Death by Love
- Thursday, October 09, 2008
During the Last Supper, Satan entered one of Jesus' disciples, Judas, who had been stealing money from Jesus' ministry fund for some time and had agreed to hand him over to the authorities to be crucified. After Judas left the meal to lead the soldiers to Jesus, Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane, where he spent a sleepless night in an agony of prayer. Meanwhile, his disciples failed to intercede for him in prayer and instead kept falling asleep. At this point, Jesus was fully aware of his impending crucifixion and was so distressed that, as the Bible records, he sweated drops of blood, a physical condition that doctors say is rare because it requires an elevated level of stress that few people ever experience. It is also possible, if not likely, that this refers to sweat pouring from him as blood does from an open wound. Either way, only in the most horrifying experiences of life are such things possible, and this is the central point of the biblical account as Jesus faced the cross.
After Jesus' exhausting, sleepless night of distress, Judas arrived with the soldiers and betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Jesus was then arrested. He was made to walk a few miles to a series of false trials where contradicting false witnesses were brought forward to offer false testimony. Despite the absence of any evidence supporting the false charges, Jesus was sentenced to be murdered. He was eventually blindfolded as a mob of cowardly men beat him mercilessly. He was then stripped naked in great shame, and the Bible just says that they had him scourged.
Scourging itself was such a painful event that many people died from it without even making it to their cross. Jesus' hands would have been chained above his head to expose his back and legs to an executioner's whip called a cat-o'-nine-tails. The whip was a series of long leather straps. At the end of some of the straps were heavy balls of metal intended to tenderize the body of a victim, like a chef tenderizes a steak by beating it. Some of the straps had hooks made of either metal or bone that would have sunk deeply into the shoulders, back, buttocks, and legs of the victim. Once the hooks had sunk deeply into the tenderized flesh, the executioner would rip the skin, muscle, tendons, and even bones off the victim as he shouted in agony, shook violently, and bled heavily. Hundreds of years prior, the prophet Isaiah predicted the results of Jesus' scourging: "Many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind" (Isa. 52:14).
Jesus then had a crown of lengthy thorns pressed into his head as onlookers who had previously hailed him with shouts of "Hosanna!" mocked him as the "King of the Jews" (Matt. 27:29). Blood began to flow down Jesus' face from the thorns, causing his hair and beard to be a bloodied and matted mess. Later, if Jesus could have seen clearly through the blood and sweat that burned his eyes, he would have witnessed soldiers rolling dice to see who would win the prize of his robe.
Jesus' bare back and shoulders, though bloodied and traumatized, were then forced to carry his roughly hewn wooden crossbar of perhaps one hundred pounds to his place of crucifixion. The cross was likely already covered in the blood of other men. Timber was so expensive that crosses were recycled; therefore, Jesus' blood mixed with the layers of blood, sweat, and tears of countless other men who had walked that same path before him.
Despite his young age and good health, Jesus was so physically devastated from his sleepless night, miles of walking, severe beating, and scourging that he was unable to carry his cross alone. A man named Simon of Cyrene was appointed to carry Jesus' cross. Upon arriving at his place of crucifixion, they pulled Jesus' beard out—an act of ultimate disrespect in ancient cultures—spat on him, and mocked him in front of his family and friends.
Jesus the carpenter, who had driven many nails into wood with his own hands, then had five-to seven-inch, rough, metal spikes driven into the most sensitive nerve centers on the human body, through his hands and feet. Jesus was nailed to his wooden cross. His body twitched involuntarily as he screamed in sheer agony.
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