On this day almost 2000 years ago Jesus died. He was beaten, beard plucked out, and he had been whipped. The cat of nine tails was a specialized tool of torture used by the Romans. The nine tails of the whip where usually tipped with pieces of metal, bone or rocks. The purpose was to strike the offender with these tails in a manner as to sink them into the skin and muscles, and yank them back out. This would have turned the offender’s back and sides into hamburger meat. Blood loss would be great. And the most skilled torturers would be able to expose bones and even organs, all while keeping the offender alive. This is what Jesus endured, and this was AFTER he had been punched, beaten, plucked, spit on and profaned. While the Romans who carried out the sentence handed down to Jesus would have not had a clue about who He was, they would have not held back from their duties. Prior to this, even Peter, who had become the outspoken leader of the disciples, had been huddled around a charcoal fire watching much of this take place. That is until someone recognized his accent and questioned his connection to Jesus. By the end of the night he would deny Jesus three times. After a long, brutal, bloody night, Jesus would have then had to carry the cross beam approximately 1 kilometer from Pilate’s palace up a hill to Golgatha, or Place of the Skull. Once there, they stripped him to nothing and gambled for His clothes. Naked, hurting, alone, He still did not open His mouth. He had prayed the night before for God to let the cup of this punishment pass by Him if there was another way, but then He claimed God’s will be done. They then nailed Jesus to the cross beam. Near east and Middle East customs include the wrist when describing ritual hand washing. So when they pierced His hands, they actually pierced Him through the wrist. This is the only anatomical and frankly, efficient, way to hang a human from the “hands”. Otherwise the nails would have ripped the tendons, ligaments, muscles and skin from in between the crucified person’s fingers. They would have an opportunity to rupture a vein or artery or damage the radial or ulnar nerves which would have made the pain even more intense. They then lift the cross beam up and connect it to the vertical post. Once in place, they would have bent his knees some and placed one foot on top of another and drove a nail through them. Again, one can only imagine the pain of that penetrating nail, cutting skin, ripping ligaments nd tendons, cracking bones. And as the force of gravity pulls on the body, the knees lose their ability to stand and so the arms are left upward, outstretched and pulling slightly backwards. This leads to a struggling for breath. And a slow but steady decrease of oxygen which will, compounded by blood loss, eventually cause the vital organs to shut down and the brain the stop telling the heart to beat. In order to expedite the death towards the end of the day, the soldiers would frequently break one or both legs so the crucified would asphyxiate and die faster. Prophecy foretold that none of Jesus’s actual bones would be broken, although we can imagine they might have suffered small fractures or bruising during the preceding ordeal. Because of the mental, spiritual and obvious physical toil Thursday night and Friday morning has taken in Jesus’s body, He will die prior to any leg breaking. In fact, because we know from the Biblical accounts that water and blood poured out of His side when they checked to make sure He was truly dead, modern medicine has made an astounding determination. Based on the length of time in torture and coupled with the action of being crucified along with the physiological and anatomical damage caused by it all, the pericardial sac which surrounds and protects the heart, ruptured prior to the piercing by the soldier. In effect, Christ died of a broken heart. His mother, and the other Mary, along with John the beloved disciple take his body down from the cross. They quickly wrap it up and place it in a borrowed tomb until they can ritually handle it properly on Sunday, as Friday at sunset begins the sabbath. The religious leaders convince Pilate to place a guard of soldiers in front of the tomb. They did not want the followers of Jesus to have a chance to steal the body and thus fulfill the prophecy that he would rise on the third day. No disciples are to be found except John. As darkness crosses the land, the sabbath has arrived.
Below is a bird’s eye view of Jesus’s journey from Upper room to Garden of Gethsemane to the many trials before Temple leaders and Roman leaders and finally to where He carried the cross:
Here is my favorite Easter song, dripping with 80’s charm, but impactful none the less:
For more on what Jesus accomplished on the cross and from the tomb click here
To start at the beginning of the Easter/Holy Week series, click here
Next day: click here
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