The Transcript: notes link below is for the “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ” document that Dr. Dean referred to in the lesson.
Giving an Answer – Part 17
Resurrection: Did Jesus Die on the Cross?
1 Peter 3:15
1 Peter Lesson #099
July 13, 2017
“Father, we are indeed so grateful for Your grace, grateful for our salvation and all that went into the planning, the preparation, and especially that which took place in the hours before the Cross, leading up to that time on the Cross. Of course, we rejoice in the fact that the grave could not keep our Lord down; that He rose from the dead. We have new life in Him, and we have victory over death.
Father, we pray that as we study tonight and we reflect upon this, that You will help us to understand the things that happened. And as the resurrection is a focal point of attack on Christianity, we pray that we might be able to formulate our answers for the hope that is within us.
Father, we also pray for these who we’ve been ministering to within our body who have had deaths in their families the last couple weeks. Gisele Dold as well as the Franklins. We pray that You would comfort them with the comfort with which we have been comforted that is mediated through Your Word. We’re thankful that we have You to comfort us and to strengthen us in times of difficulty, times of challenge, times of grief. We pray that tonight will be a profitable time for us spiritually as we investigate the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray this in His name. Amen.”
All right. We are in our 17th lesson in this subseries on Giving an Answer, based on 1 Peter 3:15. In our exposition, going verse by verse through 1 Peter, we have come to this verse. Many times I stop and pause, and we have four or five lessons on a particular topic, but I’ve never really drilled down and done a topical study on apologetics. So, I thought that was something that was needed and something important. The last few weeks we’ve been focusing on three basic questions that most people ask.
First of all,
1. Can we trust the Bible?
We spent a couple of lessons looking at the facts on that.
2. Who was Jesus?
His claims to be God, the fulfilled prophecy in the life of Christ—that He was indeed Who He claimed to be—the Son of God and the Messiah Who was promised and prophesied from the creation. Genesis 3:15 is the first prophecy of a coming Messiah.
And that He was exactly Who He claimed to be—He was the Lord, the Son of God, the Messiah. If you don’t believe that He is Who He claimed to be, we saw last time that there are only two other options. And that is that He’s either a liar Who is intentionally deceiving people, which doesn’t fit any of the facts, or He was absolutely crazy. He was a lunatic. He was a nut job. He was psychotic. And that doesn’t fit any of the evidence.
So, the only thing that people are left with is the naked truth—that Jesus is the Son of God. That’s Who He claimed to be and that’s Who He has to be. You either accept that or you just reject it.
One of the greatest evidences—if not the greatest evidence—of the truth of Scripture and the claims of Jesus is the resurrection. Because Jesus, as a prophet, prophesied His own resurrection. Most people just aren’t too successful at doing that. In fact, last time I had a great quote from Napoleon, which I was asked about. I traced it back to memoirs from one of the French generals who was on St. Helena Island with him during his final exile and published three volumes of the conversations with him during that time.
But it’s also reported that during that time Napoleon was asked, “What would be required to create a new religion?” His reply was, “Well, it would just be simple. You have to predict your death. You have to die. And then you have to rise from the dead three days later.” That’s the focal point of Christianity.
We saw last time that no other religion has a founder or leader that rose from the dead. Abraham is in the grave. Moses is in the grave. Buddha is in the grave. Mohammed is in the grave. There is no other religion where the founder died and rose from the dead.
Now the basic passages we will look at in a minute. Matthew 28:1–10, Mark 16:1–11, Luke 24: 1–12, John 20:1–18 all describe the resurrection of Jesus.
Regarding the resurrection … Wilbur Smith. Who was Wilbur Smith? This quote comes from a book that he wrote called, A Great Certainty in This Hour of World Crisis. It was published in 1951. Wilbur Smith was a professor of English Bible at Moody Bible Institute. He later taught at Fuller Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He wrote one work called, Therefore Stand, a book on Christian apologetics and another book on the super-naturalness of Jesus.
He wrote a number of scholarly articles that were published in different journals. But he had an outstanding concept of the pastoral ministry. His expectation for conscientious pastors was that they would read 100 books a year. That’s two a week. And his own personal library contained 25,000 volumes. That is the standard that every pastor should shoot for.
I’m going to take a plug here. We have so minimized the requirements for a pastor that you have to go through more training to be an electrician, an air conditioner repairman, or a plumber than to be ordained in 99.9% of the better churches. I’m not talking about the apostates, the off-the-wall people who get their ordination via the Internet or mail-in. I’m talking about Bible churches and Bible colleges. We have a low standard.
It was not that way 150 years ago. If you were on the frontier in America and you ran across an itinerant pastor, he would have his Greek text—and often a Hebrew text—in his saddlebags from which he would preach when he preached. And most of the people in the pew had enough understanding of the Greek to where they could follow along in their Greek text. That was back when Americans truly understood education, and respected education, and expected a pastor to be educated. And they expected the men in the church to be educated. And at least 10 or 15 in any congregation on the frontier were able to follow along in the original languages.
So, we, in our technically advanced culture, are very, very uneducated and ignorant compared to three or four generations ago. That’s why so many people can get deceived—they are not educated.
Now education doesn’t have anything to do with skill. A doctor is not educated; he is trained at a scientific skill. An education is what you get in a liberal arts degree, when you have read the great classics of literature and philosophy and theology. And that formed the core curriculum of every kid in America. You understood rhetoric—that’s the proper use of language and grammar. That’s the proper way to write. All of this was the core curriculum.
Once you destroy those core ideas that teach people to think and to reason and to communicate, you destroy a culture. When people can’t think anymore, they’re ripe for deception and they’re ripe for destruction. This is what has happened in the churches.
I was pleased this last week to learn that there was a Gallup poll that was taken recently and an article published about it this week on the Internet that said that there seems to be a turning point. In this recent Gallup poll, a much larger percentage than they’ve seen in recent polls of Christians are turning to a desire to have a pastor that teaches the Bible verse by verse. Now that’s a step in the right direction. But what I was pleased with is the guy who wrote this article said, “Now the problem with this is that 80% of these pastors out there that are determining what they’re going to do because of the way the polls run are suddenly going to adopt verse-by-verse teaching because that’s becoming the new popular thing to do.”
Then he said, “And if you’re a pastor and you do that …” Basically, what he was saying is, “You’re part of the problem and not the solution, because as soon as the next poll comes out and people want something else, then you will shift to something else.” The only thing that’s going to build real health into the body of Christ is verse-by-verse Bible teaching. Because then you don’t have a pastor who is teaching his little desires and his favorite hobbyhorses. You’re going to cover everything in the Bible and teach the whole counsel of God, and that only comes by verse-by-verse Bible teaching.
Wilbur Smith was a strong advocate of that and I don’t have 25,000 volumes. I’m not financially equipped to have had that many; counting the electronics, I probably have about 15,000. So, we have to be educated and read widely.
Now this is what Wilbur Smith wrote in his book, A Great Certainty in This Hour of World Crisis. He said:
“It was this same Jesus, the Christ who, among many other remarkable things, said and repeated something which, proceeding from any other being would have condemned him at once as either a bloated egotist or a dangerously unbalanced person.”
What argument was that that he just referenced? Lord, liar, lunatic. He just summarized it in slightly different words.
“That Jesus said He was going up to Jerusalem to die is not so remarkable, though all the details He gave about that death, weeks and months before He died, are together a prophetic phenomenon. But when He said that He himself would rise again from the dead, the third day after He was crucified, He said something that only a fool would dare say if he expected longer the devotion of any disciples—unless He was sure He was going to rise. No founder of any world religion known to men ever dared say a thing like that!”
Last time I went through some of these statements. For example, in John 2:18–19.
Jesus said in verse 19, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
In verse 21 we learned that He was speaking of the temple of His body. This was at the beginning of His ministry, so 3 to 3-1/2 years before He died He is already predicting His death and resurrection.
In Matthew 12:38–40, especially in verse 40, He gives the sign of three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, the sign of Jonah.
Then in Matthew 16:21 it says, “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”
In Matthew 17:9, He has told them, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”
In Matthew 17:22–23 He said, “ ‘The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.’ And they were exceedingly sorrowful.”
Matthew 20:18–19, especially verse 19; He would be delivered to the Gentiles “… to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.”
In Luke 9:22 He said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”
What was the disciples’ response? They did not understand it; as many times as He said it, they couldn’t compute it. They didn’t understand it; they were questioning what “rising from the dead” meant.
There are those who challenge the resurrection for many different reasons and on different bases. And the reason is—as I pointed out last time—as Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, that if the resurrection isn’t true, then we are of all people to be pitied. Because the resurrection is the greatest evidence of Who Jesus is and that He accomplished what He intended; it is the fulfillment of the prophecy.
Remember that we studied many times Deuteronomy 13 and Deuteronomy 18. Those two passages gave the Jews the criterion for discerning a true prophet, and basically it was that the prophet would predict accurately what would take place in the future. If he wasn’t 100% accurate, then he wasn’t a true prophet.
So, Jesus is demonstrating He is that greater prophet. Remember? In Deuteronomy 18:22 Moses tells the Israelites that a prophet is validated by the accuracy of his prophecy. Seven verses above (Deuteronomy 18:15), we find Moses’ famous prophecy of the coming of the greater, Messianic Prophet who is Jesus.
Jesus prophesies many times that He will be crucified, that He will be buried, and that He will rise from the dead on the third day. Not just that He will be crucified, but that He would be buried and rise from the dead and specifically when that would be. So, the crucifixion is critical.
We have to look at this from a couple of vantage points. One is the historical fact of the resurrection. Now, part of this goes back to what I covered three or four weeks ago, talking about “Who is Jesus?” the historical reality, the historical attestation that Jesus of Nazareth actually lived.
Because there are some people who still claim, as I pointed out at that time, that Jesus never existed, that it was all made up. But there’s too much evidence. There’s extra-biblical evidence from people who were not sympathetic to Christianity or the Bible who clearly affirmed the existence of God at that time.
I gave you quotes from people like Pliny the younger, from Suetonius, from Tacitus, and also from Josephus, as well as some others that attest to the historical existence of Jesus. In the same way, you have, in a couple of those quotes, those references to the resurrection of Jesus, or at least the understanding that something miraculous happened. Even though they may not have said specifically what it was, they indicated something quite unusual had taken place.
There are some other statements that are made by some early church fathers. I don’t want to go too late because once you get two or three generations removed those church fathers are just believing what the Bible says. But we want to look at the evidence from just after the completion of the Scripture. So, I have, basically, three or four quotes here. One is from Clement of Rome.
Clement is really the earliest known pastor in Rome. Later he’s claimed to be—not the first pope—because the first Pope, of course, is who? They think it was Peter. By the way, did you hear today that the spokesperson for the Pope said that the most dangerous people in the world are conservative evangelicals and conservative Catholics? Now, the reason for that is because conservative Catholics and conservative evangelicals are the ones who are standing in opposition to all of the social justice movements and this present pope. The upper echelons of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as many other groups, are committed to social justice, which is just a code word for pure Marxism and communism.
But Clement is the first known pastor or bishop of Rome. He wrote an epistle to the Corinthians, and it’s dated somewhere around AD 80 to 90. So, the Apostle John is still alive—probably none of the others at that time. But he would have known Peter; he would have known Paul. He was probably taught by both of them, because they died approximately 20 years before he wrote this. He says, “The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ …” He was an eyewitness; he heard the apostolic message. “… Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming …”
About that same time, you have writings by Josephus in his book, The Antiquities of the Jews. I quoted from him a couple of classes back. At that time, I took out parts of it because they are disputed. However, I’m leaving those parts in now. There was a reason. Let’s just treat the quote as it was without these other disputed sections, because even without the disputed sections he attests to the existence of a historical person, Jesus of Nazareth.
But this is putting it in there, and this is what the full quote states, “And when Pilate had condemned him to the cross, upon his impeachment by the principal man among us [by the principal men among us, really], those who had loved him from the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive on the third day [this is Josephus], the divine prophets having spoken these and thousands of other wonderful things about him.” Now that is disputed.
I’m not a Josephus scholar, but what’s interesting about this quote is that this quote—even though it could have been added—was quoted by Eusebius around 320 in his Ecclesiastical History. Eusebius of Caesarea was one of the major theologians in the early 300s in the early fourth century, who wrote a history of the church up to that time. He quotes Josephus, and he quotes this passage from Josephus. So that’s there, at least at that time.
There is another series—some of you may have seen it—called the Loeb Classical Library. This is published, I think, by Harvard, and it is considered the scholarly works of all kinds of different people—the critical editions of Caesar, Cicero, and Lord knows who else—everybody down through the ages. So, they have the definitive classical scholarly work on Josephus. I understand it’s not a translation by William Whiston, which is the one most of us get; it is a more recent translation. But they include this passage as legitimate. So even though there are some who contend that this wasn’t in the original, obviously there are some people, some scholars, who do not have a Christian agenda, who do accept it as legitimate.
There is another quote from Ignatius. Ignatius was the Bishop of Antioch. Antioch was the oldest church. Remember, Antioch is a city where they were first called Christians. Antioch was up in what is today Syria. Ignatius was arrested, and he was taken to Rome where he was martyred, and along the way he wrote several epistles to different churches that are quite valuable for understanding what was believed at that time.
He also wrote to a man named Polycarp. He knew Polycarp because both Ignatius and Polycarp were personally trained and taught by the Apostle John. So that’s another person who is getting the eyewitness report from one of the men who was at the empty tomb. He says, “He was crucified and died under Pontius Pilate. He really, and not merely in appearance …” See, by that time that heresy called Docetism had come in, where Jesus didn’t actually die—it just appeared that way. That’s kind of been picked up by the Muslims, by Islam.
Islam believes Jesus didn’t die. He left. This was a substitute person who died. So, Jesus didn’t really physically die on the cross. So, Ignatius says differently. “… not merely in appearance, was crucified, and died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. He also rose again in three days.” And later he says, “On the day of the preparation [that would be Friday—preparation for Shabbat], then, at the third hour, He received the sentence from Pilate, the Father permitting that to happen; at the sixth hour He was crucified; at the ninth hour He gave up the ghost; and before sunset He was buried. During the Sabbath He continued under the earth in the tomb in which Joseph of Arimathaea had laid Him. … He really died, and was buried, and rose from the dead.”
Then Polycarp, who I just mentioned, also a disciple of the Apostle John, said the Lord Jesus Christ, “endured to come so far as to death for our sins, whom God raised, having loosed the pains of death.”
Now all of these are written before AD 120. So, within the 90 years after the death of Christ, you have the eyewitness accounts of the Gospels, you have the accounts of the Apostle Paul and Luke in Acts, who were there to interview eyewitnesses in Israel at the time, and then you have their students who all believe this.
Now let’s put this in a historical context. All of these writings are written within a period of anywhere from 30 to 90 years after the death of Christ. Let’s say somebody came along today and wrote an apocryphal biography of President John F. Kennedy and claimed that he rose from the dead or claimed that he prayed and there were some miracles that happened. All of us who were alive at that time would completely scoff at all of those contentions and laugh about it, because we were alive at the time. That’s the same thing with the Gospel accounts and with these other writers; they made these claims and wrote their comments during a time when eyewitnesses were still alive and could easily refute their claims. And, of course, that did not happen.
What I want to look at tonight is this topic of Jesus’ death. And the reason this is important, to look at the historical reality of Jesus’ death, before you can be resurrected you have to die. A couple of the ways to try to get around the truth of the resurrection is the claim that either:
a) Jesus didn’t really die on the cross. That’s called the swoon theory: that He passed out
b) Or that His body was stolen.
We will address the body-stolen idea next time, but today I want us to think through what the Bible says, what the historical records tell us, about the death of Jesus. So, we will break this down in terms of looking at what happened before His death, prior to the crucifixion, what happened at the time of the crucifixion, and what happened after the crucifixion. We’re just going to look at those three things. We’ll get right up to the burial, and then we will come back and talk about the evidence of the burial next time.
What we see is that before the crucifixion Jesus had suffered incredible emotional distress as described in the Scriptures. One of the passages that we will look at in Luke 22:44, which talks about Him sweating blood, gives evidence of the intensity of that emotional distress. It is a medical condition that is known as hematidrosis, and this is when the pressure is so great that the blood in the capillaries just under the skin push out. The pressure is so great that it’s pushed out through the skin, and the person sweats blood. And at that same time that He is undergoing that distress in the Garden of Gethsemane, He’s betrayed by one of His closest friends. All of His friends will leave Him just after that, and then He will begin to endure several beatings—physical beatings.
What we’re told in the Scripture is that as He was at Gethsemane, He departed from the main group of disciples and He took Peter, James, and John with Him to go off by Himself where He would pray. He left them as sort of a guard, and He separated from them where He went to pray. So, we’re told in Matthew 26:37–38, “And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.” The verb there for “sorrowful” is based on the root word LUPEO, which is the word for sorrow and for grief. It can also have the idea of anxiety.
This is a tough concept for a lot of Christians to deal with, because we know Jesus did not sin. So, grieving and being sorrowful in and of itself is not a sin. That’s what Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4 when he’s asked the question, “What about Christians who die? What happens to them?” He says, “Well, we grieve, but not like those who have no hope.” The grief, the sorrow and the emotion in and of itself are not necessarily sinful; it’s what we do with it when it becomes sinful.
That’s why I pointed out when we studied in the Psalms many times that David expresses his anger to God. It’s not that he stays angry with God. But things happened, and he responds with frustration, with anger, and he says, “God, I just don’t understand what’s going on.” And I’ve pointed out that that’s important for us to be honest with God. Not to just say, “Oh, well—must be Your will—it’s okay.” We’re not being honest with God or ourselves.
But you don’t just end there. You don’t stay angry. The Psalms give us a process whereby the believer moves from being angry, upset, confused, anxious, and thinks through the character of God, the plan of God, the purpose of God. As you read through those psalms, you see how David gets his mind re-focused as he thinks through the character, the plan, the purpose of God. By the end of the Psalm, he is expressing his joy and his praise for God.
That’s how the believer is supposed to handle these unpleasant emotions that we get at times—the sorrow, the grief. Jesus is doing that. He’s experiencing the sorrow that comes from the intensity of being betrayed and His anticipation of what’s going to happen at the Cross. What does He do about it? He doesn’t rant and rave, and He doesn’t blow off steam. He goes and He talks to the Father about it. He is in prayer about it.
Verse 37 says, “… He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.” In verse 38, “Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.’ ” Of course, we know they fell asleep. He had to come back three times. “What? You guys are sleeping on the job?” Then He would go back and pray some more.
Luke 22:44 tells us that He was in agony. This is an extremely intense emotional time. “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” As I said, it’s a genuine, medically known phenomenon. It is rare, and it’s called hematidrosis. It occurs with people who are in a highly emotional state.
Now I am going to be quoting several times from an article by a medical doctor by the name of Edwards and a number of others; it was a group effort. It was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in March 21, 1986. It is uploaded and attached to this lesson on the website, so people can read it. There are a number of different articles like this; you can search for them on the Internet and find some. But they are fascinating—a doctor looking at the medical realities of crucifixion and what’s happening during these last hours of Christ’s life.
According to this article, Luke’s description supports the diagnosis of hematidrosis rather than other options. Although some authors have suggested that hematidrosis produced some other things, it was more likely that Jesus’ actual blood loss with hematidrosis was minimal. So, He is not bleeding to death. This is something that is quite minimal.
But the impact of it in the cool night air in Jerusalem—this is the first week of April—would have produced chills. It not only would have produced chills; it produces a weakening and a thinning of the skin. Now if you think about what’s coming up with the beatings and the flogging all of that begins to set the stage for just the horrors that He is going to go through physically.
Then He’s arrested, and He has to go on trial. There are going to be six trials. He is taken from the Garden of Gethsemane to the house of Annas who was the genuine High Priest, but he had been removed from office by the Romans and replaced by his son-in-law Caiaphas.
Let’s look at a map here. This gives us a picture of what we call the Old City today in Jerusalem. I’ve blown it up a little bit so you can see the scale, but from the east side over here where you have the Eastern Gate to the Temple Mount, all the way over here to the western side and where I put the arrow over here near where this map puts the Praetorium and Herod’s palace. That’s over by the Jaffa Gate.
Many of you who have gone with me to Israel realize you can walk that in less than 15 minutes. It’s not much more than a mile across. Jerusalem is pretty small—the old city in that particular area. This is approximately where the Garden of Gethsemane is located. This whole side, the western side of the Mount of Olives, is covered with olive groves; that’s why it’s called “the Mount of … Olives.” So, part of that was the Garden of Gethsemane, which can still be visited today.
Another thing I want to point out here. According to this map, which is from Logos Bible Software and I think is more up to date, current scholarship believes that the Praetorium, which is where Pontius Pilate’s headquarters were, was located over here on the west side of the city. If you remember going in the Jaffa Gate, you make that right turn, you down by Christ Church, and they have the Citadel of David. Right in that area is where Herod’s Fortress was; Herod Antipas had his palace, and that’s also where the Praetorium would be.
For many, many years, probably centuries, it was thought that this area here, the Mark Antony barracks—the Antonia Fortress is named for Mark Antony—is the area where the Praetorium was located. And that would have Jesus hiking back and forth across here two or three times, and that would, of course, be much longer. But if the Praetorium is located over here right next to Herod’s palace, it’s not that far.
They have Herod Antipas’ Palace here. You have Herod’s palace; that’s sort of guesswork right in there. They put the High Priest’s House down here in the Essene Quarter. I think, from what we’ve seen, it’s probably more in this area [labeled “Herod Antipas’ Palace” on the map]. The point is that He’s walking a lot—maybe a mile and a half back-and-forth the whole night—maybe two miles. Older commentaries thought three or four miles. So, it’s not as much, because these places aren’t that far apart.
Here is the site of today of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional location of Golgotha, and that’s less than 200 yards from the Praetorium. Some of you have been there; it’s not that far. We’re not talking huge, hour-long, even 15-minute treks; we’re talking five minutes to walk from one place to another.
Here’s another map. This map has the Palace of the High Priest here. That’s where I pointed out that it should be according to the other map.
Then this is a 3D map. Over here, this area of the upper right-hand corner would be where Gethsemane was located. Jesus would have been brought in, probably through the gate here that’s called St. Stephen’s Gate. That’s were Stephen was stoned to death. He would have come in this way, and then over here you had Herod’s Palace. This was where the Praetorium would have been.
Over in this area here is where the High Priest’s house would be. The High Priest didn’t live that far from the ... This was a walkway, or a bridge, that went into the Temple. It only makes sense that the High Priest is not going to be way down here somewhere where it’s more of a walk to get over to the Temple Mount.
So, He goes to Annas. Annas is the High Priest. And Annas sends him to Caiaphas. Then He’s going to be interrogated by Caiaphas. And then there’s going to be a trial by the Sanhedrin. Those are the three Jewish trials at the beginning.
After He’s interrogated by Annas, in John 18:22, we read that after that it happened, “… one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, ‘Do You answer the high priest like that?’ ” So, he hits Him with the open palm. That’s when the beatings—the physical beatings—began to start.
Then He goes to Caiaphas. We read in Mark 14:65 that at that meeting with Caiaphas, “Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him …” The tense here indicates it is just an ongoing activity. They’re starting to just beat the snot out of Him.
“… and to beat Him, and to say to Him, ‘Prophesy!’ And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands.” Matthew writes it this way, “Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands.”
Edwards writes in this article I’ve been quoting, “These physical and emotional factors may have rendered Jesus particularly vulnerable to the adverse hemodynamic effects of the scourging.” So, He’s not to the point where they’re scourging Him yet. You’ve got the hematidrosis; all of that weakens the skin. Now He’s being beaten, and all of this starts to break things down.
Then the next thing we see is that if we combine sources, there are two scourgings. I’m not going to get into all the details of this; we will get into this again when we get there in Matthew.
John tells us about the first scourging, and he doesn’t mention a second scourging. The others mention a scourging, but they say, “Then He was scourged and they went to crucify Him.” What happens in John is that he talks about Pilate taking Jesus to scourge Him, and then he comes back out to the crowd and says, “You want me to release Him?” And then he goes back to Jesus and has another conversation with Jesus.
Now, if the serious scourging had already taken place, Jesus isn’t going to be having much of a conversation by that point. So, it seems like there are two scourgings that take place—one at the beginning and one at the end of the last trial with Pilate.
“So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. Then they said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they struck Him with their hands.”
Now there are different words that are used in all of these accounts, words that indicate that He’s punched with a fist, some that indicate that He is slapped open-handedly, and others that indicate that He is just beaten intensely. But the intense beating, and the intense flagellation that is going to come, comes right before He’s put on the cross. So, all of this represents for us how the physical suffering …
And what does Isaiah 53 say? “And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.” He is being tortured and beaten unmercifully, yet He will not say a word. He says nothing whatsoever.
Now what happens at the second scourging is that He would be completely stripped down to nothing. Then they would tie Him around a pillar. Or they would have Him bend down over a low post. His hands would be tied so that the skin of his back is as tight as it can possibly be. Then the one with the whip, which is like a cat o’ nine tails, is going to whip.
This cat o’ nine tails has pieces of iron and bone and rock and glass woven into it; it’s designed to completely shred the back. It’s designed to not only cut through the skin, but to rip the muscle and the sinew off of the bones. These Roman lictors had experience, so they knew just how far to go. They didn’t want to kill the victim who was going to be crucified. They didn’t want to kill them before they got them to the cross. The idea was to take them to the point of death, but to keep them alive and suffering for maybe two or three days if possible. It was an absolutely horrendous type of death by crucifixion.
Here we have a picture of the type of scourging that took place. Over here on the left is a picture of the flagrum. It shows it has a short wooden handle and then the braided thongs with six, seven, eight, nine different strips of leather into which these bones and glass and metal balls are woven. The person would be tied like this to a post, and then he is worked over very precisely by the lictor.
This picture here is a picture looking down, so you’re looking down. Here’s the head. Here are the arms that are around the post. Then here is the lictor. This would be the left arm, and he is flogging from the victim’s left. He would also stand to the right so that they are driving toward the spine to just completely destroy; so it weakens them. There would be significant blood loss at this time.
1 Peter 2:24 refers to this, quoting from Isaiah 53. “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”
Wuest, in his Word Studies, of 1 Peter 2:24, says that “the word ‘stripes’ in the Greek text is singular in number.” We translate it with a plural as “stripes” or “wounds,” but it’s one wound; that’s what would come out. It is so horrible there is just one massive welt on the back. He says, “The word refers to a bloody wale trickling with blood that arises under a blow. Our Lord’s back was so lacerated by the scourge that it was one mass of open, raw quivering flesh trickling with blood, not a series of stripes or cuts, but one mass of torn flesh.”
Eusebius of Caesarea again describes crucifixion and says that the “veins were laid bare, and … the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.”
Isaiah puts it this way. “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our wellbeing fell upon Him [the word “well-being” in the flow of Isaiah 53 is talking about salvation], and by His scourging we are healed.” Healing there is not talking about physical healing.
Sometimes your healing evangelists try to talk about, “See, there’s healing for disease in the cross.” No—that’s a misinterpretation of the passage. Healing here is healing from the penalty of sin. So, all of this describes the scourging.
According to this medical article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, they write:
“As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive on the cross.”
So now we come to the crucifixion. In this particular diagram we see the nomenclature for the parts of the cross. The upright vertical piece is called the stipes. The horizontal piece is called the patibulum. This is called a tau shape, for the Greek letter tau. Tau like a capital T. There’s also the cross that we’re more familiar with.
When you look at this, the whole cross probably weighed over 300 pounds. Jesus probably wasn’t carrying the whole cross through the streets of Jerusalem. He was probably just carrying the patibulum, which would have weighed between 75 and 125 pounds. So, He would’ve carried that.
Then, He would’ve been lifted via ladders. That would’ve been lifted up on the cross. The cross wasn’t that high. Usually we see pictures based on the hymn. “On a hill far away …”; they have Jesus lifted up high. His feet were probably only six or ten inches off of the ground. They didn’t need to lift Him eight or ten feet up into the air. They just needed to make sure His feet wouldn’t touch the ground.
They would have nailed His hands first to the patibulum, then they would have raised that up on top of the stipes, and then they would have nailed His feet to the cross. Crucifixion was a form of torture that had originally developed in Persia, where sometimes the victim would be tied to a tree, or to a post, or impaled on an upright post. The idea was to keep their feet from touching the ground and to extend their life as long as possible.
Over time, they developed the use of a cross, a true cross as we see it. Archaeological evidence shows that in the Middle East, the tau-shaped cross was preferred by Romans. But we can’t say for sure what it was at the time, because this would vary from place to place, depending on some local customs.
In this diagram, we see how the nail was placed. It was placed just below the wrist. It’s placed in there where it would intersect with the ulnar artery and all of those nerves that were going through to the wrist and to the hand. If you’ve had any problems—as I have—with carpal tunnel syndrome, that’s just a minor irritation compared to the pain that would be endured when that ulnar nerve and artery was intersected by the spike as it’s depicted in this diagram here on the right.
Then when the feet are attached, usually we think of the feet being overlaid. But what we’ve discovered via archaeology is the picture on the right is a nail that goes through the ankle bone. Where it was more likely that the feet were placed on each side of the stipes, and then the iron spike was driven in through the anklebone. So, it would make it extremely painful to try to press yourself up as you were dying.
Let me read another section for you from this article. It says, “The scourging prior to crucifixion served to weaken the condemned man and, if blood loss was considerable, to produce orthostatic hypotension and even hypovolemic shock.” So, Jesus is going into shock. One of the things that they would try to do to alleviate this was to give them a mix of myrrh and vinegar, which He refused; so, He didn’t take an anesthetic.
The article goes on to say, “When the victim was thrown to the ground on his back, in preparation for transfixion of the hands, his scourging wounds most likely would become torn open again and contaminated with dirt. Furthermore, with each respiration, the painful scourging wounds would be scraped against the rough wood of the stipes. As a result, blood loss from the back probably would continue throughout the crucifixion ordeal. With arms outstretched but not taut, the wrists were nailed to the patibulum. It has been shown that the ligaments and bones of the wrist can support the weight of a body hanging from them, but the palms cannot. Accordingly, the iron spikes probably were driven between the radius and the carpals or between the two rows of carpal bones either proximal to or through the strong band like flexor retinaculum and the various intercarpal ligaments. Although a nail in either location in the wrist might pass between the bony elements and thereby produce no fractures, the likelihood of painful periosteal injury would seem great. Furthermore, the driven nail would crush or sever the rather large sensorimotor median nerve. The stimulated nerve would produce excruciating …”
Notice: ex-cruciate. Those of you who have taken Latin, break it down: EX-CRUCI. Where does CRUCI come from? Cruciform—cross—out of the cross. That’s where that word “excruciating” comes from—out of the cross.
So, it would produce “… excruciating bolts of fiery pain in both arms. Although the severed median nerve would result in paralysis of a portion of the hand, ischemic contractures and impalement of various ligaments by the iron spike might produce a claw-like grasp.” So that pretty much explains how horrible it was.
Eventually death would be produced either from shock or through exhaustion. It could also involve “dehydration, stress-induced arrhythmias, and congestive heart failure with the rapid accumulation of pericardial and perhaps pleural effusions.” That’s the doctor speaking. It was so horrible that one of the great Roman legislators and orators of the time, Marcus Tullius Cicero said, “Even the mere word, cross, must remain far not only from the lips of the citizens of Rome, but also from their thoughts, their eyes, their ears’."
Now we come to the death of Jesus. How do we know He died after all of this? The reason I’m laboring over this is after we understand how painful this was, how much blood has been lost, He’s in deep shock, how can anybody get the idea that He just passed out and woke up the next day and somehow crawled out of the tomb? It is not conceivable.
How do we know He died? There are two issues that come up. One is, “Why did He die so soon?” And the other is, “What was the ‘blood and the water’ or blood and the serum?”
He is put on the cross. John 19:32 says, “Then the soldiers came …” It was getting close to dark, so they needed to make sure that these guys were dead—the two thieves and Jesus. Because with sundown the Passover day would begin, it was going into the Day of Unleavened Bread and the Sabbath, which is when no work could be done; so they had to be off the cross by then.
“Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.” That’s a fulfillment of the prophecy in Scripture that just like the Passover lamb, no bone would be broken.
“But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately [John says] blood and water came out.” Notice what John says next. He says, “And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true.” “This is true! Believe me! Blood and water came out!” Now it looks to him like blood and water, but we know that what has happened is that the blood has separated into the red blood cells, on the one hand, and serum, or lymph, on the other hand. So that it is separated into what looks like clear fluid and then the red fluid. This indicates that death has indeed taken place.
This article, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” written by medical consultants at the time with the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, said that, “… the water probably represented serous pleural and pericardial fluid, and would have preceded the flow of blood and been smaller in volume than the blood. Perhaps in the setting of hypovolemia and impending acute heart failure, pleural and pericardial effusions may have developed and would have added to the volume of apparent water. The blood, in contrast, may have originated from the right atrium or the right ventricle or perhaps from a hemopericardium.”
There are several articles which attempt to describe this, but the bottom line is you died by suffocation. Because, with the pressure of the internal organs against the diaphragm, it’s almost impossible for the victim of crucifixion to breathe, to get the room in his torso to lift up. In order to expand his diaphragm to take in air, he has to be able to stretch up. And sooner or later they just give out; and as they hang and collapse, the organs internally are pushed together and they just have no room to breathe.
Once they die, you have this separation occur between the blood and the serum that collects above the diaphragm. So when the spear comes up it pierces that diaphragm, and then it comes out, in what would have appeared to John, as blood and water. The significance of that is that it shows that Jesus had died by then. That doesn’t happen unless you are dead; it’s always after death. So that makes it very, very clear that Jesus had died. All of the evidence indicates that by the time Jesus is taken off the cross, it’s very clear that He has died.
I want to conclude by going back to Isaiah 53:5 and following. “But He was wounded for our transgressions [the horrors of His death are due to our sin]. “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace [that is, our peace with God] was upon Him, and by His stripes [that’s by the wounds] we are healed.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” Notice: twice he makes the point that He was silent.
In verse 11, “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied [that is, God the Father will see the labor of God the Son and be satisfied]. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.” But it doesn’t stop with His death. He died on Friday, but on Sunday He will be alive again. Let’s close in prayer.
“Father, thank You for the evidence that we have of Christ’s death—the details that are given in Scripture, the horrors that are revealed which reinforce the reality that He did indeed die. And the necessity of having that information so that we can be sure that when He is out of the tomb, that it is not because He simply passed out or came-to and somehow dragged Himself out, but that He was truly dead, and that a miracle occurred. And He was given new life and He rose from the dead.
That is the pattern that gives us hope—that there is life after death. Just as He ascended to Heaven, so we will, in a body like His—a new body, a resurrection body, that will be ours for all eternity, not subject to pain or to sorrow, not subject to all of the mortal problems of life. But You will indeed give us this new body. It gives us great hope. And that is our confidence, our victory over death, because of His resurrection. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”