The ancient Romans were masters of torture. They invented countless ways to inflict as much pain on an individual as possible without killing them. But the torture method that was the most excruciating, the most bloody, the most barbaric, was crucifixion.
When the Romans decided that someone was to be crucified, they would make iron nails that were 4.5 inches, which is roughly the size of an unsharpened pencil, and drive 2 of them into the middle of the wrist and 2 of them into their feet, pinning the victim to a wooden cross made usually of pine or cedar.
Before being nailed to the cross, prisoners were whipped with a scourge, which was a multi-tipped whip with rocks, bones, or broken glass tied on the ends. Then after beating the prisoner countless times with the scourges, the Romans made them carry their 165 pound cross to where they were to be crucified, which was usually 1-2 miles from the gates of the city.
Once on the cross, the way that the body was positioned it is nearly impossible to breathe, because your lungs are being crushed. So when the prisoner needed to breathe, they would have to push up on the nails that were in their feet, putting more pressure on the nerves that were pierced by the nails.
When the pain from the pressure became too great to handle, the prisoner would sink back down, moving the pressure to their hands and hindering their ability to breathe again. This was the constant struggle that people on the cross dealt with. And being crucified was not a quick ordeal. Many people were on the cross for 2-3 days, constantly pushing on the nails in their feet to attempt to get air into their body.
Death on the cross could come in various forms including blood loss, acidosis, infection, suffocation, heart attacks, or even dehydration. And if the Romans got tired of watching the person die, they would break their legs, making the prisoner need to pull up on the nails on their hands for air. This was immensely more painful. With legs the pressure could be moved from the feet and hands, but when the legs were broken, the choices were not breathing or unbearable pain in your hands.
Once the Romans decided you were to be crucified, most prisoners didn’t have a choice. They had to be nailed to a cross. But Jesus had a choice – he could have stopped all the pain, all the anguish, and all the humiliation that he went through, but he didn’t. This made his torture that much worse, because he had to have the will to endure everything that the Romans put him through. Jesus went through everything that the crucifixion entailed, because we needed a way to be saved. We needed a way to be with God in heaven. Jesus was the only one who could have given us that pathway to God, because he lived a perfect life. Jesus’ life was so perfect, even Pilate couldn’t find any reason to do anything to Jesus. But to satisfy the people, Pilate put an innocent man through the most excruciating death imaginable.
If Jesus was willing to go through everything that he did, then why would we want to do anything but what he asks us to do? Jesus saved us from eternal damnation. All he asks in return, is that we love him and strive to do his will, and even though we will never be able to repay Jesus for what he did. His grace has given us a way of live with God.
- Jason Turquette