IV. Time on the Cross
Unbelievers like to point out that many people in antiquity who were crucified spent many hours and even days hanging on a cross. Because of this, some find it hard to believe that Jesus' crucifixion lasted "only" about six hours, and given comparison to "some" other crucifixions, He had died rather quickly. Even Pilate seems to suggest the same here:
Mark 15:44 - "Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead."
This argument seems to have some merit because death usually came much more slowly to crucified victims then it had to Jesus. It was only after Pilate had received confirmation of Jesus' death from the centurion was he willing to turn His body over to Joseph. This is very important, because in ancient Rome the centurion was captain over 100 foot soldiers in a legion. The centurion was loyal and courageous, beginning as a soldier in the army and working their way up the ranks taking sometimes 15 - 20 years to do so. This particular centurion that Pilate wanted confirmation of Jesus death was in charge of the execution detail that crucified Jesus. He was a hardened, experienced soldier, skilled at the art of killing, and sent word to Pilate that Jesus was dead.
We can be assured that Jesus was dead, but the question is why did He die so quickly compared to some other crucifixions in antiquity?
What we must first understand about the crucifixion of Jesus is that He had endured extreme mental and physical tortures to the max even before He was crucified. After considering what I am about to disclose here and in the following chapters, it will be a wonder how He was even still alive and made it to the crucifixion point. These are facts that are either overlooked or people are just plain ignorant of by comparing Jesus crucifixion to other crucifixions.
Jesus certainly was a special case, because He knew before hand, that not only was He going to die, but how He was going to die. All throughout His ministry He even shared with His followers pretty straightforward words about how He must suffer many things, be rejected, and killed (Mark 8:31; Matthew 17:22; Luke 9:22). He also at times was very oblique and used indirect wording about His enemies destroying the temple (his body), (John 2:19; Mark 14:58; Matthew 26:61). He also spoke allusively of the "sign of Jonah" - three days in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:39; Matthew 16:4), and He hinted at it again in Matthew 21:42 - "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner."
Jesus also mentions, “Take up your cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). To His audience in the first-century, the cross meant one thing and one thing only: a very painful and humiliating death. Jesus knew this was His fate and He called His followers to do the same. They may not have taken Him seriously at the time He said this, but I'm sure it really put things into perspective for His followers when Jesus later on carried His own cross and was actually crucified.
Knowing all of this beforehand would cause incredible mental anguish, especially when the time was growing near. Take this into consideration as you read the next chapter...
(audio)5of11 - Time on the Cross
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