I’ve learned about crucifixion over the years, and the more I learn the more I realize just what Jesus did for me. We talk about how Jesus left Heaven and gave up some of His “God powers.” These are amazingly, eternally significant points, and I do not want to downplay them! Yet sometimes we gloss over the physical parts of Jesus’ complete sacrifices, the ones we can more easily grasp in our finite human terms.
Crucifixion was the ancient Roman form of capital punishment. It was a torturous, slow death, sometimes taking several days. In Jesus’ case He was given a few extra horrors before He even got to the cross. He was scourged, meaning He was lashed open with a nine-tailed whip that tore His skin to shreds, and eventually could rip down to bone. His body would likely be in shock at this point, and probably unrecognizable. Jesus was also given a crown of thorns to mock His claim of kingship. It was beat on well with a stick and the long thorns dug into His scalp.
After that, Jesus was made to carry His own cross beam. Once at the place of execution (likely at eye-level with people on the road), He was hung completely naked on a cross. Often people would be hung with rope on their arms and feet, but as in the case of Jesus sometimes they would be hung with nails to hasten the dying process. At times a person might hang for several days.
If you didn’t die of exposure, dehydration, starvation, shock, or exhaustion, you would die of asphyxiation. Hanging there required you to heave your body and pull in order to breathe, so eventually the effort, pain, and agony would take its toll and you would be too weak to try.
Knowing all this, I wonder at how we Christians can sometimes be so casual when talking about it. This was a traumatizing experience for Jesus and His friends and family! Jesus was beaten nearly to death, then hung to die slowly. Can you imagine going through all that? At least a few of His friends and His mother were there to see it. Can you imagine what that must have been like, seeing your son or best friend dying slowly for a false accusation?
Jesus said “I love you” in the greatest way possible! And that’s only part of the physical part! Then Jesus rose again! Jesus went through all that and died for our sins, then lived to tell about it! All because He loves us!
Take a few moments to think about each part of Jesus’ sacrifices for us: the physical and the metaphysical. Go through the Bible and look at them in detail. Throughout Jesus’ earthly life, from the very beginning onward, He limited Himself to and sacrificed whatever God told Him to, right down to being left all alone and dying so we wouldn’t have to, and right up to rising again to bring us eternal life! If all that doesn’t say love, then nothing does.