The Bible just says that Jesus was crucified, but medical authorities say the process was brutal.*
When Jesus arrived at the site where He was crucified, the Romans would have laid Him down over the horizontal beam of the cross—separated from the vertical beam, which was already in the ground—stretched out His arms, then drove nails into His body.
“The Romans used spikes that were five to seven inches long and tapered to a sharp point.” Instead of the palms as is commonly assumed, the nails were driven through Jesus’ wrists to keep the skin from tearing and the body from falling off the cross before death occurred.
“And it’s important to understand that the nail would go through the place where the median nerve runs…and it would be crushed by the nail that was being pounded in,” producing immense pain.
“At this point Jesus was hoisted as the crossbar was attached to the vertical stake, and then nails were driven through Jesus’ feet. Again, the nerves in his feet would have been crushed, and there would have been a similar type of pain.”
It’s also likely that while hanging on the cross, Jesus’ shoulders were separated.
The physical stress of the cross “put the chest into the inhaled position…in order to exhale, the individual must push up on his feet so the tension on the muscles would be eased for a moment. In doing so, the nail would tear through the foot, eventually locking up against the tarsal bones.”
After exhaling, the person could relax and take in another breath. “Again he’d have to push himself up to exhale, scraping his bloodied back against the coarse wood of the cross. This would go on and on until complete exhaustion would take over, and the person wouldn’t be able to push up and breathe anymore.”
During this process the breathing would have slowed, producing respiratory acidosis, in which the blood’s carbon dioxide becomes carbonic acid, “causing the acidity of the blood to increase. This eventually leads to an irregular heartbeat.”
Because of the erratic heartbeat, “Jesus would have known that he was at the moment of death, which is when he was able to say, ‘Lord, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ And then he died of cardiac arrest.”
First a beating, then the crucifixion. This is what Jesus went through to make salvation possible for you. Do you care?
* The medical information for this article comes from Lee Metherell, MD, PhD, in The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, 1998, p.193-199).