CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS
Why did Jesus have to die?
Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the scripture Corinthians Evidence affirms that the sinless Jesus bled and died on a cross. Most importantly, the Bible explains why Jesus’s death and resurrection provide the only entrance to Heaven.
Remember, the Holy God cannot let sin go unpunished. He kept His promise to send and sacrifice the perfect lamb to bear the sins of those who trust in Him.
Jesus had to die because He is the only one who can pay the penalty for our sins, and restore our relationship with God.
In this lesson, I hope to give a more detailed glimpse into the crucifixion of Jesus. We will look at Christ’s journey in His final hours from His condemnation by Pontias Pilate to His body being laid in the tomb.
Our study begins with Jesus spending His last hours before the crucifixion at several places in Jerusalem. He started the evening in the Upper Room, in southwest Jerusalem. This event is called the Last Supper, where Jesus, in giving the first communion, predicted that His body and blood would be given for them.
He then went outside of the city to the Garden of Gethsemane. He was then arrested and brought back to the palace of the High Priest, where He was questioned by Annas, a former High Priest, and Caiaphas, Annas’ son-in-law. Afterwards, He was tried by the Sanhedrin, and found to be guilty of blasphemy by proclaiming Himself The Son of God. He was sentenced to the death penalty. Since only the Romans were able to execute criminals, He was sent to Pontius Pilate at the Antonia Fortress.
Pilate, not finding anything wrong, sent Him to King Herod, who returned Him back to Pilate. Pilate, submitting to the pressure of the crowd, then ordered that Jesus be flogged and crucified. He was finally led out of the city walls to be crucified at Calvary.
The Baptism of Jesus and His crucifixion are considered to be two historically certain facts about Jesus. His crucifixion is as certain as any historical fact can be, and has even been “firmly established” and confirmed by non-christians.
This is where our study really begins, as we look at the last few hours of Jesus’ life and what shame and suffering he had to endure.
First, what is the definition of crucifixion? Crucifixion was an ancient method of execution in which the victim’s hands and feet were bound and nailed to a “cross”. The word crucifixion comes from the Latin “crucifixio”, or “crucifixus”, meaning “fixed to a cross”.
It was one of the most horribly painful and disgraceful methods of capital punishment. It was one of the most dreaded methods of execution in the ancient world. This type of capital punishment was primarily reserved for traitors, captive armies, slaves, and the worst of criminals.
Crucifixion became common under the Rule of Alexander The Great (356-323 B.C.). The Romans stole the idea from Ancient Persians.
In the Roman Empire, the crucified person would be left hanging on the cross for several hours of torture. They were crucified completely naked and well above the ground and usually on main thorough fares and on high ground so everyone could see the penalty for committing crimes or insurrections. It was meant to be a deterrent. At Jesus’ crucifixion, which took place on Golgotha (place of the skull), there were thousands who witnessed it.
The Romans perfected crucifixion as a punishment designed to maximize pain and suffering. It wasn’t about killing somebody—It was about killing somebody in a really horrible way. Someone who was crucified, suffered the maximum amount of pain.
Jesus Christ, the central figure of christianity, died on a Roman cross as recorded in all four gospels; The crucifixion of Jesus occurred in century Judea, most probably between the years 30 and 35 A.D.
While in Gethsemane, Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested by the Jews. He is bound and brought back to the city. Before the crucifixion, Jesus was forced to walk 2.5 miles over a sleepless night during which He suffered great anguish through His six trials, was mocked, ridiculed, and severely beaten.
The first physical trauma was inflicted when Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin and the high priest. A soldier struck Jesus across the face for remaining silent when being questioned. The palace guards then blind-folded Him and mockingly taunted Him to identify them as they each passed by, spat upon Him, and struck Him in the face. His beard was plucked out. His teeth were likely beaten in or broke off, as they ridiculed Him, laughed Him to scorn, and mocked Him, as “The King of the Jews”.
In the early morning, battered, bruised, dehydrated, and exhausted from a sleepless night, Jesus was condemned to scourging.
Many scholars believe that Pilate originally ordered Jesus scourged as His full punishment, and that the death sentence by crucifixion came only in response to the taunt by the mob. Even with this, the Jews demanded Jesus be crucified, even crying that “His blood be on us and on our children”
The scourging was more than a severe beating. It involved whips or lashes made of leather thongs which were attached to a handle. These thongs contained metal fragments or iron balls and pieces of bones that literally tore the flesh off of Jesus. The iron balls would cause deep bruising, while the leather thongs would cut into the skin. Blood loss was considerable, and the pain would have put the victim in a state of shock or even unconsciousness.
During the flogging, the victim was tied to a post, leaving his back exposed. The number of strikes or blows in Jewish law was set in at 40, but later reduced to 39. Thirty-nine hits were believed to bring one to the point of death.
After Jesus was scourged, the soldiers stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on His head
They put a staff in His right hand and knelt in front of Him and mocked Him, “Hail, King of the Jews”. They spit on Him and took the staff and struck Him on the head again and again.
The crown of thorns covered the entire scalp, and the thorns may have been one and two inches long. The gospels state that the Roman Soldiers continued to beat Jesus on the head. The blows would drive the thorns into the scalp (one of the most vascular areas of the body) and forehead, causing severe bleeding.
In it mentions that Jesus was beaten so severely that his form did not look like that of “A Son of a Man”.
marred from the form of man was His aspect that His appearance was not as that of a Son of Man”.
After all of this, the heavy Patibulum of the cross is tied across His shoulders and the procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves and the execution detail of Roman soldiers, headed by a centurion, begins its slow journey along the “Via Dolorosa (the way of suffering) to be crucified at
The total distance has been estimated at 650 yards. The Patibulum (or cross bar) probably weighed between 80 to 110 pounds.
Since the cross bar would be balanced on the victim’s shoulders and their arms tied to the cross bar, if the victim tripped or fell, they could not use their arms to break their fall, and they would likely fall face first into the ground.
During His journey to the place of crucifixion Jesus encounters several events along the way. One of these was when Jesus stumbles and falls from the weight of the heavy wooden beam. Some theorize that His fall led to a contusion of the heart, predisposing His heart to rupture on the cross. Because He was unable to carry the beam, further, the Roman soldiers selected a North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to help carry the cross
Once at the cross site, Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic mixture. Jesus refuses to drink.
Simon is then ordered to place the Patibulum (cross bar) on the ground and Jesus is quickly thrown backward with His shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He would then drive a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. The nails were about seven inches long and with a diameter of one cm (roughly 3/8 of an inch), The points would go into the vicinity of the median nerve, causing shocks of pain to radiate through the arms. It was possible to place the nails between the bones so that no fractures (or broken bones) occurred. Studies have shown that nails were probably driven through the small bones of the wrist, since nails in the palms of the hand would not support the weight of a body. In ancient terminology, the wrist was considered to be part of the hand.
Standing at the crucifixion site would be an upright post, called “stipes”, standing about seven feet high. The patibulum is then lifted in place at the top of the stipes and the is nailed in place, reading, “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews”.
The feet were then nailed to the stipes. The knees had to be bent and rotated laterally, being left in a very uncomfortable position. 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. The victim is now crucified. At this point, we begin to see the actual suffering Jesus endured on the cross.
As we said before, the initial scourging would weaken the victim, causing massive blood loss, and probably induce shock. Also, total exhastion would set in.
Once on the cross, the victim would have his body weight suspended by their arms. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain—the nails in the wrist are putting pressure on the median nerve.
With His body weight suspended by His arms, it would be difficult to completely exhale. The victim could take shallow breaths for a while, but eventually would be forced to push himself up to take a full breath.
At this point, three things happen:
(1) As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places his full weight on the nail through his feet. The nail through the feet would be likely to hit two major nerves running through the area. The result would be excruciating pain in the legs. Great waves of cramps would sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With cramps comes the inability to push himself upward. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. As Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream. Spasmadically, He is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen.
It was during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences recorded.
(1) The looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice for His seamless garment, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”.
(2) The to the Penitent thief, “Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise”.
(3) The looking down at the terrified, grief-stricken adolescent John—the beloved Apostle—He said, thy mother,” Then looking to His mother, Mary, behold thy
(4) The Fourth cry is from the beginning of the Psalm, “My God, My God, Why has thou forsaken me?”
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 tissue; the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air; the dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain.
(5) The Jesus gasps His fifth cry, “I thirst”.
The body of Jesus is now in extremes, and He can feel the chill of death creeping through His tissue. This realization brings out His:
(6) The Sixth words possibly little more than a tortured whisper, is
His mission of atonement has completed.
Finally He can allow His body to die.
With one last surge of strength, He once again presses His torn feet against the nail, strengthens His legs, takes a deeper breath, and utters his:
(7) Seventh and last cry.
“Father into thy hands I commit my spirit”.
The common method of ending a crucifixion was by the breaking of the bones of the legs. This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; thus, the tension could not be relieved from the muscles of the chest and rapid suffocation occurred.
The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when the soldiers came to Jesus they saw that this was unnecessary
To make sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance through the fifth rib, upward through the pericardium and into the heart.
“And immediately there came out blood and water”. That is, there was an escape of water fluid from the sac surrounding the heart, giving evidence that our Lord died not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.
As evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body.
Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus was already dead. In Pilate summons the centurion and asked if Jesus had already died. The important fact is that the medical evidence supports that Jesus did die a physical death.
While many of the physical signs proceeding death were present, one possibility is that Jesus did not die by physical factors which ended His ability to live, but that He “Gave up His life of His own accord”. His last statement, “Into your hands, I commit my spirit”, seems to show that Jesus’s death occurred by giving Himself up. In He states that only He has the power to lay down His life. He proved His power over death by His resurrection.
Truly, God is the one who has power over life and death.
In closing I would just say, we have had our glimpse—including the medical evidence—of that epitome of evil which man has exhibited toward man and toward God. It was a terrible sight and more than enough to leave one despondent and depressed.
How grateful we can be that Jesus took it upon Himself to die for all our sins and give us a way to restore our relationship with God and give us a way to eternal salvation.