Jesus’ Crucifixion in the Bible

Correctly understanding these terms leads to a better
understanding of the character of God and the Gospel.

Jesus’ crucifixion in the Bible – was it just about justice and physical punishment or is there a deeper meaning?

Traditional Legal Model – The physical torture endured by Jesus to pay the penalty of sin and thus satisfy the justice of God.

Biblical Healing Model – The emotional torture that was and is still endured by Jesus and His Father because of man’s continuing rejection.


Crucifixion, noun

The nailing or fastening of a person to a cross, for the purpose of putting him to death; the act or punishment of putting a criminal to death by nailing him to a cross. (

Crucifixion, noun

1. the act of crucifying
2. “severe and unjust punishment or suffering; persecution.” (

Webster’s definition refers only to the physical. The second source includes suffering from other causes as we might use “crucifixion” in an idiomatic sense today to indicate extreme suffering.

Crucifixion definitionCrucifixion is a Nasty Business

 The movie The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson dwelt purely on the physical aspect which we are not going to look at here. We are also not going to look at it in relation to salvation except to state that it was not payment of a penalty or ransom to satisfy the justice of God so that He could offer forgiveness. Rather, we will look at the behind-the-scenes causes and effects of crucifixion.

Jesus’ Crucifixion Not Fully Understood

 In the understanding of those carrying out the crucifixion, it was merely punishment for a crime. However, it was also very much a rejection by those who condemned Him. A rejection of Jesus Himself but also a rejection of what He stood for and His mission which was to reveal which the truth of His Father’s character.

That it was misunderstood is supported by scripture:

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” (Isa 53:4)

We (humanity) did esteem (considered, thought, accounted) that God was punishing Him. The next verse tells us clearly that was not so (“but” – in contrast):

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isa 53:5)

The “but” indicates a contrast; we were wrong in our thinking – He was not “smitten of God.” If He was not smitten of God, Jesus must have been smitten from another source. “For our transgressions,” in the original Hebrew, uses the preposition “mi” indicating “from” not “for.” The passage is not talking about the justice of God but the injustice of man to condemn and kill an innocent person. Verse 3 further supports this:

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isa 53:3)

It was men who rejected, condemned and killed Jesus, not God. God’s intent was clear as described in the parable of the owner of the vineyard:

“Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid. … And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.” (Luke 20:9-16, 19)

The literal fruit of a vineyard would be grapes but, in the parable, as told by Jesus, it was a reference to character:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23)

In the parable, the son was sent as the father’s representative and it was obviously not the father’s intent that his son should be rejected. Also, in reality, Jesus’ mission was to represent the Father and His character. That was completed before the cross:

“I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:4)

The Father’s part in the crucifixion was only to allow it as He delivered His Son to the free will of man which He always honors (as explained the study In the Heart of the Earth).

Peter made it clear who was responsible for Jesus’ suffering and death:

“But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:14-15)

And so did Stephen:

“Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:” (Acts 7:52)

Clearly, The Father was not responsible for killing His own Son. He did not even forsake Him as a study of Matthew 27:46 shows.

The crucifixion has definitely not been properly understood.

But Wasn’t God Happy About the Crucifixion?

We saw in the parable of the householder above (Luke 20) that God had a different plan. Some might imagine that the Father was happy about the crucifixion as suggested by:

“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” (Isa 53:10)

How could it possibly please the Father to see His Son treated that way? Some would even say that the Father Himself punished His Son. In what sense could the Father be pleased that His Son was bruised? Illustrations such as this are often used:

Imagine two brothers one of which has a kidney disease requiring a transplant. The other brother is a match and willing to donate a kidney to save the life to his sibling. The donation procedure, of course, causes pain and weeks of recovery for the donor. The father of the children would be pleased with the result even though there was pain to the donor.

In that scenario, would pain to the kidney donor be from an imposed penalty or from a natural result of the donation procedure?

Who Was Ultimately Responsible?

Consider this verse:

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Gen 3:15)

That was spoken to Satan who was said to wound the Savior. While men physically carried out the crucifixion, it was instigated by Satan. So, it was Satan who bruised the Son.

“He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” (Isa 53:8)

The word “transgression” uses the same “mi” preposition as in verse 5, again indicating “from” or “by” our transgressions not “for” (as in a payment) our transgressions. There was no payment to God involved; neither is there any mention of the wrath of God in Isaiah 53.

Another version suggests justice gone wrong which God would certainly not be involved in:

“By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.” (Isa 53:8, New Revised Standard Version)

Mental Effect of Rejection

If anyone loses a son or a daughter or sees them suffer a great calamity isn’t there emotional suffering on the part of the parent? Isn’t it reasonable to understand that the Father would have suffered with what happened to His Son?

One thing that can cause considerable grief is being rejected. Has that ever happened to God?

“And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” (1 Sam 8:7)

 He who loves much, hurts much. If you love someone much, you very much feel their rejection. One who loves another also sympathizes deeply with their suffering:

“And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.” (Judg 10:16)

In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” (Isa 63:9)

“And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” (Gen 6:6)

“How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!” (Psa 78:40)

“And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.” (Mark 3:5)

“Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.” (Heb 3:10)

God’s reaction to rejection is to let people go the way they have chosen and He does that because He always honors free will.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt 23:37)

“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? (Eze 33:11)

Satan’s Role

Satan regards God as his enemy and, as such, he does all he can to hurt God and make Him look bad; to malign His character. During Jesus’ life on earth, Satan tempted and harassed Him and at the crucifixion he tempted (through others) Jesus to give up on His mission:

“And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, Save thyself, and come down from the cross.” (Mark 15:29-30)

Our Role

We were not involved in the crucifixion, an event 2,000 years ago or were/are we?

“If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” (Heb 6:6)

This suggests that people, even today, can cause Jesus to feel effects of the crucifixion, that rejection by those He loves. What are we doing that might crucify the Son of God afresh?

How God Deals With the Pain of Crucifixion

How did Jesus endure the crucifixion at that time?

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2)

If He can be crucified afresh (and is, daily), how does He deal with that ongoing pain? He continues to despise the shame and does that by focusing on and anticipating the joy of seeing us saved.

Keeping the Crucifixion in Mind

 “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2)

Knowing Jesus crucified is not simply knowing about the physical act of crucifixion. Rather, it is about knowing Jesus and what He showed of Himself and his Father, especially at His crucifixion. And it is about knowing the depth of His love for His children which results in great suffering to Him when He sees us suffer in any way.

This understanding should have the effect of deepening our repentance. It should make us think more of the pain that our sin has caused God. This leads to something called:

The Backward Prayer

The Backward Prayer is a study written by Robert Wieland. It suggests that we should have and express more concern for God in our prayers as in this example:

“In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.” (John 4:31)

More and more often, I find myself thinking how unfair and unjust it is that our God of infinite love Who created a perfect universe should have to suffer so much. Whenever someone is hurt, He hurts in response. He even feels for the animals that suffer. Let us think more of Him. Read the Backward Prayer.

See a video of a group study on the deeper Biblical meaning of Jesus’ Crucifixion.

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