Cross

by Mike Ratliff

37 Ὁ φιλῶν πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ὑπὲρ ἐμὲ οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος, καὶ ὁ φιλῶν υἱὸν ἢ θυγατέρα ὑπὲρ ἐμὲ οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος· 38 καὶ ὃς οὐ λαμβάνει τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθεῖ ὀπίσω μου, οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος. 39 ὁ εὑρὼν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἀπολέσει αὐτήν, καὶ ὁ ἀπολέσας τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ εὑρήσει αὐτήν. Matthew 10:37-39 (NA28)

37 The one who  loves a father or mother more than Me is not worthy of me and the one loving a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And the one who does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. 39 The one who has found his life will lose it and the one who has lost lost his life because of me will find it. Matthew 10:37-39 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

When we say, “The Cross,” we state the very focal point of history. The Old Testament points to it, the New Testament presents it, and the Christian proclaims it. It is the cross that is our salvation, not religion. A study of the cross as used in crucifixion is a sobering exercise. Several years ago my wife and I took our small group, made up of young singles, to Mel Gibson’s new movie “The Passion of Christ.” I believe that was in either 2004 or 2005. In any case, the way the movie presented how our Lord was treated all through his arrest, trial and crucifixion was one of the most brutal things I have ever seen. I was not the only person weeping throughout that movie.

Crucifixion was, without question, the cruelest, the most disgraceful, barbaric, and excruciating execution ever devised by a depraved mind. It was probably invented by the Persians, who used it because it would not defile the ground, which they consecrated to their god Ormuzd. Alexander the Great introduced it to Egypt and Carthage, and the Romans seem to have picked it from the Carthaginians and “perfected” it. It was reserved for slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, and the vilest of criminals.

While practices varied in specific cultures, archaeology indicates that the Romans preferred the “low Tau” cross. Unlike the traditional shape, this cross looked like a “capital T,” with the upright post called the “stipes” and the crossbar called the “patibulum.” The patibulum alone, which our Lord was forced to carry in his already weakened state, weighed from seventy-five to one hundred pounds.

At the crucifixion site, the stipes was secured while the victim was thrown to the ground with his arms outstretched alon the patibulum. While some cultures tied the victim, the Romans preferred to us “nails,” tapered iron spikes approximately five to seven inches long and about three-eighths of an inch in diameter. History further confirms that the spikes were driven not through palms of the hands, which could not support a man’s wight, but through the wrists, causing unimaginable pain as the large median nerve was crushed or severed. The patibulum was then lifted onto the stipes and the feet were then nailed to it through the heels, causing the knees to bend and rotate to one side as the man’s weight hung on his wrists.

The most fiendish aspect of all this was that the man’s weight locked the intercostal muscles in the state of exhalation and paralyzed the pectoral muscles so he could not lift himself up to breathe. This brought on hypecardia, spasms, and asphyxia.

It is indeed significant that our English word excruciating comes from the Latin excruciatus, “out of the cross.” Tha, and much more, is what our Savior endured for all those of us who have and will believe the Gospel.

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25 (NASB) 

18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18 (NASB) 

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. Ephesians 2:13-16 (NASB) 

7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:7-11 (NASB)

Soli Deo Gloria!