Crucifixion

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
JOHN 19:16

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THIS IS HOW YOU WOULD DIE IF YOU WERE CRUCIFIED.

You would carry your upright beam to the site of execution. At thirty or forty pounds, this lumber is a bearable weight, except you are weak from the blood you have lost to the whips that slashed your back. You feel nearly naked as you walk past jeering crowds.

Perhaps, though, you are not aware of this pain or agony because you know what lies ahead. And dread from that knowledge far outweighs anything else you feel.

At the place you are to die, you watch soldiers position the upright beam in the ground. They do not care about your fears. They tell jokes. Comment on the crowd. They wiggle the beam back and forth, filling the hole with dirt until it no longer moves—as if merely positioning a post for a fence. When they are satisfied, they turn their attention to you.

Another beam is set upon the ground. Nearby are sacks of provisions for the soldiers. They expect to be near the cross for some time, to guard against anyone helping you down. They will eat to satisfy their hunger as you die. They have seen this hundreds of times. Your groans and screams will not dull their appetite.

Now you are forced onto your back. If you resist, the soldiers will kick you brutally and slam you with their spears—but they will not kill you, that would be too merciful.

They lay you across the beam with your arms extended. You are grateful for the merciful Jewish tradition that allows a nearby woman to offer you a cup of strong wine mixed with myrrh. You drink it greedily, and the drugged wine begins to deaden your sensations. But when the hammer is lifted, your bladder weakens, perhaps empties, with renewed fear. Your moment has arrived. No amount of myrrh and wine can protect you now.

Several long, sharp nails are driven into your left hand, then into the right, pinning your arms to the wood. Some of the hammer blows miss the spike and shatter bones in your fingers. The soldiers laugh. You know it could be worse. If the executioner had little skill or time, he would simply pound the nails halfway up the flesh of your forearm, confident that eventually your body weight would tear your arm’s soft flesh until the bones of your wrist met the nails and arrested the slow agonizing, downward slide of the body.

Now you are secured to the cross—piece, helpless as soldiers use ropes to draw you upward. They bind the cross-piece to the upright beam with rope or nails. Your feet are barely off the ground.

At this point the soldiers are far from finished. If they left you hanging in this manner, death would arrive too quickly—from suffocation as your body’s unsupported weight pulled down against your lungs.

So the soldiers turn your lower body sideways and push your legs upward. They know your large thigh muscles will almost immediately know and cramp without any prospect of relief that comes from stretching. The soldiers drive spikes through each of your ankles, splintering bone.

You cannot scream, such is the pain. Your brain is flooded with the agonies searing through the different parts of your body. Flies settle on your wounds and eyes and nose to torment you.

Yet the real pain has not yet begun.

Left alone in this private hell, you will choose the lesser agony of hanging from the nails driven into your hands simply because it is unbearable to place any weight on the fragmented bones of your ankles. You will begin to suffocate. Your lungs will strain for the sweetness of air until your throat rattles against the choking of your diaphragm, unable to push for one more gasp.

Your will to live is an unreasoning desperate creature; it ignores your wish to die. So you fight for air and push downward on those cramping thigh muscles, pushing your weight on the iron spikes in your ankles. Broken bone grates against broken bones, an unspeakable white-hot knife thrust of pain, a pain that robs you of the very breath you seek.

When you can no longer endure this pain, you sag again, until your lungs suck for air. You push your weight on your ankles, until your screaming nerves force you to sag again. You alternate between these two agonies, knowing it may take hours, perhaps days, until exhaustion and dehydration finally send you into the black oblivion that is your only hope.

And the entire time you take to die, your body will only be a scant foot or two off the ground that would give you life—if only someone would take you down during the long, endless hours of horror.

This death Jesus accepted … for sins he did not commit.

From The Carpenter’s Cloth: Christ’s Journey to the Cross and Beyond by Sigmund Brouwer

Taken from ChristianityToday.com

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