From “How to become a Christian”: Chapter 10 – Jesus’s death on the cross
Consider now this lengthy passage from Mark’s gospel, together with some short extracts from the other gospels. These show the sequence of events from Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate which led to Him being sentenced to death and then to the execution being carried out. See how cruelly He was treated, especially by the Romans, and how many different things were done to him:
11Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge; so that the governor wondered greatly.Matthew 27:11 -14 (RSV)
26And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyre’ne, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. 28But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.Luke 23:26-28 (RSV)
12“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
13“Crucify him!” they shouted.
14“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
16The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
21A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). 23Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
25It was the third hour when they crucified him. 26The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. 27They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. 29Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30come down from the cross and save yourself!”
31In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.33At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
35When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” 36One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. 37With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”Mark 15:12-39 (NIV)
23When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; 24so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfil the scripture, “They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”John 19:23-24 (RSV)
Try to reflect on how much Jesus suffered and in so many different ways in the passages above. It would also be helpful for you to look up the full parallel accounts of the crucifixion in Matthew chapters 26-27, Luke chapters 22-23 and John chapters 18-20. Jesus suffered many different forms of pain and anguish. It included mental, emotional, physical and spiritual agony. These various sufferings were deliberately directed towards Jesus by God the Father. The wrath, or anger, of God was being poured out on Him so that He could suffer in our place, instead of us. He took the full blast of God’s anger at the sin of the world so that it did not have to be directed at us.
The pain and injury He endured also left Him so physically mutilated that He was unrecognisable, just as the prophet Isaiah had prophesied. In fact He no longer even looked human, because He had been so butchered by His executioners. His whole body was a mass of wounds.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likenessIsaiah 52:14 (NIV)
The shame and humiliation that Jesus also endured
Moreover, Jesus’ humiliation was added to by the fact that the Roman soldiers took away all of His clothes. Few people realise that when Jesus was upon the cross He was entirely naked. Passers-by were jeering and laughing at Him. Imagine the shame and degradation that that must have caused Him. He even had to suffer the brutality and indignity of having His beard pulled out of His face. That would have caused great mutilation and disfigurement in itself. In addition, great damage was done to His back and legs by being scourged or flogged with a whip made of many cords tied together. Each of those cords had sharp pieces of metal or bone attached to them to tear open the flesh. In addition to all of that, the passers-by actually spat on Him, directly into His face:
I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.Isaiah 50:6 (NASB)
Then they spat in his face, and struck him; and some slapped him,Matthew 26:67 (RSV)