Tuesday December 13, 2022 The agony of the Cross
I did research on this like over 20 years ago. I could not find my notes but think this is a subject everyone who is a Christian should understand what Jesus really went through on the cross that day.
We all love the Christmas season, and we all love what Jesus did on the cross at Calvary for us, but do we really understand what did happen? Do we understand what took place to Him? Do we just take His death for granted? Does the hideousness and ugliness of that day on the cross really cross your mind as to what He was going through, and what it means to us today? Oh, we see the pictures people make where He was beaten, and nails put into him but nothing we show in a picture capture what it was really like. They don’t put it that bad because people would not like what they saw. Do you think, really think, what He went through was for you? He didn’t deserve anything bad because He had never sinned even one time. He did it for us so we could be reconciled to God. He took our punishment.
If we really consider the cross and what happened that day, we should all feel thankful for what He. However, we need to think about it and what His death meant for each of us.
Can you imagine standing there with His mother, his friend John, and the others there who loved Him that day? Can you see the pain in their eyes and even in their soul? No one ever wants to see their child, or any loved one hurt or tortured right in front of their eyes. Jesus’s death was agony to His mom who could do nothing to help Him, and nothing to comfort Him.
If you were a, let’s say a coroner, and had to do an autopsy on our Lord, what would you put down as the real cause of His death? I know coroners see a lot of horrible things, but this was God! They tell us how horrible He looked and what happened to get Him to the cross, but I would not want to look at His precious body, but that is me.
It was prophesied hundreds of years before Jesus was crucified that He would be crucified. Now listen to this…there had never been a crucifixion when it was prophesied about. They had no idea what it was or would happen. Crucifixion had not ever happened.
However, crucifixion in the time and days of Jesus was common in that area. They would scourge the person (but not always scourge them), and then they would crucify them. Death from the crucifixion on the cross could actually take days to die. The Romans were trained in torture and how to get a person almost to death when they would scourge them, and then stop and go again. In fact, crucifixion was common at that time in history, so people didn’t, I guess, feel the need to give everyone the gory details of it or how painful and horrific it really was. The people knew about the crucifixion. Just like in the arena when people would go and watch people be killed for sport, how many went to see Jesus die that day and didn’t get what He was doing for them?
We are told in the Bible that “Pilate, having scourged Jesus, delivered Him to them to be crucified — and they crucified Him.” People blame Pilate, the Jews, and anyone else they feel they can blame for the death of Jesus on the cross, but the truth is that it was our sin that sent Jesus to the cross. People had a hand in it, but it was to happen no matter who they felt sent Jesus to the cross. Jesus came to this earth for the very purpose of dying for our sins and taking our place. In doing so…He gave us the opportunity to be saved and to be able to go to heaven. Had He not done this we would all be toast!
As I think about the cross that day and how great it is for us Christians who had our sins are forgiven and a promise of eternal life with the Lord, then I think about what my Lord went through before the cross and on the cross that day. I also think about all the people who reject Jesus and who will miss heaven and my heart hurts because they don’t understand and won’t accept the Lord. They have been so deceived.
As I said, years ago I studied this subject and wish I could find all my notes but so far, I have not found them. This sure won’t be complete like my notes had been, but maybe it will give others some thought into doing more research on this subject, so they are truly aware of what He did that day.
So exactly what did the body of Jesus of Nazareth endure during those hours of torture? No matter what anyone writes on this subject they will never say enough of the depth of the torture He went through that day…and He never once committed any sin. If we think about fairness in a court, a truthful trial, and honor, integrity, compassion…it did not happen at the so-called trial of our Lord. It was an illegal trial by their own laws, it was totally unjust, and they lied. The very one who came to save them they looked down upon and wanted Him dead.
Crucifixion is a horrible way in which someone would die. Crucifixion is torture and execution by fixation to a cross. But before they would even get to that point many would be beaten with a whip that had glass and stones set into it. They would most likely get 40 lashes with this ripping off their skin, and/or shredding the skin. Think about that part first. Can you imagine the God of heaven having that done to Him? Can you imagine anyone having this done to them, yet in Rome and elsewhere they did this? We don’t want to think about that but that is what happened.
I can’t write that I know everything about what would happen when someone would be scourged and beaten so badly their skin was no longer on their body. But that was just the first part of it all. As I said, I don’t have my notes for which there were many.
Crucifixion was “the” main method then for capital punishment. Crucifixion happened in other places but especially with the Romans. Crucifixion. Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, abolished it in the Roman Empire in the early 4th century CE out of reverence for Jesus Christ. How many people have heard of this part?
There were various methods of executing people in those days. The condemned man, after being whipped (some were not said to have been whipped), or “scourged,” would then (most likely) have to carry the crossbeam of his cross to the place where he would be crucified. Some think that the person carried the entire cross there, but in studying this subject, they were carrying the upright crossbeam while the pole of the cross was already fixed in the ground. The condemned would then be stripped of his clothing if they had not done that earlier when they scourged him. Then they would bind his outstretched arms to the crossbeam where he would be nailed powerfully, and tightly to it through the wrists. Yes, I said wrists. If they nailed the hands the weight of the body would just rip through, the wrists were so painful and the wrists would hold the body up. By the way…. the wrists were always considered part of the hand. Saying they nailed His hands to the cross was not a contradiction.
The crossbeam was then lifted high against the upright shaft and attached to it. It is said that it was lifted like 9 or so feet high. The feet had been firmly nailed to the upright shaft. It is said also that there could be a ledge inserted like halfway up the shaft to help support the body. I do not know if this happened in every case.
Over the criminal’s head was placed a notice stating his name and his crime.
Death eventually occurred through a combination of constrained blood circulation, organ failure, and asphyxiation/suffocation as the body strained to get air into their lungs. Death could be hastened by shattering/breaking, or crushing the legs (crurifragium) with an iron club. I can’t even imagine this with all the other torture they did to the person. Doing this would prevent them from trying to rise up to get air in their lungs. It would make getting a breath so much more difficult. By breaking their legs would make it so much harder to take a breath. In doing this it would accelerating the persons’ death. Sometimes the person crucified would last days upon the cross before dying. Then imagine those who had been scourged/beaten and had no skin on their back…each time they needed to push up to get a breath of air…their back would rub on that shaft and that had to also be torture to the person being crucified.
Crucifixion was commonly used to punish political or religious protesters, bandits, slaves, or those who had no civil rights. Jesus was crucified in like 32 CE by Pontius Pilate. Although many countries at the time had gone to killing a lot of people by crucifixion, the Romans apparently learned the procedure and as with most everything the Romans did they soon developed a high degree of efficiency and skill at torture and crucifixion.
The most common cross used in our Lord’s Day, however, was the Tau cross, shaped like our T. In this cross, the patibulum was placed in a notch at the top of the stipes. Without any historic or biblical proof, Painters would paint a picture of Jesus carrying the entire cross, but the upright post aka stipes, was commonly fixed in the ground at the site of execution and the condemned man was forced to carry the patibulum, weighing about 110 pounds, from the prison to the place of execution. This surely could not have been easy to carry this cross beam on your shoulders after the skin on your back was ripped off. The person, most likely would have been in shock.
Now just imagine what that must have been like. Jesus had no sleep, was scourged/beaten, had no skin on his back and they placed a cross beam on His back for Him to carry all the way to the place He was to be crucified. The pain!
Then you had the crowd all watching Him try to carry this cross. Many of these people were the same people who had just thrown down palm leaves and were there for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. On that Palm Sunday, the people also honored Jesus verbally: “The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’” (Matthew 21:9). How soon they turned their back on our Lord and said, “crucify Him”.
I had a test several years back now where they put a needle with whatever it was into that part of my wrist and it was so painful I thought I could pass out from the pain. It was like a shock wave to the nerves in not only my hand but radiated all through my body. I can’t even imagine what my Lord went through.
They placed a sign over Jesus’ head and that was called a titulus. This is a sign that would tell those who saw it the crime that the condemned had been charged with. It was nailed to the cross usually above the head of the condemned on the cross.
Jesus agony did not begin on when He was arrested, and it did not begin when their scourged Him even. His pain began in the garden when He was praying. It is said that Jesus prayed so deeply that His sweat was like drops of blood dripping off of Him. Can you even imagine. He did ask God, the Father, if there was any other way. He didn’t want to go through that pain of the scourging and the cross, but if there was no other way He would do it. The cross was the only way to save you and me…and all those we love. However that bloody sweat people want to make it into a lie and say it did not happen when it did happen. It is noteworthy that St. Luke, the physician, is the only one to mention this. He says, “And being in agony, He prayed the longer. And His sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground.” Well, throughout history people have tried to debunk the blood sweat. However, there is something HEMATIDROSIS which is the excretion through the skin of blood or blood pigments. Just because critics don’t want to believe something does not make it a lie. It can happen when someone is under emotional stress of the kind our Lord suffered, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat. We know Jesus was diligently praying to His Father, and we know Jesus is God…but we also know that while Jesus was on this earth He was a man and would suffer just like we did. Can you even imagine the turmoil our Lord was in while praying in the garden? His disciples didn’t yet get what was about to happen, but Jesus knew what was coming for Him. No one wants to die but that is why He came, yet even though He knew it was going to happen…no one wants to go through that kind of pain and agony.
After the arrest in the middle of the night, Jesus was next brought before the Sanhedrin and Caiphus, the High Priest. This was not legal what they were doing. This so-called trial was against their own laws. It never should have taken place.
One of the soldiers struck Jesus which was the first bodily trauma that was inflicted. Why did that happen? The soldier that struck Jesus across the face for remaining silent when questioned by Caiphus.
Then palace guards blind-folded Jesus and mocked and insulted Him to identify them as they each passed by, spat upon Him, and struck Him in the face.
This was early in the morning. Jesus was already being battered and bruised. He was most likely dehydrated and exhausted from a sleepless night.
Jesus is taken across the Praetorium of the Fortress Antonia, the seat of government of the Procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate.
Pilate was not this “good guy” some over the ages made him out to be. Pilate attempted to pass accountability and responsibility onto Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Judea. Jesus apparently suffered no physical mistreatment at the hands of Herod and was returned to Pilate.
Remember for a moment that just prior to all of this when Jesus came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday the people’s reaction was way different. But now these sem people were being stirred up to want our Lord crucified. They would allow one prisioner to be released and the people cried out for Pilate to release Bar-Abbas released and condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion. Barabbas was, according to the New Testament, a prisoner who was chosen by the crowd in Jerusalem, over Jesus, to be pardoned and released by Roman governor Pontius Pilate at the Passover feast.
Preparations for the scourging were carried out when the Prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. Jewish law prohibited more than forty lashes. Did the Romans abide by that?
The Roman legionnaire steps forward with the flagrum (or flagellum) in his hand. The whip he used would as stated prior be one that when hit with it would rip the skin off the person and cause horrid pain. They didn’t just hit/aim for the back. They would hit the shoulders, the back, and the legs.
I found this statement to share with you. “At first the thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they 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 small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it is determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped. The half-fainting Jesus is then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with His own blood.”
I don’t know about you but even picturing that in one’s mind…it is an awful picture to behold.
These Roman soldiers treated this as a joke because Jesus claimed to be a king. They didn’t care what was happening to Jesus or anyone else that they crucified.
Because Jesus claimed to be a king. They throw a robe across His shoulders and place a stick in His hand for a scepter. They still need a crown to make their travesty complete. Flexible branches covered with long thorns (commonly used in bundles for firewood) are weaved into the shape of a crown and this is pressed into His scalp. Again there is abundant bleeding, the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body. When you see a crown of thorns…do you see the pain that would have caused our Lord? It was not just a few drops of blood that ran down His head.
After the soldiers mocked Him and by striking Him across the face, the soldiers take the stick from His hand and strike Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp. Finally, they tire of their vicious, brutal, violent attack they think of as sport and the robe is torn from His back. Stop! Think on this. Jesus back, shoulders all torn to shreds and the robe was on Him. It had to stick to the blood and these soldiers just ripped it off…causing even more excruciating pain to our Lord. Have you ever had a bandage stick to just a cut and when you went to take it off…it ripped and caused you pain? Why is that? Because the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, its removal causes excruciating pain and would probably feel almost as though He were again being whipped making the wounds once more begin to bleed.
The patibulum (most likely over 100 pounds) of the cross is tied, or placed, across His shoulders, and the procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail of Roman soldiers headed by a centurion begins its slow journey along the Via Dolorosa. The people were many watching, and this always breaks my heart. They had just honored Him with Palm branches etc. Now, they look on Him like a criminal. How many of these people followed Jesus all the way to the cross and watched Him to be crucified? Makes you think doesn’t it?
Jesus body was beaten and His skin shredded. So the weight of the cross upon His back…he stumbles and falls down. The cross was so heavy and His body so weak here. The blood loss must have been great as well. Then you have the wood on his back digging into Him. That was no smooth beam He was made to carry. It had to rub on the body of our Lord and cause even more pain and suffering. How could Jesus endure any more pain?
The centurion, most likely anxious to get on with the crucifixion, selects a North African onlooker, by the Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. I do want to say that many who followed along were not ones who wanted Jesus to die. Many were true followers of the Lord. It is said that the condemned had to carry that cross approximately 650 yards to where they were to be crucified. Simon of Cyrene carried Jesus’ cross however far it was from when Jesus fell to Golgotha.
Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic mixture. He refuses to drink. Simon is ordered to place the patibulum on the ground and Jesus quickly thrown backward with His shoulders against the wood. Ever thought what might be going through Simon’s mind at the time while carrying the cross, and looking into Jesus’ eyes as He did, and seeing Him thrown backward onto the wood…with all the pain, cuts, and shredded skin? I do wonder how Simon felt and how that event changed his life…if it did.
The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. As I said prior…the pain in the wrist can be excruciating to say the least. He then drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. These executioners knew how to cause the greatest of pain and suffering for they did this all the time and were quite good at causing the most pain they could. Picture those nails. I only had a needle, but my Lord had a huge wrought-iron nail go through His wrists.
After this the patibulum (cross beam) is then lifted in place at the top of the stipes and the titulus reading, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” is nailed in place. The Jews didn’t like that statement and wanted it to be removed. However, those crucifying did not remove it. To the Jews they said Jesus was not their king. Little did they know!
Now for them nailing the feet down…The left foot is forced backward against the right foot, and with both feet stretched, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees somewhat flexed. The Victim is now considered to have been crucified.
I have thought about these things many times. As my Lord, and anyone else who was ever crucified…their body would gradually sag down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, agonizing pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain — the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. My brain can’t even comprehend the pain my Lord, and anyone else ever had to suffer like this.
The one being crucified tried to push themselves up to not only get a breath of air, but also so the pain from this was not so horrific. With each time they tried to push themselves up more and more pain would come their way, yet they also had to do this just to get air as well. The nerves, the agony, the pain also in the feet…and then you have the fatigue of just trying to stay alive for even a bit longer. No one wants to die and even in this trying time knowing that they would die…they want, by human nature, to stay alive longer. They will take whatever pain to keep alive a bit more. Can you imagine the throbbing pain in your body and less and less ability to push up to even stop it for a moment.
Now, think on this also. The person (our Lord) is hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled (fully at least). Jesus fights to raise Himself to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen.
It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences recorded:
The first statement from the Lord here, looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice for His seamless garment, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He didn’t condemn them at all. He asked His Father to forgive them. Can you imagine that? Would you ask God to forgive the one who did all that to you? Would you ask God to forgive the person who tortured and killed a love one of yours?
The second, to the penitent thief, “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”
The third, looking down at the terrified, grief-stricken adolescent John — the beloved Apostle — he said, “Behold thy mother.” Then, looking to His mother Mary, “Woman behold thy son.” From that time on John took care of Jesus’ mother.
The fourth cry is from the beginning of the 22nd Psalm, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” Ill have more of this in another study sometime.
Jesus experienced hours of pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain where tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins — a terrible crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. One remembers again the 22nd Psalm, the 14th verse: “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.”
The time of Jesus’ death is coming very soon now. It is now almost over. The loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level; the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissue; the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain. Jesus gasps His fifth cry, “I thirst.” One remembers another verse from the prophetic 22nd Psalm: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou has brought me into the dust of death.” A sponge soaked in posca, the cheap, sour wine which is the staple drink of the Roman legionaries, is lifted to His lips.
The body of Jesus is now in extremes, and He can feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. This realization brings out His sixth words, possibly little more than a tortured whisper, “It is finished.” His mission of atonement has completed. Finally, He can allow his body to die.
Oh, how I love my precious Jesus and all that He did for you and I that day, but everyday I am so thankful for He has done in my life, all He is doing in my life, and all He will still do in my life. My Lord, and My Savior…thank you so much for never leaving me or those I dearly love. Thank you for what you went through to give me the opportunity to go to be with you when my time on earth is up. Thank you for always working on me to make me better.
Now with one last surge of strength, he once again presses His torn feet against the nail, straightens His legs, takes a deeper breath, and utters His seventh and last cry, “Father! Into thy hands I commit my spirit.” I can picture my Lord at that moment and the what is going on around Him. I can picture the face of His mother and John…and the grief they are suffering. This was Mary’s son who she loved. To watch your child die that death is heart wrenching.
In order that the Sabbath not be profaned, the Jews asked that the condemned men be dispatched and removed from the crosses. The common method of ending a crucifixion was by crurifracture, the breaking of the bones of the legs. This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; thus the tension could not be relieved from the muscles of the chest and rapid suffocation occurred. The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when the soldiers came to Jesus, they saw that this was unnecessary for Jesus was already dead. They did not need to break His legs to hasten His death.
However, to make even more sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance through the fifth interspace between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. The 34th verse of the 19th chapter of the Gospel according to St. John reports: “And immediately there came out blood and water.” That is, there was an escape of water fluid from the sac surrounding the heart, giving postmortem evidence that Our Lord died not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure (a broken heart) due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.
Thus, we have had our glimpse — including the medical evidence — of that epitome of evil which man has exhibited toward Man and toward God. It has been a terrible sight, and more than enough to leave us despondent and depressed. How grateful we can be that we have the great sequel in the infinite mercy of God toward man — at once the miracle of the atonement (at one ment) and the expectation of the triumphant Easter morning.
I know I am not only moved by what Jesus did on that cross for you and I, and I am so thankful. Words will never be good enough. What Jesus did for me on that cross that day…amazes me. I deserved the death He got for the sins I have done in my life…but even before I was born or thought of…Jesus did this for me. Jesus went to the cross to truly set me free and to give me the chance to accept Him and to be saved. I choose Jesus. I choose to follow Him no matter the pain I might face upon this earth. No one likes pain, but sometimes we must face pain here on earth.
This lesson is by no means complete. Some of this I got from other places since I could not find my notes. All I know is that the cross and what He did for you and for me…is life changing.
So, Lord, please bless whoever read this, who ever truly thinks about it and wants to make a decision for you Lord. Draw them, bless them, provide for their needs, and give them your peace.
God bless you!