The physical trauma of Jesus begins in
Gethsemane with one of the initial
aspects of His suffering ...
the bloody sweat.
He says, "And being in agony,
He prayed the longer.
And his sweat became as drops
of blood, trickling down upon
Though very rare, the phenomenon of
hemathidrosis, or bloody sweat,
is well documented.
Under great emotional stress, tiny
capillaries in the sweat glands can
break, thus mixing blood with sweat.
This process alone could have
produced marked weakness
and possible shock.
After the arrest in the middle of
the night, Jesus was brought before
the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas,
the High Priest.
A soldier struck Jesus across the
face for remaining silent when
questioned by Caiaphas.
The palace guards then blindfolded
Him and mockingly taunted Him to
identify them as they each passed by,
spat on Him, and struck Him in
In the early morning, Jesus, battered and bruised,
dehydrated, and exhausted from a sleepless
night, is taken across Jerusalem to the
Praetorium of the Fortress Antonia.
It was there, in response to the cries of the
mob, that Pilate ordered Barabbas released and
condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion.
Preparations for the scourging are carried out.
The prisoner is stripped of His clothing and His
hands tied to a post above His head.
The Roman legionnaire steps forward with the
flagrum in his hand.
This is a short whip consisting of several heavy,
leather thongs with two small balls of lead
attached to the ends of each.
The heavy whip is brought down with full force
again and again across Jesus' shoulders,
back and legs.
At first the heavy thongs cut through the skin only.
Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper
into subcutaneous tissues, producing first
an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins
of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding
from vessels in the underlying muscles.
The small balls of lead first produce large, deep
bruises which are broken open by
Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long
ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable
mass of torn and bleeding tissue.
When it is determined by the centurion in charge
that the prisoner is near death, the beating
The half-fainting Jesus is then untied and
allowed to slump to the stone pavement,
wet with His own blood. The Roman soldiers
see a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming
to be a king. They throw a robe across His
shoulders and place a stick in His hand
for a scepter.
A small bundle of flexible branches
covered with long thorns is pressed
into His scalp.
Again there is copious bleeding (the scalp being
one of the most vascular areas in the body).
After mocking Him and striking Him across
the face, the soldiers take the stick from His
hand and strike Him across the head, driving
the thorns deeper into His scalp.
Finally, they tire of their sadistic sport and
the robe is torn from his back.
This had already become adherent to the clots
of blood and serum in the wounds, and its
removal, just as in the careless
removal of a surgical bandage, cause excruciating
pain, almost as though He were again being
whipped, and the wounds again begin to bleed.
The heavy beam of the cross is then tied
across His shoulders, and the procession
of the condemned Christ, two thieves and the
execution detail, begins its slow journey.
The weight of the heavy wooden beam, together
with the shock produced by copious blood loss,
is too much. He stumbles and falls.
The rough wood of the beam gouges into the
lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders.
He tries to rise, but human muscles have been
pushed beyond their endurance.
At Golgotha, the beam is placed on the
ground and Jesus is quickly thrown backward
with His shoulders against the wood.
The legionnaire feels for the depression at
the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy,
square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist
and deep in the wood. Quickly, he moves to
the other side and repeats the action, being
careful not to pull the arms too tightly,
but to allow some flexion
The beam is then lifted in place at the top of the
posts and the title reading "Jesus of Nazareth,
King of the Jews" is nailed in place.
The left foot is pressed backward against
the right foot, and with both feet extended,
toes down, a nail is driven through the
arch of each.
As he pushes Himself upward to avoid the stretching
torment, He places His full weight on the
nail through His feet.
Again there is the searing agony of the nail
through His feet.
Again there is the searing agony of the nail
tearing through the nerves between
the metatarsal bones through the feet.
As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps
sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep,
relentless, throbbing pain.
With these cramps comes the inability
to push Himself upward. Hanging by His arms,
the pectoral muscles are unable to act.
Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot
Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get
even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide
builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and
the cramps partially subside.
Spasmodically, He is able to push Himself upward
to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen.
Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending
cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as
tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and
down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins.
A deep crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium
slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.
The compressed heart is struggling to pump
sluggish blood into the tissues.
The tortured lungs are making
a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air.
The markedly dehydrated tissues
send their flood of stimuli to
Jesus gasps, "I thirst."
He can feel the chill of death creeping
through His tissues.
With one last surge of strength, He once again
presses His torn feet against the nail, straightens
His legs, takes a deeper breath, and utters His
seventh and last cry, "Father,
into thy hands I commit my spirit."
One doctor has called it 'a symphony of pain'
produced by every movement, with every breath;
even a slight breeze on His skin could bring
screaming pain at this point.
Apparently to make doubly sure of death,
the legionnaire drove his lance through
the fifth inter-space between the ribs, upward
through the pericardium and into the heart.
Immediately there came out blood and water.
We therefore have rather conclusive postmortem
evidence that Our Lord died, not the
usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart
failure due to shock and constriction of the
heart by fluid in the pericardium.