By Joe Smith
In the last post we talked about the restraint and selflessness that Jesus showcased in the midst of such brutal torture and humiliation at the hands of the Jewish people and the Roman authorities. All of that was before we even got to the crucifixion which is where we pick up now. I have been citing Lee Strobel’s book: The Case for Christ and I will continue doing so in this article.
We fast forward to a hill called Golgotha which is the site of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Jesus was laid down on the horizontal portion of the cross and nails “that were five to seven inches long” were hammered through his wrists. Those nails would have crushed “the largest nerve going out to the hand.” Jesus was then hoisted up and attached to the vertical portion of the cross which was already in the ground. His feet were nailed to the vertical beam crushing more nerves and causing excruciating pain**
Anyone familiar with shoulder injuries will attest to the pain that courses through your body, but we don’t think much of shoulder pain with Jesus and the crucifixion. However, while hanging on the cross, “both shoulders would have become dislocated.” The interviewee in Strobel’s book claims this can be determined “with simple mathematical equations.”
Death was close, but Jesus still had more to struggle through once He was up on the cross. Asphyxiation was the cause of death in most crucifixion cases. That is because the various strains “put the chest into the inhaled position.” I remember getting hit cutting through center ice and I took the guy’s shoulder square in the sternum. I took it flush and my breath was nowhere to be found. It’s a terrible feeling and Jesus would have had that the entire time He was on the cross.
So how did he last so long? “In order to exhale, the individual must push up on his feet so the tension on the muscles would be eased for a moment. In doing so, the nail would tear through the foot, eventually locking up against the tarsal bone.” This is what Jesus had to do in order to get a single breath! The pain He went through is inconceivable. Eventually Jesus succumbed to the cross, but as we know, death couldn’t hold him (Acts 2:24).
We have so much respect for hockey players that battle through crazy injuries all for the good of the team and their teammates. They deserve that respect, but when you compare what Jesus battled through it doesn’t exactly hold up. Why did He do that? Why did He go through that gruesome form of torture? He did it for you. He did it for me. How can we not be affected by that act of love? We can never fully understand it, but we can certainly appreciate it, be thankful for it, and accept it as a free gift.
Jesus gave up His life on the cross and asks that we give our life to God. Not to be crucified and killed, but to be glorified, loved and saved from eternal suffering. The communion cup representing his shed blood for me; I’d hoist that over Lord Stanley’s any day.
**(interesting side note. The word excruciating in Latin means ‘out of the cross’)