Some content in this post may be
inappropriate for younger
1. extremely painful; causing intense suffering; unbearably distressing; torturing: an excruciating noise; excruciating pain.
2. exceedingly elaborate or intense; extreme: done with excruciating care.
(Courtesy of Dictionary.com)
Ever since March 13 (the day I created CTGA), I have been very active in online ministry. Lately, I have been discussing Christianity with atheists (this has been going on for about 2-3 months) on a social networking app specifically created for iDevices called Instagram. On Instagram, you simply share photos. Photographers use it to show off their work, I use it to be goofy and sometimes promote the Gospel, and some use it to insult the reality of Jesus. I, like the crazy person I am, target these sites and share the love of Christ while answering their questions. A few days ago I ran into a picture that had on it a quote by an unknown author and it went as follows:
"Jesus hardly made the greatest sacrifice. He knew He would be resurrected anyway,"
I confess, I was actually moved and it made me thinking, and for once in my life, I agreed... for about two seconds. My mind went back to some of the sermons I've heard about the Crucifixion and to some quotes in books, that I've started (but never finished -.-) and it got me thinking "How great was the sacrifice?" I knew the cross had to hurt, but I didn't exactly know how much until one day I stole a book from my dad's office called "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel. I was just skimming through the book aimlessly until I ran over a chapter called "Was Jesus' Death a Sham and His Resurrection a Hoax?" I wasn't really pursuing this question but I just thought I'd read the chapter anyway. I read very gruesome details about the cross and how Jesus DEFINITELY died. Today, I want to share with you some of that stuff and how great the sacrifice really was.
Let's start in Gethsemane when Jesus prayed in the garden shortly before His arrest. According to Matthew 26:38, Jesus was depressed- extremely depressed, so depressed it was to the point of dying. He knew what was going to happen the next day. Let me explain some stuff about his depression. Luke 22:44 records that Jesus started to do something quite peculiar in the garden; something we would say is silly. He sweated blood. Many skeptics think that this passage is ludicrous and say it's just imaginary. Well, it turns out that this is an actual medical condition called hematidrosis. It's very rare, and is caused by a high level of psychological stress. If you want more details on it, you may Google it. But there was something else this episode of hematidrosis did, it made the skin fragile and extremely sensitive, keep that in mind.
After Jesus was finally arrested and brought before Pilate, he was whipped. This wasn't no ordinary whipping either; they used this little guy called the Roman whip. This little whip had a few metal balls and a couple bones. The metal balls would take care of making bruises and contusions eventually opening them, and the bones would do the shredding and cuts that would commonly expose the spine. Remember how the skin was extremely fragile and sensitive due to the hematidrosis. The Romans were very brutal, and mercy was a foreign language for them. Often, the Roman soldier would do more than 39 lashes; if he lashed too many times, the victim would surely die. 39 lashes wasn't the limit, it was just the required minimum, and the soldier doing the flogging could lash the victim until he got bored. At the end of 39 lashes, the victim’s bowels would be hanging out from the back and he would lose a ton of blood! History claims that there were very many people who died of the lashing before they were hung on the cross. The least that the flogging would do is put the victim though this thing called hypovolemic shock. What that is, is when you lose a ton of blood and your heart does funky things to pump blood that isn’t there, it causes lightheadedness and thirst. Remember that. Let's just say this; it was exceedingly laborious to walk with a cross on your back, colon hanging out, spine exposed, and a stinging discomfort. He passed out (remember the hypovolemic shock?) and the Romans forced a random stranger named Simon to carry his cross. And now, the real suffering begins.
I introduced you to the word excruciating earlier and now I want to tell you were the word comes from: there was no word in the Greek language that could describe the pain on the cross. They had to create a new word literally meaning out of the cross. Think about that for second. They had made up a word to describe the pain of cross. It was beyond painful, it was beyond torturing, it was excruciating.
Let’s talk about the nails. Many skeptics think that Jesus couldn't have been nailed because most historical art and stories say that the crucified victim was held on the cross by ropes. Archaeology has disproven that. In 1968 archaeologists in Jerusalem found around 30 Jews who died around A.D. 70 one of them was still on a cross and, lo and behold, nails were found in his feet. Now, about the nails, where were they in Jesus' hands? Most believe it was the palms, but due to his weight the nails would rip his hand and he would have fallen off the cross. The nails were most definitely driven into his wrists where there was a little nerve there called the median nerve. The nail would have crushed that nerve. This is where it gets painful; the nerve is the same kind of nerve that we know as the funny bone. So, imagine you have a pair of pliers and you decide to squeeze the funny bone until it crushes. That's what Jesus would've felt in both hands and both feet. Ouch x4. Using simple mathematical equations, we can also determine that Jesus' arms were stretched and that both his arms were dislocated. Hanging there, in order to breathe he would have to lift himself up with his nail driven feet, tearing his foot and scraping his open back against the splintery wood of the cross. Eventually, he would become exhausted and just stop breathing and die, or it could've been by the slow and painful death of asphyxiation. The exact cause is unknown.
Physical pain must have been monolithic, but even worse, the spiritual pain. Jesus hated sin. God’s entire wrath towards sin was poured out on to Christ. Think of your least favorite food, think about spending six hours having that food shoved in your mouth being forced to swallow, and when you got full, it wouldn't stop. The pain and the disgust would be tremendously high. I believe this is similar to what happened to Jesus' spirit on the cross. He carried our lust, our pride, our envy, our idolatry, our lies, our stupidity on a rugged cross!
Now, let’s think about God the Father in this situation. One of the most emotional moments I have had concerning God's sacrifice was one night when my dad (who is a pastor) guest preached at another church. In that sermon, my dad mentioned God's sacrifice and he said this (not exact quote), "If I loved a people who insulted me and I wanted them to know me, I would've sacrificed myself to die, but I would never send my only son". I am his only son, and from my perspective, if my dad asked me to die for people who hated his guts, I would have ran away from home thinking my father had gone crazy. It's absolutely impossible to comprehend, but it was necessary for mankind. But get this, He doesn't need us. He didn't have to do all that stuff at all. But He did. Why on earth He would want to, I really have absolutely no clue. J. I. Packer puts it well:
There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, he wants me as his friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given his Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose. (Knowing God p.42)
We can have unconditional love, but will we go to the point of excruciating love? Why would Jesus go through all that physical and spiritual pain just to make friends with his worst enemies? God is one of the craziest Beings the world will ever know, but I'm very glad I know Him. Let's worship!
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 NIV