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Question

There are many evil people that did many evil things throughout history. I'm wondering if crucifixion is really the cruellest punishment that ever existed? Is there something worse that could happen to Jesus?

Answer

Thank you for asking your question about the crucifixion of Jesus. 

Throughout history there have been people that we would easily call evil. There intentions have never been for the good of others and they have shown no regard for human life. As you clearly mention in your question, there are people who have murdered countless millions of people, all in the name of an ideology or even to wield power. 

The usual image of the cross that we see does not appear so brutal and even seems relatively painless. Typically a person is simply hanging on the cross and appears to die of nothing more than tiredness. However, in reality, the cross is one, if not the most, brutal way to die.

First invented by the Persians some time around 500BC, the Romans took the idea of the cross and used it as a brutal form of slow, lengthy and painful death. Crucifixion was reserved for the worst of criminals, including enemies of the state. The idea was that it was so horrible it could be used as a deterrent. 

The position of the nails in both the wrists and feet were for maximum discomfort, which would have been painful with every movement, however small, including breathing. Breathing generally would have been heavily restricted, requiring movement to catch a breath. Breathing would have created movement in the arms and therefore pain, for the person being crucified. 

Death would most likely come through asphyxiation. In fact, we can read in the account that John 19:32, that the criminals either side of Jesus had their legs broken in order to prevent them from lifting themselves up to breathe, quickening their deaths. However, this did not happen to Jesus as he had already died. 

The sad fact about crucifixion is that it is not consigned to the history books, but is still found around the world today. Often as a way of deterring Christian activity, some authorities or criminal gangs will use crucifixion against Christians. This has been true since the time of the apostles. 

It may be that you understand that the crucifixion of Jesus happened, but I wonder if you know why it happened? You have mentioned the evil things that people have done, and the sad fact is that we all have done things wrong. However, God has made a way for our sins to be forgiven:

  • God's justice demands that the soul that sins must die (Ezekiel 18:20) - both a physical and a spiritual death in which we are lost for all eternity.
  • However, God's love desires that we should be forgiven and saved from hell. So, God provided the death of someone else in our place.

In the Old Testament that 'someone else' was animals sacrificed to God according to God's own laws, to show that forgiveness was not just a case of God overlooking sin, but of God punishing it: For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul (Leviticus 17:11).

In the New Testament, the 'someone else' was Jesus Christ! The Temple sacrifices had to be repeated again and again because they ...cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience (Hebrews 9:9). What was needed was one perfect and eternally powerful sacrifice that would never have to be repeated. God provided this sacrifice Himself: the eternal and sinless Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. He was, and is, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29) He died for us on the cross. As Paul says of him, whom God set forth as a propitiation by his blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness (Romans 3:25). And having died and risen again, with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-13).

The weight of the sin of the whole world, my sin, your sin, was laid on His mighty shoulders, and being there in our place, the wrath of God against these sins, the wrath of God meant for us, the very perpetrators and practitioners of these sins, was then poured out on His Son. Isaiah prophesied of this fact several hundred years before Jesus was born when he wrote yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin...And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6-10)

Considering some of the things that you have been reading, I would also encourage you to change what you are studying in order to reflect on more positive things. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).

So in summary: the cross is the demonstration of the human heart, it is evil to its core. Jesus suffered the cross in order to save us from our sins. I also encourage you to ask Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and to think on positive things, with God's help, continuing on in repentance and faith, living a life pleasing to Him.

I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video

I encourage you to attend a local Bible believing church and speak to the leader about your question. If you want to find a local church, our Church Finder may help you: Find a Church

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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise

*If anything in this answer affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at www.ucb.co.uk/prayerline


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