What does Mark 15:25 mean?
ESV: And it was the third hour when they crucified him.
NIV: It was nine in the morning when they crucified him.
NASB: Now it was the third hour when they crucified Him.
CSB: Now it was nine in the morning when they crucified him.
NLT: It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.
KJV: And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.
Crucifixion victims are typically ordered to carry the cross-bar to the crucifixion site. The vertical portion was usually permanently fixed to the ground to make the process faster and easier for the executioners. The horizontal portion of the cross was not a small plank of wood. Rather, it weighed around 100 pounds, or 45 kilograms, looking more like a railroad tie.
At the execution site, the cross bar is laid on the ground, and soldiers nail or tie the victim's wrists to the bar. Psalm 22:16 and Isaiah 53:5 say Jesus is nailed. The bar is lifted and attached to the upright post. Often, the victim is not that high, nearly touching the ground. In this case, Jesus is at least high enough that the soldier must use a reed to offer Him vinegar (Mark 15:36). While some crucifixion crosses are "T"-shaped, Jesus at least has enough room above His head for the sign "The King of the Jews" (Matthew 27:37).
The "third hour" is 9:00 a.m. Three hours later the sun will go dark, and three hours after that Jesus will die (Mark 15:33, 37). It is unusual for people to die so quickly on the cross. Although crucifixion is excruciatingly painful, it is not immediately lethal. Romans became adept at driving nails in between bones and veins, but directly through nerves. Victims would bleed, but not profusely. Hanging there in intense agony, those crucified would more likely die of exposure, infection, heart arrythmia, or a traumatic form of pneumonia. This could take days.
Probably the most common cause of death from crucifixion was asphyxiation. Hanging in the crucified position prevents normal breathing. When hanging loosely, the chest is distorted to the point that the victim can't exchange the air in the lungs. The victim can only breathe if he still has energy to pull the arms in, bracing impaled feet and / or hands against the nails. Executioners could accelerate the process by breaking the victim's legs. The unusually brutal treatment given by the Roman guards (John 19:1) traumatized Jesus' body considerably. He couldn't carry the cross-beam of the cross less than half a mile to the crucifixion site.
Jesus' rapid death is partly explained by His ability to speak until very shortly before death (John 19:30) and the condition of His corpse. The blood and water that flow from Jesus' side when the guard stabs Him with a spear (John 19:34) suggests Jesus died of some combination of fluid buildup in his chest, referred to as either a hemothorax or a pleural effusion, rather than direct asphyxiation. Such a death can happen relatively suddenly, as compared to suffocating.
In the original Greek, "crucify" is referred to as stauroo, which is the Greek root word for "stake" or "driving down stakes." In Latin, however, "crucify" takes its origin from crux, or "cross." From crux comes cruciare, to cause extreme anguish, and the English "excruciating." It's no exaggeration to say that the modern term for "the worst pain imaginable" is derived from this specific form of torture.
Marks' description is dry and academic. Most likely, this is due to his audience, which was mostly Romans. That culture knew all too well what crucifixion entailed, and it was considered an unpleasant topic.
Though we can imagine all the graphic details of His physical suffering, the nails and suffocation are not the primary causes of Jesus' pain. Neither is the intense shame and humiliation. For the first time in existence, the Son is separated in some incomprehensible sense from the Father and the Holy Spirit. Through no sin of His own Jesus is abandoned. We don't know when God turns from Jesus; possibly when Judas arrives in the garden of Gethsemane and Jesus says, "The hour has come" (Mark 14:41). Now, Jesus has six hours of extreme pain and even more excruciating separation. Then His work will be finished. He will be reunited with His Father, and His sheep will be saved.
Mark 15:21–32 describes the crucifixion of Jesus. The Romans refined crucifixion to be the most painful and humiliating death imaginable. Victims were usually stripped naked, then tied or nailed to a cross. Executioners were adept at driving nails between bones and arteries, but directly through nerves, extending the victim's agony. Hanging in this position, the condemned could only breathe if they lifted their weight on impaled feet or wrists. Exhaustion would soon lead to suffocation—typically taking a victim two or three days to die. Bodies were usually left to rot in public unless a family member was given special permission to remove them. More painful for Jesus, however, is the total separation from His heavenly Father. Still, though He suffers alone, He suffers with hope (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus' crucifixion is also detailed in Matthew 27:32–44, Luke 23:26–43, and John 19:16–27.
After sham trials, Jesus is taken to the local Roman governor, Pilate. This is the only person in Jerusalem with the legal authority to have Jesus executed. Pilate is not fooled, and he attempts to arrange for Jesus' release. But the ruler's ploys fail, in part because Jesus will not defend Himself, and partly because the mob is intent on His death. Pilate offers a prisoner exchange in Barabbas, and even has Jesus brutally beaten in order to pacify the crowd. Eventually, he caves in and Jesus is crucified. Thanks to His prior abuse, Jesus survives only a few hours on the cross before dying. Jesus is then buried in a tomb belonging to a secret follower among the Jerusalem council.
After being unfairly judged, Jesus will now be unfairly sentenced and cruelly murdered. It's reasonable to say this chapter provides context for everything else contained in the Bible. From Adam and Eve until the last baby born in the millennial kingdom, every person other than Christ is stained with sin. Conscience, law, Jesus' direct leadership, even the indwelling of the Holy Spirit cannot keep us from sinning. Sinless Jesus had to die on the cross, sacrificing Himself in our place, so our sins could be forgiven and we could be reconciled to God. Beneath the violence, darkness, dishonor, and death is the love of God for all mankind (John 3:16). Jesus' crucifixion is also found in Matthew 27, Luke 23, and John 19. The next chapter describes the miracle of His resurrection.
The Gospel of Mark emphasizes both Jesus' servanthood and His role as the promised Messiah: the Son of God. This is done through a concise, action-packed style. Mark provides relatively few details, instead focusing on actions and simple statements. This relates to the Gospel's authorship, which is believed to be based on the memories of the apostle Peter. These include many of Jesus' miracles, in contrast to other Gospels which include many more of Jesus' teachings and parables. Mark also makes frequent mention of Jesus' ministry being misunderstood by others.
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