Many people ignore or take for granted the idea that Jesus was crucified more than two thousand years ago.
However, the barbarism of that mode of death was and is one of the most cruel means of tortured death.
Today I came across this Medical Description of the Crucifixion by Dr. C. Truman Davis. These types of readings have been around for years.
If you’ve never had the chance to read this type of description it’ll be enlightening – however, the phrase “Happy Easter” seems inappropriate afterward.
You’ll see what I mean, portions of Dr. Davis’ article are excerpted below.
….Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic, pain-reliving mixture. He refused the drink. Simon was ordered to place the cross on the ground, and Jesus was quickly thrown backward, with His shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire felt for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drove a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood.
Quickly, he moved to the other side and repeated the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. The cross was then lifted into place at the top of the stipes, and the titulus reading “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” was nailed into place.
The left foot was pressed backward against the right foot. With both feet extended, toes down, a nail was driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The victim was now crucified.
On the Cross
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.
The Last Words
Spasmodically, He was 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 that are recorded in the New Testament….
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.
A sponge soaked in posca, the cheap, sour wine that was the staple drink of the Roman legionnaires, was lifted to Jesus’ lips. His body was now in extremis, and He could feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues…..With one last surge of strength, He once again pressed His torn feet against the nail, straightened His legs, took a deeper breath, and uttered His final words: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”
The common method of ending a crucifixion was by crurifracture, the breaking of the bones of the leg. This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; the tension could not be relieved from the muscles of the chest, and rapid suffocation occurred. The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when the soldiers approached Jesus, they saw that this was unnecessary.
Apparently, to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. John 19:34 states, “And immediately there came out blood and water.”
Thus there was an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and the blood of the interior of the heart. This is rather conclusive postmortem evidence that Jesus 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.
Again, after reading something like this, it’s difficult to say “Happy Easter.” While I’m eternally grateful and humbled – I’m not necessarily “Happy.”