In the making of this post, I Googled images of Easter. Dozens of images popped onto the screen: images of rabbits, flowers, baby chicks, painted eggs, and a few childlike drawings of an empty cross. Not one realistic image of Jesus showed up.
What’s wrong with this picture? When did we arrive at the point where the true meaning of Easter is secondary to the “fun” things, the “cute” things, the things that have their origin in fertility rites and Pagan religion? When did we lose sight of the enormity of what Jesus did for us when He allowed himself to be nailed to the cross to atone for the sins of all mankind?
If you’ve seen The Passion of the Christ, you already know the horror of the flogging that preceded the crucifixion. The whip that was used was comprised of leather thongs braided together with metal balls and sharp pieces of bone. The initial blows would cause deep contusions that with continued blows, would break, resulting in deep cuts from the shoulders all the way down the backs of the legs. As the flogging continued, muscles, bones, and even the bowels were exposed. Blood loss was tremendous, resulting in a condition known as Hypovolemic Shock.
Is it any wonder that Jesus sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsamane prior to the crucifixion? That’s right. The Bible says Jesus sweated blood as He prayed fro this burden to be lifted from Him, if it be God’s will. Lest anyone think that’s impossible, it’s a medical fact that when a person is under unbearable stress as Jesus was, capillaries can burst, mixing blood with sweat — a medical condition known as Hematidrosis.
During the actual crucifixion, Jesus was laid on the ground with his arms outstretched, and His wrists (In Jesus’ lifetime the word ‘hands’ included both the hands and the wrists) were nailed with five to seven-inch spikes to the horizontal beam, which at this point was separate from the vertical beam that had been permanently set in the ground. He was then hoisted up, and the cross beam attached to the vertical stake. His arms were stretched to the point that both shoulders became dislocated in fulfilment of the prophecy in Psalms 22 “My bones are out of joint.”
The stress on His muscles and diaphragm put His chest into the inhaled position. In order to exhale, He was forced to push up on his feet (which were nailed to a small block of wood on the cross). In the process of pushing up, the spike tore through his feet, eventually locking against the instep. In order to inhale, it was necessary to lower His body just enough to draw a shallow breath, then push up once more to exhale, scraping His bloodied back against the cross. Eventually, complete exhaustion set in, and He no longer had the strength to breathe.
As breathing slowed, He went into respiratory acidosis (a condition in which the carbon dioxide in the blood was dissolved as carbonic acid, causing the acidity of His blood to increase, leading to an irregular heartbeat.) The erratic heartbeat allowed Jesus to know that the moment of death was immenent. Thus, His final words on the cross before going into cardiac arrest: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
When Jesus had drawn His final breath, a Roman soldier pierced his side with a sword. The tip of the sword went through His lung and pierced his heart, releasing a flow of blood and what appeared to the soldiers to be water. In truth, the hypovelemic shock which contributed to the erratic heart rate had caused fluid to accumulate around His heart (pericardial effusion) and lungs (pleural effusion). This fluid was what was released, along with blood, when Jesus’ side was pierced.
Normally, in crucifixions, Roman soldiers broke the legs of crucifixion victims toward the end of their lives to prevent them from being able to push up to breathe. This was done to insure that they would die before the Sabbath. Jesus’ legs, however, were not broken: John 19:36 “These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled. ‘Not one of His bones will be broken,’ and as another scripture says, ‘They will look on the one they have pierced.’”
The Bible tells us that Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body and placed it in his own tomb. In those days, tombs had a large rock which was rolled down a groove cut into the ground, to lodge across the entrance to the tomb. The rock was extremely heavy and would have required at least two strong man to roll it back up the incline, away from the tomb entrance. Thus, three days after the crucifixion, when Mary Magdelene and her companions came to the tomb, they were astonished to see that the stone had been rolled away.
The tomb was empty. God had raised Jesus from the dead. This was in fulfillment of the prophecy in Psalms 16:10 “Because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your holy one see decay.”
By allowing Himself to be sacrificed in our stead, Jesus bought us the right (paid for by His blood) to have eternal life. The only qualification is that we must believe in Him. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
If you feel the need for proof of this amazing story, I recommend that you read Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Easter.” It will set your doubts to rest.