8 Oct 2013 by Stewart Chew –
Although all four gospels recorded the event of the crucifixion of Christ, none of them, not even Luke who was a physician, reported on the physical sufferings and the cruelties of this worst possible type of torture and death for a condemned Roman criminal. Thus it is not realizable by many readers of the Gospels about the severity of the torture and the sufferings of death that our loving Lord experienced at Calvary to ransom every one of us from the condemnation of eternal death. There is no other way acceptable by God but the sacrifice of His only son who lived a perfect and sinless life on earth. In this article, I would like to candidly deal with the events leading to the crucifixion and death of Jesus.
Crucifixion was invented by the Persians approximately 300-400 B.C. It was supposedly perfected by the Romans in the first century B.C and is arguably the most painful death ever invented by man and it is where we get our term “excruciating.” It was reserved primarily for the most vicious of criminals, as well as conquered foes. I apologize beforehand for what I am about to graphically relate which can no doubt be quite uncomfortable and distressing to many readers. I sincerely believe that by actually knowing what our Lord went through and how extremely He had suffered would strengthened our trust and love for Him even much more. I think we might all be taking the crucifixion for granted if we are somehow unaware of the incredible intensity of the atrocious sufferings which Christ experienced leading to His death by unconsciously allowing our elation of His resurrection to subdue our feelings. Thus, in order to understand the obscenity and shame of crucifixion, we also need to understand the true horrors of torture to which our Savior willingly submitted Himself. Only then can we all humbly claim to have a glimmer of the depth of the complete love of our Lord and Savior for mankind.
It was at the 3rd hour when they crucified Jesus. He underwent horrendous torment, torture and experienced excruciating pain that no human being has ever suffered before! We were told He hung on the cross for three long hours, from the 6th hour till the 9th hour. We have experienced waiting when we are in pain – every hour seems like a lifetime! During this time when Jesus was hung and dying on the cross, the whole place was covered by an eerie darkness that hid the morbid view from the people. This darkness can perhaps be interpreted as the absence of God from His dying Son as we know that God is light.
The realization of Jesus’ public sufferings frightened and scattered His followers who disowned any knowledge of Him. The majority of them, except for His women followers, fled the temple grounds soon after they learned that Jesus was arrested. Many other people in the marketplace and all around were drawn in together with the commotion of the temple crowds to witness the Roman soldiers brutally punching and kicking Him. The soldiers angrily shouted abuse and sacrilegious insults as they continued to torment Him. Together, the screaming crowd began to join the soldiers with their heckling and accusations. Mob hysteria, after Jesus’ blood! A servant of the chief priest broke out from the mob and rushed forward to strike Jesus with his staff but a soldier guard quickly pushed him away!
When Jesus was first arrested, He was bounded and received severe beatings and scourging. Flexible branches covered with long thorns (commonly used in bundles for firewood) were plaited into the shape of a crown and this was forced into His scalp. The pointed thorns inflicted piercing wounds that caused copious bleeding of the scalp. Jesus was then stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a pillar above His head. A short whip called a flagrum, consisting of several heavy leather thongs with two small lead balls attached to the ends of each, was used to flog Him. This heavy whip was brought down with full force repeatedly across Jesus’ bare shoulders, back and legs. At first the heavy thongs cut through the skin only but then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the soft underlying tissues and deep muscles, rupturing blood vessels and thus causing a lot of bleeding. The flogging resulted in the entire area of His back to become a tattered mass of torn bleeding tissue. Quoting from a Christian doctor:
“… with one blow, one Roman legionnaire could inflict enough wounds to take 180 stitches to close! Those two Roman legionnaires inflicted enough lacerations that require about 2,000 stitches. I've seen people who've gone through the windshield of a car or wrecked a motorcycle into a barbed wire fence, and I've still never seen anyone that tattered up in any of my medical experience!”.
The heavy crossbeam that weighed about 50 kilograms was then tied across His shoulders to stop it from slipping off. The weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by extensive blood loss, would be too much for even the strongest human being to support. Jesus stumbled and fell and this caused the rough wood of the beam to gouge into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. When He finally arrived at Golgotha, the beam was placed on the ground and Jesus was quickly thrown backward with His shoulders against the wood. We were told that Jesus was crucified with square iron nails 6 inches in length. The legionnaire felt for the depression at the front of the wrist and drove the iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moved to the other side and repeated the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. Then the left foot was pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down and another nail was driven through the arch of each foot. As He pushed Himself upward to avoid the stretching torment, He would have to place His full weight on the one nail that was punctured through His feet. This would result in the searing agony of the nail through His feet because the nail was tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet. Hanging by His arms meant that the pectoral muscles were paralyzed and the intercostal muscles of the ribs, essential for breathing, were unable to act. Little air drawn into the lungs could not be exhaled so Jesus must raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain where tissue was torn from His lacerated back as He moved up and down against the rough timber. Christ’s sufferings were the fulfillment of Psalm 22:14:
"I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels."
It was now almost over. The loss of tissue fluids had reached a critical level; the compressed heart was struggling to pump; the tortured lungs were making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues sent their flood of stimuli to the brain causing Jesus to gasp, "I thirst." A sponge soaked in posca, the cheap, sour wine that was the staple drink of the Roman legionaries, was lifted to His lips. He apparently did not take any of the liquid. The body of Jesus was now in extremes, and He could feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. This realization brought out a little more than a tortured whisper, "It is finished." His mission of atonement had been completed. With one last surge of strength, he once again straightened His legs, took a final deep breath and uttered His last cry, "Father! Into thy hands I commit my spirit." Prophet Isaiah accurately described these sufferings of Christ (Isaiah 53:4-5)
“ Surely he has borne our grieves and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”
Whilst the crucifixion is so incredibly horrible to our physical senses, we will never understand the spiritual agony of Hell that Jesus experienced for us upon the cross. There is no graphic display that can impress upon our senses the wrath of God upon Jesus Christ. He drank of God’s wrath that is meant for you and me. On the cross in Calvary, Jesus experienced Hell that is meant for sinners like you and me! That is the definition of ultimate and sacrificial love that truly cannot be defined in our worldly language.
Jesus, being Son of God knew about all His horrendous sufferings beforehand and also being human he felt every ounce of the torture. When He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane “that if it is God’s will that the cup may be allowed to pass Him” He was genuinely scared and acted naturally like any very frightened human being. It has been well known that Jesus actually sweated drops of blood.
Disclaimer: The views or opinions expressed by the columnists are solely their own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Christianity Malaysia.com
References for pictures: