Spring is the time of year for regeneration and restoration. Growth and regrowth flood the season almost as much as the rains that come to bring life to the ground. This week, Holy Week, is often a time for candy and easter egg dying. Cute bunnies and fluffy chickens cover our social media feeds. Much Joy is present at this time of year, yet one of the most horrendous acts in human History took place during this season. God was murdered.
So little is told to us in the bible about crucifixion because to the intended audience, it was known all too well. The act of public execution was nothing new at the time, from beheadings to impalement. The most famous being “Nero Burning Rome” after Christ. In 64 AD, Nero was accused of starting the great fire of Rome. In order to shift the blame he accused the Christian people of doing it. As a punishment, he dressed them as wild animals and let the dogs eat them or he impaled them on stakes and set them on fire to serve as street lamps when the evening sun waned.
During the years of Christ on earth the Romans perfected the art of torture. The degree of tortured an individual endured was dependent upon the sadistic nature of the soldier in charge. They would have contests to see who could prolong a prisoners death the longest while inflicting as much pain as possible. The pain that the Savior of the world was subject to required a new word: EXCRUCIATING which literally means “from the cross”.
The primary cause of death in crucifixion wasn’t the lashes Jesus received. Nor was the crown of thorns or a spear in the side responsible. Most victims of crucifixion died of asphyxiation (suffocation). Have you ever had trouble catching your breath? Had the wind knocked out of you? That feeling of being unable to breathe might be one of the worst feelings imaginable. It is constricting and overwhelming.
Jesus wasn’t taken out to some far away place to be crucified. It was a public event. Hung bloodied and naked, God was mocked and spit on. Ancient Jewish historian Josephous called crucifixion “the most wretched of deaths.” (Josephous, J.W. 7.203).
Before his actual crucifixion, the Bible tells us that Jesus was scourged. Scourging in itself was a punishment that many people died from. Using a whip made from a series of long leather straps called a flagorum (a cat-o’-nine tails), with hooks, glass or metal attached, two soldiers taking turns would have whipped a hand-bound Jesus. Alternately, some of the straps would have metal balls attached to act as a tenderizer for the victim’s flesh, allowing the skin and muscle to be ripped more easily. One whip of a flogging instrument has been likened by modern doctors to a shotgun blast.
After enduring such pain, imagine carrying the 100 lb cross beam from the city to the hill. I’ve never been scourged or flogged, but as a man with a beard and a two year old son, I know what it is like to have my beard yanked on… Jesus’ was pulled out. I know what it’s like to be spit on… He was mocked and spit on by dozens of people if not more.
Jesus was hung by the very men He came to save. He was mocked by the faces of those He created. Many believe that, based on scripture, when the spear was shoved into His side, water and blood came out together implying that the sac around the heart had filled with water until the sheer pressure caused His heart to stop beating. Our Savior didn’t die of pain and anguish or of suffocation… He died of a broken heart both physically and emotionally.
This year, I urge you… allow this week to be focused on Jesus. Not just His resurrection but also His death. It was all for you.