The normal Roman practice was to crucify victims naked. Sometimes, they were stripped before they even began their death march. Whether the Romans made a concession to the Jewish abhorrence of public nakedness is not known.
Psalm 22, speaking of the sufferings of the Messiah (the same Psalm that begins "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me"), says, "They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots." Back then, garments were much more valuable than today, and were commonly awarded to the executioners.
It is a great insult to hang on a cross dying while others play a game of chance for your clothes. Crucifixion, on every score, was an ugly, humiliating way to die.
The people watching a crucifixion would normally be passers-by. The site for a crucifixion was usually on a main route, so that passers-by would be forced to see it - just like unsuspecting commuters coming upon an accident on an expressway.
In Luke's account, "the people" are respectful, awestruck, silent. He says they "stood by and watched." When Jesus dies they will go home "beating their breasts." Once again, "if you came to know him, you would love him."
Maybe we need to get to know him better. Like Mary Magdalene did. Or the Beloved Disciple.
- Little Black Book, Diocese of Saginaw