The Suffering of Jesus
As Christians at Easter we rejoice in the fact of a risen Lord.
We easily do that and it makes us feel good. But do we realize the true price paid in understandable human terms to get to that resurrection?
I sit here on Good Friday with a little discomfort due to an illness I have and the therapy I am receiving.
I cannot go out much or too far.
That’s good because it gives me time to deeply contemplate the sufferings of Jesus prior to his death, which on a scale of 1 to 10, mine is a 0.002 and his was 10 plus.
Because of His extreme suffering His death would have seemed like a welcome event for Him.
Based on some knowledge I have of His sufferings a little research adds to the knowledge base but most importantly helps connect me with his sufferings.
When I realize the agony of His sufferings and understand that he endured for me the unfathomable pain it is as the song How Great Thou Art puts it “I scarcely can take it in that on that cross He bled and died for me”.
My soul groans with the agony of it. It brings to reality the love He has and God has for me and you.
Contemplate on this as you read the following.
We know Jesus while God in Spirit was every bit as human as you and I.
So picture yourself or a loved one going through what He went through in the following narrative taken from expert medical sources.
Before the cross Jesus began a process of psychological suffering. It started with betrayal by one of His disciples who had been with Him for His three years of ministry of teaching and healings. From there he was abandoned by more of his friends as went to pray in Gethsemane and assure His father that the father’s will would be done.
He agonized over what was before Him. This agony was in the form of extreme stress because He knew His death and ultimate resurrection was to be preceded by the most awful and cruelty man could inflict upon another. Imagine yourself in the same situation.
Psychological stress is known medically to lead to a condition called hematidrosis, a condition where severe stress causes chemicals to be released that can break down the capillaries in the sweat glands whereby blood is secreted through the sweat glands. The Bible reports He sweated blood. It is also reported that hematidrosis also leads to a heightened skin sensitivity. This is important as we consider later sufferings.
Jesus was brought before religious and ultimately Roman authorities in the middle of the night who had but one agenda to see him tried and condemned to death. It was not a fair trial and not done according to Jewish law and conducted by His own people he came to save.
The experience was a humiliating to Him and in spite of an appeal to the ultimate Roman authority who found no fault with him he was sentenced to be crucified as a politically expedient measure.
Roman floggings were extremely brutal and done by trained executioners whose sole purpose was to create so much pre cross trauma on the one to be crucified that crucifixion would lead to a more rapid death, which it did. Floggings were usually thirty nine lashes (Jewish law allowed 40) with a flagrum, a cat of nine tails, imbedded with metal balls and sharp bone were considered standard and would rip and tear tissue to the point where often the internal organs would be exposed. The whippings (or rippings) would have covered to neck, shoulders, back, buttocks and legs. The strands of the flagrum would wrap around the back and legs and when pulled back suddenly would rip and tear tissue deeply. Veins and muscle would be torn into bloody strands and the pain unimaginable for us.
Once it was determined that the sufferer was near death the beatings would be halted. Eusebius, a third century historian described flogging as “The sufferers veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.” The term excruciating comes from this experience. Excuciating means “out of the cross”. Many did not survive the beating.
After the flogging and being at a point just before death Jesus must now carry His own cross to Golgatha where He will be crucified. Jesus carried the cross member that makes the cross. This wooden member weighed from 75 to 125 pounds and would be difficult for a healthy man to carry. But Jesus had been flogged to near death and yet he carried this cross through the streets of Jerusalem while being mocked and spit on by a crowd. (I have to digress here and say Jesus had to have been physically fit man before He began his ordeal where He was able to lift that cross and begin the walk. Anyone who says being like Jesus is not manly doesn’t know what they are talking about.) He stumbles and falls and a man from Cyrene (Libya) takes the cross the remaining distance to Golgotha where Jesus is crucified.
Already, near death and in excruciating pain Jesus is thrown upon the rough wooden cross where the open wounds in his back are against the rough wood. Then 5 to 7 inch spikes are nailed through His wrists and feet and the cross is pulled up and set down into a hole as Jesus’s whole weight is now supported only by the nailed feet and hands.
There he hangs and begins a slow death by asphyxiation as the chest and diaphragm is in an inhaled position. To get air and to exhale he must push up with His nailed feet against excruciating pain. He must do this again and again each time scraping his raw back against the rough wood. During this process the ultimate abandonment occurs when Jesus asks God “Why have you forsaken me?” Jesus has been totally laid out for our sins. He has paid it all.
Finally exhaustion gives way to not being able to push up and breath and respiratory acidosis takes over. Respiratory acidosis occurs when the carbon dioxide in the blood turns to carbonic acid causing the blood to become more acidic. This leads to an irregular heart rate and ultimate cardiac arrest. Concurrently with the acidosis Jesus and due to blood and fluid loss Jesus would be experiencing hypo-polemic shock and a rapid heart rate contributing to the heart failure. The result is a collection of fluid in the membrane around the heart and around the lungs called pericardial and pleural effusion respectively. When the Roman soldier thrust the spear into Jesus’s side to see if he was dead the spear passed through the lungs and maybe the heart to get a clear liquid. This was followed by blood as described by the apostle John in his gospel. This was a sign of death. There was no need to break His legs to speed up the process.
Jesus was dead. He has endured hours of suffering and excruciating pain. It was 3:00 PM on a Friday. It is now 3:00 Pm on this Friday, the 18th of April 2014 and I will stop only to say.
We take the death and resurrection of Jesus for granted perhaps.
We see people die during our lives and we can grasp it. We can understand somewhat that to lay down your life for friend as an example of love.
But it seems another level of love to knowingly suffer, to suffer excruciatingly, for another and then die.
I scarcely can take it in that on that cross He bled and suffered and died for me so that on believing on Him I too can be resurrected into eternal life.