The Crucifixion of Christ
Table of Contents
The human nature of Jesus Christ reflected on his mundane affairs as well as His death as a human being, whereas His resurrection was divine. Actually, the crucifixion of Christ has a specific meaning for Christians, for it reminds them about the great sacrifice of the Savior for the love of humanity and its life. At the same time, the Crucifixion is fundamental to Christian faith due to its power to prove the divinity of Jesus Christ and thus confirm the prophecy of the Old Testament about Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Being a painful execution widely practiced in the ancient world, the crucifixion became the dramatic end of the earthly life of Jesus Christ fundamental for Christianity and didactic for individual Christians due to its sacral significance for the faith and its followers.
The Definition of the Crucifixion
A crucifixion is a means to execute a death penalty. “The punishment of crucifixion is ranked among the capital punishments of the ancient world” (Samuelsson, 27). Babylonia, Greece, Palestine, Carthage and Rome practiced crucifixion (Samuelsson, 2011). A person was crucified by nailing or binding the wrists or hands and feet to a cross. Tied to the cross, people suffered from heat and insects during the day and from a strong cold at night (Samuelsson, 2011). A plaque with the inscription of the convicts’ guilt was placed at the top of the cross, and a step in the form of a ledge was placed at the bottom so that the convicts could base their feet (Samuelsson, 2011). If after several days the crucified people were still alive, the soldiers struck sword in their legs so they could die from blood loss (Samuelsson, 2011). Ordinary citizens (Romans, for example) were not executed by crucifixion because of its humiliating nature and cruel suffering caused by it (Samuelsson, 2011). It was used to penalize slaves and criminals from the lower strata of society. Thus, crucifixion was a kind of scary tactic employed to prevent a civil uprising. Moreover, it was used against rebels who opposed the Roman rule (Samuelsson, 2011). Political offenders were indulged to death by crucifixion, whereas there was no serious investigation prior to the execution.
Jesus of Nazareth was one of those political offenders crucified at the order of the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate. The charges brought against Jesus contained the political elements necessary for the execution by crucifixion. In fact, He was blamed in a conspiracy against Herod, the King of Judea, which was a province of the Roman Empire. The reason for such a conclusion was hidden in Christ’s self-representation as the prince of the Kingdom of Heaven, which was understood by Romans as His aspiration to usurp Herod’s throne. Opponents of Jesus Christ and His teachings made use of the Roman Emperor’s fight against potential enemies and conspirators. The accusers of Jesus knew perfectly well that ten years before Tiberius (the Roman Emperor) declared that any judge may immediately sentence to death a man who stood up against Rome (Samuelsson, 2011). As a result, Jesus was accused of the flagitious plan against Rome in the face of Herod. The verdict was delivered by Pontius Pilate and Jesus was crucified on Calvary together with two thieves. “A crucifixion is … the suspension of a living person doomed to suffer an extended death struggle” (Samuelsson, 8). Unlike thieves whose hands were simply tied to the cross, hands and feet of Jesus Christ were nailed. This was done for two reasons: first, it made the punishment more painful for the convict (the man who pretended to be a prince of the Kingdom of Heaven and who aimed at Romans’ becoming his followers), and, second, the executors wanted to accelerate His death (Samuelsson, 2011). After approximately six hours of sufferings, Christ was dead (Samuelsson, 2011). That way, the crucifixion became the reason of his death as a human being.
The Meaning of the Crucifixion to Individual Christians
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is an important belief presented by Christianity as an event from mortal life of God the Son. “A crucifixion is that which happened to Jesus on Calvary according to the mainstream traditions of the church” (Samuelsson, 28). Still, the sacral meaning so valuable for individual Christians is not hidden in the event itself. It is explained by the reasons that motivated Jesus Christ to sacrifice his life for the benefit of humanity.
It is obvious that Christians believe in the Trinity, whereas Jesus of Nazareth is perceived by them as God the Son whose human and divine nature proves the fact of his birth in the result of Immaculate Conception. In this respect, Jesus is seen as the Messiah whose coming was predicted by the Old Testament. Both His life and death became the frame of Christian faith followed by numerous believers. Therein, His mundane actions, as well as His preaching, may be seen as His attempts to save humanity via their transformation into faithful people, whose faithful way of life might become the remedy for their sinful life. So, “The life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth have formed the basis for a major world religion (Christianity)…” (Edwards, Gabel, & Hosmer, 1455) The crucifixion of Christ, in turn, became the symbol of merciful nature of Jesus of Nazareth, who has sacrificed his life in the name of humanity that betrayed Him via blaming in impersonation as the prince of the Kingdom of Heaven. Hence, individual Christians are preoccupied with the idea that the crucifixion of Christ became His last attempt to save people after his advocacy for humans’ faithfulness did not reach the hearts and minds of those people who heard his preaching.
For individual Christians, the Crucifixion is the symbol of salvation and redemption of the human race, the sign of victory over death and hell. As the atoning sacrifice for the liberation of mankind from the power of sin, Jesus Christ died on the cross and came forth in the first resurrection. Thus, Christians believe in a spiritual and saving value of the voluntary suffering of Jesus Christ, whose love for humanity was his only motive to face painful death on the cross. In such a context, “…it is only as the salvation that Jesus brings is concretely revealed in his ministry, death and resurrection that his being the Christ becomes meaningful in relation to the particularities of people’s lives” (Schweitzer, 49). In other words, individual Christians’ lives gain the meaning of the core value. Moreover, Christians believe that the crucifixion of Christ must be a sacrifice full of sense. That is why they try to lead faithful lives in order to prove that the self-sacrificing action of Jesus did not pass without a valuable lesson for his followers. Hence, the Crucifixion’s meaning for Christians is hidden in its ability to remind them about sinful nature of humanity that pushed God the Son to give His life for its salvation.
Another aspect that significantly adds to the great meaning of the Crucifixion for individual Christians is seen in the image of Jesus of Nazareth as the Savior whose advent was prophesied by the Old Testament. “The death of Christ, the great and last sacrifice on the cross, was predicted by Old Testament and Book of Mormon prophets, and foreshadowed by types and images” (Woodbury, 17). Even though God the Father did not assert Himself via salvation of Jesus from His death (the mark that could show Romans and Jews the true divinity of Christ), the divine nature of Jesus was justified after his crucifixion, when He resurrected. This fact could not but contributed to individual Christians’ belief in Jesus Christ as the Messiah who has come to earth to save the human race. In this regard, the Crucifixion is perceived as an act of absolution from sins and a chance for Christians to lead a faithful life, which was given to them by merciful God the Son and his sacrifice for the love of humanity. As a result, Christians advocate for just life as a tribute of love for Jesus Christ, whereas the Crucifixion is a symbol of His suffering in the name of people, which must be remembered every minute of human existence as well as repaid via glorification of God the Son and God the Father via people’s sinless actions.
The Reasons Why the Crucifixion Is Foundational to Christian Faith
Being a religion that originated from the prophecy of Jesus Christ, Christianity focused on His life as a whole and death in particular. The death of Christ on the cross is a central theological idea of Christian faith and the visual focus of Christians’ thoughts. Hence, the Crucifixion became the mark of Christian initiator’s death, whose divine nature and earth actions resulted in human salvation. It is no wonder that Christian faith uses it as a foundational theological idea for His followers’ just life. Christianity focuses on the belief that Christ’s sacrifice showed the possibility of human redemption. That is to say, His crucifixion became the manifestation of people’s ability to recover from the power and effects of the original sin of Adam and Eve, which was inherited by all humankind. Still, an aspect that transforms the Crucifixion into a foundational dogma of Christianity is that such a death of Jesus of Nazareth confirmed the merciful nature of God the Son, the same as it is prescribed to God the Father. Jesus Christ sacrificed his life to shelter the whole humanity from punishment for its sinful actions. In this respect, the crucifixion of Christ is a kind of reminder of the connection between God and his creatures via His son, as well as it is the symbol of God’s love for people, which pushed Him to immolate Jesus just to retrieve humanity from its ruin in the result of sinful existence.
Another reason why the Crucifixion is foundational to Christian faith is hidden in its precedence to the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and His Ascension into Heaven. Actually, the bodily resurrection is one of five fundamentals of Christianity, whereas the Crucifixion was the event that led to the painful death of Jesus Christ followed by his resurrection. “The bodily resurrection refers to a belief that Jesus was resurrected in body as well as spirit after his crucifixion” (Barkley, 1). This aspect, in turn, confirmed divine nature of Jesus and his status of God the Son able to rise from the dead. In such a manner, the Crucifixion is foundational to Christian faith due to its evidence of Christ’s divinity, questioned by those people who destined His death on Calvary. The thing is that it is not in the power of a human being to resurrect. So, in the context of the crucifixion of Christ and its following by the Ascension, doubts in His divinity become irrelevant. That is why Christ’s sacrificed death is central to Christian faith.
Finally, the Crucifixion is a fundamental to Christianity because of its contribution to human faith in God and the Kingdom of Heaven. The whole thing is that it is God the Father who defines the destination of the human soul after its physical death, whereas souls of faithful Christians are believed to ascend into Heaven. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is a clear example of God’s advocacy for sacrifices in the name of faith and a way to the afterlife in the Kingdom of Heaven. Moreover, Christ’s painful death on the cross is a manifestation of the fact that God transforms the symbol of horror and death into a symbol of salvation to show that death is defeated by the sacrifice and Resurrection of Christ. As for Christian faith, this aspect is contributive for its followers, for it speaks for the power of human belief in God to cause Christians’ salvation and their life in Heaven after death. What is more, the Crucifixion asserts itself as an act of sacrificial love: the Savior loved people to the extent that willingly suffered painful death for their sake. So, the Crucifixion is fundamental to Christian faith because of its sacred meaning for its followers whose life experience is defined by their belief in the Second Coming of Christ and humanity’s salvation in the context of its faithful life. For that matter, Christianity’s focus on the crucifixion of Christ demonstrates its believers a chance to live eternally in Heaven due to sinless existence in the name of love for Jesus Christ and appreciation of His sacrifice.
In sum, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is important for individual Christians due to their perception of Christ’s death as His sacrifice in the name of humanity, which was caused by his love for people, even those who betrayed and executed Him on Calvary. As a result, Christians believe in the Messiah and His act for their souls’ salvation, which significantly adds to their desire to lead a faithful life to glorify loving nature of God the Son and merciful nature of God the Father. The sacred meaning of the Crucifixion alongside with its contribution to the understanding of the Old Testament prophecy about the Savior makes it fundamental to Christian faith. Moreover, the crucifixion of Christ is central to Christianity because of its power to show the sacrificed love of God for the sake of His creatures.
- Barkley, B. (2007).Understanding Christian fundamentalism. The Thoughtful Christian, Oct. 2007. Retrieved from:
- Edwards, W. D., Gabel,W. J., & Hosmer, F. E. (1986).On the physical death of Jesus Christ. Journal of the American Medical association, 255 (11), 1455-1463.
- Samuelsson, G. (2011). Crucifixion in Antiquity. Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck.
- Schweitzer, D. (2004). A theological significance of the quest for the historical Jesus. Indian Journal of Theology, 46 (1/2), 45-52.
- Woodbury, J. N. (1983). Christ’s atoning sacrifice: The role of the crucifixion. Sunstone, 8, 17-21.