But at this time of year I always take some time to reflect on just what our Lord endured for us.
For the message of the cross is foolishnessto those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
CAUTION: READ AT YOUR OWN RISK
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The Scourging of Jesus
Scourging, called verberatio by the Romans, was possibly the worst kind of flogging administered by ancient courts. While the Jews administered whippings in the synagogues for certain offenses, these were mild in comparison to scourging. Scourging was not normally a form of execution, but it certainly was brutal enough to be fatal in many cases. A person certainly could be beaten to death by the scourge if that was desired. Its purpose was not only to cause great pain, but to humiliate as well. To scourge a man was to beat him worse than one would beat a stupid animal. It was belittling, debasing, and demeaning. It was considered such a degrading form of punishment that, according to the Porcian (248 B.C.) and Sempronian (123 B.C.) laws, Roman citizens were exempt from it. It was, therefore, the punishment appropriate only for slaves and non-Romans, those who were viewed as the lesser elements in Roman society. To make it as humiliating as possible, scourging was carried out in public.
The instrument used to deliver this form of punishment was called in Latin a flagellum or a flagrum. This was much different from the bull whip that is more common in our culture. It was instead more like the old British cat o’ nine tails, except that the flagellum was not designed merely to bruise or leave welts on the victim. The flagellum was a whip with several (at least three) thongs or strands, each perhaps as much as three feet long, and the strands were weighted with lead balls or pieces of bone. This instrument was designed to lacerate. The weighed thongs struck the skin so violently that it broke open. The church historian Eusebius of Caesarea recounts with vivid, horrible detail a scene of scourging. He says, “For they say that the bystanders were struck with amazement when they saw them lacerated with scourges even to the innermost veins and arteries, so that the hidden inward parts of the body, both their bowels and their members, were exposed to view” (Ecclesiastical History, Book 4, chap. 15).
The victim of a scourging was bound to a post or frame, stripped of his clothing, and beaten with the flagellum from the shoulders to the loins. The beating left the victim bloody and weak, in unimaginable pain, and near the point of death. It is no doubt that weakness from his scourging was largely the reason Jesus was unable to carry his cross all the way to Golgotha (Matt. 27:32 and parallels).
Like everything else about his death, Jesus knew that he would be scourged. He mentioned it when He predicted his sufferings for the third time (Matt. 20:19 and parallels). He knew that before he died of the torture of the cross he would have to endure a savage, brutal beating at the hands of the Romans who were more than ready to vent their hatred against Jews. He accepted those blows, and his body was ripped open at the post, for us. He was taking the punishment of the sins of the world so that we might not have to suffer the consequences of our transgressions. By his stripes we are healed.
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ROMAN SOLDIERS MOCK AND BEAT JESUS
Matthew 27:28-30 (The soldiers) stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. Jesus was then beaten by the Roman soldiers. In mockery, they dressed Him in what was probably the cloak of a Roman officer, which was colored dark purple or scarlet .(Amplified Bible) He also wore the crown of thorns. Unlike the traditional crown which is depicted by an open ring, the actual crown of thorns may have covered the entire scalp.(Lumpkin) The thorns may have been 1 to 2 inches long. The gospels state that the Roman soldiers continued to beat Jesus on the head. The blows would drive the thorns into the scalp (one of the most vascular areas of the body) and forehead, causing severe bleeding.
THE CROWN OF THORNS AND THE ROBE
Genesis 3:17-18: "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field."Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." The significance of the scarlet robe and crown of thorns is to emphasize Jesus' taking the sins of the world upon His body. The Bible describes sin by the color of scarlet (Is 1:18) and that thorns first appeared after the fall, as a sign of the curse. Thus, the articles that He wore are symbols to show that Jesus took on the sins (and the curse) of the world upon Himself. It is not clear that He wore the crown of thorns on the cross. Matthew describes that the Romans removed His clothes after the beating, and that they put His own clothes back on Him. (Matt 27:31)
THE SEVERITY OF THE BEATING"I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting." Isaiah 50:6
"..... Just as there were many who were appalled at him -- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness--" Isaiah 52:14
The severity of the beating is not detailed in the gospels. However, in the book of Isaiah, it suggests that the Romans pulled out His beard.(Isaiah 50:8) . It is also mentions that Jesus was beaten so severely that His form did not look like that of "a son of a man" i.e. that of a human being. The literal translation of the verse reads, "So marred from the form of man was His aspect, that His appearance was not as that of a son of a man." People were appalled to look at Him (Isaiah 52:13). His disfigurement may explain why He was not easily recognized in His post resurrection appearances.(Missler)
From the beating, Jesus walked on a path, now known as the Via Dolorosa or the "way of suffering", to be crucified at Golgotha. The total distance has been estimated at 650 yards. (Edwards). A narrow street of stone, it was probably surrounded by markets in Jesus' time. He was led through the crowded streets carrying the crossbar of the cross(called a patibulum) across His shoulders. The crossbar probably weighed between 80 to 110 pounds. He was surrounded by a guard of Roman soldiers, one of which carried a titulus, a sign which announced His crime of being "the King of the Jews" in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. On the way, He was unable to carry the cross.
SUFFERING ON THE CROSSDogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me." Psalm 22:16-17
The crucifixion event is prophesied in several places throughout the Old Testament. One of the most striking is recorded in Isaiah 52:13 ,where it says that , "My servant will act wisely (or prosper) .He will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted." In John 3, Jesus talks about His fulfillment of that prophecy when He says, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life."
"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Jesus is led to the place of the skull (Latin Calvary, Aramaic :Golgotha) to be crucified. The actual location of Calvary is also in dispute. At the end of the Via Dolorosa, there is a "T intersection". If one turns left, we go to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. If one turns to the right, one goes to Gordon's Calvary. The Church of the Holy sepulcher has long been believed to be the traditional site of the crucifixion.
Gordon's Calvary has a possible prophetic reason for being the actual site of the crucifixion .In Genesis 22, Abraham is tested by God to sacrifice Isaac on the top of a mountain. Realizing that he is acting out a prophecy, that "God Himself will provide a Lamb" , Abraham calls the place of the event "Jehovah Jireh", meaning "In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen." If we take this as a prophetic event of Jesus' death, then Jesus' died on the high ground of Jerusalem. Gordon's Calvary is the highest point of Jerusalem, 777 meters above sea level.(Missler: Map from Israel tour book) Today, at Gordon's Calvary, caves in the rock are situated which give the site the appearance of a skull.
The procedure of crucifixion may be summarized as follows. The patibulum was put on the ground and the victim laid upon it. Nails, about 7 inches long and with a diameter of 1 cm ( roughly 3/8 of an inch) were driven in the wrists . The points would go into the vicinity of the median nerve, causing shocks of pain to radiate through the arms. It was possible to place the nails between the bones so that no fractures (or broken bones) occurred. Studies have shown that nails were probably driven through the small bones of the wrist, since nails in the palms of the hand would not support the weight of a body. In ancient terminology, the wrist was considered to be part of the hand. (Davis) Standing at the crucifixion sites would be upright posts, called stipes, standing about 7 feet high.(Edwards) In the center of the stipes was a crude seat, called a sedile or sedulum, which served a support for the victim. The patibulum was then lifted on to the stipes. The feet were then nailed to the stipes. To allow for this, the knees had to be bent and rotated laterally, being left in a very uncomfortable position. The titulus was hung above the victim's head.
There were several different types of crosses used during crucifixion. In Jesus' time, it was most likely that the cross used was a T shaped (or tau cross,), not the popular Latin, or t shaped cross which is accepted today.(Lumpkin)
PHYSICAL SUFFERING ON THE CROSS"I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death." Psalm 22:14-15
Having suffered from the beatings and flogging, Jesus suffered from severe hypovolemia from the loss of blood. The verses above describe His dehydrated state and loss of His strength.
When the cross was erected upright, there was tremendous strain put on the wrists, arms and shoulders, resulting in a dislocation of the shoulder and elbow joints.(Metherall) The arms, being held up and outward, held the rib cage in a fixed end inspiratory position which made it extremely difficult to exhale, and impossible to take a full breath. The victim would only be able to take very shallow breaths.(This may explain why Jesus made very short statements while on the cross). As time passed, the muscles, from the loss of blood, last of oxygen and the fixed position of the body, would undergo severe cramps and spasmodic contractions
ABANDONED BY GOD -- SPIRITUAL DEATH
"About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'--which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46
With the sin of the world upon Him, Jesus suffered spiritual death (separation from the Father ). Isaiah 59:2 says that sins cause a separation from God, and that He hides His face from you so that He does not hear. The Father must turn away from His Beloved Son on the cross. For the first time, Jesus does not address God as His Father.(Courson)
DEATH BY CRUCIFIXION : SLOW SUFFOCATION
- Shallowness of breathing causes small areas of lung collapse.
- Decreased oxygen and increased carbon dioxide causes acidic conditions in the tissues.
- Fluid builds up in the lungs. Makes situation in step 2 worse.
- Heart is stressed and eventually fails.
The slow process of suffering and resulting death during a crucifixion may be summarized as follows:
"...it appears likely that the mechanism of death in crucifixion was suffocation. The chain of events which ultimately led to suffocation are as follows: With the weight of the body being supported by the sedulum, the arms were pulled upward. This caused the intercostal and pectoral muscles to be stretched. Furthermore, movement of these muscles was opposed by the weight of the body. With the muscles of respiration thus stretched, the respiratory bellows became relatively fixed. As dyspnea developed and pain in the wrists and arms increased, the victim was forced to raise the body off the sedulum, thereby transferring the weight of the body to the feet. Respirations became easier, but with the weight of the body being exerted on the feet, pain in the feet and legs mounted. When the pain became unbearable, the victim again slumped down on the sedulum with the weight of the body pulling on the wrists and again stretching the intercostal muscles. Thus, the victim alternated between lifting his body off the sedulum in order to breathe and slumping down on the sedulum to relieve pain in the feet. Eventually , he became exhausted or lapsed into unconsciousness so that he could no longer lift his body off the sedulum. In this position, with the respiratory muscles essentially paralyzed, the victim suffocated and died. (DePasquale and Burch)
A LAST DRINK OF WINE VINEGAR
"A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips." When he had received the drink, Jesus said, `It is finished'. "With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." John 19:29-30
Having suffered severe blood losses from His numerous beatings and thus in a dehydrated state, Jesus, in one of His final statements, said "I thirst." He was offered 2 drinks on the cross. The first, which He refused, was a drugged wine (mixed with myrrh). He chose to face death without a clouded mind. Edersheim writes:
"It was a merciful Jewish practice to give to those led to execution a draught of strong wine mixed with myrrh so as to deaden consciousness" (Mass Sem 2.9; Bemid. R. 10). This charitable office was performed at the cost of, if not by, an association of women in Jerusalem (Sanh. 43a). The draught was offered to Jesus when He reached Golgotha. But having tasted it....He would not drink it. ....He would meet Death, even in his sternest and fiercest mood, and conquer by submitting to the full....(p.880).
The second drink, which He accepts moments before His death, is described as a wine vinegar. Two points are important to note. The drink was given on the "stalk of a hyssop plant". Remember that these events occurred at the Feast of the Passover. During this feast, (Exod 12:22) hyssop was used to apply the blood of the Passover lamb to the wooden doorposts of the Jews. It is interesting the end of this hyssop stalk pointed to the blood of the Perfect Lamb which was applied to the wooden cross for the salvation of all mankind. (Barclay) In addition, the wine vinegar is a product of fermentation, which is made from grape juice and yeast. The word literally means "that which is soured" and is related to the Hebrew term for "that which is leavened". (Holmans) Yeast or leaven, is a Biblical symbol of sin. When Jesus took this drink, (i.e. a drink which was "leavened") it is thus symbolic of His taking the sins of the world into His body.
CELEBRATION OF THE OPPOSITION
"Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me." Psalm 22:12-13
While He was on the cross, darkness covered the land (noon to three p.m.). Jesus, in Luke 22:53, associates those who arrested Him with the power of darkness. Where were the evil forces while Jesus was on the cross? The verses above from Psalm 22 seem out of place when first read. There seems to be no mention of "bulls" and "lions" around the cross. The verses, however, have a deeper meaning.(Courson) Bashan was an area to the east of the Jordan River which was famous for its fertility. Cattle were raised there which grew to enormous sizes. The people there worshipped demon spirits (associated with Baal) within the cattle. In 1 Pet 5:8, Satan is described as "a roaring lion...seeking those who he may devour" These verses are thus suggestive of the spiritual activity of Satan and his demons, celebrating as Jesus was suffering on the cross.
JESUS LAID DOWN HIS LIFE
"The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."John 10:17-18
"Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit'." When he had said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:46
DEATH BY CRUCIFIXION:
HASTENED by the breaking of the legs, so that the victim could not push up to take a good breath.
John 19:32-33: The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.
CONFIRMED by a spear thrust into the right side of the heart.
John 19:34: Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.Death in crucifixion was hastened by the breaking of the legs of the victim. This procedure, called crurifracture, prevented the ability of the victim to take in a good breath. Death would quickly occur from suffocation. In Jesus' case, He died quickly and did not have His legs broken. Jesus fulfills one of the prophetic requirements of the Passover Lamb, that not a bone shall be broken.(Exodus 12:46, John 19:36)
To confirm that a victim was dead, the Romans inflicted a spear wound through the right side of the heart. When pierced, a sudden flow of blood and water came Jesus' body . The medical significance of the blood and water has been a matter of debate. One theory states that Jesus died of a massive myocardial infarction, in which the heart ruptured (Bergsma) which may have resulted from His falling while carrying the cross. (Ball) Another theory states that Jesus' heart was surrounded by fluid in the pericardium, which constricted the heart and caused death.(Davis) The physical stresses of crucifixion may have produced a fatal cardiac arrhythmia. (Johnson)
The stated order of "blood and water" may not necessarily indicate the order of appearance, but rather the relative prominence of each fluid. In this case, a spear through the right side of the heart would allow the pleural fluid (fluid built up in the lungs) to escape first, followed by a flow of blood from the wall of the right ventricle.(Edwards) The important fact is that the medical evidence supports that Jesus did die a physical death.
The story, of course, does not end here. The greatest event that separates Jesus from all others is the fact that He rose again and lives today. He intercedes for those who follow Him at the right hand of the Father.(Heb 7:25)
Compiled by David Terasaka, M.D. ©1996. All Rights Reserved, David Terasaka, M.D. However, permission is hereby granted to copy and distribute free of charge for non-commercial purposes only.
~God bless, and remember...
*Note: I have heavily edited this essay...For the entire article go here: http://www.blueletterbible.org/commentaries/comm_view.cfm?AuthorID=3&contentID=3129&commInfo=8&topic=Crucifixion