To help the person fully understand and be overwhelmed with gratitude for what Jesus has done for them. This study should also produce an intense hatred for their sinful nature as they see what their sin has done to Christ.
THE PASSION OF CHRIST
Matthew 26:36–27:56 Vs. 26:36-46
-Jesus makes a decision to die to his own will and to follow the will of His Father because of His love for God and for you. This decision mirrors the decision that you made to stop living for yourself after the “Discipleship” study.
-Jesus’ closest friends betray and desert Him, yet he is still willing to die for them and for you.
-Jesus is falsely accused, hit, slapped, insulted and spit on.
-God in the flesh, who made these men and all of creation, allows them to abuse Him.
-Peter, Jesus’ closest friend, three times denies knowing Him.
-Jesus’ loneliness, abandonment, and emotional pain mount as nearly everyone deserts Him.
-Judas, after betraying Jesus, kills himself.
-We see here two men, Peter and Judas, handling their sin against Jesus in two distinctly different ways.
-In John 21, we see Peter, after denying Jesus, run back to Him to repent. He believed that Jesus would forgive him.
-Judas is full of worldly sorrow and self-pity. He does not believe either that he can repent or that there is hope of forgiveness. In his self-pity, he commits suicide and loses any chance of forgiveness forever.
-On one hand, we must be full of remorse that our sin killed Jesus. On the other hand, we must have complete confidence that Jesus is eager to forgive our sin and change us.
-Pilate had a conscience and a heart. He had more compassion for Jesus than the religious leaders.
-Unfortunately, his convictions were too shallow for him to take a stand. When the crowd’s shouts became too loud, he caved into the pressure of their murderous threats.
CHANGING THE WORLD FOR GOD ONE LIFE AT A TIME
-Jesus is flogged, stripped and mocked.
-A crown of thorns is driven into His scalp.
MEDICAL ACCOUNT OF THE CRUCIFIXION
In this paper, I shall discuss some of the physical aspects of the passion, or suffering, of Jesus Christ. We shall follow Him from Gethsemane through His trial, scourging and walk along the Via Dolorosa to His last dying hours on the cross.
This led me first to a study of the practice of crucifixion itself – that is, the torture and execution of a person by fixation to a cross. Apparently, the first known practice of crucifixion was by the Persians. Alexander and his generals brought it back to the Mediterranean world - Egypt, and Carthage. The Romans apparently learned the practice from the Carthaginians and, as with almost everything the Romans did, rapidly developed a very high degree of efficiency and skill in carrying it out. Roman authors Livy, Cicero, and Tacitys comment on the practice. Several innovations and modifications are described in the ancient literature. I’ll mention only a few, which may have some bearing here. The upright portion of the cross (the stripe) could have the cross-arm (patibulum) attached two or three feet below its top. This is what we commonly think of today as the classical form of the cross – the one later named the Latin cross. However, the common form used in our Lord’s time was the Tau cross, which is shaped like the Greek letter Tau or like our “T.” In this cross, the cross-arm was placed in a notch at the top of the upright post. There is overwhelming archeological evidence that it was on this type of cross that Jesus was crucified.
The upright post was usually fixed permanently in the ground at the site of execution and the condemned man was forced to carry the cross-arm, apparently weighing about 110 pounds, from the prison to the place of execution. Without any historical or biblical proof, medieval and Renaissance painters have given us our picture of Christ carrying the entire cross. In addition, many of these painters and most of the sculptors of crucifixes today show the nails through the palms. Roman historical accounts and experimental work have shown that the nails were driven between the small bones of the wrists and not through the palms. Nails driven through the palms will strip out between the fingers when they support the weight of a human body. The misconception may have come about through a misunderstanding of Jesus’ words to Thomas in John 20:27: “Put your finger here; see my hands.” Anatomists, both modern and ancient, have always considered the wrists as part of the hand.
A small sign, stating the victim’s crime, was usually carried at the front of the processions and later nailed to the cross above the head. This sign, with its staff, nailed to the top of the cross, would have given the cross somewhat the characteristic form of the Latin cross.
The physical passion of the Christ begins in Gethsemane. Luke 22:24 says of Jesus, "and being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." His sweat was unusually intense because his emotional state was unusually intense. Dehydration coupled with exhaustion further weakened him.
We shall move rapidly through the betrayal and arrest. I must stress that important portions of the passion story are missing from this account. This may be frustrating to you, but it is necessary in order to adhere to our purpose of discussing only the purely physical aspects of the Passion.
After His arrest in the middle of the night, Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas, the High Priest. It is here that the first physical trauma is inflicted. A soldier strikes Jesus across the face for remaining silent when questioned by Caiphas. The palace guards then blindfolded Him and mockingly challenge Him to identify them as each passes by, spits on Him, and strikes Him on the face.
In the morning, Jesus – battered, bruised, dehydrated and exhausted from a sleepless night – is taken across Jerusalem to a fortress that served as headquarters for Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea.
CHANGING THE WORLD FOR GOD ONE LIFE AT A TIME
You are, of course, familiar with Pilate’s attempt to pass responsibility to Herod Antipas, the Rome-approved ruler of Galilee and Perea. Jesus apparently did not suffer any physical mistreatment at the hands of Herod, who returned Him to Pilate. It was then, in response to the cries of the mob, that Pilate released Barabbas and condemned Jesus to scourge and crucifixion.
There is much disagreement among authorities on scourging as a prelude to crucifixion. Most Roman writers from this period do not associate the two. Many scholars believe that Pilate originally ordered Jesus scourged as his full punishment and that the death sentence by crucifixion came only in response to the taunt by the mob that the governor was not properly defending Caesar against a pretender who claimed to be the King of the Jews.
Preparations for the scourging are carried out. The prisoner is stripped of His clothing and His hands are tied to a post above His head. The Jews had an ancient law prohibiting more than forty lashes. The Pharisees, always making sure that the law was strictly kept, insisted that only thirty-nine lashes be given. This was so that in case of a miscount, they were sure of remaining within the law. It is doubtful that the Romans attempted to follow the Jewish law in this matter of scourging.
The Roman legionnaire steps forward with a short whip consisting of two small balls of lead attached near each end of several heavy, leather thongs. The heavy whip is brought down with full force repeatedly across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs. At first, the heavy thongs cut only through His skin. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into subcutaneous tissues, producing an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins in His skin and then spurts of blood from the arteries in His muscles. The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises, which are then 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 the centurion in charge determines that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped.
Jesus, nearly fainting, is untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with His own blood. The Roman soldiers see a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming 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, so they plant a small bundle of flexible branches covered with long thorns into the shape of a crown and press it into His scalp. Again, there is a lot of bleeding, because the scalp is one of the most vascular areas of the body. After mocking Him and 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 sadistic sport and tear the robe from His back. By this time, the robe has become stuck to the clots of blood and serum in His wounds. Its removal, just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, causes excruciating pain – almost as though He were again being whipped - and the wounds again begin to bleed.
In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans return His garments. The heavy cross-arm of the cross is tied across Jesus’ shoulders, and the procession – Christ, two thieves, a Roman centurion, and his execution detail – begins its slow journey along the Via Dolorosa. In spite of His efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden cross and the shock produced by severe blood loss is too much. He stumbles and falls. The rough wood of the beam gouges into His lacerated skin and the muscles of His shoulders. He tries to rise, but human muscles have been pushed beyond their stamina.
The centurion, anxious to get on with the crucifixion, selects a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. Jesus follows, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock. The 650-yard journey from Pontius Pilate’s headquarters to Golgotha is finally complete. The prisoner is again stripped of His clothes - except for a loincloth, which is allowed the Jews.
The crucifixion begins. Jesus is offered wine mixed with Myrrh, a mild painkiller. He refuses to drink.
Simon is ordered to place the cross on the ground. Jesus is quickly thrown backward, with His shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through Jesus’ 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 rather to allow some flexibility and movement. The soldiers then lift the cross-arm into its place at the top of the stipe, and a sign reading, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” is nailed to the top.
Jesus’ left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The victim is now crucified. As He slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along His fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain - the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this wrenching torment, He places His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again, there is the searing agony of the tearing through the nerves between the bones of His feet.
At this point, another phenomenon occurs. As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by His arms, His chest and rib muscles are paralyzed. He can draw air into His lungs, but he cannot exhale. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in His lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, He is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.
It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences recorded in Scripture: The first, looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice for His seamless garment:
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
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:
“He said, Behold thy mother, and looking to Mary, His mother, Woman behold thy son.”
The fourth cry is from the beginning of Psalm 22:
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
For hours, he experiences cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial suffocation, and searing pain. The tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down against the rough timber.
Then another agony begins, a deep, crushing pain deep in His chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.
Let us remember Psalm 22:14:
“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.”
It is now almost over - the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level – Jesus’ compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissue. His tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to draw in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain.
Jesus gasps His fifth cry: “I thirst.”
Let us remember 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, a cheap, sour wine that is the staple drink of the Roman legionnaires, is lifted to His lips. He apparently does not take any of the liquid.
Jesus’ body of near its end and He can feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. This realization brings out His sixth cry - possibly little more than a tortured whisper: “It is finished.”
He has completed His mission of atonement. Finally, He can allow his body to die. 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 final cry:
“Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.”
The rest you know. In order that the Sabbath not be profaned, the Jews asked that the condemned men be removed from the crosses. The common method of ending a crucifixion was by cruci-fracture, the breaking of the bones of the legs. This prevents the victim from pushing himself up. The tension cannot be relieved from the muscles of the chest, and rapid suffocation occurred. The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when they came to Jesus they saw that this was unnecessary, thus fulfilling the Scripture, “Not one bone shall be broken.”
Apparently, to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance through Jesus’ ribs, upward through His pericardium, and into His heart. John 19:34 says:
“Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.”
There was an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and blood from its interior. We, therefore, have post-mortem evidence that our Lord died not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation but of heart failure – due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.
Thus, we have seen a glimpse of the epitome of evil which man can exhibit toward man - and toward God. This is not a pretty sight and is apt to leave us despondent and depressed. How grateful we can be that we have a sequel: A glimpse of the infinite mercy of God toward man - the miracle of the atonement and the expectation of Easter morning!
THE MAN OF SORROWS
*Put the student’s name in place of “our” in these verses to make it personal.
A NEW CREATION
2 Corinthians 5:14-15
-What does God expect our response to be when we see all that Jesus has done for us through the cross?
-How do you feel about what we have just read?