Was the physical torture of the cross the only thing that Jesus suffered?
By Don Ruhl
What would it be like to be tortured to death with virtually everyone you love forsaking you, including God Himself? We do not even want to think about it. Yet, our Teacher Jesus Christ experienced it.
The Physical Pain of the Crucifixion
A Roman crucifixion made a man suffer as long as possible by suspending him between life and death for as long as he could endure it.
In America, we are humane. If we execute a murderer, we make his death painless, and quick.
Not the brutal and cruel Romans. Jesus died after six hours, whereas most men lasted three to six days! Moreover, Jesus suffered just before the execution.
Luke 22 shows Jesus in a physically draining prayer, “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22.44). What He experienced during this moment was so intense, listen to what verse 43 says He needed, “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him” (Luke 22.43).
Afterwards, He endured six trials through the night, depriving Him of sleep and food.
At the trials, He endured pain. Mark 14 shows the Jews beating the Lamb Jesus, “Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, ‘Prophesy!’ And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands” (Mark 14.65). They asked who hit Him, since He was the Christ, He would be able to tell.
Matthew 27 shows the Romans beating the harmless Jesus, “Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head” (Matt 27.30). Striking Him on the head with a reed was painful because of what verse 29 shows, “When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’” (Matt 27.29).
The reed drove the crown of thorns into His head, but the crown would bounce back up, because the thorns would be going in every direction. Verse 26 shows another thing the Romans did, “Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified” (Matt 27.26).
To scourge Jesus they stripped His backside, bent His body over a post to tighten the skin and a soldier whipped the back with a device made of several strands of leather each one having bone, broken pottery, or something similar tied to the ends. John 19 reveals that Jesus was humiliated even more, when they made Him carry His own cross, “And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha” (John 19.17).
Think of carrying the cross on your shoulders or backside that has just been scourged! Imagine carrying your own instrument of crucifixion. In Oregon you would carry the needle; in Washington, the rope; in California, the gas; and in Utah, the rifle. Then the executioner takes it from you and executes you with it!
Mark 15 is typical of the other three gospel accounts in simply stating that He was crucified, perhaps leaving out the gory details for the same reason as the scourging, it was familiar to the first century audience, “And when they crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting lots for them to determine what every man should take. Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him” (Mark 15.24, 25).
They laid Him down on the cross, soldiers held Him down, as a soldier drove spikes through His hands and feet. It was not necessary to hold Jesus down, for He willingly submitted.
Other men screamed in agony as excruciating pain shot through their bodies, and Jesus certainly felt the fullness of that pain as the large nails moved through the flesh with each blow of the large hammer or mallet.
The Roman soldiers raised Him up and dropped the cross into a hole. He was left hanging from the nails.
Visualize the weight of His body hanging from the nails in His hands, and pressing down on the nails in His feet. This made breathing difficult, so a man had to push on his feet—with nails in them!—to relieve the pressure on his upper body.
This is why the Jews asked Pilate that the legs of the three men be broken, since the Sabbath was the next day, and their bodies were not to hang on the Sabbath. They would die from both the pain of two broken legs and would not be able to press on their legs and die of asphyxiation.
However, there was no need to break the legs of Jesus, because He died early.
Jesus experienced the ravages of dehydration. This is why He said, “I thirst” (John 19.28). He lost fluid in the prayer, blood during the beatings, the scourging, and the crucifixion.
Finally, He died.
John 19 records the simple fact of the world’s most wicked deed that veiled the sun and shook the earth, “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19.30).
The pain of His body was unimaginable, but the pain of His heart exceeded the pain of His body. When we suffer in the body we have family and friends to comfort us, easing the physical pain. What about Jesus?
The Emotional Pain of the Crucifixion
He hung on the cross because people rejected Him. A verse in John chapter one is a sad commentary on the world, showing the world rejecting its Creator, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him (John 1.10).
He, the Creator was here! He made the people. Sadly, they did not know Him! Did this hurt Him deeply?
Verse 11 adds another dimension to the emotional rejection experienced by Him who is willing to receive all people, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1.11).
The world should have known its Creator, but Israel had all the evidence to know exactly who the carpenter.
Instead the world and Israel conspired together to kill their only hope (Psa 2).
Isaiah 53 assures us that this rejection hurt Jesus deeply,
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Both the world and Israel showed its rejection of the Savior when the Jews and the Romans spit in His face (Matt 27.30, 67).
He was forsaken. Matthew 26 moves us from the world to Israel to His disciples, “‘But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matt 26.56).
Not one person would stand with Him. Where were those whom He healed? Where were those whom He set free from sin? Where were those who claimed to love Him most? Where were the disciples?
He was betrayed. Luke 22 presents the most dastardly deed of all history, “But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’” (Luke 22.48).
Pretending to be a friend, while being the worse enemy.
He was denied. Luke 22 also has the sad story of Peter’s denial, only a few hours after he promised his undying loyalty,
Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance. Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, “This man was also with Him.” But he denied Him, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed (Luke 22.54–60).
One denial is sinful, but we understand it. A momentary slip up, not thinking under pressure and the fear of death, but three denials?
He was mocked. They mocked by taking Him who is the life to a place of death (Matt 27.33, 34); by stripping Him naked (Matt 27.35); by sitting down and starring at Him (Matt 27.36); by writting over Him, “…THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Matt 27.37), because He did not appear kingly; by crucifying Him between two robbers, as though He was the epitome of a criminal (Matt 27.38); by wagging their heads at Him and reproaching Him (Matt 27.39–44).
However, there remains a pain worse than the pain of the body and the pain of the heart.
The Spiritual Pain of the Crucifixion
Matthew 26 shows that the mere anticipation of the spiritual pain almost killed Jesus!
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me” (Matt 26.36–38).
Something was bothering the One who was always in control.
Continue with Him, as we read Matthew 26.39–44 and hear His prayer for the passing away of the crucifixion,
He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, “What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words (Matt 26.39–44).
What was it that moved Him to ask three times for the removal of the cross?
We now turn to the next chapter, Matthew 27 to discover the spiritual pain of the crucifixion,
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt 27.46).
Sin separates us from God (Isa 59.1, 2); because He cannot look on sin (Hab 1.13).
Second Corinthians 5 makes this astounding declaration of Jesus on the day of His execution, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2Co 5.21).
Jesus experienced on the cross what we experience when we are in sin, separation from God and it tore Jesus up!
The pain of separation from His Father vexed Jesus more than the physical and the emotional pain.
He never cried in agony over the pain of the nails. He never cried in agony to those who forsook Him.
The Son of God experienced the fullness of the wrath of God, physically, emotionally and spiritually for us!
There is another passage, Isaiah 53, which helps us to see the spiritual suffering of Him who never sinned, but died for us who have sinned countless times,
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors (Isa 53.10–12).
No one volunteered to die with Him, to back up their promises of loyalty, or to show their appreciation for what He had done for them.
No one was true to Him, including the world, Israel, His disciples, and His closest friends.
Surely, God would be with Jesus! Then we hear those haunting words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
You do not have to be separated from God! Do you know what to do? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Are you ready to change your life? Are you ready to be baptized, and to be committed to Jesus for the rest of your life?