Ecology has an important role on Culture, and myths can be sometimes better understood once separated from their specifics so the general can be more easily discerned.
Have met many wonderful Christians in my life, read the New Testament (along with other World Religious texts) and am a great fan of the Nazarene Jesus' reported words and deeds. Since my understanding of the Messiah is that when God comes to Earth, it will be redeemed and made perfect by HIS touch, the current World seems imperfect and I am left wishing and hoping for a future Mesianic moment (which may just be personal to each Seeker). Jesus doesn't qualify as a Messiah for me personally, but I admire Faith when it leads to Good behavior in all Cultures and forms.
As impressive as some of the stories of any religion, the triumph by death and seeming defeat in Christianity is fairly unusual. Most Gods are triumphant figures, casting out their enemies, championing their People in War and prosperity. The theme that Suffering is Good itself is common, but that suffering in your life brings you more in touch with Jesus suffering for a nobler cause is powerful "sympathetique" magick. It turns the question of Good and Evil on it's head, as the more bad things that happen (and Life provides plenty) the more like your God you can become. Much better than the Jewish excuse that the Tribe has not been sufficiently devout, or the belief God creates misery so HE can show Mercy and Compassion.
So the very symbol of Christianity is the symbol of his destruction, the Roman execution tool of the Crucifix or Calvery Cross. Very powerful....unusual, different from a star in the sky, a powerful Lion or Eagle, almost a punk statement, "We can take anything".
And years of paintings and illustrations in books, movies and looking at that symbol have made it natural for Westerners to say "Christ died on the Cross" and envision the Savior's suffering on that instrument of death and Roman intimidation.
Jewish punishments are well laid out in the Talmud, the first section of which, called Stripes, is Criminal Law. Punishments are doled out by the Community according to both Intention and Effect, and range from whipping (stripes), stoning for banishment (let them run away) and stoning for death (surround the victim). As no one person could know if their stone struck the fatal blow, none were considered personally guilty of the sin of killing a member of the Tribe. The Commandment is Thou Shalt Not MURDER, rather than Thou shalt not KILL. Murder is the killing of a fellow tribesman (and sets off a Blood Feud, but that is another essay)and forbidden, so no one will be an executioner. Killing, go for it, other tribes, animals, non-Jewish slaves are all not covered by this prohibition.
"Hanging Alive", the Jewish term for Crucifixion, was not known until the Hasmonean civil war which brought in the Romans. Alexander Jannaeus and the Sadducean priest of the urban, central Temple fought with the rural Teachers and priests, the Pharisees for several years. Agreeing to a truce, they were captured instead and over 800 were "hung alive" as Alexander Jannaeus held a large banquet forcing others to watch their suffering and death. It's goal was to terrorize the population by forcing them to watch their loved ones die over several days by suffocation, exposure and a slow wound. However, Judea was not an ideal place for this Roman punishment, as there were no tall, straight trees from which to construct Crosses, as seen in Spartacus , and every Easter movie.
Now, where would he find enough usable wood for 800 crosses in Judea? It is baffling! Well, part of the explanation may come from the three different NUMBERing systems used in the Bible. NUMBERs based on 10, (like 20, 80 800)are often inflated rather than exact, and many unlearned people in that region still count by 10, 20, 40 and 80, meaning many.
The soil of Judea and Israel is shallow and can support grasses (like barley, wheat, what was called "corn" in ancient times before we applied that term to New World maize) but only small, crooked trees like olive and fig.
The timber for King Solomon's Temple had to be imported from Lebanon, because no trees that tall, straight or thick grew in the hills, valleys and rocky grasslands of Judea. Which is not to say the Romans could not have had a few imported timber Crosses set up in the execution grounds for Jesus and the two thieves. But we know from history, archaeology, the Bible and Josephus's History of the Jews that such executions increased as Jesus' pacifistic pleas, the Hebrew Zealot's violent assassinations, the full scale Bar Kokba revolt, and the final Jewish Rebellion escalated resistance to Roman rule. The Romans quickly ran out of wood, and crucified people to their houses, knowing full well the mud walls and sympathetic crowds would mean their rescue as troops moved on. The wound in the side was designed to insure a slow death, even if the victim escaped or was rescued.
Resources: see Qumran Dead Sea Scroll 4Q390, Josephus War of the Jews - "Nay, his rage was grown so extravagant, that his barbarity proceeded to the degree of impiety; for when he had ordered eight hundred to be hung upon crosses in the midst of the city, he had the throats of their wives and children cut before their eyes; and these executions he saw as he was drinking and lying down with his concubines. " http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/war-1.htm