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Theology > Jesus > Christ's Death > Crucifixion  


Crucifixion was a dreaded and cursed method of death. The victim was tied or nailed to a cross and then left to die a slow and agonizing death. Cicero stated that crucifixion was “a most cruel and disgusting punishment." The one crucified could languish for several days, and often the legs were broken or crushed in order to hasten death.

The Jewish mob cried out to Pilate: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Of Pilate the Scripture states: “So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd . . . delivered Jesus . . . to be crucified” (Mk. 15:15). Then, concerning the Roman soldiers, the Scripture records: “Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him” (Mk. 15:25, 27-37; Matt. 27:32-50; Lu. 23:26-47; Jo. 19:17-37). Nothing is attractive or appealing about the account; even the location of the event is ghastly: “When they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him” (Lu. 23:33; “Calvary” is from the Latin word calvaria, meaning “a skull” ).

The death of Christ occurred because of the Divine necessity (see: The Divine Necessity and Theistic Determinism). The death of Christ was the doing of the Father not the doing of man. Before there was time the crucifixion was determined by God, therefore, the Son came to earth to do  the will of the Father. Writing to the Church at Philippi Paul declared: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8).

The crucifixion of Christ became the message of the Church; Paul writes: “We preach Christ crucified” (I Cor. 1:23). Paul adds: “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2). Instead of minimizing the fact of the cross and Christ’s death on the cross, the Church made it the central and crucial aspect of the evangel. Paul writes: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).

That which was despised and despicable to the world is the wonder of the believer’s message. Even the form of the cross has become the unspoken symbol of the Christian Faith, and the old wooden cross now often bears a gold form and is worn by believers and non-believers alike.

Reconciliation between God and man is established in the cross-event. To the Colossians Paul writes:

For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of the cross (Col. 1:19-20).

Not only is man reconciled to God, but Paul affirms that through the cross “all things,” the things on earth and in heaven are reconciled to God. In other words, the cross-event was and is cosmic; it extends to all the universe.

Only those who have been embraced by the cross-event and, therefore, have embraced the cross-event, understand, in some small measure, the meaning of the cross and the transformation that it introduces into the life. To the believer the word of the cross is “power”; but to the unbeliever, the concept of the cross is “foolishness” (I Cor. 1:18; “foolishness” lit. means “moronic”).

For the message of the cross is foolishness
to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved
it is the power of God.
I Cor. 1:18

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