The Nazarene Way of
We have often contemplated the suffering and death of Jesus Christ through the Seven Last Words. But did we ever stop to think just how truly, physically painful it must have been for Him to be whipped, crowned with thorns, bear the cross, and have iron spikes driven into our hands and feet?
The word "excruciating" comes from the Latin, excruciatus, or "out of the cross." In every true sense, Jesus's death was that, and so much more.
It would be safe to think that Jesus was in excellent health. True, life as a carpenter was not luxurious, but add to that a Mediterranean diet, which is said to be the healthiest in the world—and later the constant walking around for the ministry, was vigorous enough to put him in reasonable health.
Yet, at the garden of Gethsemane on the evening of Holy Thursday and morning of Good Friday, he underwent great emotional stress from being abandoned by friends, the thought of humiliation and a cruel death by crucifixion, that he produced bloodied beads of sweat.
This condition is called hematidrosis or hemihidrosis, where the veins and skin become tender from anguish that they break, mixing the blood with sweat.
Without sleep and breakfast, and weary from walking about 2.5 miles back and forth between the sites of different trials, Jesus's body had become defenseless to the harsh scourging he would suffer hours later.
In March 1965 Dr. C. Truman Davis wrote an article titled "A medical explanation of what Jesus endured on the day He died," published in Arizona Medicine by Arizona Medical Association.
Davis, an ophthalmologist, a pastor, and author of a book about medicine and the Bible, wrote that the flagrum, a short whip with small balls of lead tied near the ends of each thong, "is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus's shoulders, back, and legs. At first, the heavy thongs cut through the skin only."
The succeeding blows, however, "cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin and finally, spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles."
The whip tears into the deep skeletal muscles to produce ribbons of bleeding flesh.
At the mocking of Jesus, a crown of thorns was driven into his scalp, causing more bleeding, the scalp being among the most veined parts of the human body.
They returned his robe, only to tear it off again, again opening the wounds whose dried blood has adhered to the cloth.
Bearing the Weight
Finally, the journey to the Calvary begins. The heavy the crossbar weighing 34 to 57 kg weight is put across his nape and shoulders. Today, men can swing sacks of rice weighing 50 kilos on their backs. But remember that Jesus was already very weak, had lost a great amount of blood, was in excruciating pain, and was under emotional strain.
He stumbles and falls repeatedly that Simon of Cyrene was ordered to carry the cross part of the way.
More pain is coming. In preparation for his nailing to the cross, Jesus is violently thrown backward, grinding his continuously bleeding wounds onto the wood and possibly allowing dirt to enter them.
Iron spikes measuring 5 t o 7 inches are driven through Jesus' hands (some accounts say the wrists would be more accurate location. Medically speaking, the wrists are part of the hands). Because the hand is full of sensory nerves, any stimulation would cause agonizing shots of pain in both arms, and maybe throughout the body.
The feet are nailed next, and Jesus is now crucified. The nailed hands carry the weight of Jesus's whole body and tear at the wounds. Meanwhile, the stimulation of the nerves in feet is also causing Jesus much pain.
Davis writes, "As He slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms - the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again, there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet."
In another study of the medical aspects of the crucifixion, it is said that the procedure is relatively bloodless because no major arteries are hit. However, the pain, coupled with the incessant bleeding of the back wounds, lead to the deterioration of Jesus's condition.
Excluding the pain, the major effect of crucifixion is the hindrance to normal breathing because the body pulls down on the outstretched arms and shoulders. After being in this position for quite a while, exhalation becomes shallow and labored.
The upper body starts to cramp, making it even more difficult to breath.
Jesus tries to breathe more freely and ease the cramping on his upper body by pushing himself up by the feet. But that offers little comfort due to the piercing pain in the feet.
The mere act of breathing has never been so agonizing for a single human being.
After "hours of this pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rendering cramps," Jesus slips into unconsciousness due to asphysxia, a lack of oxygen in the body usually caused by interruption of breathing.
At about 3 p.m. that Friday, Jesus dies
According to studies, the exact cause of Jesus's death, only six hours after he was nailed, was hastened by a combination of loss of strength, loss of blood and loss of oxygen. Between the scientific deductions, many would suspect that he died because of the loss of our faith in Him.
The piercing of the spear on his side, which likely ruptured his lungs and heart, was done to ensure death...
But did he truly die? Of that, we cannot know for certain.
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