Nailed To The Cross
Updated: May 25, 2020
By sis Grace Ler
Crucifixion was one of the most brutal methods of death used in ancient times. It was used by Persians in the 6th century BC and subsequently the Romans in 3rd century BC. This method of punishment was reserved for slaves, revolutionaries and criminals. It causes extremely slow and painful suffering, and that is how the word “excruciating” was derived.
Traditionally before crucifixion, the victim is flogged with a flagrum which is a short whip that consists of several strips of leather with metal balls attached to the middle and sheep bones attached to the tips of each strip. After which, the victim would carry part of their cross to the place of execution where his hands and feet were fixed to the cross with either nails or cords. Usually, the vertical piece (the stipes) remains in the ground permanently and the accused would carry the horizontal piece (the patibulum) up the hill. Atop the patibulum lies a sign (the titulus), or accusation. In Jesus’ case, this read “This is the King of the Jews”.
Luke 23:38 “And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This Is The King Of The Jews.”
Pilate ordered Jesus to be flogged before His crucifixion and with each whip, it would cut deep into Jesus’ skin and muscles, causing Him to bleed profusely. This resulted in Jesus’ blood pressure to fall, causing Him to go into shock. The Roman soldiers also placed a crown of thorns on Jesus’ head. Each time the soldiers smote Him on the head, the thorns pushed deep into Jesus’ scalp, causing Him to bleed further. Jesus was then made to carry the heavy patibulum to the area of crucifixion, at which He was nailed to the cross.
The Roman soldiers pierced Jesus’ hands and feet. The Greek meaning of “hands” includes the wrists and it is more likely that the nails went through Jesus’ wrists, allowing the bones in the lower part of the hand to support the weight of the arms. The huge nail, said to be seven to nine inches long, would damage the major nerve supplying the hand causing continuous pain. A nail was also driven through the arch of each of Jesus’ foot, causing Him to be in deep throbbing pain. As the patibulum was lifted to be placed on the stipes, Jesus’ full weight would have pulled down on His nailed wrists, causing His shoulders and elbows to dislocate. Hanging by His arms, waves of cramps would sweep over His muscles. The weight of His body would pull down on the diaphragm, allowing Him to inhale and draw air into His lungs but making it difficult to exhale as Jesus would have to push on His nailed feet causing more pain. This resulted in carbon dioxide building up in the bloodstream and decreased oxygen to supply the tissues.
Psalm 22:14-15 “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. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.”
In response to the blood loss that he suffered, Jesus became dehydrated and started to thirst.
John 19:28 “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.”
The exact final cause of Jesus’ death is still unknown and there have been many theories postulated. But we know that a decrease in oxygen levels from labored breathing coupled with shock from a decrease in blood volume would have resulted in damage to tissues and major organs, thereby leading to one’s death.
After Jesus had given up His spirit, the Jews asked that Jesus and the two criminals be taken from the cross as it was Sabbath day. Traditionally, the legs of the victims would be broken such as in the case of the two criminals, resulting in blood loss from the fracture site as well as fat embolism causing respiratory failure. However, as the soldiers saw that Jesus had already passed away, they did not break His legs. Instead they pierced His side with a spear to ensure that He was dead, and “forthwith came there out blood and water”.
I chose to write about this topic as I wanted to learn about crucifixion in greater detail and to better understand what Jesus had to go through. The amount of excruciating pain that Jesus experienced is something that few or none of us would ever have to go through in our lives. Writing this article reminded me yet again the love of God..
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Every week, we partake of the Lord’s Supper as a memorial of Christ’s death on the cross as instructed by Him. On the evening Jesus was betrayed, while having a meal with His disciples, He took bread and said “This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me”. Likewise, He took the cup after supper, saying “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:19-20). The Lord’s Supper serves as a reminder of what Jesus sacrificed for us. The unleavened bread that symbolizes Jesus’ body – the body that was whipped, nailed to the cross, and experienced hours of cramps and fatigue. The fruit of the vine symbolizes Jesus’ blood – blood that was shed on the cross for the remission of our sins.
1 Cor 11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
I hope that you now have a greater understanding for the agony that Jesus had to endure for our sakes. As we take the Lord’s supper every Sunday, let us do so with deeper appreciation of the sacrifice that Jesus made for each and every one of us, and reflect on how we can similarly do so for the Lord.