… Christ suffered for you … He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly 1 Peter 2:21-23 (NIV)
It’s noon on a sunny Friday in early spring. Jerusalem is buzzing with the news of Christ’s impending crucifixion. A crowd has already gathered on the rocky hill outside the city. They don’t have long to wait. The execution party arrives. With practiced ease they knock the cross beam into place, splay Christ’s arms, allow for some flexion, and with deft blows of the hammer, drive the wrought-iron square cut spikes through His wrists. The raw agony of mutilated flesh hurtles up His limbs and explodes in His brain. No respite is asked for or given. Christ’s feet are overlapped and a third nail driven between the metatarsal bones, leaving the knees moderately flexed. Ropes are then cast through steel rings and the soldiers raise the cross into the hole that’s been prepared. The crucifixion is complete. Through clenched teeth He absolves His executioners: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Christ’s agony has only just begun. In addition to the stabbing pain in His feet and wrists He’s soon tormented by massive cramps in His shoulders and arms. The pectoral, deltoid and bicep muscles begin to experience spasmodic paralysis (tetanization) due to repeated nerve stimuli caused by the median nerves rubbing against the steel spikes. The incredible pain causes His fingers and toes to twist inwards. There are rigid bulges on His thighs and lower legs. His stomach muscles begin to tighten into set undulations as His solar plexus sinks inward to slowly bring on asphyxiation. The only way He can breathe is to painfully straighten His legs to relieve the constriction on His chest. The hours pass slowly and unremittingly. Mustering His ebbing strength He says, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28). A sponge of poska (cheap sour wine) is pressed to His lips.
Christ’s nerve ends are stretched like violin strings across the spikes. Every movement brings on fresh bouts of bleeding from His lacerated back as it grinds against the rough timber. A new agony has begun as a deep crushing pain in His chest causes Him to start slipping into a deep shock. The membrane (pericardium) around the heart has been slowly filling with serum that’s gradually compressing the heart. He can feel the chill of death. The heart struggles to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood to the tissues and the tortured lungs battle to inhale small gulps of air. Mustering His last ounce of breath His voice rings out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). The effort is more than His pain wracked body can endure. With a loud cry He breathes His last.