooth like the wood we buy at lumberyards today. It had to be hacked and chiseled with tools. So wood beams were rugged and splintery.) His arms were then extended apart, and each of His two wrists were nailed to the cross beam with large, jagged spikes—not like the smooth, sharp nails of today. Then soldiers placed Jesus’ feet together where a single nail could be driven through them both, leaving His knees slightly flexed.
The cross was then hoisted into place and likely dropped with a thud into the hole dug to hold the vertical post of the cross. In this extremely uncomfortable position, Jesus would have suffered agonizing pain in His wrists and feet, on His back as it rubbed up and down against the sharp splinters of wood, and inside His body as He struggled to get His breath and avoid suffocation. The pain would have been searing in His feet when He pushed on them to lift Himself up to breathe and to get some relief from the pain in His wrists. When He stopped pushing upwards with His feet, the full weight of His body would have hung on His wrists—again causing terrible pain and difficulty breathing. When He moved, the splintery wood against His back would have scraped against the scabbed wounds from the scourging He had previously endured—causing the wounds to start bleeding all over again. This horrible agony lasted for several hours. Yet He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
What is the meaning of the cross for you and me? If Jesus had not died, God could not forgive us of our sins. Atonement had to be made. No other sacrifice would have done the job. The blood of animals could not accomplish remission of sins (Hebrews 10:4). The death and sacrifice of any other human being would not have made it possible for God to forgive sin (Jeremiah 7:31; Micah 6:7). It took the shed blood of God Himself—in the person of His Son. Only that one, unique sacrifice could make it possible for God to cleanse and forgive human sin.
Since Jesus made the sacrifice for sin, we can be forgiven. Here is the grace of God! The cross shows God’s love for us (John 3:16). “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus died for everybody (Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2). But not everybody will be saved (Matthew 7:14). What makes the difference? We must access the atoning blood of Jesus by believing in Him, repenting of our sins, confessing His deity, and being immersed in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 10:10). In fact, just as Jesus died on the cross, was buried, and was then resurrected, even so, when we are baptized in water, we are “buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).