March 21, 2021

The Meaning of Jesus’ Death

Passage: Matthew 27:33-50

Crucifixion was a common form of execution in the ancient world, and the Roman Empire was notorious for conducting mass crucifixions. For example, after the Third Servile War (73–71 BC, the slave rebellion under Spartacus), the Roman general Crassus crucified 6,000 of Spartacus’ men near Rome. The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that when the Romans were besieging Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Roman general Titus crucified five hundred or more Jews every day. In fact, so many Jews were crucified outside of the walls that “there was not enough room for the crosses and not enough crosses for the bodies” (Wars of the Jews 5:11.1).[1]

The Roman statesman Cicero called crucifixion “the most cruel and disgusting penalty.” Josephus, who witnessed crucifixions himself, called it “the most wretched of deaths.” The Roman jurist Julius Paulus listed crucifixion as the worst of all capital punishments. The ancients considered death by crucifixion to be the most obscene, the most disgraceful, and the most horrific execution known to man.

Jesus’ death is no doubt the most famous example of crucifixion, but he was just one of the thousands of people the Romans crucified around that time.

The average person, I suppose, seeing Jesus die on the cross might have thought, “Well, here is another criminal the Roman Empire is putting to death.” Not all that unusual; happens all the time.

Why then is the death of Jesus any different from all the other executions by crucifixion? What is the significance of his death? What sets his death apart from all the others? It happened nearly 2000 years ago; why are we still talking about it today and remembering it regularly throughout the year?

The Bible tells us that Jesus’ death was unique and special. Much more was going on at his death than at any other crucifixion. Anyone could see that Jesus died on the cross, but we might not be aware of the meaning/significance of his death.

This is important because your eternal destiny depends on believing what the Bible says about Jesus’ death.

Jesus’ death on the cross was unique and meaningful for a number of reasons.

[1] Richard P. Bucher, “Crucifixion in the Ancient World,” www.orlutheran.com/html/crucify.html

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