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Resurrection! – Fatal Torment

May 8, 2009

During the coming weeks we will be taking a break from studying the Gospel of John to take an in depth look at the central event of Christianity – Jesus’ Resurrection. Some do not believe that Jesus was resurrected; others believe his resurrection was not physical. We will take a look at the topic to seek the truth.

The primary source of this information is the Bible. The evidence for what the Bible says being true is extreme, but here are a few thoughts about the historicity of the Bible for your consideration. First the Bible mentions numerous historical characters that can be validated outside the Bible. The descriptions of some of these are very specific. Consider these examples:

  • “In the year that King Uzziah died…”
  • “This oracle came in the year King Ahaz died…”;
  • “In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Evil-Merodach became king of Babylon…”;
  • “They served in the days of Joiakim son of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra the priest and scribe”.;
  • (“This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria”.);
  • “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar–when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene–…”.

I could continue, but you get the idea. In addition, the archeological evidence, the original transcript evidence and the Messianic prophecy evidence is staggering. The Bible has exponentially more historical evidence than any other book, including Homer’s Iliad. Much more could be said about the evidence favoring the historicity of the Bible, but that is a topic for another day.

During the coming weeks our topic of study will cover four areas listed in the bullets below. My extra-Bible research is primarily from a book called “resurrection” by Hank Hanegraaff. If you wish to learn more about resurrection, the book is available for purchase at http://www.christianbook.com. Hank Hanegraaff heads the Christian Research Council (CCR – see www.equip.org). Thanks to Hank, our topic of study can be neatly arranged and memorized based on the acronym FEAT:

  • Fatal Torment
  • Empty Tomb
  • Appearances of Christ
  • Transformation

Jesus’ Crucifixion was Fatal

When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. (Matthew 27:35-50)

As we begin to consider resurrection, the first thing to recognize is that Jesus actually died on the cross. The best medical minds have concluded that Jesus actually died on the cross (See “The Crucifixion of Jesus: The Passion of Christ from a Medical Point of View,” Arizona Medicine, March 1965, pages 183-187 & “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” The Journal of the American Medical Association, March 21, 1986, pages 1455-1463.The torment of Jesus actually began before he was nailed to the cross. It first began on the Mount of Olives, one of Jesus’ favorite places to be alone in prayer. After an emotional last supper where Jesus identified his betrayer, Jesus likely experienced a medical condition known as hematidrosis. Tiny capillaries in Jesus’ sweat glands ruptured and he literally sweated blood.

On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:40-44 NIV)

The same night Jesus was betrayed by Judas, disowned by Peter, arrested by the temple guard, brought before the High Priest, mocked, beaten and spat upon. The Next morning Jesus was stripped and subjected to a Roman flogging. The Romans had perfected torture. Jesus was flogged with a whip made of several strips of leather woven with pieces of bone and metal near the ends of the leather strips (called a “flagrum”). Victims of a Roman flogging were beaten almost to the point of death and often did not survive. After he was flogged, the Romans put a scarlet robe on Jesus (a sign of royalty) and fashioned a crown of thorns for his head (likely made from olive branches – very long thorns). They pressed the thorns into his head and gave him a scepter. They mocked him mercilessly. After they mocked him, they took the scepter out of his hand and repeatedly beat him on the head, commanding him to prophesy about who hit him.

Jesus was undoubtedly in critical condition at this point. A heavy wooden beam (or cross) was placed on Jesus back for him to carry to Golgotha, “the place of the skull”, where he was to be crucified. We had to invent this word crucify and the word excruciating (literally “out of the cross”) to adequately categorize the suffering that occurs in death by crucifixion.

At “the place of the skull”, The Roman soldiers drove thick spikes (about seven inches long) through Jesus’ hands and feet. Jesus, now nailed to a cross, was in excruciating pain as the spikes cut through nerves in his hands and feet. The Roman soldiers then raised Jesus’ cross and dropped it into hole for Jesus to hang there and die. Breathing at this point is becoming extremely painful as Jesus had to raise himself up on his hands and feet to take a breath. For three hours Jesus suffered in this way until finally he uttered the words “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”He then said “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” and he breathed his last breath.

Shortly after Jesus breathed his last, a Roman soldier thrust his spear into Jesus’ side to make sure he was dead. From the wound rushed forth blood and water verifying that Jesus was dead. Blood and water flowing from Jesus’ side was likely caused by medical conditions known as pleural effusion and pericardial effusion. These conditions in Jesus would have been caused by his flogging as well as his crucifixion. What Jesus experienced resulted in a significant loss of body fluids. His heart would have begun to pump rapidly (trying to pump blood that was not there). In addition, his body would have begun to conserve fluids and would have tried to gain more fluids by making him thirsty. Those who suffer from these conditions often pass out and experience extreme thirst; which is probably why Jesus could not carry his cross all the way to Golgotha (a Roman soldier told a man from Cyrene named Simon to carry Jesus’ cross) and why Jesus said “I am thirsty” when he was on the cross.

I think from all this evidence we are very safe in concluding that Jesus actually died a physical death. Next time we will consider the Empty Tomb.

Father, I come to you in Jesus’ name asking you to forgive my sins. I am so sorry that Jesus had to suffer such a painful death to redeem me. I am extremely thankful that he suffered on my behalf so that I didn’t have to. Thank you for your grace, by which I am saved! Help me to glorify you in all I say and do and think. Thank you for adopting me into your eternal family. May your name be praised forevermore!

Keep the Faith, Jeff

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