“he humbled himself, becoming obedient even up to death…even death on a cross.”
It is true, people understood the horrors of crucifixion back in the first century better than we understand the horrors of this form of death today. We certainly know all of the technical details of what happens to the body during the process of death, but the first century Christians witnessed the suffering and many personally knew people who had died in that way. Thus, it is often argued that the reasons that the first century Apostles did not describe the crucifixion in all of its gore is because such did not need to be described to them.
Yet, in light of many pastor’s tendency to immerse their congregation in sermon after sermon of the gore of the cross, it still seems a stark contrast to me as to how little the Gospel writers spoke of the details of crucifixion. Many simply say that he was crucified and they leave it at that. Why? I am not convinced that it was because of the intimacy of their knowledge of the experience…truly, the Gospel writers understood that they were writing for future generations to read…future generations that may be blessed perhaps to see crucifixion outlawed in their lands. Indeed, there were other experiences that were described in great detail in scripture — experiences that would have been just as commonplace in the first century.
So why is so little said about the nature of Jesus’ death on the cross? I think that the answer is found in the spiritual nature of Jesus’ death. While little is said of the physical nature of Jesus’ crucifixion, a great deal is said about the spiritual nature of his facing the wrath of God on our behalf — of the Lord of Life becoming sin for we sinners and bearing the weight of the curse upon his shoulders. As horrific as crucifixion may be in the physical sense, it pales in comparison to the horrific weight that Jesus bore in a spiritual sense. Indeed, he chose to be obedient even unto death — death on the cross — a death that bore the weight of the sin of all the elect throughout the ages. May we, as we meditate on the cross, place emphasis where the scriptures place emphasis and make much of what the scriptures make much of. Let us not forget the horror of a physical death on the cross but let us also not get lost in it.