In the 3-21-86 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) an article was published describing in detail the patho-physiology of Christ’s death on the Cross. It is the most, scientific, graphic and detailed explanation I have ever read and I highly recommend it to all who have an interest in what our Savior suffered on our behalf. The article is eight pages in length and well worth the time taken to read it. I can hardly do it justice in a short blog but I will attempt to summarize what led to Christ’s voluntary demise which was accomplished as a result of “God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23).
Between Thursday evening (around midnight) and His via dolorosa on Friday during which He carried the cross used in His crucifixion, Christ underwent five trials (Before Annus, Caiaphas (high priest) and the Sanhedrin, Pontius Pilate, King Herod and finally back to Pilate. During that time he was flogged with sheep vertebrae attached to leather thongs that ripped the flesh from his back, spat upon and crowned with a ring of thorns that tore into his scalp and brow. The trials were exhausting and he was deprived of food and water. The flogging and the crown of thorns produced extensive bleeding and the saliva delivered bacteria that would have found easy access to Christ’s blood stream through the open wounds. The human mouth is known to be the filthiest, germ ridden cavity on our planet. Bacteria in the blood stream create septic shock and combined with the blood loss and dehydration would have dropped our Lord’s blood pressure to imperceptible levels.
When he was nailed to the cross, more hemorrhage occurred from His wrists and feet and the pain of severing the nerves in His wrists sent further neurological signals that cause reactive shock. The feet of all persons who were crucified were placed on a small platform (a sedile) that was affixed to the upright portion of the cross. Given the fact that they were suspended from the cross bar by their wrists, they had to push up on the sedile in order to breath. Gradually, due to increasing shock the strength to do so was insidiously lost and steady accumulations of carbon dioxide occurred, leading to respiratory acidosis, further perpetuating the shock. As His agony increased His heart began to fail and accumulate fluid in the pericardial sac that surrounds it. If it took too long for condemned prisoners to die, the soldiers attending to the crucifixion were instructed to break the legs of the convicts so they could no longer push up on the sedile. In the case of Christ, He said “It is finished” and “gave up His spirit” (John 19:20) voluntarily and His bones remained in tact, in keeping with prophecy (Exodus 12:46). To assure that He was dead, a spear was thrust into His side thus piercing His heart muscle bringing a sudden flow of blood and water (John 19:34); the “water” being pericardial fluid.
What a price Christ paid for you and me! What a Savior! What good news that true life, eternal life, fulfilling life did not end with an empty cross but really began for those of us who follow Christ with an empty tomb. He is not there; He is Risen!