Crucifixion is first attested among the Persians (Darius crucified around 3000 Babylonians in 519 BC), perhaps derived from the Assyrian impalement. It was later employed by the Greeks, especially Alexander the Great, and by the Carthaginians, from whom the Romans adapted the practice as a punishment for slaves and non-citizens, and occasionally for citizens guilty of treason. Although in the Old Testament the corpses of blasphemers or idolaters punished by stoning might be hanged “on a tree” as further humiliation (Deut. 21:23), actual crucifixion was not introduced in Palestine until Hellenistic times. The Seleucid Antiochus IV Epiphanes crucified those Jews who would not accept Hellenization (Josephus Ant. xii.240-41; cf 1 Macc. 1:44-50). Borrowed from Encyclopaedia Britannica.
The cross was never a pretty sight and always carried with it a sort of shame because it was connected with political wrong doing, especially treason. When the Jewish leaders called for the crucifixion of Jesus they did so on the charge of blasphemy which was to them a form of treason. They saw Jesus not only as a pretender to the throne of Judah but a danger to the political life of the state.
It’s seems unrealistic that a people should devote their entire life’s learning to the message of a coming king and then deny the king when he came because he would endanger their relationship with Rome. This often happens when we become at ease in Zion.
As we move towards Easter and the resurrection we know we have to encounter the cross. How are we going to view it? Who will we see on the cross? Traitor, political enemy, or the savior of the world? Dying on a cross in order to establish a kingdom seems foolish. How could Jesus save anyone since he couldn’t save himself? Makes no sense.
Yet, we believe it is so. We believe that God chose what was foolish to the world to be the true wisdom. The cross was the stepping stone to the resurrection and in so being was the means of lifting our sins and granting us grace without measure. Thousands have died on a cross, only one is now alive. Only one was the son of God. Only one nailed our sins on his cross.
Prayer: “Father, the cross is at once hideous and beautiful. We bow to your wisdom and rejoice in our salvation but tears flow as we view your son on the tree. He became a curse that I might become blessed. Thank you God for your unspeakable gift.