“You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” (Matthew 27:40)
Crucifixion is probably one of the most gruesome forms of execution in human history. It’s hard to imagine how man can do such inhumane acts towards their fellow man. Baker encyclopedia states:
“Evidently crucifixion was practiced first by the Medes and Persians and later by Alexander the Great (356–323 B.C.), the Carthaginians, and the Romans. Both Greeks and Romans restricted its use to slaves, considering it too barbaric for citizens. In the imperial era the Romans extended the use to aliens, but even so it was used mainly for crimes against the state.
Crucifixion was universally recognized as the most horrible type of death. In the East, in fact, it was used only as a further sign of disgrace for prisoners already executed, usually by decapitation. In the West the condemned criminal was scourged (beaten), usually at the place of execution, and forced to carry the crossbeam to the spot where a stake had already been erected. A tablet stating the crime was often placed around the offender’s neck and was fastened to the cross after the execution. The prisoner was commonly tied or sometimes nailed to the crossbeam (with the nails through the wrists, since the bones in the hand could not take the weight). The beam was then raised and fixed to the upright pole. If the executioners wished a particularly slow, agonizing death, they might drive blocks or pins into the stake for a seat or a step to support the feet. Death came about through loss of blood circulation followed by coronary collapse. That could take days, so often the victim’s legs would be broken below the knees with a club, causing massive shock and eliminating any further possibility of easing the pressure on the bound or spiked wrists. Usually a body was left on the cross to rot, but in some instances was given to relatives or friends for burial.” (Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 555). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House)
The portrayal above simply confirms the biblical data we have from the gospel writers. They painted before us a graphic picture of the cruel and heartless punishment done towards the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19). Christ not only suffered physical abuse but emotional and verbal abuse as well.
After handing down the verdict, Christ was singled out and mocked, not by one soldier but a battalion of Roman soldiers (Matthew 27:27; Mark 15:16)! The soldiers mercilessly stripped him, put a scarlet robe and placed a crown of thorns on his head and ridiculed him (Matthew 27:28-29). Not contented, they spat on him and hit him multiple times on his head with the reed they had given to mock him (Matthew 27:30-31; Mark 15:16-20).
Even when he was already nailed at the cross, Roman soldiers continued mocking the Lord by casting lots over his clothes (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:23-24; Cf. Psalm 22:18). In addition, the crowds echoed the same words Satan used trying to tempt the Lord in the wilderness (Matthew 27:39-40). The chief priests and other religious leaders threw words that were not only degrading but provocative as well (Matthew 27:41-43). The two criminals who were sentenced to die with him at Calvary also added insulting words (Matthew 27:44).
The Lord’s response to all the mockery he received at the cross was beyond comprehension. He could have chosen to simply come down from the cross to silence all who mocked him. Instead, however, he remained on the cross. Note: it was not the nails that kept Jesus on the cross, it was His obedience to the Father and his great love towards us (John 3:16; Philippians 2:5-8; 1 John 4:10)!
My friend, I urge you to look at the cross. Ponder upon the sufferings of Christ. His mission was one that he alone can accomplish; and, to accomplish that mission, he had to die on the cross. Only his death can satisfy the wrath of a holy God; and he who rose from the dead can bring life to us who are dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-10). I pray that you will come to know, believe and surrender your life to Jesus Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31).