Jesus’ death was both prophetic and well documented. Isaiah 53 is uncomfortable reading for Jews who try to dismiss Jesus as anything but God’s Son.
“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
“And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
Jesus had five “pierced” wounds from His crucifixion. That’s an interesting number because five is God’s number for grace. By His five (grace) wounds we have been healed. But our healing is permanent only after our transition from this life to the next (what the secular world calls earthly death). It’s important to note that Christians actually don’t die, they just change places. When a Believer dies, he/she is immediately with the Lord.
“We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
During the Roman Empire, crucifixion was about the worst death sentence you could receive. Often people lived days in agony before dying on a cross. In some of the recently released Christian oriented movies, the person being crucified is incorrectly shown to be nailed through the palm of the hand. But actually, the Romans never nailed people to a cross by nailing through the palm of their hands.
There is nothing but flesh to hold up the weight of the body on the cross if the nails were nailed through the palm of the hands. If nailed through the palm, the flesh would tear away in the first hour or so.
Therefore, the person was nailed just above the wrist between the two large bones in the forearm, in order to hold the person up on the crossbar indefinitely.
Since the prisoner might hang on the cross for days, the Romans would also nail a piece of wood as sort of a washer to keep the nails from pulling through.
Also, apparently crucified people writhed a lot in their pain and the repetitive back and forth motion would sometimes wiggle the nails loose and pull them out of the wood, offering temporary relief to the person.
So to keep that from happening, the nail was driven through the wood and bent on the back side, securing the hands and feet to the wood.
The feet were turned sideways, pushed up and under the buttocks and nailed together into the wooden post. This made it difficult to push up with the legs, leaving most of the weight on the arms.
This bodily configuration made it most difficult to even take a single breath. To breathe, the prisoner had to both pull up with the arms while pushing up with the legs as best they could manage.
The word in the Greek for “hands” is “cheir” which does mean “hands,” but can also mean any part of the lower arm below the elbow. An example of using the word “cheir” to mean the lower arms is in Acts 12:7, where the text says the chains fell from Peter’s “hands.” Was Peter chained around his hands? No, obviously he was chained around his wrists.
So it’s probable that pictures depicting Jesus straight-legged, with underwear and ropes around his arms to hold Him up, are incorrect.
Unbelievably, He was instead crucified more like the depictions described above. It was horrific torture that the Creator God of the universe willingly endured in order to atone for our sin.
Yes, the spiritual purchase was the most important aspect of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. But the physical pain should never be downplayed. Keep that in mind whenever you think of Him.
Living in the Time of Jesus of Nazareth, Peter Connolly, Steimatzky Publishers 1983.
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