By Cosmas Odoemena
Arterial bleeding is torrential. At the end the skin of the back hangs as unrecognizable mass of lacerated, bleeding tissue. When it is seen by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is close to death, the beating is stopped.
The soldiers mocked a fainting Jesus and made a crown of thorns for the head, the scalp being one of the most vascularized part of the body, further depleting his blood reserve.
He carried the heavy patibulum to the place of execution, along with two other condemned criminals.
Very weakened, Jesus fell three times, face down, under the weight of the patibulum. The centurion eager to get the crucifixion job done, pointed at Simon of Cyrene who was passing by to help carry the cross.
His clothing was adhered to the clots of blood and serum from the wounds. So, when the clothing was removed the skin came off with agonizing pain, like a callous removal of bandage on a wound. Jesus followed until they reached Golgotha.
They give Jesus wine mixed with myrrh, to serve as a mild analgesic. He declines to drink. They order Simon to place the patibulum on the ground and Jesus made to lie on the wood. The soldier drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through Jesus’ wrist and through the wood. And does same to the other wrist. The patibulum is then taken up in place at the top of the stipes and the titulus, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” is nailed in place.
They then press the left foot backward against the right foot, extending both feet, with toes down, a nail is driven through the arch, leaving the knees slightly flexed. Jesus is crucified.
He sags down slowly with more weight on the nails around the wrist. There is agonizing pain which radiates along the fingers, going further up the arms to explode in the brain. This is because the nails in the wrist are putting pressure on the median nerves.
To avoid this stretch that causes Him pains, He pulls upward, but this places his whole weight on the nail through His feet.
The agony repeats itself. This time it is the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet. At this stage, the arms are fatigued, causing great waves of cramps. With more cramps then follows the inability to push upward. Now hanging by His arms, this paralyzes the pectoral muscles, and the intercostal muscles too are unable to function. Air can be taken into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus struggles to raise Himself so as to get any air into the lungs. With time, carbon dioxide begins to build up in the lungs and in the blood and the cramps partially reduces. Carbondioxide triggers respiration. By spasms, He pushes Himself upward to exhale and bring in oxygen.
Then comes another agony. A crushing pain comes in the chest as the pericardium gradually fills with serum and starts to compress the heart. That was why it was said in Psalm 22:14 “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.”
Tissue fluids loss has reached a severe level; the heart that is compressed is struggling to pump thick, heavy sluggish blood, the suffering lungs are making a desperate effort to take in air. The severely dehydrated tissues send stimuli to the brain. Jesus manages “I thirst.” This brings in the words of the psalmist in 22:15 “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou has brought me into the dust of death.” They bring a hyssop soaked in posca, which is a cheap sour wine. He declines again. Remember that during the first Passover the Israelites used hyssop to mark blood of lambs on their doors.
Knowing He was dying, He took one last breath and said “It is finished.” His mission of atonement now completed. With a last surge of energy, He presses His lacerated feet against the nail, straightens His legs, and takes a much deeper breath, and utters His last cry, “Father! Into thy hands I commit my spirit.”
It was Sabbath. The Jews did not want it to be profaned, so they asked that the condemned men be removed from the crosses. The usual way of ending a crucifixion was by crurifracture, the breaking of the bones of the legs. This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; so the tension could not be relieved from the muscles of the chest and quick suffocation occurred. The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when the soldiers got to Jesus they saw that this was not needed. Still, they wanted to be sure, they therefore drove a lance through the fifth intercostal space between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. And the Scriptures said “And immediately there came out blood and water.” That is, there was an escape of water fluid from the sac covering the heart, a sort of giving postmortem proof that “Jesus died not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure (a broken heart) due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.”
As an individual you may be passing through difficult conditions, be it health, marital, family, economic or whatsoever problem that brings you suffering and agonizing pain. It is time to look unto Jesus who went through worse for no crime just to atone for our sins. Christ endured his ordeal and was victorious at last. You too will be victorious.
As a nation, Nigeria’s problems seem to have worsened. No electricity, no fuel, no jobs, no security, dollar has skyrocketed against the naira with inflation on the rise; there is kidnapping, armed robbery, and political killings; there is despondency, a broke and broken nation.
We have never had it this bad. There is a collective national pain that shoots all around, shaking faith in our existence, pain after pain. It is time for Nigeria to look unto Jesus who endured much pain and sorrow for the love of mankind. Jesus endured his ordeal and overcame. Nigeria too will overcome.
•Dr Odoemena writes from Lagos.