04
Aug
08

What Jesus Endured

Even though I mention Jesus often enough around here, it’s very rare that I have a post that is focused mostly (or even solely) around him. Big oversight there. Going to start correcting that.

Anyway, today I was reminding myself (as I try to do from time to time) that Jesus’ flogging and crucifixion are nothing to be taken lightly. The worst thing he had to do for us was bear all sins of humanity, past, present and future and suffer a temporary separation from God, his own father, with whom he had been in constant spiritual contact up until that point. But there is no way for mere mortals like us to understand that kind of suffering. It really has no parallel. But what we can appreciate is the physical and emotional suffering Jesus went through. We don’t have to have gone through something as serious as what Jesus did to appreciate how bad it was.

Problem is, we need to actually make ourselves do it.

Otherwise, we just think, He hung on a cross for a few hours. Big deal. We may not say it, but it’s what we think, really. We gloss over it and that is a kind of disrespect. Son of Blue saw The Passion of the Christ a couple years ago and he said that he cried as he saw the character of Jesus in the movie suffer. I haven’t seem the movie yet, but I know it’s something I should do soon. (yes, I have my own wimping out that I need to get over.)

In the book The Case for Christ by journalist Lee Strobel, there is a gut-wrenching description of both Jesus’ flogging and crucifixion and what he likely experienced from both of those terrible abuses (which I have read a couple times as a refresher course on real suffering). I don’t have the time or patience to try to type that out, nor do I really have a good setup on my desk to prop up the book to even try doing it effectively. But I did find an article at the Web site Our Catholic Faith by a physician, Dr. C. Truman Davis, that decribes both from a medical perspective, and I’ll borrow a bit from there to give you a taste (I encourage you to go read the whole article for a fuller picture) . If you’re squeamish, you might want to leave now; I’d prefer that you stay, though. It’s probably something you need to take to heart every once in a while to understand just how much Jesus loved us and just how much he was hurt for his three-year ministry on this planet.

The Scourging

The prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. The Roman legionnaire stepped forward with the flagrum, or flagellum, in his hand. This was a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip was brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs. At first the weighted thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continued, 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 produced large deep bruises that were broken open by subsequent blows. Finally, the skin of the back was hanging in long ribbons, and the entire area was an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it was determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner was near death, the beating was finally stopped.

The Crucifixion

As Jesus slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain. The nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerve, large nerve trunks which traverse the mid-wrist and hand. As He pushed himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of this feet.

At this point, another phenomenon occurred. As the arms fatigued, great waves of cramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by the arm, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzed and the intercostal muscles, the small muscles between the ribs, were unable to act. Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled. Jesus fought to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, the carbon dioxide level increased in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subsided.

He suffered hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, and searing pain as tissue was torn from His lacerated back from His movement up and down against the rough timbers of the cross. Then another agony began: a deep crushing pain in the chest as the pericardium, the sac surrounding the heart, slowly filled with serum and began to compress the heart.

The end was rapidly approaching. The loss of tissue fluids had reached a critical level; the compressed heart was struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood to the tissues, and the tortured lungs were making a frantic effort to inhale small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues sent their flood of stimuli to the brain.

This is no joke, folks. If you wonder why it’s so important to God that we “pay” for our salvation by accepting Jesus as lord and savior and acknowledging him as our introduction to God’s grace…well, consider how it felt to God to know His son would go through all this—plus spiritual suffering that is unimaginable to a human—when Jesus hadn’t done anything to deserve any punishment of any kind.

People sometimes accuse God of having been cruel when he told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Of course, God pulled the plug on that in the end, because what he wanted was not a death but for a proof of Abraham’s total faith in Him. But while that may seem a cruel test, even without actually having Abraham carry it out, remember this:

God did sacrifice His son by allowing him to die a wrongful death. And Jesus accepted this fate out of love—a love that is so deep I don’t think any of us could come close. That is something we should never forget.

That is something we should all shed a few tears over in our lives.

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1 Response to “What Jesus Endured”


  1. August 4, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    I put off watching the Passion for a long time. When I did watch it, I got something from it. Mel Gibson was over the top in some stuff, but you couldn’t help but feel Jesus’ pain in that movie. That was moving.


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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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