Passion (four)

Jesus stood before the Governor, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Pilate asked him. Jesus answered, “You have said it”, and while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He didn’t answer.
Matthew 27:11-12

Legally, The Jews had authority in Moses’ law to enforce capital punishment in only three ways: Stoning, Decapitation & Strangling. Jesus knew he was to be crucified, (John 12:32-33), so he was aware of being handed over to Pilate before The Sanhedrin even did it. Why? Because only the Romans could crucify someone, and to get the Romans to do it, the Jews must charge Jesus of a crime only the Romans would take as capital. The idea of stoning upon the charge of blaspheming is mute because the Jews knew they had no way of practicing capital punishment in a corner, away from the public’s view and therefore must get concurrence from the Roman authority to execute the death penalty. See Matthew 26:66 & John 18:31. In this context, the stoning of Stephen, a few years later, was simply ‘mob rule’ action, Acts 7:54-60. The Sanhedrin did not, under any circumstances, want the massive supporters of Jesus to be rekindled and grow, and if they were seen to execute Jesus, that is exactly what would happen. Therefore it was essential to get the Romans to do it. Many political rebels were crucified by the Romans.

Legal Crucifixion: The Romans apparently learned crucifixion from the Carthaginians and rapidly developed a high degree of skill at it. A number of Roman authors (Livy, Cicer, Tacitus) comment on it, and several innovations are described in ancient literature. For example, the upright portion of the cross (or stipes) could have the cross-arm (or patibulum) attached two or three feet below its top in what we commonly think of as the Latin cross. But the most common form used in our Lord's day, however, was the Tau cross, shaped like our T. In this cross the patibulum was placed in a notch at the top of the stipes. There is archeological evidence that it was on this type of cross that Jesus was crucified. There is also evidence that patibulums were simply hoisted upon a tree and the victim’s feet were nailed to the trunk. Many painters and sculptors of crucifixion, show the nails through the palms. Historical Roman accounts have established that the nails were driven between the small bones of the wrists (radial and ulna) and not through the palms. Nails driven through the palms will strip out between the fingers when made to support the weight of the human body. The misconception may have come about through a misunderstanding of Jesus' words to Thomas, "Observe my hands." Jn. 20:27. Anatomists, both modern and ancient, have always considered the wrist as part of the hand. The victim crucified sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists sending pain shooting along the fingers and up the arms to surge in the cranium, the nails in the wrist are putting pressure on the main nerves. As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places His weight on the nail through His feet. Again there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet. At this point, as the arms fatigue, waves of cramp sweep over the muscles, knotting them in throbbing pain. With these cramps come the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot 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 subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. In this state, Jesus could make short sentences, and we have the 7 sayings on the cross in the gospels. A crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. At this point, Psalm 22:14 is fulfilled, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels." It is now almost over. The loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level; the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissue; the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain. Death is ensued.

The Roman soldier would then drive his spear through the fifth interspace between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. "And immediately there came out blood and water." (John 19:34). There was an escape of water fluid from the sac surrounding the heart, giving postmortem evidence that Our Lord did not die as usual in crucifixion by suffocation, but of heart failure (a broken heart) due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium. How many forms of execution would bring about heart failure? God’s heart is in His work of atonement. Because blood is always at the heart of forgiveness of sins, Gen. 3:21. Is our heart cleansed by His blood?

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