I grew up in a pastor’s home. I was taught what to believe. When I was 27, I went through this whole thing of whether it was all true or not. All the people in other religions thought theirs was the truth. What if there was no God? What if Jesus wasn’t for real? What if all this stuff I had been living, believing and teaching was a farce? Talk about identity crisis.
It bothered me enough to start searching on my own. I would get my hands on anything I could. I felt like a traitor when I was researching everything that I had based my life on. But, God can handle our doubt. Books such as Job, Ecclesiastes, Psalm and Lamentations show beyond question that God understands human doubt.
I was consumed with it because I wanted to know the truth. I studied so much to the point that I spoke on it for a conference and at our church. The book that helped me the most was Lee Strobel’s, “The Case for Christ”. He was an atheist turned Christian after his own intense research. My book is ear marked and rag tagged and one that I’ll always look at with a special affection.
I came to the conclusion that all the Bible is true. I didn’t just have to “feel” it anymore. There is so much evidence to show it. The funny thing is my parents never judged me for doing it. In fact, my dad would help me find books to use in my research. They would ask what I was learning. I would ask them if they had trouble believing ALL of it. They never wavered. They knew. One day I asked my dad, “How do you know?” He replied, as he looked at Annabelle in my arms, “Look at what you are holding.”
Thirteen years down the road I get it. I don’t need all of the hard core evidence anymore. He is the real deal. I know it now because of the evidence in my life. I have seen Him work miracles in my own little world. He has proven Himself faithful over and over. He has released me from fear and anxiety. His presence in my life is palpitating at times. Christ is my everything.
The part of Lee Strobel’s book that stuck with me the most was the crucifixion. It is even more precious to me now because I truly believe it happened. Jesus experienced this for me and for all of us. Let me share a little of my presentation from all those years ago:
Let’s turn to the resurrection. Many have suggested Jesus did not die. They say He lived through the flogging and the cross to say He had been raised from the dead. Let me tell you the events that led up to Jesus’ death.
He went with His disciples to the Mount of Olives – specifically to the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed all night. He was anticipating what was about to take place. Asking God, if possible, to take this cup away. He was under a huge amount of psychological stress. The gospels tell us that He was sweating blood. This is a known medical condition called hematidrosis caused by a high degree of stress. This also set up the skin to be extremely fragile so that when Jesus was flogged by the Roman soldier the next day, His skin would be extremely sensitive.
Roman floggings were known to be terribly brutal. They usually consisted of thirty-nine lashes but frequently were a lot more than that, depending on the mood of the soldier applying the blows. The soldier would use a whip of braided leather thongs with metal balls woven into them. When the whip would strike the flesh, these balls would cause deep bruises or contusions, which would break open with further blows. The whip had pieces of sharp bone as well, which would cut the flesh severely. The back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by the deep cuts. The whipping would have gone all the way from the shoulders down to the back, the buttocks, and the back of the legs.
As the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Eusebius, a historian, said, “The sufferer’s veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were opened to exposure.”
Many would die before they even got to the crucifixion. We know at the very least, the victim would experience tremendous pain and go into hypovolemic shock. Hypovolemic shock means the person suffers the effects of losing a large amount of blood. This does 4 things.
1) The heart races to try to pump blood that isn’t there.
2) The blood pressure drops, causing fainting or collapse.
3) The kidneys stop producing urine to maintain what volume is left.
4) The person becomes very thirsty as the body craves fluids to replace the lost blood volume.
We See these effects as Jesus staggered up the road to the execution site at Calvary, carrying the horizontal beam of the cross. Finally Jesus collapsed, and the Roman soldier ordered Simon to carry the cross for Him. Later we read that Jesus said, “I thirst” at which point a sip of vinegar was offered to Him.
Because of the terrible effects of this beating, there is no question that Jesus was already in serious to critical condition even before the nails were driven through His hands and feet.
When Jesus arrived at the site of the crucifixion, He would have been laid down, and His hands would have been nailed in the outstretched position to the horizontal beam. The crossbar was called the patibulum, and at this stage it was separate from the vertical beam, which was permanently set in the ground.
The Romans used spikes that were 5 to 7 inches long and tapered to a sharp point. They were driven through the wrists. This was a solid position that would lock the hand; if the nails had been driven through the palms, His weight would have caused His skin to tear and He would have fallen off the cross. The wrist was considered part of the hand in the language of the day.
It’s important to understand that the nail would go through the place where the median nerve runs. This is the largest nerve going out to the hand, and it would be crushed by the nail that was being pounded in.
Do you know the kind of pain you feel when you bang your elbow and hit your funny bone? That is actually another nerve, called the ulna verve. It is extremely painful when you accidentally hit it. So, picture taking a pair of pliers and squeezing and crushing that nerve. That effect would be similar to what Jesus experienced.
The pain was absolutely unbearable. In fact, it was literally beyond words to describe; they had to invent a new word: excruciating. “Excruciating” means, “out of the cross.”
At this point, Jesus was hoisted as the crossbar was attached to the vertical stake, and then nails were driven through Jesus’ feet. Again, the nerves in His feet would have been crushed, and there would have been a similar type of pain.
Immediately, His arms would have been stretched, probably about 6 inches in length, and both shoulders would have become dislocated. This fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy in Psalm 22, which foretold the crucifixion and says, “My bones are out of joint.”
Once a person is hanging in the vertical position, crucifixion is essentially an agonizingly slow death by asphyxiation. The reason is that the stresses on the muscles and diaphragm put the chest into the inhaled position. 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 nails would tear through the foot eventually locking up against the tarsal bones. After managing to exhale, the person would then be able to relax down and take another breath in. Again He would have to push himself up to exhale, scraping His bloodied back against the coarse wood of the cross. This would go on and on until complete exhaustion would take over, and the person wouldn’t be able to push up and breathe anymore.
As he slowed down his breathing, he goes into what is called respiratory acidosis – the carbon dioxide in the blood is dissolved as carbonic acid, causing the acidity of the blood to increase. This eventually leads to an irregular heartbeat. In fact, with His heart bearing erratically, Jesus would have known that He was at the moment of His death, which is when He was able to say, “Lord, into Your hands, I commit My spirit.” And then He died of cardiac arrest.
The Roman soldier wanting be certain He was dead thrust his spear in His side. The spear apparently went through the right lung and into the heart. When the spear was pulled out clear fluid spilled followed by a large amount of blood. We now know this is medical evidence that you are dead. John’s description is consistent with what modern medicine would have expected to have happened.
Speaking of the Roman soldiers, they were expert killers. it was their job, and they did it well. They knew without a doubt when a person was dead. If a prisoner escaped the responsible soldiers would be put to death themselves, so they had a huge incentive to make absolutely sure that each and every victim was dead when he was removed from the cross. Crucifixion was so cruel and vile that the Romans exempted their own citizens from it, except for cases of high treason. It was death that showed the inhumanity of humans.
Easter is upon us. As we celebrate His resurrection on Sunday let’s be reminded of His crucifixion on Friday.