This week we celebrate the death of our Savior. And today we are going to look at the crucifixion from its historical and physical realities. Next time we look into the spiritual meanings and implications.

But today we begin with the simple — and deplorable — reality of this form of human extermination. With that in mind, the following is a special 15-minute reading for the Ask Pastor John podcast, from Fleming Rutledge’s book, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, pages 89–95. Her book is especially valuable on this point.


. . . Crucifixion as a means of execution in the Roman Empire had as its express purpose the elimination of victims from consideration as members of the human race. It cannot be said too strongly: that was its function. It was meant to indicate to all who might be toying with subversive ideas that crucified persons were not of the same species as either the executioners or the spectators and were therefore not only expendable but also deserving of ritualized extermination.

Therefore, the mocking and jeering that accompanied crucifixion were not only allowed, they were part of the spectacle and were programmed into it. In a sense, crucifixion was a form of entertainment. Everyone understood that the specific role of the passersby was to exacerbate the dehumanization and degradation of the person who had been thus designated to be a spectacle. Crucifixion was cleverly designed — we might say diabolically designed — to be an almost theatrical enactment of the sadistic and inhumane impulses that lie within human beings. According to the Christian gospel, the Son of God voluntarily and purposefully absorbed all of that, drawing it into himself. . . .

This book excerpt is read and published online by permission of the publisher, Eerdmans.

The sound effects in the audio recording are provided by Igniter Media.