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Jesus – The Real Life Superman

March 15, 2013

No Christian, Jew, Bible scholar, historian, or even skeptic can deny that Jesus died by Roman crucifixion. There can really be no denying this historical fact, and there are a number of sources that can be used to verify this. To begin with, all four gospels account for this event. Non-Christian sources also corroborate this event. The historian Tacitus said that “Jesus suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius”. A Jewish historian, Josephus reports that Pilate “condemned him to be crucified”. The Jewish Talmud reports that Jesus was “killed”. A Greek satirist, Lucian of Samosata, mentions the crucifixion, and Mara Bar-Serapion, who was a pagan, confirms the execution of Jesus. By all accounts, Jesus was, in fact, completely “dead” by the time he was brought down from the cross, and there was no doubt as to his passing.

But how many of us have really stopped to think about what Jesus actually went through before and during this ordeal? How many of us understand, or even could understand the excruciating amount of suffering and pain that He endured before his death, in amounts that would kill any normal man? That He did this willingly, and that He did it for the very people that were causing His torment? I want to dissect those final few hours, using the biblical gospels for reference, to show what exactly it was that Jesus endured for us, and why it is so important that we never forget and that we honor that sacrifice.

Gethsemane

Jesus praying at Gethsemane

Jesus praying at Gethsemane

We will start our investigation in the gardens of Gethsemane, where Jesus spent His last free hours with his disciples before His arrest. Jesus knew what was coming, and that His ordeal was soon to begin, and He was certainly afraid, or at the very least, distressed. Mark 14:33 says that He “began to be sore amazed [greatly troubled], and to be very heavy [deeply distressed]”. Matthew 26:37-38 tells us that He was “sorrowful [grieved] and very heavy [deeply distressed]” and that His “soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death.” Luke 22:44 goes even further to tell us that while He was “being in agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” It makes sense that Luke would record this particular fact as he was a physician and would most likely recognize this as medical condition, not to mention that Luke’s gospel, as a whole, recorded events from the perspective of a more educated and fundamentally scientific viewpoint. Luke could have been using a metaphor, or symbolism, but medically, this condition is entirely possible, and given Jesus’ state of mind during this event, it makes it even more likely that Luke’s meaning was literal. A medical condition known as hematidrosis is associated with a high degree of psychological stress and can cause a release of chemicals that break down the capillaries in the sweat glands, causing a small amount of bleeding into the glands resulting in sweat tinged with blood. It is a fairly rare condition, and would not result in large amounts of blood, but can still account for Luke’s observation of Jesus at that point in time.

Jesus was certainly distressed. He knew what was coming, and it caused Him great distress as I think it would anyone put into that kind of situation. It was an ordeal that He knew He could not avoid as it was the culmination of His entire purpose for being. But this did not stop him from stressing over it, agonizing over what was coming. He spent that time in Gethsemane praying to the Lord for strength and courage, and even asked that God prevent the ordeal all together. In Mark 14:36, Jesus calls upon God by the name “Abba“, which at the time, was the household term for father. He was calling upon God as his parent, not because he was afraid of death, but to question the will of God that the ordeal is necessary. Matthew 26:39 also records this prayer as such: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will but as thou wilt.” The cup is representative of God’s wrath against sin, of the ordeal that Jesus must endure in our place. In the anguish of that moment, the sin of the world was poured onto Him, and he became “sin for us“. – 2 Corinthians 5:21. Therefore, Jesus would die a substitutionary death for the guilty mankind. Also notice, though Jesus may have questioned God’s will, He still never wavered in carrying it out by the words He spoke: “not as I will but as thou wilt

So even before Jesus’ arrest, He was under a great deal of strain both mentally and physically, with the weight of the world’s sin on His shoulders, the agonizing absence of His Father’s presence, and the foreknowledge of His ordeal. His disciples were all about to leave Him in a lurch, and He knew that everything He knew to be coming had to pass. So, already, before the arrest, we have a man who is under a massive amount of stress, and who is physically weakened by it almost to the point of exhaustion.

The Trials and Pilate

Jesus was then betrayed and arrested and taken before the High Priest, Caiaphas in the middle of the night for a mock trial.

Jesus on Trial

Jesus on Trial

Matthew 26:59 tells us that that “the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death“. Many false witnesses came to offer testimony, but “For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.” – Mark 14:56. The chief priests, of course, viewed Jesus as a threat to their way of life, a threat to their beliefs, and a blasphemer. However, all throughout Jesus’ ministry, the priests had been unable to trick Jesus into answering their questions in such a way as to incriminate Himself based on their interpretation of the laws. After His completely unfounded arrest, they held the trial in the middle of the night, called on many to give false testimony and pronounced sentence. After this, Jesus was blindfolded and beaten and mocked by the men holding him. “And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?” – Luke 22:64. Mark 14:65 tells us a bit more in that Jesus was also “spit on” and that they “did strike him with the palms of their hands.” John 18:19-24 records a smaller, even more informal trial before Annas, Caiaphas’ father-in-law, which took place shortly before the trial before the Sanhedrin. In this trial, He was asked about His disciples and His doctrine, and John records that He was struck at least once by one of the officers holding Him. In the morning, Jesus was brought before the council and formally pronounced guilty and sentenced to death.

Since the Jews had no laws concerning crucifixion, Jesus was brought before Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea and Samaria during Christ’s ministry. The Jews demanded crucifixion, though Pilate was unconvinced of Jesus’ guilt. Pilate was only interested in the political ramifications of the Jew’s claims about Jesus. Thus, his only question to him was whether or not He was, in fact, the King of the Jews. Mark 15: 2 tells us that Jesus answered him with “Thou sayest it.” Luke 23:7-12 records that Pilate sent Jesus to Herod for further interrogation, however, Jesus’ silence infuriated the chief priests and so Herod “set him at nought [treated him with contempt], and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.” The robe was clearly mocking Jesus’ supposed claim of Kingship of the Jews. Again, Pilate is concerned that the Jew’s claim could incite a Jewish rebellion against Rome. Jesus’ answer to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” and “Thou sayest I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hearest my voice” is enough proof for Pilate to “find in him no fault at all.” – John 18:36-38. Again, the Jews renounce Him and demand his crucifixion.

The Roman Beatings

Jesus scourged and beaten

Jesus scourged and beaten

Pilate ordered a flogging and Jesus was whipped with a flagellum, which consisted of small pieces of metal and bone tied to strips of leather while tied to a post. Each crack of the whip would have stripped off flesh, exposing muscle and tissue and resulting in major blood loss. This came after several beatings during His trials, and the exhausting 2.5 mile walk from Gethsemane the night before. Roman authorities did not limit the number of whips either, though the exact number of times Jesus was whipped was not recorded in the gospels. However, we can conclude that it was a rather severe flogging given that Pilate had hope that the beating alone would appease the Jews.

After the beating, Jesus was led inside and brought before a band of soldiers who dressed him in a “scarlet robeplaited a crown of thorns” and “put it upon his head, and” placed “a reed [rod or staff] in his right hand“. “They bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!” – Matthew 27:28-31. After this, the soldiers took the rod from Him and beat Him on the head, while spitting in His face. Isaiah 50:6 indicates that they may also have pulled hair from His beard. “… and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair…”. This further indicates the severity of the beating, performed just after a brutal flogging. The beating on his head would further drive the crown of thorns into his scalp, causing copious amounts of blood to spill since the scalp is one of the most vascular parts of the body.  Isaiah further comments on the severity in 52:14, which states: “As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.” This indicates that He was beaten to the point where he could no longer be recognized as a human being! After this, the soldiers removed the robe and returned Him to Pilate. We can assume that the soldiers were rather careless when they removed the robe, and we can assume by this point that the robe would have adhered to the clots and serum in the wounds from the flogging and when it was torn from His body, it would cause excruciating pain as the wounds were torn back open and intense bleeding would resume, resulting in further loss of blood.

Jesus has now suffered a brutal flogging, savage beatings and mocking, all resulting in further psychological damage, and massive blood and fluid loss. The flogging itself would have killed any normal man, but Jesus survived, only to be beaten further by Roman soldiers. He was allowed no rest during this ordeal and was dragged from location to location until it was time to be crucified.

The Crucifixion

Jesus Crucified

Jesus Crucified

The normal custom for crucifixion is for the offender to carry his own cross to the place of execution. John 19:17 corroborates this, telling us: “And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha.” The other three gospels indicate that a man named Simon, a Cyrenian, carried Jesus’ cross. Luke 23:26 indicates that Simon was to carry the cross “after Jesus“, most likely meaning that Jesus began carrying it but was unable to continue due to the blood loss, pain, and exhaustion from the flogging and beatings. This cross would have been tied across his shoulders, the weight settling on His back. Most likely, He was made to carry only the patibulum, or the cross-arm section of the cross, as the primary post was usually affixed permanently in the ground at the execution site. However, just the patibulum would have weighed at least 110 pounds, give or take. The walk from the palace to the crucifixion site was around 650 yards, much of it uphill. The rough wood of the beam would have cut into his lacerated skin, causing further pain. After reaching the site, Jesus was offered some wine mixed with myrrh which would have dulled the pain, however, He refused it (Mark 15:23, Matthew 27:34, Luke 23:36). The patibulum was then thrown down, Jesus roughly thrown down on top of it. One arm was pulled into place and a square cast iron nail is driven through His wrist. The same is done to His other arm, making sure that the arms aren’t too tight against the wood, leaving some leeway. The patibulum would now be raised into place on the stipes and his feet are then nailed into place. Jesus’ exhausted body would sag downward, causing excruciating pain to explode into His brain from the nails in His wrist putting pressure on the median nerves.

To counter this, He would attempt to push himself upward to relieve the stretching torment. However, the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves in His feet would begin. Eventually the muscles in His arms would begin to fatigue, causing cramps in His muscles, resulting in a deep knotting, throbbing pain. These cramps would prevent Him from being able to pull upward, again causing Him to sag, hanging by only His arms. The tissue from His lacerated back would be torn from it as He moved up and down against the rough timber of the cross. Suffering for hours from cramps, searing nerve pain, and partial asphyxiation, He utters His last recorded words. He looks down upon the Roman soldiers throwing dice for His tattered garments and says: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34. He then looks to the thief hanging next to Him and says: “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise…” – Luke 23:43. He then looks to the grief stricken and horrified John and says: “Behold thy mother!” and to his mother: “Behold thy son!“. – John 19:26-27. And finally, He speaks to His father in Heaven: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34. This represented His final cry of anguish as God could no longer look upon Him while He carried the entirety of mankind’s sin upon Him. In John 19:28-30, Jesus also stated : “I thirst“. By this point, a terrible crushing pain is felt in His chest as His pericardium fills with fluid and begins to compress the heart. The loss of tissue fluids has reached critical levels, His heart is now attempting to pump a thick, sluggish blood through His veins, His tortured lungs are desperately trying to pull in small gasps of air, and dehydration fully sets in. The Romans bring Him a sponge filled with vinegar and put it to His lips. It is unclear as to whether or not He actually partakes of it. He can feel His body finally shutting down, and utters in what could only be a barely audible whisper: “It is finished.” – John 19:30. He more than likely was referring to His ministry and His purpose for being rather than His ordeal. His only complaint throughout all this suffering was “I thirst“. With one final surge of strength, He stretches up on His cross and cries: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit…” – Luke 23:46. It was then, His suffering ended.

Commonly, crucifixion was ended by crurifracture, or the breaking of the legs, preventing the victim from pushing himself upwards and relieving the pressure on the chest. Thus, rapid suffocation would occur. The two thieves crucified with Jesus had their legs broken, but when they arrived at Jesus they saw that it was not necessary. To be sure, they pierced His side with a spear upward between the ribs into the heart. “And forthwith came there out blood and water.” – John 19:34. This is evidence to support the theory that Jesus did not die normally on the cross but rather by heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart from fluid in the pericardium.

Conclusion

Given the violent, agonizing, and torturous manner of Jesus’ death, and the fact that he carried Himself through it with dignity, and with strength no normal person could have, I consider Jesus to be the real life Superman. And if ever there is a case to be made for the true meaning of love, we need only look at the crucifixion for the answer. Why would a man willingly put himself through such torture? Jesus knew what His end would be, the ordeal he would endure. He had the power to stop it, yet didn’t. He willingly allowed all of what transpired to happen and didn’t lift a finger to stop it, nor did He even take any of the easier paths to His death. He did not submit to the rule of the Sanhedrin or to Pilate. He did not take the offering of the wine mixed with myrrh to dull His pain. It is uncertain, but most likely that He did not take the vinegar offered to Him even though His thirst was unbearable. He willingly suffered an eternity of pain for US, the very people who were condemning Him to such torture. Why would He do this? The answer is a simple one: LOVE. 

 

Published by Jay McAnally
Copyright © 2013
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11 Comments
  1. A terrific synopsis of what JESUS did for us all, and how God’s Son “asked” question to His Father and never “questioned” His Father. Big difference in the words–the Pharisees never asked questions nor did they ever really want the Truth. You laid out the FACTS very well and thank you for your diligence!.

  2. There is a song that I know of, (well not really a song) which speaks of the crucifixion of Yahushua pretty much as you have written it. I find it very difficult to listen to it, although I know that in a sense I should be aware to know just how much my Messiah suffered so that I could receive His life.

    Thank you for this timely reminder.

    ps. If you want the link to the video let me know.

  3. Wow, Jay, you’ve done a lot of work here! You must love studying!

    I find it amazing that God has so much love for us that He didn’t just trash us. He could have. He’s God. But instead of that, He gave His only Son to pay our price so that if we accepted that substitution, we could go free That kind of blows one’s mind. Probably most of us have never had someone who “took a bullet for us” in any way, so we don’t know what that feels like on the human side of things. But we have Someone who has done that on a much deeper level than just this life. Thanks for drawing our minds to this.

  4. Yes, I agree totally with theworddetective! Thank you for this.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. KING OF THE JEWS | VINE AND BRANCH WORLD MINISTRIES.COM
  2. Doctrine of Death – Part 2 | God's Word for Women
  3. HOLY WEEK PHOTO CHALLENGE THE CRUCIFIXION OF CHRIST | VINE AND BRANCH WORLD MINISTRIES.COM
  4. Quote of the Day – A Doctor at Calvary | Jack T. Scully
  5. The Crucifixion | I am an Author, I Must Auth
  6. My life, an offering « daily meditation
  7. Quote of the Day – A Doctor at CalvaryJack T Scully | Jack T Scully

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