While the movie “The Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson focused primarily on Christ’s physical pain, it failed to show the deep mental anguish He went through in carrying the guilt of humanity and being separated from His Father. This mental anguish caused an even greater pain which was the main cause of His death.
Medical professionals and historians have all agreed that Christ died one of the most severest types of capital punishments ever invented. In the mount of Olives, one night before the crucifixion, Christ had physical symptoms associated with severe mental agony. He did not sleep all night, and He was sweating excessively. So great was the stress that tiny blood vessels ruptured in His sweat glands and emitted great red drops (Luke 22:44). This symptom of severe stress is called “hematohidrosis.”
Christ was beaten by the Jews (Mark 14:65) then by the Romans (John 19:1). The beatings administered by Rome are well known to be very painful, leaving lacerations on the flesh. It was designed to cut the flesh from their victim’s bodies. It would also cause a fluid buildup around the lungs. The crown of thorns was forced into his scalp causing additional excruciating pain (Matthew 27:29). These beatings were enough to cause death.
Christ had no food or drink for many hours. Because He lost fluids through profuse sweating and much bleeding, He was severely dehydrated (John 19:28). This condition would produce what doctors call “shock,” and shock alone can cause death. Christ was forced to carry the wooden cross (John 19:17).
Then they pierced His hands and feet with nails (John 20:25; Psalms 22:16). According to Dr. Frederick Zugibe, piercing of the median nerve of the hands with a nail can cause “severe, excruciating, burning pain, like lightning bolts traversing the arm into the spinal cord.” The pain is so incredible that even morphine won’t help. Further, the position of the body on a cross is designed to make it extremely difficult to breathe. So, every time He wanted to breathe, Christ had to pull Himself up thus causing Him extraordinary agony.
Medical examiner, Dr. Frederick Zugibe, believes Christ died from shock due to loss of blood and fluid, plus traumatic shock from his injuries, plus cardiogenic shock causing His heart to fail.
Despite all these possible physical causes of death, Christ did not die from exhaustion, the beatings, or the 6 hours of crucifixion, but rather died from mental agony as He experienced separation from His Father (Matthew 27:46), which caused the rupture of the heart. Christ died of a broken heart. And the evidence for that comes from what happened when the Roman soldier pierced Christ’s left side. The spear released a sudden flow of blood and water (John 19:34). Not only does this prove that Christ was already dead when pierced, but it is also evidence of cardiac rupture. Respected physiologist Samuel Houghton believes that only the combination of crucifixion and rupture of the heart could produce this result.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
In His service,
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