Maximum Pain and Suffering

12 Apr

It Tastes Awful, But It Works!

Most folks dislike the taste of Buckley’s cold medicine.  Ed, my old neighbor in Saskatchewan, swears by it for stopping a cough. Personally, I think that Buckley’s tastes awful, but it works, so it’s a definite cure if you take it of your own free will.

The Romans forged a mighty Empire by using some methods that were awful but extremely effective. One such approach, to kept law and order, was crucifixion.  As a punishment, crucifixion maximized pain and suffering while killing rebels and criminals in a truly horrible way. It worked so well that it was a real deterrent to trouble makers. Crucifixion was the favored way of the Romans at the time of Jesus for executing slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, and criminals. The only time a Roman citizen was crucified was for desertion from the army.

Flogging or scourging was done as a preparation for crucifixion. The whipping was done to bring the victim to a weakened state near death. The whip had iron balls tied a few inches from the end of the leather thongs on the whip. Sometimes sharp sheep bones were tied at the end of the leather thongs as well. The iron balls caused deep bruising to the back while the sheep bones with the leather thongs cut into the skin. After a few lashes, the skin was cut through, as were the muscles. Blood loss was considerable, and the victim of the flogging was in a state of shock.

After the flogging, the victim was to carry the cross beam of his own cross to the place of the crucifixion outside the city’s walls. The cross beam weighed between 75-125 lbs. A Roman guard would escort the victim to the location of the crucifixion and be responsible for the prisoner until his death on the cross. A sign depicting the victim’s crime was carried and placed at the top of the victim’s cross.

Once the crucifixion area was reached, the victim would be offered a drink of wine mixed with myrrh as a mild pain killer. The drink was offered, but Jesus did not take it. Then the victim was nailed to the cross beam that he had carried there. The nails were driven through the wrists to support the body’s weight. The cross beam would then be lifted and placed on the upright post where the victim’s feet were nailed to the post.

Once raised upon the cross the victim found it difficult to breathe with his body weight suspended by his arms. His shallow breathes forced him to push himself up on his nailed feet to take a full breath. Pushing up on his nailed feet was so painful that it could not be tolerated long. As the time on the cross continued, the victim could no longer push up with his feet and would suffocate. Crucified victims lived on the cross for a period ranging from a few hours to a few days.

Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem, hung on a cross between two other criminals. He suffered on the cross and died after six hours. Jesus died for all enduring an awful death as punishment for our sins. His horrific crucifixion brought our reconciliation as sinners with God our Father.

(description of crucifixion reflects Robert Gidley’s, “The Facts of Crucifixion.” The Cross Reading (Lent, 2000)

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