As we near Good Friday we see many reenactments of Jesus carrying His cross
In all probability, these depictions are inaccurate. The Roman army, charged with conducting the inhumane torture and executions via crucifixion, were experts at efficiency. They had refined this grizzly process to a fine art. The Romans wanted to exert the absolute maximum of pain and torture to the “criminal” with minimum effort on their part.
Prisoners did not carry the entire cross to their executions. Instead, they carried only the cross-piece, known as a patibulum. The palibulum was placed across the shoulders with the arms tied in place. Nails, when used, were placed through the wrists at the place of the execution. The nails were not intended to support the prisoner as much as they were to inflict maximum pain. The nails severed nerves in the wrists, one of the greatest sources of pain a man can experience.
The vertical part of the cross, known as the stipe, was permanently placed at the site of executions. It was much more efficient than digging a hole and inserting the stipe each time someone was to be crucified. Roman efficiency!
The stipe was not particularly tall, just high enough to make sure that the prisoner’s feet would not touch the ground when the patibulum was installed. The Romans didn’t want to exert too much effort lifting the palibulum, with prisoner attached, up to the top of the stipe. The reason hyssop was offered to Jesus on a stick wasn’t because the prisoner was so high, it was to prevent the Roman soldier’s fingers being bitten off.
The feet were tied to the stipe so that the prisoner could “lift” himself up and keep himself from suffocating too soon. This would prolong the suffering and maximize the pain. A prisoner could live as long as a week if allowed by the executioners. When nails were used, again it was to sever nerves and maximize pain rather than to support the prisoner.
The Romans who carried out the crucifixion of Jesus were members of the 10th Legion, mercenaries known for their brutality. This was routine duty for the executioners. To them, Jesus was just one more criminal to be killed with maximum pain, an example to others who defied Roman power. Just another day’s gruesome work.
So, at every step the Romans were in control of a highly organized, very efficient process. They were the pros!
They controlled NOTHING! The Romans, with all their power, organization, professionalism and engineering were just supporting actors in a much greater plan.
The power and majesty of God!
Alive in the Word