Easter has come and gone for another year. Families have spent time together, Easter egg hunts have occurred, and we’ve probably all eaten a little too much chocolate.
When we think about Easter, a lot of things come to mind - bunnies, chocolate, bright colors, lambs, flowers - yet Jesus often appears later on the list. Why? Why have we forgotten how incredible this life-changing event in history was, and still is today? I can’t help but think that in the Western World especially, we’ve made Easter too pretty. We’ve made it all about the commercialism, and we have forgotten exactly what happened to Jesus and how earth shattering His death and resurrection really were.
In the next couple of blog posts, I’m going to be discussing the reality of the Crucifixion, and the evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If all of the things happened that Scripture tells us about, then Jesus’ death and resurrection are hands down the biggest event in history.
In the Bible, we don’t hear much about what actually happens during a crucifixion. This is because it was so common - everyone knew what a crucifixion was and what it would do to the person. It is certain that Jesus died on the Cross - before going in to the historical accounts (from both Jesus followers and people who had no faith), we know that crucifixion was designed to kill someone in a horrendous, drawn out manner, and to make sure that there was no chance of survival. It is absurd to claim that Jesus did not die on the Cross.
The Cross, that Jesus was crucified on, would have weighed about 110 pounds. Nails were driven into His wrists; if driven into the palms, they would have stripped through the fingers due to the weight of His own body. There is a misconception that they were drawn into His hands, perhaps because Jesus said to Thomas, “Observe my hands,” however both modern and ancient anatomists consider the wrist as part of the hand.
We must remember that Luke was a physician - he knew what he was talking about, so we can trust what He says in his writings that now make up the gospel of Luke. Even though medicine has advance dramatically since then, Luke still would have known exactly what happened during a crucifixion.
Scripture says that Jesus sweat drops of blood. This has been highly debated because many people think that it’s an impossible occurrence. However, despite being very rare, Hematidrosis (bloody sweat) is well recorded. When suffering great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, mixing blood with sweat. This in turn may have caused marked weakness and shock.
After being arrested, Jesus was presented before the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas, the High Priest. Jesus was struck across the face because He stayed silent during questioning, He was blindfolded, taunted to guess which guard was which as they walked by, and spat upon.
By morning, Jesus was battered, bruised, dehydrated, and exhausted due to lack of sleep. Jesus is now brought before Pilate. It was here when Pilate ordered Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified. There was a tradition that a prisoner could be set free on the Sabbath, and the crowds chose Barabbas - a murderer, thief, and rebel. He was someone who deserved to be crucified; yet Jesus took his place. Barabbas thought it was the people that set him free, but it was the love of a Heavenly Father that set him free. Jesus knew that Barabbas would still walk away and never accept Him as his Savior, yet He still took his place - because despite everything, Jesus loved Barabbas.
Jesus was stripped of His clothing and His hands were tied to a post above His head. The Jews had a law that no more than 40 lashings were to be given, but it’s unlikely that the soldiers would have abided by this - they finally had the chance to kill Jesus, and they were going to do it properly. Using a flagellum (a short whip with several heavy, leather thongs that had two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each), they hit Jesus over and over, the heavy whip forcing itself into Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs.
The whip cuts the skin, continuing to cut deeper into the body’s tissues, causing an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins, before spurting blood from the arteries of the vessels in the muscles beneath. The balls of lead caused huge, deep bruises, which were broken open by subsequent blows. By this point, the skin on Jesus’ back is hanging in long ribbons; the whole area is unrecognizable. It is a mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When Jesus is near death, the beating stops. He is untied, slumps on the stone pavement, and lies in His own blood. Jesus is almost dead, and He hasn’t even reached the Cross.
The soldiers long to mock Jesus. They mock His claims of being a King by throwing a robe across His shoulders and placing a stick in His hand for a sceptre. But they are still missing the all-important crown that will complete the image. Branches covered in thorns are weaved into the shape of a crown and this is pressed into His scalp. The scalp is one of the most vascular areas of the body, so more bleeding occurs.
Jesus endures more mocking, has His robe ripped from Him, the thorns are driven deeper into His scalp, and His wounds are opened again and continue to bleed due to the carelessness of the soldiers. The Cross is tied across His shoulders, and the procession to the site of crucifixion begins.
He stumbles and falls. The rough wood gouges into His skin. Simon of Cyrene is ordered to take the Cross, because Jesus can no longer walk upright. Jesus is still bleeding and is in severe shock. They walk 650 yards to Golgotha. A heavy, square, wrought iron nail is driven through the wrist and deep into the wood. The left foot is now pressed backward against the right foot, and a nail is driven into them. Jesus is now crucified.
The weight of His own body causes Jesus to slowly sink down the Cross. Excruciating pain ensues; the nails are causing unbelievable agony because they are putting pressure on His nerves. The nails tear through His feet, His body is cramping, and He can no longer push Himself up to relieve the pressure. Air can now be drawn into the lungs, but it cannot be exhaled. Carbon dioxide builds up in His lungs and the cramps subside for a moment; Jesus can draw in oxygen. This is when He would have uttered His last words:
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
To the thief beside Him, “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”
To the terrified, grief stricken John, Jesus’ beloved apostle, “Behold thy mother.” Then, looking to His mother Mary, “Woman behold thy son.”
The fourth cry, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” Jesus is feeling the true weight of being separated from God on our behalf.
His heart begins to be compressed, causing a terrible crushing agony. Tissue fluids have reached a critical level. His heart is struggling to beat. His tortured lungs are frantically trying to gasp in small gulps of air.
He cries out, “It is finished.”
He utters His final cry, “Father! Into thy hands I commit my spirit.”
To ensure the victims were dead, the soldiers would break the victims’ leg bones, preventing them from pushing themselves upward to relieve the tension. Not being able to relieve the pressure would have cause rapid suffocation. The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when the soldiers came to Jesus they saw that this was unnecessary. Jesus was dead.
To be even more certain of death, a lance was put through the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. John 34:19 says, “And immediately there came out blood and water.” We now know that this meant Jesus died not by suffocation, but of heart failure (a broken heart) due to shock and constriction.
Jesus endured horrendous, agonizing, torturous amounts of pain. Yet at any point, He could have stopped. He had the power to call on His Father and put an end to the pain. He had the authority and ability to kill all of His persecutors in an instant, yet He chose not to. He knew that the Crucifixion had to happen. It wasn’t the nails on the Cross that kept Jesus there - it was His love for you.
Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.
(Romans 5:19 MSG)
Alice is 18 and from England. She gave her life to Jesus about 5 years ago, and was baptized in July 2015. She feels that she is called to creative evangelism after receiving many prophecies from various people. She's a keen musician, photographer, writer, and speaker, and she hopes to involve all of these passions when sharing the love of Jesus to the world. She looks forward to moving to a city to attend university, engrossing herself in youth culture and wider communities.