The Passion of Jesus Christ
(Post by Anand Peter)
Psalm 22:1-5, Isaiah 50:6 & Isaiah 53:3-7, Philippians 2:5-10, Luke 22:1-6
The Gospel accounts and the prophecies concerning Christ’s Passion strike us by the very fact of His humanity. All through His life on this planet, He lived like a normal human being. But for a short-lived exhibition of His Divinity during His transfiguration, we find no mention, anywhere in the Gospels, of Jesus invoking His Divine powers for His personal reasons. The events of eight days from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday completely changed the way humanity understood God and found hope in the redemption of their sins in Jesus Christ. I thought today was the good time to talk to you about the Passion of Christ, from both emotional and physical perspectives.
Though every Christian would acknowledge that Jesus suffered and died for us, we tend to leave that thought at the surface level. Therefore, we need to refresh our memories about the true nature of His Passion every at least once in a year. Passion is the Christian theological term normally used to denote the events and suffering of Jesus Christ, starting with His prayers at Garden of Gethsemane and ending with His death on the Cross.
However, the Passion of Christ can also mean as His intense feelings and actions of Compassion, forgiveness and Love for His people, through time. It seems appropriate that we expand the scope of His Passion to periods much before and after the events of those last 16 hours or so of His earthly life. We will also attempt to see if Science corroborates the details of His physical sufferings.
The prophecies of Isaiah, read to us, provides almost a blow by blow account of what Jesus was predestined to suffer. Of the 4 Servant Songs found in Isaiah the 1st song mentions the call of the Servant and His Divine nature, the 2nd song moves on to the Commission that He will reconcile God and Humanity, the 3rd song amplifies His sufferings and the 4th song mentions His consummation in fulfilling the Divine Will with His sacrificial death and His subsequent exaltation in Resurrection. These songs hold proof that Jesus was preordained to endure sufferings which came about 700 years after these prophecies.
The emotional Passion of Jesus Christ began, perhaps, many centuries before He endured the physical sufferings narrated in the Gospel accounts. The fall of Adam set Him on His journey of Passion through the ages. Humanity continued to sin and defied God levying a cumulative burden of agony on the shoulders of Jesus Christ. For centuries He bore gladly this burden of agony because of His Passion for His people.
Our normal tendency is to forget the humanity of Jesus and to see Him more in the mighty glory of His Divinity. We visualise Jesus as the Son of God with powers to heal, perform miracles and even raise the dead. There are some who argue that being Divine in nature His sufferings were superficial. I would dismiss such arguments as the height of absurdity.
Some would like to pose another tricky question here. Can God be said to suffer? If we accept that God can be said to suffer, a point of contact is immediately established between God and the sufferings of the human race. God cannot then be thought of as being immune from the suffering of His creation. It, therefore, follows that God suffered in Christ. The cross must be seen as an event between the Father and the Son, in which the Father suffers the death of His Son, and the Son suffers the sins of the humanity, though what actually transpired on this side of the Cross and the other will always remain a mystery for us.
In the course of my search for some scientific references on the events of those fateful16 hours, I came up with authentic reports on the medical consequences of what Jesus went through during those hours. For a change, science is found to corroborate these Biblical events fully.
As a carpenter by trade, Jesus participated in physical labour and He spent much of His ministry travelling on foot across the hilly countryside. His stamina, strength and physical condition must have been in the excellent state when it all started.
After the Passover celebration, Jesus takes His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. During His most anxious and intense prayer about the events to come, Jesus sweats drops of blood as per Luke’s account. This is not a figurative speech as many would like to put it. There is a rare medical condition called Hematohidrosis, during which the capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands compress due to extreme stress and then dilate to the point of rupture. Blood released from the vessels mixes with the sweat; resulting in the body sweating drops of blood. This condition results from life-threatening mental anguish, a state Jesus expressed by praying “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (Matthew 26:38). Hematohidrosis makes His skin tender, so at this point, the physical condition of Jesus begins to deteriorate.
The trial of Jesus by the Sanhedrin had two phases one on the night of His arrest and the second next morning. Though they wished to condemn Him to death they found lack of evidence unhelpful. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. When Pilate learned that Jesus was under Herod's authority, he sent Him to Herod (Luke 23:7). Finally, it was back at Pilate’s place the sentence of crucifixion got confirmed. All this travel on foot that He undertook through the hilly areas must have proved extremely strenuous for a person who has not slept anytime during the night. We also have no evidence of Him drinking water or eating anything after the Last Supper. All through this ordeal, He was also subjected to unbearable torture (Luke 22:63-65). At this stage, in addition to the tenderness of His skin, His physical condition worsens further, and dehydration sets in.
The whip used on Him, by the Roman soldiers, consisted of several strips of leather. In the middle of the strips were metal balls that hit the body hard, causing deep wounds. In addition, sheep bones were attached to the tips of each strip. When the bone made contact with His skin, it dug into His muscles, tearing out chunks of flesh and exposing the bone. By this point, He would have lost a great volume of blood which causes His blood pressure to fall, putting Him in a state of shock, a well-known medical condition in such circumstances.
They struck Him in the head (Matthew 27:30) and the thorns from the crown pushed into the flesh and the delicate nerves and He began to bleed and experience shooting pin down His face and neck. His condition by now became so critical that He fell trice on the way to Calvary carrying the Cross.
They nailed His hands to the cross first while lying down, with the nails going through His wrists, so that the bones in the lower portion of the hand can support the weight of the body. The huge nail, seven to nine inches long, cuts the major median nerve to the hand, causing continuous agonizing pain up both His arms.
Once He is so secured, the guards lift the cross to place it vertically on the ground. As it is lifted, His full weight pulls down on His nailed hands and His shoulders and elbows dislocate as predicted in Psalm 22:14-“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint…….”
His feet were nailed through the top. In this position with the knees flexed at approximately 90 degrees, the weight of the body pushes down on the nails and the ankles now support the weight. Again, it cuts through the blood vessel of the lower limb causing acute pain from head to toe.
The diaphragm must move down and rise up to breathe in and out. As Jesus hangs on the cross, the weight of His body pulls down on the diaphragm and the air moves into His lungs and remains there. Jesus must push up on His nailed feet and hands, causing more pain, to exhale. A slight breeze would have caused agonising pain in every single part of His body. It is amazing that despite the kind of pain He was in, He pushes up to say “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34) another exhibition of His compassion, love and Passion for His people.
Medical Science tells us that the difficulty surrounding breathing leads to a slow form of suffocation. Decreased oxygen causes damages to the tissues and the capillaries begin to leak watery fluid from the blood into the tissues and collect around the heart and lungs area. The collapsing lungs, failing heart, dehydration, and the inability to get sufficient oxygen to the tissues damages the heart permanently leading to cardiac arrest and sudden death.
The soldiers pierced His side to make sure that He was dead. In doing this, ‘blood and water came out’, referring to the watery fluid surrounding the heart and lungs area we just talked about.
Having gone through death and then the resurrection why did Jesus not go directly to Heaven? The answer is, it is His passion for His people that caused Him to linger on so that His disciples could take on His Passion for others. His passion for people caused Him to ask for Peter, a Peter who had denied Him three times. What moves Jesus is HIs Passion for the backsliders. What moves Jesus is His Passion for those who want to believe but need to see a sign, a wonder, or a miracle.
The question this evening before us is what really moves you & me? Do we have a passion for people like God the Father Who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son? Do we have a passion for people like Jesus, Who gave His life not only for His friends but for His enemies too? In order to have a passion like that of Jesus, we have to spend time with Him.
The Passion Jesus endured was for you and for me my friends! Surely, we were not there when they nailed Him to the Cross. But we are here today doing to Him all that they did 2000 years ago. We do it for all the times that we have not put Jesus first in our hearts and in our lives, for all the times we refused to extend a helping hand to someone in need, for all the times we refused to love our neighbour as ourselves, for all the times that we skip church simply because we are “too busy” or “too tired,” for all the times we drag our spouses to the divorce courts, for all the hate, all the lust, all the greed and all the pride that we harbour in our hearts, for all of these and for so much more God the Son, Jesus Christ continues to suffer for you and me. AMEN
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