That Jesus died and was buried is one of the best-established facts about Jesus. The Bible says again and again that Jesus died. Some critics have argued that Jesus wasn't completely dead when He was entombed. The Koran, considered holy by Muslims, claims that Jesus only seemed to be dead. Some skeptics have claimed that He merely appeared to be dead, possibly drugged, but revived while in the tomb and escaped to convince His disciples that He had risen from the dead.
But when we examine the facts, what such theories suggest is physically impossible. The extent of Jesus' tortures and wounds was such that no man could have survived the crucifixion and three days and nights isolated in a dark, cold tomb.
To say that He was drugged ignores the record. He turned down the painkiller that was usually given to crucifixion victims (Mark 15:23). Later He was offered a sip of sour wine from a sponge, but there is no indication of a drugging effect on Jesus from this because of His obvious agony and final death cry (verses 36-37).
Death at the hands of Roman torturers and executioners was certain and could come from several causes. Journalist Lee Strobel, in an interview with Dr. Alexander Metherell, describes the death of Jesus from a medical point of view (The Case for Christ, 1998, pp. 193-200).
Jesus had been beaten repeatedly and lashed with a Roman scourge before His crucifixion (Matthew 27:26). The leather scouige, a type of whip, was designed to inflict maximum pain and damage on the victim. It was braided with pieces of bone and metal woven into the ends that tore into the flesh with each stroke. The scourge would rip into the underlying muscles and produce strips of quivering, bleeding flesh.
Eusebius, a third-century historian, reports that "the sufferer's veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure" (quoted by Strobel, p. 193). Many victims would die from the scouiging before they could be crucified.
The extreme pain, coupled with loss of blood, often would cause the victim to go into shock—his blood pressure would drop and cause fainting, collapse and intense thirst. The Gospels record that Jesus experienced these symptoms on His way to Golgotha. Weakened to the point of collapse, He couldn't bear the weight of the beam He was carrying and a bystander, Simon of Cyrene, was forced to carry it part of the way for Him (Mark 15:21). When He was crucified, He said, "I thirst" (John 19:28).
He had already suffered savage beatings before the scourging. At His trial before the Sanhedrin, "they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, saying, 'Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?'" (Matthew 26:67-68). When they turned Him over to the Roman soldiers, they further brutalized Him, beating Him with their fists, slapping Him and shoving a crown of thorns on His head (Matthew 27:29-30; Mark 15:16-19; John 19:3).
The extent of this beating is indicated in the prophecy of Isaiah 50:6: "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" (NIV).
Another prophecy in Isaiah 52:14 is even more graphic: "His form, disfigured, lost all human likeness; his appearance so changed he no longer looked like a man" (REB). What this tells us is that He was so badly beaten, so bloodied and maimed, that He was scarcely recognizable as a human being.
Pilate appears to have thought that when he had Jesus brought out to the crowd after the beatings and scourging, He would present such a pitiable spectacle that it would satiate His accusers" thirst for blood (John 19:1, 4-6). But their hatred of the bloodied man from Nazareth would not be satisfied. They insisted He be crucified.
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