Summary: The evidence shows that Jesus died on the cross just as the Bible proclaims
Did Jesus really die on the cross?
Now that we have established that the New Testament is indeed a reliable source of information, I want to tackle the issue of the death of Jesus. This may seem like a silly question but it is at the heart of the debate over the resurrection because there are many theories that contend that Jesus never really died. This then makes the resurrection nothing more than an elaborate hoax.
There have been many who have brought this issue into question but as Dr. Alexander Metherell points out the original concept came from Muslim teachings. “The idea that Jesus never really died on the cross originally comes from the Koran” (The Case for Easter p. 10) Let’s begin to look at the evidence that proves Jesus really died.
1. The ordeal of the crucifixion begins in the Garden of Gethsemane
The opening scene of The Passion of the Christ shows Jesus in the garden in a type of deep physical, emotional and spiritual anguish. The fact that Satan is in the garden trying to get Him to abandon up His mission and the cross is not in the Bible but it is possible. Satan could not sway Jesus earlier and was waiting for a more opportune time and this could have been it.
The gospel of Luke records that Jesus was in such deep anguish that He sweat great drops of blood. (Luke 22:44) It is obvious that Jesus was losing a great deal of bodily fluids by the enormous amount of sweat. There is a high likelihood that Jesus experienced hematidrosis, a mixing of sweat and blood, which is cause by extreme stress or strain.
Jesus would have lost a great deal of fluid at this point and would have been given no chance to replenish these fluids before His trial and crucifixion. So it is safe to say that Jesus is beginning the ordeal in a dehydrated state.
2. Jesus suffered physical abuse during His questioning
When Jesus is arrested it is important to remember that the guards that come for Him are Jewish, not Roman. These men are likely from the Jewish temple guard and servants of the high priest. Many of these men took the opportunity to beat Jesus as they escorted High to the high priest and Pilate.
LK 22:63 The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. 64 They blindfolded him and demanded, "Prophesy! Who hit you?" 65 And they said many other insulting things to him.
Jesus would have also been beaten during the questioning process.
JN 18:22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. "Is this the way you answer the high priest?" he demanded.
MK 14:63 The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. 64 "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?"
They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, "Prophesy!" And the guards took him and beat him.
The gospels do not go into detail about the nature of flogging, so we have to look at other historical references to understand what this process consisted of. The movie depicted that Christ went through two different beatings; the first was with rods and the second was with a scourge. There is no evidence to tell us what Jesus went through but we do know that He was sentenced to a severe flogging.
“Roman floggings were known to be terribly brutal. They usually consisted of thirty-nine lashes but frequently were a lot more than that depending on the mood of the soldier applying the blows.” Dr Alexander Metherell (The case for Easter p. 15)
The scourge was a whip designed with nine straps of leather with weights at the end of each strap. This allowed each of the nine straps to wrap themselves around the body of the victim. On each strap were knots about an inch apart that held a sharp piece of metal, wood or even bone. These pieces were designed to cut and tear the flesh of the victim. Each strap was dipped in sheep’s blood and then rolled in broken pottery, this process bonded the pottery to the leather. This would cause every strap to scratch and cut at the skin. Needless to say, the scourge was designed to inflict damage on a massive scale.
The Romans used a scourging post for their floggings. The post was driven into the ground and stood between 10 to 15 feet high with a bronze ring around the top of the post. The victim would have their hands tied with a long rope that would be threaded through the brass ring at the top of the post. The rope would then be pulled to stretch the arms of the victim above the head to make the skin on the victims back tight. This allowed for even greater effectiveness of the scourge.