“And He, bearing His cross went out to a place called ‘The place of a skull; where they crucified Him.” (John 19:17)
At the time of Jesus’ death, crucifixion was considered the most painful and degrading form of capital punishment in the Roman Empire. It was considered so horrible that it was used by the Romans only for slaves, those from the Provinces under their control, and the lowest types of criminals. It was never used on any Roman citizens. This is in according with the Biblical account of Christ’s death and with church tradition which asserts that Peter was also crucified, but Paul; a Roman citizen; was beheaded.
Crucifixion as a means of execution probably grew out of the practice of displaying the heads of captured enemies or criminals on a wooden stake like those used to build a wall or erect fortifications. Later, entire bodies were impaled. By Jesus’ time, crucifixion was a common sight.
although methods of crucifixion seemed to have varied through out the Roman Empire, through Biblical and historical accounts the basic pattern is known. The condemned person was first scourged with a flagellum, a whip of leather thongs with bits of metal or bone attached. This whipping greatly weakened the victim who then had to carry the cross beam to the place of execution. A sign specifying the crime was often placed around the criminals neck or on the cross. The person was stripped naked, laid on the ground with the cross beam under his shoulders and tied or nailed to it. Nailing made the victim die quicker, as it did Jesus, whom the Jewish officials wanted dead before the Sabbath. The cross beam was lifted and secured to a post so that the person’s feet were hanging just off the ground. Some archaeologists think a pin or wooden block was placed halfway to the ground. to provide a seat for the body so that the nails would not tear open the wounds causing the body to fall. The feet also could be nailed or tied to the post.
although the pain was excruciating, some victims survived on the cross for days. As in the case of the two criminals crucified with Jesus, the legs of a crucified person were sometimes broken to make the sufferer die. This caused massive shock, followed by loss of circulation and heart failure. It would also make it impossible for them to use the pedestal under their feet to push up in order to breathe better, instead this would cause them to suffocate.
Although completely innocent of all sin, Jesus suffered the most horrible, disgraceful punishment known. But His agonizing death was not an ordinary death, for it was not the “Final” chapter. Jesus turned this apparent defeat into the most “Glorious” victory the world has ever known. At the cross, He suffered for the sins of the world. Then after his resurrection from the dead, three days later, Jesus empowered His disciples with a new message, the Good News that He had finally defeated the power of sin and death.
Remember: Through the cross and His resurrection, Jesus offers salvation to all who will believe in Him!