Fierce, Embraced, Free
1 Corinthians 1:18 – For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
The past week and half I have been in a very dry time inspirationally speaking. I usually don’t have any problem finding some sort of words to say about anything, whether they be the right words or the wrong words. But the past few weeks has been kind of dry.
I put out there on Facebook a plea for some ideas and had a couple great ones. A friend of mine from Philly shared the idea about forgiveness and what that truly means. A friend of mine from the DC area mentioned the differences between Bakkah and Mecca between Christianity and Islam.
I was at Mimi’s house for dinner and was planning on coming back home and writing about one of those topics. But the craziest thing happened on my drive. Over and over and over again I kept hearing in my mind, “how fierce the love that embraced the death to free the life.”
The entire 12 miles home I was consumed with that thought.
Every mile I drove the words “fierce,” “embraced,” and “free” kept echoing in my head.
I thought about my sin.
With every sin I recounted in my mind, I thought about Jesus’ flesh on that cross, holding each and every sin in His hands. Then, with a few swipes of the hammer on the head of the nails, those sins crushed by the sheer power of the death of Christ.
I wanted to give you a detailed account of just what crucifixion was in Jesus’ time.
Isaiah 53:4-5 – Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
The crucifixion was meant to provide maximum pain while giving minimum blood loss. That would extend the pain and suffering that the crucified endured by days. The Latin word, “excruciatus,” where we get our word “excruciating,” literally means “out of the cross.”
The first part of a crucifixion involved the scourging. The prisoner would be stripped of all clothing and have his hands tied to a post above his head. The flagellum, a short whip with several heavy, leather strands with small lead balls at the end, would be brought against his skin at full force. The first few hits were designed to cut the skin only. As more and more lashes were given, the lead balls would cut through the subcutaneous tissue. Blood would begin to ooze out. As the beating continued, spurting arterial bleeding would occur. By the end, the prisoner’s back was not even recognizable as the flesh would hang in long ribbons of bleeding tissue.
Isaiah 50:6 – I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.
When the prisoner is determined to be near death, the beating would stop.
Roman Centurions were very good at determining the state of health of their prisoner. If the prisoner were to die before they could be crucified, a death penalty could be given to the soldier who let the prisoner die.
Genesis 3:17-18 – “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
The next part of Jesus’ crucifixion was unique to Jesus. As a joke, the Roman guard dressed Him up as a king. They put a robe across his shoulders and placed a stick in His hand as a scepter. But the joke was not complete until they fashioned a crown made of long thorns was placed upon His head. The crown was pressed deeply into His scalp. Mocking Him even more and striking Him, they ripped the robe from His back. As the robe had started to adhere to the clotting blood on His back, it was as if a bandage was carelessly removed. His back would again begin to bleed.
By this time, it had been hours since Jesus had anything to drink. Between the beatings, the crown of thorns and the scourging, an irreversible effect will have started. Severe dehydration will have set in while cardio-respiratory failure was occurring.
Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. ”Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
Now that this process was complete, the crucifixion could take place.
The Persians in 300-400 B.C. created crucifixion but the Romans took it to an all new level. The Roman government would reserve crucifixion for the worst criminals as well as conquered leaders.
Keep in mind everything that Jesus had already been through.
It would start by having his clothing stripped from Him again. That clothing would be divided among the Roman guard. Why was it divided among the guard? While that answer is not known, there is speculation that the cloak that was put on Jesus to mock Him was fairly expensive.
Next, the Via Dolorosa was traveled. The way of the cross. It was customary for the crucified to carry their own cross to the crucifixion site. Since the entire weight of the cross was 300 pounds, the cross bar would be the part that is carried. It would be placed across the neck and shoulders of the victim and then their hands would be tied to the bar to prevent it from moving.
The weight of the beam would be too much for Jesus’ human body. Jesus had lost large amounts of blood and was severely dehydrated. The splintered wood beam would be cutting into his back and neck.
The Centurion, in a hurry to finish this so he could go home to his family, told Simon to carry the cross of Jesus, the final 650 yards from the Fortress Antonia to Golgotha.
By Roman law at the time, each crucified victim was given a cocktail of wine mixed with myrrh. This would be seen as an analgesic. But Jesus tried it and would not drink it. He wanted to meet death, as fierce as it could be, head on and conquer it completely.
Psalm 22:12-13 – “Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.”
Jesus was then thrown on to the ground on His back, arms outstretched. As he lay there, a Roman guard would grab a nail. These are no nails as we know them today. These are spikes that are typically between 5-7” in length with a square shaft that is 3/8” across. They would be hammered into the victim’s wrists.
After Jesus was attached to the cross bar, it would take 4 Roman soldiers to lift the bar onto the upright bar.
Once upright, the soldiers would affix Jesus’ feet to the cross. While occasionally they used footrests, they were not common. Jesus’ knees would have been rotated laterally giving a very prominent flexing of the knees. The left foot would be pressed backward against the right foot, toes down. A nail would be driven through the arch of each foot.
1 Peter 5:8 – Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
As Jesus’ body would slowly sag with the weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating pain would shoot along His fingers and up His arms. As He would push Himself up to avoid this pain, He would need to place full weight on the nail through His feet. There would be severe pain as the nail would tear through the metatarsal bones of His feet.
As His muscles would cramp, He would be unable to pull Himself up any more. He would be able to take a breath in, but as His chest cavity was getting crushed by the weight of His body, He would not be able to exhale. This would cause the carbon dioxide levels to increase in the lungs and the blood stream.
As a final piece to end it, the Roman guard would take a 5-6’ long spear and stick it into the ribcage and up into the heart of the crucified victim. This would finalize the death of the person.
Psalm 22:14 – “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.”
That is the death that MY Savior died for ME. That is the fiercest love that embraced the death that freed THIS life.
That is a picture of my God.
That is a picture of sacrifice.
A picture of love.
A beautiful picture.
An ugly picture.
But a necessary picture that opens the gates of heaven to anyone who will call upon HIS name as their Savior.
And thank God the ugly death of Christ didn’t end as just a death. Resurrection followed soon after the death.
I am sure there are people reading this right now who do not know Christ.
If that is you, and you are realizing today that you need HIM in your life, I want you to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to speak with you about that sacrifice He made on the cross for you.
That is what Christianity is about. It is about sacrifice. A sacrifice that God provided for us. It isn’t about being right or wrong in this life. It isn’t about knowing the details of the trumpets in the Book of Revelation. It isn’t even about how much sin you have had in your life to this point.
It is about realizing that you have sinned, as we all have. And that Jesus came and died on the cross for you. And that He resurrected from the grave and has full power to cover your sin with His blood. That is Christianity. That is what everyone reading this needs.
Romans 10:13 – For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”