Summary: The Romans seemed to enjoy the crucifixion. This message explains why, while answering the question, "who really did crucify Jesus?" The answer might surprise you!
Title: Why was Crucifixion the Passion of the Romans?
Text: Galatians 2:20
Three men participating in army war games were hit with paint pellets, which were fired at them by their opponents. According to the rules of the war games they were legally dead and no longer permitted to participate.
The general’s Jeep got stuck and he insisted that they push it out of the mud for him.
They said, "we can’t. We’re dead."
The General told his driver, "Go get some of those dead bodies over there and put them under these tires so we can get some traction."
They got up and helped the General get his jeep out of the mud.
When we consider the crucifixion the question arises, why did it have to be so cruel? After seeing The Passion of the Christ, I realized the movie possibly did not portray the cruelty far enough. But a question that is in my mind is, Why did the Romans enjoy crucifixion so much?
Last week, if you remember, we learned that the Greek and Latin word for passion means suffering and yet we use the word passion meaning our desires. Why was the crucifixion the desire and the suffering of the Romans and why should crucifixion be both our desire and suffering? First lets consider why…
1. The crucifixion was the desire of the Romans
Crucifixion is brutal. Meant to deter crime and punish the criminal, crucifixion was a form of capital punishment that stated loudly its intentions.
Several people have asked me after seeing The Passion of the Christ, if the scourging was really that brutal. Yes, and maybe more so. The purpose of the beating was two fold: First, to prepare the body for death, so that the criminal would not take so long to die on the cross and second, make the body weak so the criminal would not fight so much while being nailed to the cross. The “cat of 9 tails”, the leather straps, were designed to lash completely around the body and tear the flesh. So after a scourging, the skin from the neck down to the knees would be ripped and the flesh laid bare.
Crucifixion was the cruelest form of capital punishment in the history of man. It was a slow, very painful death that ended in suffocation.
While in intense pain, the lungs would slowly fill with fluid. The criminal would have to push up, rubbing the raw skin on the wood of the cross, placing all of their weight on the nail that went through the Achilles tendon. And eventually they would either not have the strength to push up, or their lungs would fill and suffocation would occur. Basically they would drown in their own body fluid. Cruelty and inflicting excruciating pain was the purpose of the Romans.
If you compare lethal injection, the electric chair, the gas chamber, hanging, firing squads, being fed to the lions or burned at the stake, nothing compares to the excruciating pain, agony and endurance of crucifixion. Crucifixion wasn’t just capital punishment, it was torture.
So why were the Romans so intense with this form of punishment? Crucifixion did exactly what they intended. It represented who they were; a nation with complete domination and humiliation, who were in control at all times. The soldiers and executioners learned to enjoy the tormenting and viciousness they forced on their victims. They loved domination. It was a deterrent to crime because it said, “if you do the crime under our watch, this is what we are going to do to you!” It was the ultimate intimidation. Their entire culture was built on intimidation and control and at this time in history, control was needed to keep these emotionally high, religious fanatics in Jerusalem in line.
The most important question of the twenty-first century is: Why did Jesus Christ suffer so much? He was perfect, was he not? Peter wrote of Him, 1 Peter 3:18
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous.
And we find in Romans 5:6
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
But we will never understand the cruelty of the cross if we fail to go beyond human cause. Paul wrote; Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Yes it was because of our sin that Jesus suffered so much brutality, however, the ultimate answer to the question, who crucified Jesus, is not the manipulation of the Jewish Sanhedrin, or the passion of the Romans, the answer to who crucified Jesus is not even, “Us” or Me. Who crucified Jesus? (long pause) God did. It is a staggering thought. Jesus was His Son. And the suffering was unsurpassed. But the whole message of the Bible leads to this conclusion and hinges on this answer.