Was Jesus crucified? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Since I did not find the time to write a blog on Thursday, I’m going to make up for it with a rare Saturday blog. I hope you’ll also be tuning in to the podcast today that I have with Robert Kolb on the resurrection. For now, we’re going to talk about the crucifixion.
If you meet someone who really thinks they speak with authority and that the crucifixion did not happen, you can rest assured you are talking to someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
“The fact of the death of Jesus as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable, despite hypotheses of a pseudo-death or a deception which are sometimes put forward. It need not be discussed further here.” (Gerd Ludemann. .”What Really Happened To Jesus?” Page 17.)
“Christians who wanted to proclaim Jesus as messiah would not have invented the notion that he was crucified because his crucifixion created such a scandal. Indeed, the apostle Paul calls it the chief “stumbling block” for Jews (1 Cor. 1:23). Where did the tradition come from? It must have actually happened.” (Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Third Edition. pages 221-222)
“Jesus was executed by crucifixion, which was a common method of torture and execution used by the Romans.” (Dale Martin, New Testament History and Literature. Page 181)
“That Jesus was executed because he or someone else was claiming that he was the king of the Jews seems to be historically accurate.” (ibid. 186)
“Jesus’ execution is as historically certain as any ancient event can ever be but what about all those very specific details that fill out the story?” John Dominic Crossan here.
None of these people would be considered orthodox Christians who are saying this. This argument is not being made for theological reasons. It is being made for historical reasons. The testimony of history that Jesus was crucified is overwhelming. It is the testimony of all of our earliest sources as well as non-Christian sources such as Tacitus.
Some people look at the crucifixion and say that it means Jesus died and say “Well so what? The only way you could argue that Jesus rose again is that you had him die. So what?” The reason crucifixion matters is not that it’s just that Jesus died, but that He died the worst death it was possible to die in His time. He died a death that was humiliating and shameful.
In Jesus’s society, you would not invent a story that your messiah who was to be your rival to the emperor even was crucified. That would make as much sense as making up a story that your candidate for the Pope had been an active homosexual in the past or that your candidate for president of the Southern Baptist Convention is a registered sex offender.
And yet, the Christians all agreed that Jesus was crucified, the part of the message that was extremely dangerous to their cause. Why did they all agree? It is because it was undeniable that it happened that way. Everyone knew it.
For Christians today, we can remember all that our Lord did in suffering not just a painful death, but a death that was shameful as well. This is what Hebrews means when in the 12th chapter it says that He went to the cross despising the shame. The shame was worth it for the greater glory that would come. We today can realize that our sufferings lead to the greater glory that will follow.
Christ trusted the promise of God to the cross.
How far are we able to trust that promise?