Why Crucify?

Jesus stood before the Governor, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Pilate asked him. Jesus answered, “You have said it”, and while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He didn’t answer.
(Matthew 27:11-12)

Legally, The Jews had authority in Moses’ law to enforce capital punishment in only three ways: Stoning, Decapitation & Strangling. The Jewish leaders knew that if they executed Jesus in these ways, it would be for blasphemy. In fear of the massive national support Jesus had, the Jewish leaders would not risk turning his death into social upheaval. Jesus knew he was to be crucified, (John 12:32-33), so he was aware of being handed over to Pilate before The Jewish Sanhedrin even did it. Why? Because only the Romans could crucify someone, and to get the Romans to do it, the Jews must charge Jesus of a crime only the Romans would punish as capital. The idea of stoning upon the charge of blaspheming is mute because the Jews knew they had no way of practicing capital punishment in a corner, away from the public’s view and therefore must get concurrence from the Roman authority to execute the death penalty. See Matthew 26:66 & John 18:31. In this context, the stoning of Stephen, a few years later, was simply ‘mob rule’ action, Acts 7:54-60. The Sanhedrin did not, under any circumstances, want the massive supporters of Jesus to be rekindled and grow, and if they were seen to execute Jesus, that is exactly what would happen. Therefore it was essential to get the Romans to do it. Many political rebels were crucified by the Romans. Jesus would submit to this charge of political insurrection for you & me.

The Romans learned crucifixion from the Carthaginians and developed a degree of skill at it. A number of Roman authors (Livy, Cicero & Tacitus) comment on it, and innovations are described in ancient literature. The Tau cross, shaped like our T is most often their description. In this cross the patibulum was placed in a notch at the top of the stipes. There is archeological evidence that it was on this type of cross that Jesus was crucified. There is also evidence that patibulums were simply hoisted upon a tree and the victim’s feet were nailed to the trunk. The victim crucified sags down with more weight on the nails, sending pain shooting along the fingers and up the arms to surge in the cranium, the nails are putting pressure on the main nerves. As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places His weight on the nail through His feet. Again there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet. At this point, as the arms fatigue, waves of cramp sweep over the muscles, knotting them in throbbing pain. With these cramps come the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Spasmodically, he is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. In this state, Jesus could make short sentences, and we have the 7 sayings on the cross in the gospels. A crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. At this point, Psalm 22:14 is fulfilled, “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.” It is now almost over. The loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level; the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissue; the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain. Death is ensued. Our Lord did not die as usual in crucifixion by suffocation, but of heart failure (a broken heart) due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium. How many forms of execution would bring about heart failure? God’s heart is in His work of atonement. Because blood is always at the heart of forgiving of sins, Gen. 3:21. Is our heart cleansed by His blood?

Bound for Passion

The company of soldiers, the commander, and the Jewish Temple police arrested Jesus and tied Him up. First they led Him to Annas for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was advantageous that one man should die for the people. (John 18:12-14)

The Binding: Jesus was bound and tied for a reason. The nature of sin, is that once we commit it, it enslaves us. The cords of sin are like the cords of rope that tied Isaac to the sacrificial altar Abraham had to build. In this act of obedience God was making a reality of Isaac’s shadow in Jesus, when the soldiers tied him up. What do we feel like when we are bound? Helpless. The burden of sin makes us helpless, and Jesus took on that feeling for us, so that we never really need to suffer from helplessness. We always have help in overcoming the consequences of sin because Jesus suffered, paying the price and giving us strength to overcome our helplessness. Genesis 22:9-14.

The Arrest: When John the cousin of Jesus was arrested, Caiaphas was high priest, Luke 3:2, but now as Jesus is arrested, the son-in-law Caiaphas is side-stepped and his Father-in-law the previous High Priest Annas is being consulted first. Their actions spoke like they were making excuses for the young Caiaphas’ plot of killing Jesus to be given clout from the older Annas. Historically, Annas had 5 sons, all of which took turns being High Priest. The real crime, Jesus must feel is that his “quasi-trial” starting here is really already finding him guilty as charged before the actual trial takes place. They and others had already conspired to kill Lazarus, Jn. 11:49-12:11, now they wanted Jesus dead. He had previously escaped a stoning, so now they would get the Romans to help them and kill him ‘their’ way. The plot is in process and Jesus must feel dread in seeing his execution unfold. Jesus practiced what he preached. The pain of determination in the midst of persecution. “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say to you, do not resist him that is evil: but whoever hits you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man would take you to court, and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also. Mt. 5:38-40. The hitting of Jesus in the presence of the High Priest was susceptible to a reverse charge against the injurious action, called “the Zuzim”, Jn. 18:23. But his false-accusers had no interest in true justice. “And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to slap him, and to say to him, Prophesy: and the officers received him with smacks of their hands. Mark 14:65. This is to take the weight of sin, and absorb the wrath of God against our sin, he was letting the burden of sin be placed on his face. God prophesied this: “I gave my back to the beaters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off my beard; I hid not my face from humiliation and spitting”. Isaiah 50:6

The Charge: Being arrested late on a Thursday night, Jesus had to be brought to a deadly conclusion before dusk Friday evening, the beginning of the Sabbath. Making an arrest at night, especially those involving capital offences were illegal. But illegalities did not deter the Priests, who had no conscience. The speed to have Jesus killed put illegality upon illegality. Perhaps one day, a Jew can explain why the initial verdict of blasphemy was allowed to become a charge of sedition, perverting the Nation and opposing Caesar. The law of Israel concerning capital accusations allowed argument for acquittal to be aired, with the custom of younger members speaking first, so that they would not be easily swayed by more mature members, but that is totally ignored as Jesus is first taken to the murky character of old Annas before any kind of a trial begins. The pain of a false charge must hurt Jesus inwardly, because He was proving to them that He was the truth, the way and the life, in full view of their lies & hate.