What is Crucifixion?
In secular history, crucifixion is first mentioned as being used by the Persian Empire about 600 B.C. This ancient form of capital punishment brought about a cruel, shameful, and painful death. A person’s arms and feet were secured to an upright cross, most of their weight bearing on their extended arms. They could occasionally push up on their feet but this became harder and harder to do as strength gradually diminished, and asphyxiation eventually killed the person.
An Amazing Choice
This was not the kind of death you would choose for yourself. Yet, amazingly, that is what Jesus Christ did. The Bible says that He came into the world “when the fullness of time had come” – a time chosen by the plan of God. (Galatians 4:4) At that particular time, the Romans ruled the region where Jesus lived, and they used crucifixion extensively. Also at that time, self-righteousness plagued the Jewish religious leaders. They hated Jesus because His teaching exposed the sin of all people, including their sin. Finally, they were able to secretly arrest Him and persuaded the Roman Governor to have Him crucified. Jesus was severely beaten, nailed to a cross – hands and feet – and left to die.
Even so, this was fulfilling prophecies that God had made centuries before. Long before the Persian Empire even existed, God mentioned to His followers that crimes punishable by death might include hanging the guilty person on a tree. The passage also mentions that anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). And then later, explaining the meaning of Jesus Christ on the cross, God’s word says “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).
Cursed For You and Me
The curse of the law is the curse of death that imperfect people deserve because they do not live up to the law’s perfect standard. Jesus had kept the law perfectly, but He let the curse that we deserved fall on Him. Why did He choose to come to earth when He did and experience that most gruesome death of crucifixion? Perhaps to show how cruel and shameful it is that God’s creatures turn against Him, and to show how much God’s heart is pained by our sin.
Jesus Death Predicted in Detail
Psalm 22, written a thousand years before Jesus was born, gave some details of how He would die: People would mock Him while watching Him die; all His bones would be out of joint and could be counted; His heart would be like wax, melted within His breast; His strength dried up; His tongue sticking to His jaws; they would pierce His hands and feet; and people would cast lots for His clothes. All of these things came true.
The Bible says without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22). Sin’s consequence is death. Throughout the Old Testament history, lambs were sacrificed pointing to the time when the sacrifice of one perfect human life would reverse the death sentence and bring forgiveness. Jesus crucifixion was that sacrifice. He was the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world (John 1:29-30).
Between Earth and Heaven
The fact that crucifixion lifts a person to die suspended between earth and heaven made it a very appropriate way for Jesus to die. He once told a religious leader that He, the Son of Man, must be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. (John 3:15). And just one day before His death Jesus told a crowd of people that the hour had come for Him to be glorified, that the ruler of this world would be cast out, and that, when He was lifted up from the earth, He would draw all people to Himself (John 12:23-33). God’s word also says that there is one mediator between God and man, and that is Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus was lifted up between man and God to reconcile man to God.
Endured for You
How did Jesus endure such a gruesome death as crucifixion? It was not easy for Him from a human standpoint. He did not look forward to the pain or the weight of your sin and my sin and the world’s sin all on Him. But the Bible says, “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, despising its shame” (Hebrews 12:2). You are that joy. He was there for you. Jesus’ crucifixion was for you. It shows how much God loves you and wants you as His forgiven child.
At Christ Lutheran Church Montrose, we also want you to know God’s love and His forgiveness. Please plan a visit or connect with us in another way. Jesus is our beautiful Savior, who died so that we might live in Him forever. We invite you to celebrate that life with us.