Are you or your kids off from school or work on Good Friday? Good Friday is holiday that commemorates the crucifixion of Christ. Why call that good? It can be explained this way:
“You were dead because of your sins. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.” Colossians 2:13-14 (NLT)
As we begin a new series on Easter called, “Reasons to Believe,” there are many reasons to believe that Jesus death was not an accident. It was the plan of God to redeem mankind. Events about the death of Jesus are recorded in the scriptures hundreds of years before they occurred. Included in this post are some of the prophetic scriptures that record the details of Christ’s death. These scriptures are important because they validate that Jesus was the Messiah, (the Christ) son of the living God. Jesus had 456 specific prophetic facts to describe his birth, life and death! These prophecies were given 700-1400 years before he lived.
This post will examine the reasons Jesus died in the way he did. In addition to drawing from prophecy, history and archaeology, I will be quoting some portions from the Journal of the American Medical Association or JAMA.
We’ll start in the Garden of Gethsemane, before the crucifixion Jesus was under great stress: “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke 22:44:
JAMA says “This is a very rare phenomenon that occurs in highly emotional/stressful states. It is called Hematodrosis: hemorrhaging into the sweat glands. It leaves the skin very fragile and tender,” (perhaps like shingles).
He was up all night. How many of you have pulled an all nighter? How did you feel?
There were several Illegal Jewish Trials, to Annas, then Caiaphas, then the Sanhedrin – he walked about 2 ½ miles to these trials and each time he got beat up. They would blind fold him, and hit him.
What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered. Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?” Matthew 26:66-68
During these illegal trials they found him guilty of death and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor to be executed. Pilate resisted and knew Jesus was innocent but caved in to their demands because they were inciting a rebellion. Pilate ordered Jesus to be crucified.
The Romans first flogged the condemned person, which often left the prisoner near death.
Flogging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution; the instrument was a short whip with several length leather thongs either braided or single with lead balls and sheep bones tied at intervals. (Called a Scourge) The victim was stripped; hands were tied to an upright post the back, buttocks and legs were flogged. Two soldiers called lictors or one who alternated positions would strike with all their force. The iron balls would cause deep contusions, the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the subcutaneous layers, and skeletal muscles leaving “ribbons or quivering bleeding flesh” Down to the bone. Scourging was intended to weaken the victim and the severity was dependent on the disposition of the lictors.
“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.” John 19:1-3
“The severe scourging with its intense pain and blood loss left Jesus at a pre-shock state, and hematodrosis left his skin particularly tender along with the beatings by the guards of the priest, along with being up all night, lack of food water and sleep would leave him in a weaker than normal state. Jesus physical state was serous if not critical,” according to JAMA.
*Prophesy: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
* In this post I also want to include the Old Testament references to Jesus death and suffering (Messianic Prophecy). It is important to emphasize that what happed to Jesus was not an accident but was planned by God on purpose years in advance.
The Romans would often taunt or jeer their victim during and after the flogging.
“They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. Matthew 27:28-30
Prophesy: “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.” Isaiah 50:6
Now we are going to talk about the crucifixion itself. It was invented by the Persians, but perfected by the Romans. It was designed to be a slow death with maximum pain and suffering. Also the most disgraceful and cruel methods of death, prisoners were usuallly crucified naked. Roman law protected its citizens from crucifixion. It was reserved for foreigners, slaves and the vilest of criminals.
It was customary for the condemned man to carry the Ptibulum from the flogging post to the crucifixion site. The whole cross-weighed 300 pounds, only the cross bar was carried the Ptibulum weighed 75-100lbs.
The Romans would put the crossbar (Ptibulum) on the nape of the neck and tied it to the prisoner’s arms. He was paraded through the streets for humiliation and as an example.
The procession was led by a complete Roman guard (10-30 men), headed by a centurion. One of the soldiers carried a sign called a titchulus of the accused man’s name and crime. They wanted everyone to know the consequences of messing with Rome; a public display of punishment that you did not want. Just think with your arms tied to this 75-100 lb piece of wood if you fell forward there was nothing to block your fall and you would go right on your face.
“Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).” John 19:17 *1/3 of a mile.
Prophesy: “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter” Isaiah 53:7
Roman Crucifixion took place outside the city, usually on one of the busiest streets coming into the city.
So all could see. The Romans wanted to set an example.
“As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.” Matt 27:32
“As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. Luke 23:26
Prophesy: “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads” Psalm 22:7
At the place of execution the prisoner was thrown down and his wrists were nailed to the crossbar.
Ossuary findings (bones found and studied by archeologists) show that nails were driven through the wrists, not the palms. Palms would not support the weight. It was between the two bones in the arm, the Radius and Ulna. Nails were tapered iron spikes 5”-7 inches long with a square shaft. Journal of the American Medical Association says “when the nails were driven though the wrists it would sever or crush the large sensory motor media nerve causing fiery bolts of excruciating pain in both arms.” You may be able to understand in a very small way when you hit your thumb with a hammer or slam it in the door how it throbs or at the dentist and he hit’s a nerve-you come out of your chair. It would damage the ligaments giving the person a claw like grasp. The bar was lifted and placed on the stake, which was already in the ground. The condemned person’s ankles or the top of the feet were nailed to the stake. The knees were flexed or bent not straight down the cross. Journal of the American Medical Association says “The deep peroneal nerve and the plantar nerves would be damaged, same types of fiery bolts throbbing.” If you have ever twisted or strained your ankle. Know a small amount of the throbbing pain. Finally the sign identifying the person’s crime was attached to the stake.
“When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him” Luke 23:33
“Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. John 19:19
Prophesy: “A band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.” Psalm 22:16
The Romans normally crucified people naked and kept the victims possessions.
Not only was the person in much pain and agony it was humiliating to be exposed and displayed in such a cruel manner.
“When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” Matthew 27:35
Prophesy: “They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. Psalm 22:18
Prisoners were guarded until dead which could last several days.
Can you imagine? Several days! This was dependent on the severity of the scourging.
Commonly insects would light or burrow into the open wounds or the mouth, ears or nose of the helpless victim. Nothing they could do with their extremities nailed down. Also bird of prey would tear at such sites. It was customary to leave the corpse on the cross to be devoured by predatory animals. However by Roman law if the family got permission from the Roman judge could bury the victim. If not the remains would be thrown on the trash heap outside of town.
“When they had crucified him… sitting down, they kept watch over him there.” Matthew 27:35-36
Prophesy: “people stare and gloat over me.” Psalm 22:17
JAMA says, “The cause of death was multi-factorial. Loss of blood, exposure, dehydration, stress induced arythmias (heart didn’t beat right) congestive heart failure, water in the lungs. The two most common causes of death were exhaustion and the interference of normal respiration.”
Hanging there the diaphragm is affected, the victim could breath in but not out, therefore they had to push up in the nails in the feet, damaged nerves, Have you ever had an injury (injured foot have to limp, pain when you put pressure on it)? They would have to pull up on the hands just to get a breath, which would put pressure on the nails, scrape the scourged back against the rough cross. Muscles would cramp, fatigue would become so intense, eventually die of exhaustion and interference of breathing, gasping for air. If you have ever had asthma or breathing problems you can identify in a small way.
In every sense of the word crucifixion was excruciating! The word excruciating means “out of the cross.”
Sometimes the Roman soldiers shortened the prisoner’s time on the cross by breaking his lower legs. Because he could no longer push up for oxygen he suffocated faster.
“Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. John 19:31-34
Prophesy: “he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.” Psalm 34:20
Pictures and movies never catch the awful state that Jesus was in (perhaps The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson was close! ) smooth body, clean, he was a bloody pulp, a mess, beaten over and over again, scourging that left little flesh on the back legs and buttocks, beard plucked out.
They were appalled at him– his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness– Isaiah 52:14
14I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Psalm 22:14-15
We can never imagine all that Jesus suffered but; we do know why. The prophet Isaiah tells us,
“Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him (Jesus) and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life (Jesus) a guilt offering. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” Isaiah 53:10-12
In the Old Testament, people offered animals as sacrifices for their sins. Jesus is the Lamb (Isaiah 53:7) offered for the sins of all people The Messiah suffered for our sakes, bearing our sins to make us acceptable to God. What can we say to such love? How will we respond to him? You can receive his sacrifice, by accepting his gift of salvation. It cost Jesus everything, you can receive forgiveness today by thanking Jesus for his sacrifice on the cross, for dying for you, for forgiving you, ask him to come into your life.
This means that every time you feel guilty about something you did, Jesus suffered for that! Every time you say, “I wish I had never done that!” It’s paid for, stop beating yourself Jesus was beaten for you. Stop crucifying yourself, Jesus was crucified for you.
Since Jesus suffered on the cross, it is God’s solution for all of mankind for all of our wrongdoing. “Jesus is way truth and the life, no one gets to the Father except through him.” John 14:6 There is no need for your religion or good works. Jesus paid it all! Will you accept him today?
For more about how to commit your life to Christ go to
I hope you will join us on Easter for Reasons to Believe the Resurrection!