Crucifixion is a form of execution in which a person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross (or tree) and left to hang until dead. It was a common mode of punishment among pagan nations in ancient times, but remains in occasional use in some countries today. It is arguably the cruelest form of death ever devised by man: Cicero (3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC), an ancient Roman philosopher and orator, described it as “a most cruel and disgusting punishment,” and in 2009, Amnesty International condemned it as “the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”
Under ancient Roman penal practice, crucifixion was also a means of exhibiting a criminal’s low social status. It was the most dishonourable punishment imaginable, designed to bring about a particularly slow, painful, gruesome, humiliating, and public death. Although artists have traditionally depicted a figure on a cross with a covering over the genitals, the person being crucified was usually stripped naked. The word “excruciating” used to describe extreme pain, was coined from crucifixion, and it literally means “out of crucifying.” Crucifixion was often performed to dissuade witnesses from perpetrating particularly heinous crimes, so the condemned were left on display after death as a warning to others.
A cross comprises two parts: an upright (Latin: stipes) and a crossbeam (Latin: patibulum). Sometimes, the condemned, already weakened by severe beatings (scourging), was forced to carry the crossbeam (around 45kg) to the place of execution, which was usually some distance outside the city. The nails used in crucifixion were tapered iron spikes approximately 13 to 18 cm long. When a person was crucified, causes of death would include a combination of any of these: cardiac rupture, heart failure, hypovolemic shock, acidosis, asphyxia, arrhythmia, pulmonary embolism, dehydration, exhaustion, and the length of the time of death may range from hours to days, depending on method, the victim’s health, and the environment.
By far, the most famous crucifixion of all time was that of our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary, under Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judaea province at the time. Jesus’ crucifixion is a central event in Christianity, and this Easter, Christians, the world over would be commemorating His death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus’ death on the Cross was a vicarious sacrifice. He suffered a horrible death in our place, for our sins and for the sins of the whole world. The Bible lets us know that when He died, we died with Him; when He was buried, we were buried with Him, and when he was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we were raised together with Him (Galatians 2:20)!
As you celebrate Easter, remember all that Jesus went through for your sake. He did it in your place (as your substitute) so you would never have to suffer anymore, but enjoy to the full, the resurrection life of health, victory, success, and permanent prosperity He obtained for you!