So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.
That’s what the cross meant. In fact, that’s why the Romans executed their criminals that way. It was shameful and degrading. A man on the cross was hung there naked, and everything they did from then until they eventually died was done completely in public. It was horrifying and debasing and the worst possible way to die.
Often, the Romans would simply tie their victims to the cross with heavy ropes, and that was effective. But when they wanted to express a more complete level of hatred and contempt, they used nails. These weren’t just any nails, but solid, four-inch long nails that were likely driven through the wrists and feet so that every movement the victim made exacted even more pain.
For Jesus, after an unreal scourging that left his organs exposed, after having a cross of razor-sharp thorns driven into his skull, after carrying the crossbeam of his cross from the Praetorium all the way to Golgotha and after being stripped completely naked, the Romans made the decision to firmly affix Jesus to the cross by pounding nails through Him into the wood.
It was shameful. And that’s what the Romans intended to do. They wanted to shame this Jewish prophet to make an example of Him. The irony is that no level of the visible shame that they heaped on Him could even approach the unseen shame he was carrying to the cross. Every sin ever committed – past, present and future – was being piled upon Jesus as He sacrificed His life for our redemption.
And those nails, though painful, couldn’t compare even to the shame of my sins being driven into our Savior and Lord. Frankly, those nails didn’t hold him to the cross. Our sins – my sins – did.
Starting at 9 a.m., Jesus’ agony on the cross began. He was firmly nailed to the device of his execution, and the cross was lifted high atop Golgotha in fulfillment of Jesus’ own prophecy to Nicodemus in John 3. This Sunday, we know that we will be able to look to this moment with hope for our own redemption, just as Jesus said we would. But today, we are left with the shattered shell of our Lord, hanging bleeding on a rough-hewn cross, and waiting for His agony to come to a merciful end when He takes His final breath.
Reflection copyright © 2016 Doug DeBolt.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.