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
It was there, in response to the
cries of the mob, that Pilate ordered
Barabbas released and
condemned Jesus to scourging
Preparations for the scourging are
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
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
The small balls of lead first
produce large, deep bruises which
are broken open by subsequent
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 is stopped.
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
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
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
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 and movement.
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
As he pushes Himself upward to avoid
the stretching torment, He places
His full weight on the nail through
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
can't be exhaled.
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
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
Then another agony begins.
A deep crushing pain deep in the
chest as the pericardium slowly fills
with serum and begins to compress
The compressed heart is struggling
to pump heavy, thick,
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
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.