Crucifixion was often referred to as the “most wretched of deaths.” It was so offensive, that many Romans did not like to even mention it. This form of death was repugnant and only reserved for the lowest classes, slaves, and political criminals. If someone in the family were a convicted criminal and were executed in this way, it would have been a source of shame and embarrassment.
Of all the deaths to die, why was this the way Jesus died: If Jesus died on the battlefield in a blaze of glory, would that not have been a better story to tell? Outsiders often scorned Christians for the scandal of serving one who had been executed on a cross. Yet neither the New Testament writers nor the early church tried to tone down the cross. They could have just said that Jesus died without telling how he died.
What does the fact that Jesus died the lowest, the most wretched of deaths say about him? Jesus poured himself out as a bond servant both in life and in death. He also redefined glory. Glory is found not in heroic tales of marvelous feats, but in the simple and faithful service rendered to others in the name of God. Whether it is washing feet, a cup of cold water, kindness to the outcast, glory is found with the least of these. To be crucified with Christ, to take up your cross, dying with him daily, means identifying with the “least of these” even in the face of severe persecution. It means becoming nobody so that you will be somebody before God. The Kingdom of God is so different than the kingdom of this world. The greatest are the least and the least are the greatest.