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April 2023

by Rev. Phillip Girardin

Have you ever really taken a moment to consider the Crucifixion? It sounds like a ridiculous question, but so often we come to a point that we celebrate Holy Week, but it kind of rushes past us, and as it rushes past, some of the little bits that take our breath away get rushed past as well.

The Crucifixion of anyone was an utterly ruthless activity. The person being crucified didn't collloreally die of the wounds so much as asphyxiation as the diaphragm lost the ability, due to exhaustion, to take breaths. This was the real cause of death, but the process was remarkably painful. There's a great deal of scholarship out there about the physical realities of what a crucified person experienced, and none of it sounds comfortable. One scholar pointed out that the nail was driven through the wrist and not the hand so that the physical structure could support the weight of the body. In other words, all the flesh in the hand is insufficient to support the weight of the body; and consequently, would tear away allowing the victim to be free. It has been found that properly placed in the wrist, the boney structure of the wrist would allow for the complete support of the body, with the added benefit that it placed the nail in direct contact with a nerve that ran through the wrist... so every breath... every time the person lifted themself to breathe resulted in enormous agony. Every movement rubbed the nerve on that nail. It is horrifyingly brilliant. My understanding is that scholars are split on how the foot was nailed to the cross. Some argue that the feet would have been nailed next to each other, while other argue they would have been placed the way most artistic expressions show. The argument is fueled by practical historians/archeologists that have shown that both ways are very possible. Then there's the archeological proof found by way of a heel bone in Israel. Suffice it to say that either way, the reality of this is agony.

Then there is the cross itself. Romans were smart folks. They were incredibly rational in their actions, and many ancient historians speak to the reality of how crucifixion occurred. We like to think of Jesus as having carried a brand new clean cross. We like the romantic, artistic picture that we hold to, but reality was likely very different. Jesus probably had his arms tied to the cross member of the upright. The uprights were very infrequently taken down as it didn't make good use of time. It was much faster to simply hoist up the cross member. Maybe this was the case, maybe it wasn't; but most agree that Jesus would have simply had the crossmember tied to His arms... which meant when He fell there was no way to brace against it.

The other little bit we like to think is that the cross was clean, fresh, and new. Most likely it wasn't. There is a high probability that criminals had been crucified on Jesus' cross, and criminals went after. The picture of the cross, properly understood, is one that is gory and miserable. There is nothing romantic or pleasant about it. Jesus blood, on that cross, mingled with that of men, women, and children who also had been executed this way.

The presentation was rough as well. There was the physical pain and discomfort, but there was also the mental. Historians tell us that people, when crucified, had everything stripped from them. Their clothes were taken, and they were hung naked. Every last shred of pride that they had was removed. Every last little shred of dignity was stripped away. The single goal of crucifixion was to humiliate and embarrass as the person died. There was nothing gentle or pleasant about it. Every last shred of anything of value to you was stripped away. As you died in agony, you were seen naked, and your belongings taken. You were left with nothing. Nothing physically, nothing psychologically. Everything was taken.

Jesus bore this for us. Not only did He bear this, but He bore so much more. He suffered the lies of His chosen people. He was beaten and abused. He was spit on and mistreated, and all of this was before He was crucified. It can almost be to much to sit down and contemplate in a single sitting. It can be overwhelming.

Here's the other overwhelming side of it - that's how much Jesus loves you. He bore all of this to make you right before the Father, so that we can abide with Jesus into eternity. As striking as the crucifixion is for it's brutality, the love of God stands in stark contrast. All the wickedness brought to bear from humanity is nothing compared to the love of God found in Christ Jesus. All of this makes these words so much sweeter...

Pastor Phil

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