On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ
Jesus was probably born about 4-6 BC. He died about 30 AD. The Last Supper was probably observed on Wednesday, April 6th, Jesus would have been crucified on Thursday, April 7th. After three days and three nights, He rose from the grave on Sunday, April 10th. (Tradition holds that He died on Friday, some hold to Wednesday, others for Thursday).
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, apparently knowing that the time of his death was near, suffered great mental anguish, and, as described by the physician Luke, his sweat became like blood. Although this is a very rare phenomenon, bloody sweat (hematidrosis) may occur in highly emotional states or in persons with bleeding disorders. As a result of hemorrhage into the sweat glands, the skin becomes fragile and tender. In the cold night air, it may have produced chills.
Soon after midnight, Jesus was arrested at Gethsemane by the temple officials and was taken first to Annas and then to Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest for that year. Between 1:00 AM and daybreak, Jesus was tried before Caiaphas and the political Sanhedrin and was found guilty of blasphemy. The guards then blindfolded Jesus, spat on him, and struck him in the face with their fists. Soon after daybreak, presumably at the temple, Jesus was tried before the religious Sanhedrin (with the Pharisees and the Sadducees) and again was found guilty of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death.
Since permission for an execution had to come from the governing Romans, Jesus was taken early in the morning by the temple officials to the Praetorium of the Fortress of Antonia, the residence and governmental seat of Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Judea. However, Jesus was presented to Pilate, not as a blasphemer but rather as a self-appointed king who would undermine the Roman authority. Pilate made no charges against Jesus and sent him to Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Judea. Herod likewise made no official charges and then returned Jesus to Pilate. Again, Pilate could find no basis for a legal charge against Jesus, but the people persistently demanded crucifixion. Pilate finally granted their demand and handed over Jesus to be flogged (scourged) and crucified.
The rigors of Jesus' ministry, traveling by foot throughout Palestine would have precluded any major physical illness or a weak general constitution. Accordingly, it is reasonable to assume that Jesus was in good physical condition before his walk to Gethsemane. However, during the 12 hours between 9 PM Thursday and 9 AM Friday, he had suffered great emotional stress, so that He sweat as it were great drops of blood. Doctor Luke describe this: “He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44). Abandoned by His by his closest friends (His disciples), the scourging, He spent a traumatic and sleepless night, having been forced to walk more than 2.5 miles to and from the sites of the various trials. These physical and emotional factors may have rendered Jesus particularly vulnerable.
Flogging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution, and only women and Roman senators or soldiers (except in cases of desertion) were exempt. The usual instrument was a short whip (flagrum or flagellum) with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals. Occasionally, staves also were used. For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post. The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers (lictors) or by one who alternated positions. The severity of the scourging depended on the disposition of the lictors and was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death. After the scourging, the soldiers often taunted their victim.
As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim's back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive on the cross.
It is not known whether the number of lashes was limited to 39, in accordance with Jewish law. The Roman soldiers, amused that this weakened man had claimed to be a king, began to mock him by placing a robe on his shoulders, a crown of thorns on his head, and a wooden staff as a scepter in his right hand. Next, they spat on Jesus and struck him on the head with the wooden staff. Moreover, when the soldiers tore the robe from Jesus' back, they probably reopened the scourging wounds.
The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a preshock state. Moreover, hematidrosis had rendered his skin particularly tender. The physical and mental abuse meted out by the Jews and the Romans, as well as the lack of food, water, and sleep, also contributed to his generally weakened state. Therefore, even before the actual crucifixion, Jesus' physical condition was at least serious and possibly critical.
Crucifixion probably first began among the Persians. Alexander the Great introduced the practice to Egypt and Carthage, and the Romans appear to have learned of it from the Carthaginians. Although the Romans did not invent crucifixion, they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering. It was one of the most disgraceful and cruel methods of execution and usually was reserved only for slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, and the vilest of criminals. Roman law usually protected Roman citizens from crucifixion, except perhaps in the case of desertion by soldiers. In its earliest form in Persia, the victim was either tied to a tree or was tied to or impaled on an upright post, usually to keep the guilty victim's feet from touching holy ground. Only later was a true cross used; it was characterized by an upright post and a horizontal crossbar, and it had several variations. Crucifixion practices often varied in a given geographic region and in accordance with the imagination of the executioners, and other forms also may have been used.
It was customary for the condemned man to carry his own cross from the flogging post to the site of crucifixion outside the city walls. He was usually naked, unless this was prohibited by local customs. Since the weight of the entire cross was probably well over 300 pounds, only the crossbar was carried, weighing 75 to 125 pounds was placed across the nape of the victim's neck and balanced along both shoulders. Usually, the outstretched arms then were tied to the crossbar. The processional to the site of crucifixion was led by a complete Roman military guard, headed by a centurion. One of the soldiers carried a sign on which the condemned man's name and crime were displayed. Later, this sign would be attached to the top of the cross. The Roman guard would not leave the victim until they were sure of his death.
At the site of execution, by law, the victim was given a bitter drink of wine mixed with myrrh (gall) as a mild analgesic. The criminal was then thrown to the ground on his back, with his arms outstretched along the crossbar, the hands could be nailed or tied to the crossbar, but nailing apparently was preferred by the Romans. The archaeological remains of a crucified body, found in an ossuary near Jerusalem and dating from the time of Christ, indicate that the nails were tapered iron spikes approximately 5 to 7 inches long with a square shaft 3/8 inch across.
After both arms were fixed to the crossbar, the feet were fixed to the cross. When the nailing was completed, the sign was attached to the cross, by nails or cords, just above the victim's head. The soldiers and the civilian crowd often taunted and jeered the condemned man, and the soldiers customarily divided up his clothes among themselves. The length of survival generally ranged from three or four hours to three or four days and appears to have been inversely related to the severity of the scourging. However, even if the scourging had been relatively mild, the Roman soldiers could hasten death by breaking the legs below the knees.
Not uncommonly, insects would light upon or burrow into the open wounds or the eyes, ears, and nose of the dying and helpless victim, and birds of prey would tear at these sites. Moreover, it was customary to leave the corpse on the cross to be devoured by predatory animals. However, by Roman law, the family of the condemned could take the body for burial, after obtaining permission from the Roman judge. Since no one was intended to survive crucifixion, the body was not released to the family until the soldiers were sure that the victim was dead. By custom, one of the Roman guards would pierce the body with a sword or lance.
Death by crucifixion usually took from 3 to 4 hours to 3 to 4 days. The actual cause of death by crucifixion was multifactorial and varied somewhat with each case, but the two most prominent causes probably were hypovolemic shock and exhaustion asphyxia. Other possible contributing factors included dehydration, stress-induced arrhythmias, and congestive heart failure. Death by crucifixion was, in every sense of the word, excruciating (Latin, excruciatus, or "out of the cross").
(Edited from various sources by John Sparks, including: William D. Edwards, MD; JAMA. 1986, Wesley J. Gabel, MDiv; Floyd E. Hosmer, MS, AMI)
In his book, The Day Christ Died, Jim Bishop describes the crucifixion. The executioner lays the crossbeam behind Jesus and brought Him to the ground quickly by grasping His arm and pulling Him backward. As soon as Jesus fell, the beam was fitted under the back of His neck, and on each side, soldiers quickly knelt on the inside of the elbows…The thorns pressed against His torn scalp…With his right hand the executioner probed the wrist of Jesus to find the little hollow spot. When he found it, he took one of the square-cut iron nails…raised the hammer over the nail-head and brought it down with force…Two soldiers grabbed each side of the cross and lifted. As they pulled they dragged Jesus by the wrists. With every breath He groaned! When the soldiers reached the upright, four of them began to lift the cross until the feet of Jesus were off the ground. The body must have writhed in pain…When the cross was set firmly, the executioner knelt before the cross. Two soldiers hurried to help, each one took hold a leg at the calf. The ritual was to nail the right foot over the left, this was probably the most difficult part of the work. If the feet were pulled downward, and nailed close to the foot of the cross, the prisoner always died quickly. Over the years the Romans learned to push the feet upward on the cross, so the condemned man could lean on the nails and stretch himself upward (to breath).” (Some editing was necessary for space purposes, Pastor John).
Chuck Swindoll writes, “Excruciating pain accompanied every upward push for breath, and every downward release from fatigue. Each movement cut deeper into bone and tendons and raw muscle. Fever inevitably set in, inflaming wounds and creating an insatiable thirst. Waves of hallucinations drifted the victim in and out of consciousness. And in time, flies and other insects found their way into the open wounds. At this point Jesus knew He had accomplished everything the Father had sent Him to do, so to fulfill one last Scripture…” (Pastor John: I will let John the Beloved complete this). “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished (Tetelestai)” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:28-30).
The Greek word, Tetelestai, “It is finished,” means, “It is finished, it stands finished it always will be finished. “I have completed the work assigned to me.” These words specify, not the end of Jesus’ life, but the completion of a task. Jesus says in John 17:4, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.”
Max Lucado writes, “The history-long plan of redeeming man was finished. The message of God to man is finished. The works done by Jesus as a man on earth were finished. The task of selecting and training ambassadors was finished. The job was finished. The song had been sung. The blood had been poured. The sacrifice had been made. The sting of death had been removed. It was over!”
Jesus completed all that was required for our salvation. Nothing more is needed. Further sacrifice is unnecessary. “Every priest goes to work at the altar each day, offers the same old sacrifices year in, year out, and never makes a dent in the sin problem. As a priest, Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! Then he sat down right beside God and waited for his enemies to cave in. It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people. By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process. The Holy Spirit confirms this…” (Hebrews 10:12-15 MSG). x “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18 NLT). CHRIST DIED, ONCE FOR ALL PEOPLE, ONCE FOR ALL SIN AND ONCE FOR ALL TIME! “And He Himself is the propitiation (atoning sacrifice) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
Calvary is a beautiful place, only because of what God accomplished there: “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 NLT). It is beautiful to those of us whose lives have been changed by His death and resurrection. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT). But in reality the crucifixion was a gory, bloody, horrifying spectacle of suffering and torture. Crucifixion could only have been dreamed up by Satan to be the most painful, tortuous death that could ever have been imagined by men. Satan himself concocted this form of torture for His arch-enemy, the Son of God. It comes right out of the pits of hell.
Listen to the Scriptures:
Isaiah speaks about the Suffering Savior:
“He (Jesus Christ, the Messiah) was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins! But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet He never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, He did not open His mouth. Unjustly condemned, He was led away. No one cared that He died without descendants, that His life was cut short in midstream. But He was struck down for the rebellion of My people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But He was buried like a criminal; He was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush Him and cause Him grief. Yet when His life is made an offering for sin, He will have many descendants” (Isaiah 53:3-10 NLT).
Luke 22:19, “He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then He broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this to remember Me.”
Romans 5:8 NLT, “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
1 Corinthians 15:3, “Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.”
Galatians 1:4 NLT, “Jesus gave His life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.”
Galatians 2:20 NLT, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Ephesians 5:2 NLT, “Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”
1 Thessalonians 5:10 NLT, “Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when He returns, we can live with Him forever.”
Titus 2:14 NLT, “He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us His very own people…”
Hebrews 1:3, “When He had cleansed us from our sins, He sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”
Gods gave all He had, so that we can have all he has. Here’s God’s simply plan so that you may be certain you are a child of God.
Have you ever made Jesus the Lord and Savior of your life? Here’s a sample prayer. You may use it or use your own words, using the principles in this sample prayer. Pray this prayer and start a new life in Christ.
I come to You in the Name of Jesus. I admit that things are not right with You, and I want know You. I ask You to forgive all of my sins. The Bible says if I confess with my mouth that “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead, I will be saved (Romans 10:9). I believe with my heart and I confess with my mouth that Jesus is the Lord and Savior of my life. Thank You for saving me!
In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.
If you prayed this prayer please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org