The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them
to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
May 4, 2014
1) The Crucifixion of Jesus (Mike Willis)
2) Did Jesus Suffer and Die "In Our Place"? (Tom Edwards)
3) News & Notes
The Crucifixion of Jesus
by Mike Willis
Capital punishment is still practiced in America and that in
compliance with the revealed will of God. The Lord revealed,
"Whosoever sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for
in the image of God made he man" (Gen. 9:6). Executing
murderers in American society is done in as painless a manner as men
can devise, and that without regard to how much suffering the
criminal caused his victim. We use lethal injection, the
electric chair, hanging, and the firing squad. All of these
methods of executing a criminal result in virtually instant death
and relatively little pain to the one put to death.
When the first century Romans executed a man, they wanted the victim
to suffer and they wanted his death to be a public spectacle to the
community to prevent others from committing the same crime.
One manner of executing criminals used by the Romans was
crucifixion, which they borrowed from the Phoenicians.
Jesus' Death by Crucifixion Was the Fulfillment of Divine
Crucifixion was not used by Jews in putting a person to death.
Among the methods for execution employed by the Jews were stoning,
burning, beheading, and strangling (Mishnah, "Sanhedrin,"
7:1). When Jesus prophesied the manner of his death, he
foretold to his disciples that the Jewish leaders would deliver him
to the Gentiles (Mark 8:33). Matthew records Jesus' prophecy
of his death when he said, "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the
Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the
scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him
to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the
third day he shall rise again" (20:18- 19). John records
Jesus' foretelling his crucifixion saying, "And I, if I be lifted up
from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (12:32). "And as
Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son
of man be lifted up" (3:14).
In addition to Jesus' words prophesying specifically of his
crucifixion, there are several Old Testament allusions to it (Zech.
9:9; Ps. 22; Isa. 53).
The Suffering of Crucifixion
We are impressed by the brevity of the New Testament accounts of the
crucifixion of Jesus. Matthew simply says, "and they crucified
him" (27:35); Mark says, "and when they had crucified him" (15:24);
Luke says, "there thy crucified him" (23:33); and John, ". . . where
they crucified him" (19:18). Those who lived in the first
century were fully aware of what these words meant, of the suffering
that accompanied such a death -- even as we understand death by the
electric chair -- which might not be understood by someone in
another culture and time.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1939 edition)
describes death by crucifixion for us: "The suffering of death by
crucifixion was intense, esp. in hot climates. Severe local
inflammation, coupled with an insignificant bleeding of the jagged
wounds, produced traumatic fever, which was aggravated by the
exposure to the heat of the sun, the strained position of the body
and insufferable thirst. The wounds swelled about the rough
nails and torn and lacerated tendons and nerves caused excruciating
agony. The arteries of the head and stomach were surcharged
with blood and a terrific throbbing headache ensued. The mind
was confused and filled with anxiety and dread foreboding. The
victim of crucifixion literally died a thousand deaths.
Tetanus not rarely supervened and the rigors of the attending
convulsions would tear at the wounds and add to the burden of pain,
till at last the bodily forces were exhausted and the victim sank to
unconsciousness and death" (II:761).
The length of the agony of crucifixion "was wholly determined by the
constitution of the victim, but death rarely ensued before
thirty-six hours had elapsed. . . . Death was sometimes hastened by
breaking the legs of the victims and by a hard blow delivered under
the armpit before crucifixion" (ISBE II:762).
The Skeletal Remains of a Victim of Crucifixion
Our understanding of how crucifixion was administered has also been
enhanced by archaeology. In 1968, fifteen limestone ossuaries
were found in three burial caves at Giv'at ha-Mivtar,
Jerusalem. Among the 35 skeletal remains that were found was
that of a victim of crucifixion (tomb I, ossuary 4). From a
study of these skeletal remains one can confirm several biblical
references to crucifixion and learn how crucifixion was practiced in
the first century. The crucified body is that of a male, 24-28
years old. The skeletal remains include the heel bones that
were "found transfixed by a large iron nail. The shins were
found intentionally broken" (N. Haas, "Skeletal Remains at Giv'at
ha-Mivtar," Discoveries and Studies in Jerusalem 1970, 42).
These remains are presently in the custody of the Israel Museum and
are the only extant remains from antiquity known to be evidence of
In the remains at Giv'at ha-Mivtar, the crucifixion victim's heels
show that they had been nailed to a cross. A wooden plaque, in
a well preserved state, was situated below the head of the nail,
between it and the bones. A single nail pierced the wood,
through the right heel, through the left heel and into the cross,
where it apparently struck a knot in the wood and bent. The
board was used to prevent one's freeing his legs (intentionally or
unintentionally) by pulling the nail through his bones.
The victim apparently suffered the breaking of the leg bones
mentioned in John 19:31 and experienced by the two thieves crucified
with Jesus. The right tibia and the left calf bones (tibia and
fibula) were broken in their last third. Haas wrote, "The
fracture of the right tibial bone (the fibula being unavailable for
study) was produced by a single, strong blow. . . . This same blow
had had indirect repercussions on the left angle bones. The
percussion, passing the already crushed calf bones, was a harsh and
severing blow for the left ones, attached as they were to the
sharp-edged wooden cross" (57). Judging by the position of the
break, scholars concluded that the knees were semi-flexed. The
position of the body on the cross is described as follows: "the feet
were joined almost parallel, both transfixed by a single nail at the
heels, with the legs adjacent; the knees were doubled, right one
overlapping the left; the trunk was contorted; the upper limbs were
stretched out, each stabbed by a nail in the forearm" (58).
The weight of the body on the cross was supported by a sedecula, a
piece of wood attached to the upright beam on the cross, which in
the body at Giv'at ha-Mivtar supported the right buttock.
In the body from Giv'at ha-Mivtar, a post mortem amputation of the
feet occurred, which scholars believe occurred only after several
abortive attempts had been made to extract the nail. The
curved shape of the nail suggests that the nail struck a knot in the
wood of the cross and bent. When those trying to remove the
body from the cross could not remove the nail, they cut off the feet
and then removed the nail, plaque of wood and feet from the cross
Jesus and Crucifixion
From this knowledge of crucifixion, we have a rather clear
understanding of what Jesus endured at Calvary. After being
scourged by Pilate's soldiers (see article on scourging in this
issue), Jesus was led away to be crucified. His scourging was
so intense that he was unable to bear his cross the full distance to
Golgotha and stumbled underneath its weight. Simon of Cyrene
was compelled into service by the Roman government to bear Jesus
cross (Matt. 27:32). Jesus was taken to Golgotha (Mark 15:22),
also known as Calvary (Luke 23:33).
When the party arrived at Golgotha, the ritual of crucifixion
began. The soldiers offered Jesus a narcotic to deaden the
pain, which he refused (Matt. 27:34). The vertical post of the
cross was placed in the ground. To it was attached a board, a
sedecula, to support the weight of the body. The process of
crucifixion usually began by nailing the victim's arms to the
cross. Sometimes the nail was placed in the forearm, although
Scripture seems to indicate that the nails penetrated Jesus' hands
(John 20:27). Sometimes ropes were used to secure the body to
the cross, to prevent one from ripping his hands free from the
nails. Then the body attached to the cross beam was raised and
attached to the vertical post. At this point, the feet were
nailed. A large metal nail, that had already been driven
through a board, was nailed through one's ankles. The wounds
of crucifixion were not mortal, although they were painful.
Jesus' rather quick death, after only six hours, points to the
severity of his scourging as hastening his death (Matt. 27:45-50).
One may distance himself from the full impact of these descriptions
of death by crucifixion. They are the cold words of mere type
on a page. I must relate this to myself in some manner.
On two occasions, I have fainted when I was given a shot, a mere
needle inserted just below the surface of the skin and then quickly
withdrawn. If my flesh flinches and cringes from such minor
pain, how could I endure having a nail intentionally driven through
my hands and feet? And, given the power to prevent it, as Jesus the
omnipotent God possessed and had at his disposal (Matt. 26:53; cf.
John 10:18), would I willfully choose to endure it for someone --
yea, anyone -- else? Imagine the first stroke of the hammer against
the nail being driven into one's hand! One would blurt out an
involuntary scream of pain. One would wince and grimace.
And, then imagine the next hand being penetrated in the same
manner. Oh, the sensations as the raw nerves rubbed against
the rough nail as they raised his body and attached the cross beam
to the vertical post. The pain of the nails through the hands
was probably less than that of the nail driven through the ankle
bones. Trying to support one's body on the cross without
aggravating the pain around the nail holes would be
impossible. Locked in one position, unable to move, no doubt
produced cramps in various parts of the body. Slowly the life
oozes out, until in welcome relief the spirit departs the
flesh. Such was the death experienced by our blessed Savior,
Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate God.
1. Jesus knew what was involved in crucifixion. Since
crucifixion was commonly used as a form of capital punishment, Jesus
was familiar with the humiliation and suffering that attended to
that. Nevertheless, he voluntarily chose death on the cross
that we might be saved from sin.
2. Jesus rejected the narcotic drink. Matthew relates,
"They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had
tasted thereof, he would not drink" (27:34). The drink was
designed to dull one's senses so that he would not be so sensitive
to the pain he endured. Jesus refused the drink, choosing to
suffer all of the agony of crucifixion with clear senses.
3. Jesus suffered the humiliation of the cross. The
cross was not an emblem of honor to be worn about the neck, as is
the case with modern crucifixes. Rather, the cross had the
same connotation in the first century as hanging and the electric
chair have in this period. Furthermore, the Old Testament
said, "And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be
put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remain
all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that
day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be
not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance"
4. Jesus endured mockery as he hung on the tree.
Matthew records, "And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their
heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it
in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come
down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking
him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he
cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come
down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in
God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am
the Son of God" (Matt. 27:39-43).
The humiliation Jesus experienced at the hands of sinful men caused
Peter to exclaim, "Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when
he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that
judgeth righteously" (1 Pet. 2:23). Even before crucifixion,
Jesus was treated derisively, being spit upon, slapped, and buffeted
(Matt. 26:67). This abuse makes his statement of intercession,
"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do," even more
Jesus endured all of the pain and agony of the crucifixion. He
suffered this even though he was not guilty of any sin. He
suffered in our place. His death was an atonement for sin, not
the worthy punishment administered by the state to criminals guilty
of capital offenses. As we read of the suffering Jesus
experienced on the cross, we are moved with compassion, sympathy,
and empathy even as we are when we read of anyone's suffering such
pains, deserved or undeserved. When we realized he suffered
without sin for a crime he did not commit, we are indignant at the
injustice of his death. When we think that it was an atonement
of sin, the blood of God the Son being shed as the atonement for the
sins of the world, we are drawn to him by love -- to think that he
would endure such agony for me, a sinner. John said, "Worthy
is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom,
and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing" (Rev. 5:12).
-- Via Truth Magazine Vol. XLIV: 1 p 15-17 January 2000,
Did Jesus Suffer and Die "In Our Place"?
by Tom Edwards
Did Jesus actually suffer and die "in our place" or "in our
stead"? You might often hear this type of expression being
used today, but is it literally so? Perhaps many folks, in
speaking of the Lord's sacrifice for us, have used this phrase
metaphorically. But we might need to remind ourselves that the
Bible does not teach or indicate that we were ever to suffer a
torturous death on a cross had it not been for the Lord taking our
place in doing that; nor does it teach or imply that Jesus died for
us so that we don't have to die physically. And it also does
not teach or indicate that Jesus took our place in suffering the
penalty of our sins. For in the Judgment Day, the penalty of
our unforgiven sins will be having to suffer an eternal punishment
Though I wouldn't think that anyone believes that Jesus suffered an
eternity in hell, yet some people are of the persuasion that Jesus
did go there for three days, after His death; but this is based on a
misunderstanding of the Scriptures. For instance, Acts
2:31, in the KJV, states that "He seeing this before spake of the
resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither
his flesh did see corruption."
However, in this passage, "hell" is not from the Greek word "geenna"
that refers to the eternal place of punishment in the lake of
fire. Rather, it is from the Greek word "hades," and which is
how it is transliterated in various modern Bible versions.
Hades is where the souls of the departed go -- whether to Tartarus
(torment) or Paradise -- to await the great final judgment.
For example, when Peter declares, "For if God did not spare angels
when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to
chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment" (2 Pet.
2:4, ESV), "hell" is not from the Greek word "geenna," nor
from "hades." Actually, the entire phrase, "cast...into hell,"
is from "tartaroo," with the noun-form being "Tartarus."
Therefore, some versions use the word "Tartarus," such as the Modern
King James Version which renders part of this passage as "...thrust
them down into Tartarus...." And, as the verse shows, it is
where these are "kept until the judgment" -- and not just "kept,"
but also kept "under punishment for the day of judgment" (v.
But Jesus did not go to Tartarus, the torment part of Hades.
However, that is where the rich man of Luke 16:23 went. It is
said that he "In Hades lifted up his eyes, being in torment"; while
far from him, he could see Lazarus, who had also died -- but was now
in a place of blessing. For between the two of them, as
Abraham points out to the rich man, "...there is a great chasm
fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not
be able, and that none may cross over from there to us" (v.
Lazarus, the redeemed, was in the Paradise-side of Hades and "being
comforted" (v. 25). And that was also the part of Hades that
Jesus went to. As He told the thief on the cross, shortly
before their deaths, "...today you shall be with Me in Paradise"
(Luke 23:43). So that is what the "hell" (KJV) or "Hades"
(NASB) is referring to in Acts 2:31. Therefore, the part of
Hades that Jesus went to was not a place of torment, but a place of
blessing, a place where all the redeemed await the final judgment
and do so most blissfully.
Still others might think that Jesus spent some time in Tartarus
based on 1 Peter 3:19. For it says in the KJV, "...he [Jesus]
went and preached to the spirits in prison." The
"prison" is talking about Tartarus in Hades. But notice that
the previous verse ends by speaking of "the Spirit"; and then the
next verse begins by saying, "IN WHICH also He went and made
proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were
disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of
Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is,
eight persons, were brought safely through the water" (vv. 19,20,
emphasis mine, NASB). So it would be by the Spirit that the
message would be proclaimed. We can also observe that the NASB
has added the word "now" to help with the understanding that these
"in prison" were not preached to while in the torment part of Hades;
but, rather, while they were still living on earth, during the days
of Noah -- but had "now" been deceased by the time of the
writing. Noah, in his day, was "a preacher of righteousness"
(2 Pet. 2:5); and we are told that "the Spirit of Christ" was within
the prophets who were proclaiming God's word (1 Pet. 1:10,11).
So that would be how the Lord (while in heaven) would be making
proclamation to others on earth -- through His servants who were
moved by the Holy Spirit.
It can also be pointed out that once a person leaves this life, his
eternal destiny is sealed (cf. Heb. 9:27). Therefore,
preaching to the lost in Tartarus could not lead to salvation for
any of them.
What we see at Calvary, in what Jesus did for us, is the greatest
expression of God's love and concern for the sinner. For what
other greater way could that have been shown? And it was out
of His fervent love for His Father, as well as for us, that Jesus
not only came to this world willingly, but also willingly went to
the cross to be tortured to death, and willingly remained on that
cross through six hours of intense suffering, so that through His
death an atonement could be made for every transgressor -- and so
that hell can be avoided and heaven gained!
We cannot fully comprehend the greatness of the sacrifice Jesus made
in leaving the glories of heaven to come to earth to take on a human
body and suffer and die on a cross for those of us who are wretched
sinners. The Bible says, "For you know the grace of our Lord
Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became
poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Cor.
8:9). The riches we should be thinking of are of far greater
value than merely the material wealth of this world. Rather,
they are the spiritual blessings and benefits the Christian has in
Christ. Because Jesus died for us physically, we can live from
now on spiritually and for all eternity in heaven, if we continue in
submission to the Lord. For Jesus promises, "...if anyone
keeps My word, he will never see death" (Jn. 8:51). He doesn't
mean in this that the Christian will never die physically, but that
his eternal soul will always be alive unto God. In contrast to
that, lost souls are spoken of as being spiritually "dead" (Eph.
2:1; 1 Tim. 5:6); and though all souls (whether redeemed or lost)
will never cease to exist, it is only the souls of the saved that
will experience an eternal, quality life in the blissfulness of
heaven, while the lost will spend an eternity in hell, which is
referred to as "the second death" (Rev. 21:8). For it will be
an existence without the abundant spiritual life that Jesus came to
give (Jn. 10:10).
No greater need has the world ever had than the atonement for sin,
which required the death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God! His
atonement solves our biggest problem, saves us from an everlasting
condemnation, and makes possible the greatest of all blessings and
benefits for all eternity, if we will simply turn to Him through His
word and faithfully submit to that message! And, in that
sense, we can say that Christ died that we might live -- and live
So though the Lord did not literally "take our place" at the cross
or "die in our stead," He did suffer greatly and died for
us. So that by His atonement, we can have eternal life if we
will accept and obey God's plan of salvation. For through
that, we can receive the Lord's grace, His mercy, and His
forgiveness and, thus, be redeemed and justified in His sight.
May we never forget that Jesus willingly went through great torment
for us, so that we do not have to end up in eternal punishment; but,
instead, be able to enjoy the blessings of God for all eternity in
that glorious place called heaven!
News & Notes
We extend our condolences to the family and friends of Charles
"Chuck" Eugene Hartwigsen of Collierville, Tennessee, who
passed away May 10. He had been a member of the East Shelby
church of Christ in Collierville where he had also served as an
elder. Let those of us who are Christians be praying for all
his family and friends.
Let us also be praying for these following people:
Bob Tate (Ken Robertson's brother-in-law) has been in the
hospital undergoing tests to determine what has been causing his
poor health. Lately, he has not been feeling well, has lost
much weight, and has been experiencing various symptoms.
Abbie Percell is progressing well, following the surgery she
had (Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy) on April 29 in order to eliminate
the spasticity in her legs, due to having been born with cerebral
palsy. Just two weeks after the operation a very noticeable
difference can be seen in her steps while she is undergoing physical
therapy. Her legs and steps are now much straighter, and this
is still the early stages of her treatments. So her improvement
already is very impressive. She will be having additional
surgery (called PERCs) in a couple months. While her first
surgery had eliminated the spasticity, this second surgery will
treat the damage that spasticity had caused.
Steve Wolfgang will be having surgery May 20 to prevent
further nerve damage to his back. Steve writes, "...this is a
back condition which has been moderately painful for years, but
recently took a turn in a direction indicating impingement of spinal
column, not just radiating nerves...."
Janice Persell recently had surgery for ovarian cancer.
Candy Wise had surgery for breast cancer and is doing well.
Norma Burton, who is in her early 90s, fell a few weeks ago
and broke her hip, which required receiving a pin. She is now
in a nursing home and undergoing physical therapy.
Richard Crews is coming along fine, following his two-hour
surgery (on April 16) for the rotator cuff that had become torn in
his right shoulder, along with a torn bicep and ligaments; but is
still having to wear an arm brace.
Let us also continue praying for the health of Virginia
Fontenot, Shirley Young, Cheryl Crews, Peggy Lefort, and Terry
and Pam MacDonald.
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom.
10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins
(Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet.
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can
be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA 70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
(Gospel Observer website)