Today is Good Friday. It is the day that Jesus died on the cross for all of mankind. But He didn't just die a normal death. He suffered a violent, brutal death and it is important that everyone understand just how violent His death was.
For most of my life I believed that the most painful part of Jesus' death was the fact that He was nailed to a cross. The pain in that must have been excruciating. But would you believe that the nails were not the worst of it, not even close?
Let's start at the beginning....
I have been a nurse for 25 years. For part of my career I worked in the ER and I have to say that I believe I've seen just about every kind of physical and mental anguish that a person can endure. Last year I was asked to fill in for my Bible Study leader while we were studying the book of Mark (chapter 15 to be exact). It was at this time that I realized that I had never seen the kind of suffering or pain that Jesus went through until I began to research what the body experienced during crucifixion.
Jesus was accused of blasphemy for claiming that he was God Himself. We know that He was God, but the scribes and the Pharisees would not accept this fact. They did not want to believe that their prophesied Messiah could be someone like Jesus. But He was and for this reason He was sentenced to death by crucifixion.
This form of death was reserved for the worst of criminals and not only was it painful, but it was humiliating and inhumane. In fact, under Jewish law, crucifixion was viewed as a rejection by God. In Deuteronomy 21:23 it states that "he who is hanged is accursed of God."
What Happened to Jesus on the Cross?
As you read the following description of the pain and torture Jesus went through, try to picture the excruciating pain and humiliation that He felt. Close your eyes and put yourself there, watching from afar. Remember that this was an innocent man being put to death in the most barbaric way possible because of who He was. He was deemed a criminal - wicked and deserving of death.
Jesus’ crucifixion involved so much more than just nailing Him to the cross. Before any of that occurred, He was beaten within an inch of His life with a nine-tailed whip that had metal tips on the end of every strap. He was strapped to a block while soldiers beat the shard tips of the whip into His back, buttocks, and legs. The metal tips would tear into His flesh and then rip both His skin and muscles away as the soldiers pulled the whip back - just to thrash it into His skin again.
This initial beating alone was enough to cause hypovolemic shock. Hypovolemic shock occurs when there is a loss of approximately 20% or more of the body’s blood supply. This blood loss depletes oxygen to the body because the heart is prevented from pumping more blood which contains the oxygen needed. Hypovolemic shock causes nausea, dizziness, profuse sweating, confusion, and loss of consciousness.
Yet, Jesus allowed them to continue...
After being flogged with the nine-tailed whip, a crown of thorns was forced onto His head causing huge lacerations. The blood from these wounds would be flowing into His eyes causing burning and making it difficult to see. The soldiers covered Him with a purple robe and mocked Him by saying: "Hail, the King of the Jews!" (Mark 15:18). They hit Jesus on the head with a reed, spit on Him and humiliated Him beyond belief.
But still, Jesus said nothing...
As if that was not enough, Jesus was forced to carry a wooden beam to the place of His crucifixion. This beam would have been extremely heavy and after the beating Jesus would have been immensely weak. He was so weak that He needed assistance carrying it. But not only that, however, this wood was really rough and jagged and very splintered. As Jesus walked, this ragged plank moved up and down His back, shoving huge splinters into His open flesh.
Even after being nailed onto the cross, the splinters would continue to exacerbate the wounds on His back. Every time Jesus would shift His weight from His feet to His arms then back to His feet, His back would rub against the splintered wood, causing a constant stabbing into the open wounds. Some of the wooden shreds remained lodged in the muscles and exposed nerve endings. It could even further tear His wounds open.
Let’s talk about the nails...
The nails were driven into Jesus’ wrists and pierced the main nerve running through the arm. When Jesus would push up to breathe, His wrists rotated against the nail, which would irritate the nerves and cause intense pain in His arms. The open nerves were exposed to the thick metal which produced a constant, recurring excruciating pain that had to be endured every time Jesus pulled up to breathe.
The vertical beam that would hold the horizontal beam was already standing in the ground. Jesus was nailed to the horizontal beam while it was still flat on the ground. With His wrists nailed into the horizontal beam, the beam was lifted and then hammered into the vertical beam. When this happened, Jesus’ feet still were not nailed into the vertical beam.
At this point, Jesus’ shoulders would have dislocated because He had no leverage to push His body up. The weight of His hanging body, once it was raised, would have pulled His shoulders out of socket. The result of this was that His arms would extend at least 6 inches beyond their normal span of reach.
With His shoulders dislocated, His body hung in a slumped position, which forced His chest cavity to protrude. An extended chest cavity allowed Jesus to inhale, but exhaling was nearly impossible. The inability to exhale caused an increase in carbon dioxide throughout the body. Increase carbon dioxide puts the body into acidosis which leads to the failure of the central nervous system, among other things.
Since the body doesn’t get enough oxygen while hanging on the cross, the natural physiological response is hyperventilation. Oxygen depravity makes the heart pump harder which leads to cardiac stress. Cardiac stress can cause the heart to rupture inside the chest cavity.
When Jesus hung on the cross, His knees were bent at a 45-degree angle which meant that He had to sustain the weight of His body with the thigh muscles. It is painful to bend the knees and support one’s weight with the thighs alone for even five minutes. Doing this for hours is unimaginable.
The natural way for our vital organs to receive oxygen is through the flow of blood. Proper movement of the arms and legs and their interaction with gravity is what enables this process. The cross prevented Jesus from natural movement. The stationary arms and legs, combined with gravity’s work of pulling the blood downward, prevents the vital organs from receiving the proper flow of oxygen.
The organs respond to this unnatural position by sending warning signals to the brain that something is very wrong. The warning signals are sent through the nerves that lead to the pain centers of the brain. So, with all the other excruciating tortures that His body endured on the cross, the oxygen-deprived organs are sending unimaginable pain signals to the brain.
These things did not happen in sequence - with one occurring and the then the next - giving Jesus time to prepare. Every single bodily response to crucifixion happened at the same time. The combined effect of all of these things happening to the body at once is beyond comprehension. The pain and suffering are indescribable with words.
Jesus suffered this immense torture for us. He took our place. He bore our sins. Many people ask: if Jesus was truly God, why would He go through this barbaric, hideous and bloody death? Why would He endure such pain when He did nothing wrong?
The answer is simple, yet so important to understand...
The cross is the symbol of the severity of our sins. When we see what Jesus went through, we have to realize that this is what WE deserved. Sin is serious to God. Our sins separate us from Him. But...
The boundlessness of God's great love for us led Him to the cross, to show us the immeasurable lengths He would go to so that we could be saved. His love for us is so great that He suffered and died for us.
I pray that you will see the enormity of and accept this gift that God gave you. None of us can earn it. He gave it freely and it is up to each of us to accept it and acknowledge Him for it.
He suffered and died in our place.....He loves us that much.