Der Horror des Kreuzes

Erst bei diesen Worten habe ich zu ahnen begonnen, was ein Kreuzestod bedeuten könnte:

‘The cross … was not just any kind of death. It was an utterly offensive affair, ‘obscene’ in the original sense of the word.’ So obscene was it in fact, that the sophisticated, cultured people in Greek and Roman societies would not even utter the word cross in polite company. It was a reviled word, and it conjured disgusting and nauseating images.

Crucifixion was never a private event. It was always raw, and searingly public, because its purpose was to terrify the masses into submission to the authorities. Crosses often lined the main roads into cities, holding the broken writhing bodies of the condemned, or displaying the rotting corpses of the dead. The Romans even scheduled public crucifixions to coindcide with religious festivals, insuring the maximum number of people present to witness the horror. Murderers, robbers, traitors, and slaves were crucified, brutally, by the thousands all over the empire and always deliberately in full public view. The horror of the cross was inescapable, and the Romans intended it to be that way.

… Shredded flesh against unforgiving wood, iron stakes pounded through bone and wracked nerves, joints wrenched out of socket by the sheer dead weight of the body, public humilitation before the eyes of family, friends, and the world – that was death on the cross, ‘the infamous stake’ as the Romans called it, ‘the barren wood’, the maxima mala crux. Or as the Greeks spat it out, the stauros. No wonder no one talked about it. No wonder parents hid their chrildren’s eyes from it. The stauros was a loathsome thing, and the one who died on it was loathsome too, a vile criminal whose only use was to hang there as a putrid, decaying warning to anyone else who might follow his example.

That is how Jesus died.

Greg Gilbert, in Kevin DeYoung (ed.) Don’t Call it a Comback. Wheaton: Crossway 2011. (71-72)