Though He was Crucified
CRUCIFIED! No death was so thorough, no shame so complete.
First, there was the scourging. The scourging post was two feet high. An iron ring, placed close to the top projected from two sides.
Clothing was ripped away from a prisoner so that he stood naked. Roman lictors were professionals. They confined their labors to the fine, brutal art of scourging, and they could beat a victim until only the barest spark of life remained.
Wrists were firmly shackled to the iron ring. Then the victim was stretched, face down, with his feet pointing away from the post. The Roman scourge was a flagra, a short-handled whip consisting of several thin, iron chains which ended in small weights.
Scourging was called the little death. It preceded the big death-crucifixion.
“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him” John 19:1.
“(Jesus) for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” Hebrews 12:2.
Even the tension of waiting the first blow was cruel. The body became rigid; the muscles knotted in tormenting cramps. Color drained from the cheeks. Lips were drawn tight against the teeth.
As the whip descended the chains cut across the back, and each link cut through the skin and deep into the flesh. The weights crashed with bruising force into the ribs and curled bitingly around the chest. When a man was scourged, there was pain beyond the memory of pain. Sweat burst from the brow and stung the eyes. At each stroke of the flagra the victim’s body twitched like a beheaded chicken. The second stroke patterned the back and half the chest with a V-shaped network of small cuts. Only the Son of God could hold back the high-pitched wail of unbearable agony.
The very juice of life was torn away with every lash. There was only the blinding, burning pain as cruel whips whistled again and again through the air and across the back and shoulders. The flagra could flay a man alive.
Under Hebrew law the strokes were limited to thirty-nine. Roman punishment was not so limited. There was only one rule for the lictor who scourged a man about to be crucified: he must not die. A spark of life must be sustained for the agony on the cross. Men have bitten their tongues in two under such beatings. Only blessed unconsciousness could bring relief.
The limp body of a victim was cut away from the post. His wounds were washed but not otherwise medicated. The next step was the parade to the execution ground. Roman politicians always liked to make examples of condemned men. The long, slow parade along public streets was designed to serve as a warning to others that Rome dealt quickly and mercilessly.
“And they led Him away to crucify Him” Matthew 27:31.
“And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha” John 19:17.
“And there followed Him a great company of people” Luke 23:27.
“He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” Philippians 2:8.
A centurian usually served as the executioner or carnifex servorum. While four soldiers held the prisoner, the centurion placed the sharp, five-inch spike in the dead center of the palm of the hand. A skillful, experienced blow sent it through the flesh. Four or five more strokes hammered the spike deep into the plank, and another stroke turned the spike so that the hand could not slip free.
A small projection, resembling a rhinocerous horn and known as the sedile, fitted solidly through the crotch. This was so fitted so as to take most of the weight off the condenmed man’s hand. Then a nail was driven through each foot.
It was a death reserved for slaves, thieves, and traitors.
The wounds in the hands sent fire down through the arms. Fainting only relieved temporarily. It was darkness and pain: then pain and darkness. The pain in the back, arms, hands, feet, and crotch was a dull, throbbing, horrible, endless pain. The pain built up. It multiplied. It was cumulative. There was not a moment of respite.
“When He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously” I Peter 2:23.
The cross was planted so the greatest amount of sunlight would pierce the prisoner’s eyes. Below, the curious waited - fascinated by the torture. The macabre scene was played out slowly. Dying should be a private thing, not a public spectacle. There is something obscene about having a mob of people standing around waiting for a person to die.
“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture” Psalm 22:14-18.
Then the thirst began. The lips were dry. The mouth parched. The blood hot. The skin fevered. The greatest of all needs at the moment was a drop of cool water. But water was denied.
“After this, Jesus... saith, I thirst” John 19:28.
At the foot of the cross the death squad drank in the presence of the dying man to add to his mental torment. The sun shone directly into the eyes of the crucified. Even when the lids were closed a red glare penetrated. The tongue thickened. What once was saliva was now like uncombed wool. Swelling began in the hands and feet. The sedile dug deeply into the genitals. It was impossible to turn, to change one’s position. Muscles began to twitch. The real horror was only beginning. One by one the muscles of the back gathered in tight, knotty cramps. There was no escaping them, no pulling out of them, no gentle massaging hands to ease them away. They moved across the shoulders and the thorax. They moved down into the abdomen.
After two hours on a cross every muscle in the body was locked in solid knots, and the agony was beyond endurance. Men shrieked themselves into insanity. The pain and symptoms were identical to those of tetanus (lockjaw or the state of a muscle undergoing continual contraction).
Man, with all his genius, has never devised a crueler, more agonizing death than that of tetanus - the slow, steady contraction of every muscle. Death by crucifixion made the agony last as long as possible. Each hour was an eternity.
At times the cramps made the neck rigid, and the head was held flush with the vertical beam. A man longed for death. It was his only desire.
There were flies, insects, and dogs with the smell of blood in their nostrils. Birds of prey, scavengers of the skies, circled lower and lower. Prayers seemed to mock a man, but he either prayed or cursed.
“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:46.
As the hours passed, the tiny blood vessels which fed the nerves were squeezed flat, and with the lack of circulation there came the numbing paralysis.
A new agony developed for those who lingered on the cross. It was the agony of the mucous membrane. The mucous membrane, that thin, slippery tissue which lines and lubricates much of the human body, dried to the consistency of fine gravel. It scraped the tender tissues of the anus. It tore at the tortured throat. It lay like stones in the sinuses. It ripped layers of tissue from the eyes every time the pupil was moved or the eye blinked.
“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit” Luke 23:46.
“Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs: but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water” John 19:32-34.
Could there ever be more intense suffering this side of hell? Christ was crucified. He died the most brutal death ever devised by man. He took my place. It was my sin that sent Him there.
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written,
“Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” Galatians 3:13.
“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” Isaiah 53:5.
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man” Hebrews 2:9.
Jesus Christ died the most thorough death ever devised. It was designed to allow the slow death erosion of cell, muscle, emotion, bone, tissue, mind, spirit, blood, and heartbeat. Thus, the Resurrection is the most thorough victory ever recorded.
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
No further sacrifice for sins is needed.
Jesus paid it all!
REV. C. M. WARD
Used by permission of REVIVALTIME