In this paper, I will write about things I had not previously known about the physical suffering of Jesus Christ during the time after His arrest and during His crucifixion. After this, I will write of the impact these details have on my appreciation for what Jesus did for me on the cross. Lastly, I will write on how the cross is offensive as it relates to the offensiveness of sin.
The things I had not previously studied about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ are the details of what it was like being nailed to the cross, having to do with the hands and feet, and the pain suffered by Jesus as He hung there as He tried to breathe. The tremendous pain Jesus felt from His hands and feet after being nailed to the cross was something I had not previously been aware of in quite such detail as the reading ("On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ" (1986)) indicates. I always thought that the pain came from the nails themselves having punctured the skin all through the wrist muscles and nerves. I was not aware that the nails were positioned to bring about the greatest amount of pain by purposefully severing the median nerve in the wrist, and the deep personal and medial nerves in the feet, which could cause the victim to pass out from the excruciating pain.
It was this pain that the victims felt each time he had to raise himself up to breathe. The Romans used the techniques they did so that the victim would suffer greatly as the hung on the cross dying. Douglas Jacoby, in his article "A (more accurate) Medical Account of the Crucifixion" says that "When the wrists were nailed to the crossbar, the elbows were intentionally left in a bent position so that the crucified man would hang with his arms above his head, the weight being taken on the nails in the wrists. Obviously this was unbearably painful, but it had another effect: It is very difficult to exhale in this position. In order to breathe out, and then take in fresh air, it was necessary to push the body up on the nailed feet. When the pain from the feet became unbearable, the victim would again slump down to hang by the arms. A terrible cycle of pain began: hanging by the arms, unable to breathe, pushing up on the feet to inhale quickly before again slumping down, and on and on." The Romans perfected the suffering of the cross from many years of using this form of unbearable torture.
As Jesus hung on the cross trying to breathe, the up and down motion would cause Him constant pain. Tony Cooke explains in his article "Medical Description of the Flogging and Crucifixion of Jesus" what the last hours of Jesus' were like until he died. "Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. It is now almost overthe loss of tissue fluids reached a critical levelthe compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissuesthe tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. . . . The body of Jesus is now in extremis, and He can feel the chill of death creeping through his tissues . . . . His mission of atonement has been completed. Finally he can allow His body to die."
For me, the impact of reading these accounts of the actual suffering of Jesus Christ was extraordinary. I am so used to seeing documentaries and movies about the life of Christ that do not tell of physical suffering Jesus went through on the cross that I had no idea just how much pain He actually suffered. Every move He made was agony. From the moment Jesus was beaten by the Roman guards, until the time of His death, Jesus suffered more than any human should
ever have to go through. I could never imagine have these huge nails hammered into my wrists and feet. Now I can understand why the Roman's used this form of torture.
After reading these articles, and meditating on the implications the physical suffering of Jesus has for my life, I can more fully appreciate that Jesus suffered more for my salvation than I will ever have to suffer in my time on this earth. Jesus' entire body knew nothing but pain. This gentle man who had nothing but kind words and miraculous deeds for the people around Him suffered in a way that was far from gentle. When I think of the great suffering I went through at the hands of others, I find that it pales in comparison to what Jesus went through to bring me out of that suffering and into a new life filled with peace and joy. The pain that Jesus felt on the cross was excruciating yes, but it was the pain of an endless amount of the souls that have suffered from sin since the Fall. Jesus took on the pain of everyone who ever lived on this planet. What a wonderful thing He did for all of us, believers and unbelievers alike.
When I think about the offensiveness of the cross I find it to be what I consider unjust punishment. Our death penalty standards of today seem tame when compared to the cruelty of the Roman cross. But the cross was the way that Jesus chose to die so that we may live. Criminals offended the Romans and sin offends God. According to both, we deserve to die for our transgressions. Jesus took the offensiveness of the cross and made it into a blessed event that saves all of humanity form our sins. Sin is not only an offense to God, it also causes the Holy Spirit to grieve, which means that our sins of today still cause Jesus to suffer but in a different way. Still, suffering is suffering, and Jesus suffered the greatest amount of pain so that we wouldn't have to, because our sins must be punished due to the judgment of our God. The cross, the nails, the pain, the shame and humiliation that Jesus endured continues to show us that our God loves us deeply enough to keep us from feeling the pain our Holy God feels when we sin. I thank Jesus that He endured the cross, such as I endure the issues of life, so that, together, we may live as one in the eternity to come.
Cooke, T. (1984). Medical description of the flogging and crucifixion of Jesus. Retrieved from:http://tonycooke.org/free_resources/holiday_resources/medical_description.html
Edwards, W., Gabel, W., Hosmer, F. (1986). On the physical death of jesus christ. From: Journal Of the American Medical Association (Volume 255, March 21, 1986).
Jacoby, D. A (more accurate) medical account of the crucifixion. Retrieved from: http://douglas jacoby.com/articles/5575-
Bobby Bruno was saved 15 years ago in a way that left him no doubt that Jesus wanted him to reach others with His great and abounding love. He started writing at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He achieved Associates Degree in Biblical Studies from Ohio Christian University in early 2014.
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