FRIDAY – The Crucifixion

So much has been written about the crucifixion of Jesus. What more can be added. Most Christian authors, however,  have focused on the physical agony of crucifixion. It is the human connecting point with the suffering of Jesus.

No doubt crucifixion was a horrendous way to die. The Romans were the masters of it but they did not invent the practice – they only perfected it. Alexander the Great learned it during his conquest of the Persians but as the practice spread west it was the Romans who perfected its cruelty after learning of it from the Phoenicians. So horrid was its suffering that only slaves and the lowest form of criminals could be sentenced to crucifixion. By law no Roman citizen could ever suffer this form of punishment.

The Romans appear to have studied and perfected this form of suffering so that death would be elusive for two or three days. What made crucifixion so excruciating was the slowness of the suffocating process that induced death. The victim’s lungs would slowly fill with liquid making the satisfaction of a full breath elusive. Not completely without mercy, the Romans also designed an alcoholic potion that they intermittently offered the victim (when they saw fit) to ease the pain. But they rarely shortened the suffering of the victim.

When we consider the crucifixion of Jesus, our minds naturally race to the physical suffering He had to endure. No doubt it was excruciating. He entered into crucifixion with no sleep over the previous 24+ hours because after His supper with the disciples they went to the Garden of Gethsemane for prayer. While the disciples slept, Jesus prayed (Luke 22: 39-46).

Then, in the middle of the night, He was arrested (Luke 22:47-53) and forced to endure three illegal trials between midnight and 6AM at the hands of religious leaders who claimed to be protectors of God’s Law ( John 18: 2-12; Luke 22:54-71). After being condemned as a lawbreaker and blasphemer, and after being severely beaten and deprived of sleep, Jesus was turned over to the Romans for punishment. Because the Jews had no authority over capital punishment, their leadership demanded the severest form of punishment from the Romans who presided over death. While Pilate, the ultimate decision maker among men in this Roman province, tried in vain to avoid crucifying Jesus (John 18:28-19:16), he ultimately made the decision that sent Jesus to the cross. And after being severely beaten and whipped again – this time by the Romans – Jesus was led to Golgotha where He was fastened and displayed on the cross to die. His physical suffering was immense.

Yet for all the physical agony of the cross, I do not think that Jesus’ physical suffering was the greatest pain He had to endure. He was put on the cross by 9AM and by 3PM He was dead. His physical death was under His control. As the Son of God He chose when He would physically die (John 19:30; Matt 27:50). Six hours of suffering on the cross before dying was unheard of yet Jesus’, in complete control of His physical death, decided when that event would take place. The thieves, crucified on either side of Jesus, also had death hastened – by the Romans who broke their legs which prohibited them from pushing up to receive another refreshing breath of air.

What Jesus did not control was His spiritual death or separation from the Father. He lost that control at Gethsemane – the last opportunity He had to avoid capture and ultimately crucifixion. Three times He fervently prayed that the Father would use another means to accomplish the redemption of mankind – not to avoid the physical agonies of the cross but the spiritual separation from the Father. The Trinity having been in eternal fellowship with each other, was about to experience disruption of their intimate relationship. Jesus’ in His humanity experienced some of that separation during His earthly life. But now He was about to experience a complete spiritual disconnect with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and They with Him. It is conceptually impossible for us to completely grasp the spiritual separation experienced in the Trinity. For Jesus (as well as the Father and Holy Spirit), it was emotionally heart wrenching. This, I submit, was the greatest pain experienced by the Trinity – all its members – at the cross. It is the separation we deserve from God because of our sin. Yet, Jesus endured this separation so that those who are redeemed would not have to experience it any more throughout eternity.

We still must experience physical death (unless we experience the rapture). But, our faith in the Person and work of Jesus removes the fear of spiritual death or separation from God for all eternity. He took that away in His work and though He beseeched the Father for another way to accomplish our redemption, He ultimately endured the rejection by and the separation from the Father and Holy Spirit so that we who believe and celebrate the cross would not have to experience this separation.

May we, on this day of contemplation remembering the Cross, celebrate its work with gratitude expressed with a lifestyle representative of our profession.



  1. 1 Will April 10, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Thanks Hal, very enlightening.

  2. 2 BEn T April 17, 2009 at 2:48 am

    Thanks Hal. What a Savior we have, in Christ.

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