For several weeks I want to look at what was involved in Jesus’ death. The first fact we learn from Christ’s death is that he physically suffered and physically died. Christians do not affirm that Jesus suffered more physical pain than any human being has ever suffered, for the Bible doesn’t claim this. But we still must not forget that the death by crucifixion was one of the most horrible forms of execution ever conceived. Grudem writes that the one who was crucified was essentially forced to inflict upon himself a very slow death by suffocation. ‘When the criminal’s arms were outstretched and fastened by nails to the cross, he had to support most of the weight of his body with his arms. The chest cavity would be pulled upward and outward, making it difficult to exhale in order to be able to draw a fresh breath. But when the victim’s longing for oxygen became unbearable, he would have to push himself up with his feet, thus giving more natural support to the weight of his body, releasing some of the weight from his arms, and enabling his chest cavity to contract more normally. By pushing himself upward in this way the criminal could fend off suffocation, but it was extremely painful because it required putting the body’s weight on the nails holding the feet and bending the elbows and pulling upward on the nails driven through the wrists. The criminal’s back, which had been torn open repeatedly by a previous flogging, would scrape against the wooden cross with each breath.’ (Grudem-‘Systematic Theology’)

The Koran teaches that ‘They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him’. Did Jesus really experience such a crucifixion? Yes. Although the Bible doesn’t go into all the details, all four gospels state clearly that Jesus was crucified. Moreover Jesus twice refused a drink of wine which would have helped deaden the pain (Mark 15:23, 36). And not only did he suffer the torments of the crucifixion, he truly died a physical death. All the gospel writers record Jesus’ death but John also reports that ‘one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water’ (John 19:34). Before he died Jesus would have had a sustained rapid heart rate that would have contributed to heart failure resulting in the collection of fluid in the membrane around the heart. The soldier’s spear would have gone through the lung and into the heart allowing the fluid to come out with blood. This medical evidence confirms that Jesus had died. So the first thing we must understand about Jesus’ death is that it involved physical suffering and a physical death. This suffering and death was real and a part of the payment for our sin if we trust in Jesus. The question is, was Jesus’ physical suffering and physical death part of the payment for your sin?

Joel Radford.