26 Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. Matthew 27:26
Good Friday is my favorite holiday for a number of reasons. First, it recognizes the climax of our redemption. When Jesus cries out, “It is finished!” we know that God’s plan for salvation succeeded.
Second, it’s the one Christian holy day that hasn’t been misappropriated and perverted by secular society. Babies and rabbits are just too easy. But torture someone to death? The boys at Abu Graib should count their blessings.
The Bible is so succinct and those events are so old that we have hard time really appreciating the magnitude of what we read sometimes. Let’s take a look at what happened, courtesy of Killing Jesus by Stephen Mansfield.
“Pontius Pilate…has not even rendered judgement in the matter of (Jesus), but still he orders the cruelest form of punishment possible shy of death under Roman law… He will give the screaming masses a bloody spectacle whether they want it or not. What he will not do is free this man…though he already has declared (Jesus) innocent.
“They remove his clothes and tie his hands to a ring that hangs above his head. This stretches the muscles of his arms, back, and shoulders.
“Simple, ingenious, and cruel, this flagellum is a ring of iron or wood to which leather straps are attached. What makes the flagellum so horrific are the bits of sheep bone, rock, or steel knotted into each leather strand.
“…(he) swings the flagellum so as to partially wraps its straps around the victim’s torso… Blood gushes. Pieces of muscle, even chips of bone, fly into the air. The body is torn apart.
“With the second strike, Jesus can no longer stand…too stunned and weak to find his feet… Strips of flesh hang loosely, barely attached at one end.”
This is just the warmup. Once impaled through hands and feet on the cross he is a buffet for insects and birds. He is not stretched out, but rather crouched slightly as though in a partial squat.
“Yeshua’s forearms knot and cramp, the searing agony moving into His upper arms and shoulders. It is constant, wracking, unspeakable pain.
“Once a victim is impaled, he quickly realizes that if he hangs from the spikes in his wrists, his pectoral muscles paralyze. It means he can take in air, but he cannot exhale. With his lungs full yet unable to breathe out, he panics…
“The prisoner soon realizes that the only way to keep from suffocating is to push down on the spike through his feet. This lifts him up to relieve the stress on his arms. It is an unspeakable torturous move. It rotates his forearms around the spike in his wrists, scrapes his back over the jagged wood of the (cross), and grips his legs in agonizing cramps. It eases him slightly, though, by allowing him to breathe. He cannot hold this position long. Soon, he finds that pressing down on the spike through his feet is so exhausting that he has to lower himself and hang from his wrists again. Until the panic returns. Then, the sadistic cycle repeats. In the barracks, grizzled legionnaires call this “the dance of death.”
Jesus was unspoiled, a Lamb without blemish. He endured this to redeem us from the judgment we deserve. He stayed true to the bitter end, through all of the agony, all of the humiliation of nakedness and his few remaining possessions being divvied up. He might have been in too much to even hear the laughter of the crowd and soldiers, but maybe not.
Then God turned His back on Jesus, who cried out in His supreme loneliness and died.