Jesus' Suffering and Death
by Pastor Dan White
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“Even though Jesus was the Son of God, he learned obedience by what he suffered. And because his obedience was perfect, he was able to give eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).
The eternal salvation given by Christ to those who obey Him came through indescribable suffering. It is beyond the words of language to convey the horrible torture of what our Lord experienced.
I will make a feeble attempt to tell you the agony that was imposed upon Jesus by a mean and cruel world. And what makes the cross even more remarkable is that Jesus willingly bore this excruciating emotional and physical pain in order that He might have the power to give eternal salvation to all who obey Him.
There was the emotional suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. Agonizing in prayer, his sweat turned into blood.
In great emotional pain, the tiny capillaries in the sweat glands break causing sweat and blood to mix and course down the body.
Emotional stress causes physical and mental breakdown. Physically, the heart palpitates. The mind cannot control it. It is an involuntary response. A cold, clammy sweat accompanies the palpitations. In extreme stress like Jesus experienced, blood mixes with sweat.
All kinds of situations can trigger these physical symptoms of stress such as bad news from a medical exam, the death of a loved one, finding out that a spouse is unfaithful, conflict with others, job loss, and rejection. They can all set off the spontaneous physical reactions of stress.
Everyone experiences stress. But few experience the complete breakdown of the body as Jesus did. Under enormous pressure that was absolutely intolerable, his body had a complete breakdown rupturing the skin’s capillaries.
Judas had stormed out at the Last Supper with the intent to turn Jesus over to the religious authorities. His three closest friends slept while he prayed. He was hated and despised by the authorities. And, Jesus knew what was ahead. Yet, we still cannot get our mind around what He experienced in the Garden as He prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
Peter was the only one armed when the policemen, who had been sent by the Sanhedrin, arrived around 2AM having found their way through the dark night by carrying burning torches and led by Judas who knew where to find Jesus at such an hour.
The police were armed to the hilt as if to arrest a man carrying an AK-47, handguns, and an ammunition belt.
Peter drew out his short sword to fight back. He sliced off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus told him to put up his weapon.
Arrest by the authorities is a traumatic event even for a criminal. It’s even more so for an innocent person who is falsely arrested.
The police took Jesus to the Sanhedrin who waited for him through the night.
The first physical pain came to our Lord by a Roman soldier who violently slapped Him across the face because Jesus would not answer Caiaphas, the high priest.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open hismouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7.
Have you ever been slapped? Then you know how humiliating that is. Anger boils within and most are hard-pressed not to strike back or curse the abuser.
The Sanhedrin’s police demonstrated their utter contempt for Christ by blindfolding Him, taunting Him slapping him repeatedly in the face, hitting him in the face with their fists, and spitting upon Him.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not (Isaiah 53:3).
But, the humiliation had only begun. They intended to grind Jesus into powder and destroy His personhood by making Him into a nothing, a nobody.
Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand (Isaiah 53:10).
Not having the legal authority to execute a criminal, the religious rulers took Jesus across Jerusalem to Pilate’s court house as the early dawn streaked the eastern sky.
Pilate deferred judgment and had Jesus taken to Herod since Jesus was considered a Galilean and abided in Herod’s jurisdiction.
Herod, who was visiting in Jerusalem, wanted Jesus to do a dog and pony show - to perform some miracle. Jesus refused.
The chief priests and scribes breathed fire against Christ “vehemently accusing him” to Herod. Hate blazed from their eyes.
Herod’s soldiers, his body guards, jeered Him and mockingly clothed Him in an elegant robe - like a king wore.
Herod refused to pass judgment and returned the prisoner to Pilate.
Pilate asked the growing, menacing crowd for a verdict. Release the insurgent, murderer Barabbas or release Jesus? The crowd called to release Barabbas.
“Crucify Him!” the mob shouted. If you can picture the Muslims and the hate they have against America in their rallies with loathing in their eyes and with clinched fists screaming, “Death to America!” then you have a picture of the scene in front of Pilate.
Knowing that there were other insurgent Barabbas types in the crowd and with the religious leaders fomenting a riot, Pilate placated the mob and ordered Jesus to be handed over to a company of armed Roman soldiers (about thirty soldiers) to be executed by crucifixion.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken” (Isaiah 53:8).
The soldiers stripped away his clothes. Naked and humiliated, a solider tied both of his hands to a post above his head.
While Jesus’ hands were being tied, a highly trained and skilled soldier cracked his whip loosening himself up for the scourging he would administer to Jesus. The others then stood back to watch the show.
Swirling his scourge behind him, the well-conditioned, muscular soldier struck with all of his might.
The whip was made of three leather thongs or ropes connected to a handle. Small pieces of metal were attached to each strap.
The first blows created deep painful contusions turning Jesus’ back black and blue. First, the back, then the legs, then the shoulders. Over and over, again and again.
After repeated blows, the bruises broke open as the bits of iron tore through His flesh. As the blows continued without mercy, the whip cut deeper and deeper.
In a matter of minutes, which must have seemed never ending to our Lord, the scourge penetrated the subcutaneous tissue, the third and final layer of protective skin covering.
The subcutaneous tissue is a connective tissue that houses larger blood vessels and nerves. It is the last covering before the muscles are exposed.
When the scourge penetrated this third and final layer of Jesus’ skin, there was first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin and finally spurting, arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.
Once that level was reached, with each beat of our Lord’s heart, bright red blood spurted from his wounds that darkened when it met the air. When a wound reaches this point, immediate medical attention is needed or the person could die.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).
The officer in charge of the beating then stopped the onslaught to keep Jesus from dying. It was necessary to keep Him alive in order that He might be brought to public humiliation on the cross.
Jesus was untied from the post and slumped to the ground. He was already near death. The skin on His shredded back was now hanging like long ribbons. The entire area was an unrecognizable mass of blood, torn and bleeding profusely.
The Roman soldiers derided him. They saw Jesus as a great joke. They ridiculed him calling him, “King of the Jews.” They threw a scarlet kingly robe on his emaciated back and made him hold a stick for a scepter. Next, they reached for the nearby thorny kindling and made a crown of thorns. They took that “crown” and smashed it on his head causing blood to run down his face and into his eyes.
Our wonderful Jesus was an absolute bloody mess -a horror to behold.
The soldiers continued their mockery. They took the stick and beat him in the head causing the thorns to penetrate even deeper into his scalp. More blood flowed.
Next, they yanked the robe off of His back. The robe had already begun adhering to the clots of blood. The robe had stuck to his back and shoulders.
If you’ve ever had gauze yanked from a wound, you know how painful it is and that the clotting blood opens into fresh, painful wounds again. Jesus’ entire back was on fire with excruciating pain.
The soldiers forced Him to get up. They took the cross and laid it across His raw shoulders. Then, the slow procession to Golgotha covering 650 yards commenced.
By now, Jerusalem was fully awake. People lined the Via Delarosa. Many jeered and mocked Him. Others who had believed looked on with horror, shock, and fright.
Jesus, weakened from the enormous loss of blood and beaten to a pulp, stumbled and fell.
The rough wood of the cross gouged into his lacerated skin and his exposed shoulder muscles. He tried to get up, but his muscles had been pushed beyond their endurance. He fell again.
Not wanting to delay the execution, the Roman centurion in charge forced a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross the rest of the way.
Jesus, stooped, wearied, and still bleeding stumbled onward. His sweat was cold and clammy - the sweat of shock.
The crucifixion had begun.
Jesus was thrown down backward. The soldiers pressed his shoulders against the wooden beam.
The Roman legionnaire felt for the indention at the front of the left wrist, found it, and drove a square, wrought iron nail through it and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moved to the other side and repeated the procedure. He was careful not to pull the arms too tight. There had to be room to flex and move. Soldiers grabbed hold of the cross, lifted it, and then dropped it into the hole jarring our Lord and tearing the holes in his wrist creating massive pain.
Next, his left foot was pressed backward against the right foot. With both feet extended and toes down, a nail was driven through the arch of each foot, leaving the knees moderately flexed.
A sign was nailed at the top of the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews"
Jesus was now crucified.
Gravity caused Jesus to slowly sag downward. As a result, more weight was placed on the nails in his wrists. Excruciating, fiery pain shot along his fingers and up the arms to explode in his brain.
The nails in the wrists put pressure on the large nerve trunks which pass through the mid-wrist and hand.
As Jesus pushed himself upward to breathe, 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 his feet.
At this point, his arms fatigued and great waves of cramps swept over his muscles knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward.
Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzed and the small muscles between the ribs, were unable to function. He could draw air into his lungs with tremendous pain and effort and exhale by going limp. Jesus fought mightily to raise himself in order to get even one short breath.
With great difficulty and piercing pain, he was able to push himself up to grasp for air and then relax to exhale.
In these short, breaths, he was able to utter short phrases during the hours of pain he endured. Seven of them are recorded in the Gospels.
"Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do."
To the dying, repentant thief, "Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise."
After those words, a strange, supernatural phenomenon occurred. It was noon. The sun shined in all of its brilliance. Suddenly, the land was plunged into darkness. Fear, like the Japanese felt when the tsunami swept over them, paralyzed the city. The citizens of Jerusalem fumbled for candles. Business stopped. Lunches were not eaten. People on the streets felt around them like a blind man trying to find his way. Creatures of the night came out. Birds scurried to roost. The stars and crescent moon in its last quarter became the only light.
For three hours, confusion and panic reigned in the dark land.
No one could explain it. One minute the sun, the next the darkness. One minute the heat, the next a chilly night breeze. Even the priests were silenced. Their jeering stopped. Eerie silence gripped Calvary’s hill.
Knowing that His Father had abandoned Him, Jesus said, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4).
Jesus was now feeling the crushing pain of fluid building up in his pericardium, the double-walled sac that contains the heart and the roots of the great vessels. His compressed heart throbbed and strained to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood to the tissues
Grasping for every wisp of breath that He could manage, his breathing was more labored than before.
He felt the chill of death closing over him. One last time, he managed enough strength to push himself up by his feet to gasp one last faint gulp of air.
Then, a roar sliced the silence. “It is finished.” It wasn’t a yell. It wasn’t a scream. It was a roar. The Lion of Judah roared triumphantly, “It is finished.” And with that, His head tilted to the side. His body slumped. He was dead.
To confirm that Jesus was dead, a soldier took his sword and drove it between his ribs up into the pericardium filled with fluid. He pulled the sword out. Water and fluid from the sac around the heart along with blood poured out from his side.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).
At that moment, the earth trembled through the darkness. Rocks split. Houses shook.
The curtain of the temple that separated the Holy of holies from the rest of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom giving access to God through the sacrifice of Christ forever.
Simultaneously, the tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
It was all too much for the Roman centurion who had supervised the scourging and the crucifixion. He had joined in the laughter and mocking.
But now, the Roman captain stood before Jesus’ body and looked around at the rocks that had fallen and the sky that had blackened. He turned and stared at the soldiers as they stared at Jesus with frozen faces. He turned and fixed his eyes on the glazed eyes of Jesus looking down on him.
He professed, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"
Had the centurion not said it, the rocks would have cried out as would have the angels, the stars, even the demons. But, he did say it.
"Surely this man was the Son of God!"
From a distance, many women watched the hideousness of it all. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Many other women were there too. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons.
In their grief and shock, tears flowed like a torrent down their face. They wailed and beat their chests crippled in their sorrowful anguish.
The sun made its way into the western sky as evening approached. Jesus’ body still hung in ignominy.
Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus, appealed to Pilate to take the body and give Jesus a proper burial. Pilate consented.
Nicodemas joined Joseph. He was the wealthy Pharisee who had come secretly by night to talk with Jesus. He was also a member of the ruling council that had condemned Jesus before Pilate and Herod early that morning. However, Nicodemas was not part of that early morning scene. He had broken ranks with them earlier having spoken up for Jesus in one of their meetings.
Nicodemus gave the last gift to Christ. It was the gift of a Wise Man at Jesus’ birth - the gift that foreshadowed His death. It was the gift of myrrh, the spiced perfume used in burials to prevent the odorous stench that a dead, decaying body emits. Mixed with the myrrh was aloe. In total, the mixture weighed about seventy-five pounds, a very expensive gift.
Tenderly, the two men took Jesus’ emaciated body. They placed the myrrh and aloes mixture on to clean strips of linen and then wrapped it around and around the body like a mummy.
Near where Jesus was crucified, there was a cemetery consisting of shallow indentions, caves, cut from the rock for graves. Like all cemeteries, it was landscaped into a beautiful garden.
Joseph had previously purchased a cemetery plot for his own family in preparation of that date with death all of us have.
It was a new, unused tomb, freshly cut from the rock.
Inside that tomb, the two men laid the body of Jesus giving him a proper and decent funeral and burial - the burial that a man of means and stature would have had. After saying their good-byes, the two men rolled the perfectly fitted stone that had been carved from the tomb’s entrance to seal the interment.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth (Isaiah 53:9).
The women followed the two men forming a funeral procession to the graveyard.
They stayed at the site for a while no doubt in tears and grief. Some were silent. Others talked in low voices about the deceased. They remembered the good times with him and ranted against the injustice done to him.
Joseph and Nicodemas left the grave to return to their families and prepare for the Passover which began at sundown.
Mary Magdalene, the former prostitute who was once possessed by demons but was delivered by the power of Christ sat there at the tomb as the long shadows of the evening covered the cemetery. The “other” Mary sat with her. They were the last to leave.
Like all families and friends do after an internment, there is a return trip to the cemetery to see the flowers, grieve, and remember. But, Jewish law forbid such a pilgrimage to the grave on the Sabbath day. They would have to wait until the first day of the week, Sunday, to visit the grave.
While it was still dark with the first light of the new day breaking through from the soon-to-rise sun, the last two women to leave were the first two at the sepulcher that morning along with their friends, Salome, Joanna, and a few other ladies.
They had brought spices to again place on the dead body. They wondered how they would remove the stone since they didn’t have the strength of the two men who had sealed the tomb.
When they arrived at the sepulcher, they panicked in fear. The stone had been rolled away. Their first reaction was that someone had stolen the body of Jesus! Had the religious leaders who clamored for his execution hired a grave-robber to do the dirty deed? Was it a governmental official like Pilate who ordered the body to disappear?
They came to the entrance and peered into the tomb’s darkness to see an angel, a young man clothed in a bright shining garment.
Frightened, they placed their hands to their face. They had come to grieve at the grave for the One who loved them so. A totally, unexpected scene greeted them.
"Don't be alarmed," the heavenly messenger said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'"
After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:11.
And so, the eternal salvation given by Christ to those who obey Him came through indescribable suffering and was validated victoriously through the resurrection.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12.
Only through the suffering of Christ does suffering have meaning. Christ learned obedience through suffering And because his obedience was perfect, he is able to give eternal salvation to all who obey him.
Christ learned obedience through suffering. So do we. Suffering tests our love, faith, and obedience to the Lord.
We can either endure triumphantly - even thanking God for the suffering that comes upon us. Or, we can angrily fight against God, renounce Him, and declare, “If God is a God of love, why am I going through this pain?”
But this is a debate that we cannot win. We are the slave; He is the Master. We are the subject, He is the King.
One of the reasons for suffering is to learn obedience - to be and to do what God purposes for us. That is, to bend us, melt us, and re-make us in the very image of His Son. That image certainly isn’t a pretty sight to behold considering the bloody mess Jesus became in His suffering.
But in His emaciation are the attributes of God - love, salvation, patient endurance, humility, and so many others.
Suffering with Christ destroys our self-centeredness, our ego, and our pride and arrogance. It causes us to fall on our knees and look at the suffering Savior on the cross who redeemed us by His blood, forgiving us of sin, and restoring us to a right relationship with God.
Suffering with Christ is how the world’s temptations loses its grip on us so that we may live holy and righteous lives unto God.
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).
Jesus forever demonstrated His love by being obedient to the will of the Father in His suffering, crucifixion, and death. Living in submission to Almighty God through Christ is the only way to live. To trust and obey - there is no other way to receive God’s life and gift of eternal salvation through Christ.
In the Light of the Cross
by Ken Bible
May I live in the light of Your cross, Lord.
Shape my life by Your death for me.
May each day be a song of thanksgiving,
For Your suffering has set me free.
But Jesus, I bow, Your debtor.
You have bought me at such a precious price.
So I'll spend all I have in Your service
And my life as Your sacrifice.
May Your love be my lord and my master.
Keep my heart daily open wide.
Fill my words with a patient compassion
For each person for whom You died.
Rejoicing, I take Your cross, Lord,
That the world may be crucified to me.
Now I turn from its pain and its pleasure,
For Your cross is my liberty.
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