(Posted 4/7/04)
# 5 Was the Suffering of Jesus Really That Bad?
By D. B. Martin

“Gibson exaggerated it,” some say after viewing “The Passion of the Christ.” Even some evangelical Christians are expressing that opinion. What do you think? Was the suffering of Jesus really as bad as the movie portrays? Let’s look at what the Bible says about it.

The prophet Isaiah said a lot about the coming “suffering Messiah.” In fact, The Passion movie opens with part of a verse from this prophet: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). He also says this about how the Messiah would suffer, “As many were astounded at thee –His visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men— ”(Isa. 52:14). He speaks of both the visage (face) and form (body) being “marred more than any man.” Sounds like The Passion movie version to me.

Gethsemane. As in the movie and the Bible, the great suffering of Jesus began in Gethsemane where He received the cup (Matt. 26:39). We are not told what was in that cup but it brought horrible suffering to Jesus. I believe it contained all the sins of the world. Luke describes it, “And being in agony, he [Jesus] prayed more earnestly; and his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). That suggests immeasurable trauma. How many times have you known of anyone sweating blood?

Trial Before the Jews. Jesus was arrested and kept up all night in an illegal night trial before the Jewish high priest. This included insults, lies and mocking. “Then they spat in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who smote thee?” (Matt. 26:67-68).

Trial Before Pilate. Jesus was again mocked, falsely accused and insulted. Pilate gave the mob a choice to free Jesus or a vicious murderer named Barabbas. They chose to release Barabbas and crucify Jesus (Matt. 27:11-22).

Scourged. The Roman soldiers took Him into their barracks. Tying His hands high on a post, they scourged Him 39 lashes with a whip called a “cat of nine tails.” To the handle were attached nine strips of leather embedded with small pieces of bone, stone or metal. Forty lashes was the limit of any scourging under Roman law, so they stopped at 39. His back must have been cut to ribbons, pouring forth blood. Scourged prisoners sometimes died due to broken ribs and blood loss (Matthew 27:26).

Crown of Thorns. After the scourging the soldiers clothed Him in a purple robe and placed a crown of thorns on His head (Mark 15:17). They mockingly placed a reed in His hand, and bowed, sneering, “Hail, King of the Jews! They spat in His face and took the reed and hit him on the head” (Matt. 27-27-30).

Bearing His Cross. “And he, bearing his cross, went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified him,” (John 19:17-18a). Jesus carried His cross some distance. The rough cross on His back reopened the wounds from his scourging. Perhaps this further blood loss caused Him to falter, for the other gospels say the soldiers compelled Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross for Jesus (Mtt. 27:32).

Stripped and Nailed. At Calvary someone offered Jesus sour wine laced with myrrh to kill the pain, but He refused it, choosing to bear the full pain of the cross for our sins (Mark 15:23). Jesus was stripped of His clothes and laid on the cross. Spikes were driven through His hands and feet, painfully securing Him to the cross. The soldiers then dropped the cross into the hole with a jar, causing further pain at the nail wounds. Then they divided the clothes of Jesus among themselves, gambling for the seamless coat of higher value (John 19:23-24).

Thirst. Crucifixion was undoubtedly one of the most horrible deaths ever devised by man. On the cross Jesus continued to suffer. In addition to the continuing pain of His thorn pierced brow, His beaten back against the rough bark of the cross, the jagged holes in His hands and feet, Jesus now experienced extreme thirst caused by blood loss. We know this from this word Jesus spoke from the cross. “I thirst” (John 19:28).

Constriction of Lungs. Have you ever struggled to breathe? Doctors say the worst physical suffering of the cross may have been the constriction of the lungs. In order to breathe, a crucified prisoner was forced to push against the nails in his feet to expand his lungs and breathe. To hasten death, executioners sometimes broke the legs of crucified prisoners. This prevented them from expanding their lungs and caused earlier death from asphyxiation. John tells us the Jewish leaders asked Pilate to break the legs of the prisoners to hasten their death (John 19:31-32).

A Broken Heart. Some Christian doctors and psychiatrists say that when blood thins and separates between blood and water, it is evidence of great emotional trauma. John adds, “…when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: howbeit one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side and straightway came out blood and water” (John 19:33-34). They add that from this evidence, they conclude, “Jesus died with a broken heart.” How could Gibson show that suffering?

Your Verdict. I hope you read the Scriptures about the suffering of Jesus I have listed above. Did Gibson exaggerate it? Or did he get the full Biblical measure of The Passion? What is your verdict?

Weeping At Such Love. No wonder people weep during the showing of The Passion wherever it is shown. It has now been released worldwide. It is being accepted in Muslim countries because they heard it was anti-Semitic. Our missionaries have observed theatres full of Muslims with many weeping at the showing of The Passion movie. Can you read this Bible account of His suffering, or see the Passion movie, and be indifferent to such love? Jesus did that for me and for you. Do you not love Him for that? Does it not stir your soul?

Not the End. I’m so glad the story doesn’t end there. Yes, Jesus died. They took Him down from that cross and tenderly laid His body in the garden tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea. At the Jewish leaders’ demand, Pilate placed a great stone over the mouth of the grave, sealed the stone and set Roman soldiers to guard the tomb (Matt. 27:57-59).

Resurrection! But on the first day of the week, God sent an angel, “And, behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it” (Matt. 28:2). The angel told the women at the grave, “He is not here; for he is risen as he said. Come see the place where the Lord lay And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead;” (Matt. 28:6).

Decision Time. Yes, Jesus did suffer, even more than The Passion movie could show. But He is alive evermore. Now it is up to you to decide how you will respond to these great truths. Let’s celebrate both His suffering death for our sins and His resurrection. Oh come, let us adore Him, make Him our Lord and Saviour and tell the whole world how wonderful Jesus is. Amen!

© 2004 D. B. Martin.

To view previous Maranathalert Bulletins: Click on: Maranathalert Archives. Visit our website home page for many prophecy articles and other subjects posted there. For example, 2003 Easter season we posted messages on "The Seven Last Words from the Cross."

Note: “Maranatha” means, “Behold He Is Coming,” an early Christian greeting. “Alert,” reminds us to be ready. Blessings in Jesus! D.B.

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