«But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness» (l Corinthians 1:23).
MARTIN HENGEL wrote a book called Crucifixion, which recounts the torments suffered by a crucified person. The information he shares allows us to understand that the sufferings were much crueler than we could imagine. We usually have a distant idea of what a crucifixion was really like. Painters and sculptors began to capture paintings of Jesus crucified long after such a practice of execution had been abandoned. Certain archaeological findings show that the portraits minimized the actual situation.
Those condemned to crucifixion were first cruelly whipped. The scourging whip was an extremely inhumane instrument of punishment. The whip they used consisted of four or five lead balls, attached to a wooden handle by means of chains. Small pieces of iron stuck out of each ball. The blows not only ripped the skin, but also shattered tissues and muscles. The executioners limited these floggings, for they could cause even death, and the intention was to prolong the torment: they wanted them alive and conscious to suffer the agonies of the cross.
After the whipping, completely bloodied, the condemned were taken to be executed in a crowded public place. There they were subjected to public ridicule and shame. They were completely stripped of their clothes and exposed to criticism and ridicule. The artists, in a pious and compassionate way, partially covered the bodies in their work. The Father, through dark clouds, mercifully hid the unseemly scene of His Son from the impudent eyes of the multitude.
But it was not the previous floggings, nor the torments of the cross, nor the spear of the soldier that caused His death. Despite the humiliation and pain, even on the cross He still thought and acted on behalf of others. He commissioned John to take care of His mother, prayed and forgave His wrongdoers, and gave hope to the thief at His side.
«It was not the dread of death that weighed upon Him. It was not the pain and ignominy of the cross that caused His inexpressible agony. . . His suffering was from a sense of the malignity of sin…. Upon Christ as our substitute and surety was laid the iniquity of us all” (The Desire of Ages, pp. 752-753).
If you could extend your arms out to your side, as Jesus did on the cross, how long would you endure? One minute? Two?
Jesus spent six hours crucified, unable to even wipe the drops of blood that trickled from His head because of the crown of thorns.
It was all for the love of you, of me, . . . of everyone!
May gratitude and commitment be our response to His sacrifice!