All those many years ago, everything changed for you and me when Jesus Christ, hanging from that terrible cross, dropped his head and prepared to sit at the right hand of God the Father. First, He had to occupy the grave. Second, the Angel of the Lord had to roll back the stone. The guards ran away when the Son of God appeared like lightening. Third, he comforted Mary Magdelene and gave her the news that the crucified Christ was risen, and fourth, he had 40 days to appear to the people, to the Apostles, and to continue his teaching, before he ascended to the heavens – from which he will descend one day with a “shout.” At that time, there will be no misunderstanding that this is the Christ, the Son of God, returned. But what of the soldiers who nailed this gentle, kind and wise man to a rough hewn cross only three days before? They had to know something about the man rumored to be the Son of God. The buzz was everywhere. Pontius Pilate didn’t want to sentence him, but felt he had to, to keep the peace. So he did, and so Pilate washed his hands of the whole affair – or so he thought. He turned it over to the military to carry out his orders, and that meant that ordinary men, like those we’ve known and loved for most of our lifetime, had to carry out the deed.
Here is what it must have been like, or could have been like:
The commander of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem reported there was a new rebellious spirit not only in the city but in the surrounding countryside as well. But Rome wasn’t going to allow it. We had received word that Rome was going to put down any troublemakers. Because of potential future needs from the expected trouble brewing, the supply sergeant ordered a new supply of nails to restock the materials crib in his military storeroom.
Since Rome executed all criminals by crucifixion, (whether murderers, thieves, or enemies of the state stirring up insurrection, or for any other charge levied against the citizens of a conquered Israel) the Roman army needed a good supply of the long iron spikes used to nail the hands and feet of the condemned to the many crosses that lined the roads into Jerusalem.
Roman crucifixion did two things. It got rid of criminals, and the sight of men stripped naked hanging on those crosses along the roadsides, many times for days in the hot sun with scavenger birds picking off the flesh of their dead bodies turned out to be the greatest deterrent to crime and rebellion Rome could offer. I can attest to the fact, Roman brutality was more than just a rumor.
After I hand delivered the new order for one hundred nails to the Jew on the north edge of Jerusalem, I followed the old man a few feet from his small house to his workshop to make sure he began working on them immediately. I stayed with him about an hour that morning looking around his shop at all his tools and asking questions about his trade. He also knew very well what the nails he was making would be used for. Herod, the Roman appointed king over Judea and Samaria, trying to stay in favor with the people, decided to send all his trouble makers to the Roman army for trial and punishment … which usually meant crucifixion.
May the blessings of the resurrection of Jesus Christ
heal and comfort you and yours