March 24, 2014

The Curse of Crucifixion

Mark 15:25; Galatians 3:11-14

It was nine in the morning when they crucified him.
—Mark 15:25


Crucifixion was the most horrible of deaths. Some victims hung for days in the scorching sun until finally the weight of their body, nailed at the hands and feet, collapsed their lungs. Any other death was preferable. Crucifixion was so horrible that it was inappropriate to mention it in conversation.

No one imagined that the cross might become a religious symbol. Because of the cross Minucius Felix in his dialogue Octavius called Christianity a sick delusion. He said that anyone who worshiped a crucified person should himself be crucified.

The Bible also talks about the horrors of crucifixion. The cross is called an offense (Galatians 5:11), a sign of shame (Hebrews 12:2) and foolishness, and a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:23). Deuteronomy 21:23 states that “anyone who is hung on a pole [crucified] is under God’s curse.”

All of this adds significance to the fact that Jesus Christ was not just killed, but crucified.

Have you noticed that Mark uses segments of time (“nine in the morning,” “noon,” “three in the afternoon”) to describe Jesus’ crucifixion? He wants us to reflect on the long, agonizing struggle Jesus endured for us on the cross.

And Paul sees the transforming blessing for us: “Christ re-deemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” Jesus took on the curse so that we will not be cursed.

Lord, amid our busyness, may we stop to focus on all you have done for us. Through your death we can live! Amen.

About the author — Dean Deppe

Dean Deppe has been a pastor in inner-city, suburban, and rural ­churches. Currently he teaches New Testament theology at Calvin Theological Seminary. His courses include one on the parables of Jesus. He and his wife have four grown children.

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