Mar. 19, 2012
Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Crucifixion is an ancient form of capital punishment where the victim was tied or nailed to a wooden pole or cross. Often considered the cruelest and most horrifying death, the Romans perfected this form of torture.
While the cross was being prepared, the victim was flogged, scourged or beaten with a special whip. Flogging was intended to weaken but not kill the victim. Performed by professionally trained Roman soldiers called lictors, these men inflicted serious injury upon their victims. Jesus’ hands were bound with ropes and tied around a wooden post, leaving his back fully exposed. The whip had a long wooden handle. Attached were several leather thongs. At the end of the thongs, pieces of metal and jagged animal bones were attached, which were intended to dig into and tear through the flex on the victim’s back, buttocks and thighs. By Jewish law, Jesus should have only been beaten 40 minus one times, or 39 whippings.
These details maybe are more than you care for. I share them not to gross you out but to help us get a fuller concept of what crucifixion really involved. It’s more than being nailed to a cross. For most of us, the flogging would have been more than we could endure.
What motivated the crowd to get to the point where they are demanding Jesus’ crucifixion? Was he that awful of a man? That much of a threat? What allowed people to not step back and see what they were demanding?
I think the “mob mentality” is part of the problem. When in a crowd, one person makes a suggestion. Pretty soon, a whole group of people have decided this is the “right” thing to do without really thinking it through. Not wanting to appear weak, people go along. If someone realized the suggested action really isn’t right, too often people lack the balls to call the whole scenario into question. Not sure this happens? Talk to a college student who has been at a party and drank too much. Talk to someone who was involved in the KKK or a former Nazi soldier. It happens right in our communities. The mom ignored because she dresses poorly. The family not included because they are “weird.” The child teased to the point he or she no longer wants to go to school.
We’d like to think that if we had been present, we would have voiced a different opinion. It sounds good, but pretty hard to do. We don’t really want to admit that we were part of the crowd that got Jesus crucified. But unless we see ourselves there, it is impossible to fully grasp what Jesus did.
How are we part of the crowd? Anytime we’ve allowed someone to get bullied. Anytime we’re chosen to look the other way. Anytime we’ve denied having Christ in our lives because we’re afraid someone will think that is uncool.
Most of the time, we think being part of the crowd is safer. Sometimes we really don’t want to draw attention to ourselves because then we cannot be held accountable. Maybe we didn’t actually slap the whip across Jesus’ back that early morning in Jerusalem. But I know that I’ve been part of the crowd that has denied him, hurt him and turned my back on him. Is it any different?
Let us pray: Your gift of love they crucified, they laughed and scorned Him as He died. The humble King they named a fraud, and sacrificed the Lamb of God. Amen.