It is impossible to know with certainty exactly how Jesus was crucified. He was probably nailed to the cross while it was lying flat on the ground, and then it was raised and its base violently dropped into an appropriately-sized hole. If His hands were nailed through the palms, as is thought by many, then His arms would also have been tied down in order to prevent the nails from tearing through the hands (due to the weight of His body). Others believe that the arms were nailed through the wrists (which would prevent the flesh from tearing loose). One foot was probably placed on top of the other and a single spike driven through both feet into a small ledge.
Crucifixion was considered to be the most horrible way to die because its victims would often linger in the throes of the most excruciating pain for several days (they could last this long since no vital organs were affected by the nails). Throbbing with pain, burning with fever, and tortured by thirst (not to mention the intolerable headaches, labored breathing, and inflammation), crucifixion victims often prayed for death (which they considered relief). The purpose of crucifixion was not just execution, but also terror. Crucifixions were typically performed in public places where the dying (and usually afterward, rotting) person would be a warning to anyone contemplating doing what the victim had done.
Jesus was crucified between two robbers (cf. Matt. 27:38; Isa. 53:12). They were probably rebels like Barabbas. These two may have been executed at this time for convenience's sake, but the fact that Jesus was placed between them suggests that they were crucified with Him to heighten His shame. Although Pilate had no personal ill will toward Jesus, he would certainly not miss an opportunity to show contempt for "Israel's King."
They "divided His garments, casting lots that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: 'They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots'" (Matt. 27:35; cf. Psa. 22:18). It is intriguing that even this small incident was the subject of prophecy. The Roman soldiers could not wait for the death of the victim to claim their spoils, so they proceed as if He were already dead. There were four of them (cf. John 19:23), and they each took one article of Jesus' clothing (after casting lots to see who would take which item, cf. Mark 15:24). But, that still left the tunic. Since it was seamless, they also cast lots for it to see whose it would become (rather than tearing it into four useless pieces). Incidentally, it is believed that crucifixion victims were either put to death naked or with a linen cloth bound about their loins.
We will continue studying about the crucifixion of Christ in our next lesson.