Jesus had already suffered numerous beatings before they whipped Him. When the Jewish leaders turned Him over to the Roman soldiers, they continued, pounding Him with their fists. THEN they flogged Him. However, this was no ordinary rope that struck His back.
First, they shackled His hands above His head and tied Him to a post. This would expose His neck, shoulders, back, butt, and legs. They stripped Him nearly naked, and then two executioners stood on either side of Him. They then whipped Jesus was something called a flagrum or cat o’ nine tails. This was a handle, usually made of wood, that had protruding from it long straps of leather. Attached at the end of each strap was a ball made out of either metal or stone, and that would tenderize the human flesh as you would a piece of meat for a barbecue. There were also hooks at the end, also made of metal or bone (Mark Driscoll).
So the flagrum scourged Jesus across the back, and all the leather straps spread, and the flesh was tenderized, and then the hooks would sink in deeply. The executioner then gave a tug on the handle to ensure that all of the hooks were deep into Christ’s body…then he literally ripped the flesh off. Over and over and over and over. The law limited the number of lashes to 39 (as they believed 40 would kill a man), but they often went over…as it is assumed they did with Jesus. As the whipping continued, skin would fly off. Muscle would be shredded (Driscoll).
While Jesus survived the beatings and the scourging, we are told that His form, disfigured, lost all human likeness. Understand this: Jesus Christ—God in human form—was so badly beaten, bloodied, and maimed that He was scarcely recognizable as a human being (Jesus Christ: The Real Story by The United Church of God).
The flogging over, Jesus was forced to carry the beam of His own cross to His crucifixion. This piece of wood likely weight between 100 and 200 pounds. The extreme pain and blood loss from the beatings and whipping caused Jesus to collapse under the weight of the cross. Medical experts who have examined this say that this would have been the equivalent of a head-on, high-speed car wreck with no air bag, leading to massive internal hemorrhaging and bleeding (Driscoll).
Now we’ve reached the crucifixion itself—an act so horrific that decent Roman citizens did not even speak of it (Driscoll). An act so painful that they literally had to invent a word to describe it: excruciating. Excruciating means “out of the cross” (The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel).
Iron nails, five-to-seven inches long, were driven into Jesus’s wrists and feet to fasten Him to the cross. Nails were driven into the wrists, between the arm bones, because the hands themselves could not support the weight of the body (The Case for Christ).
The nails pounded through the wrists would have crushed the median nerve, the largest nerve going to the hand. When you hit your funny bone, that pain you feel is from a different nerve called the ulna nerve. Imagine taking a pair of pliers and squeezing and crushing that nerve. That effect would be similar to what Jesus expected (The Case for Christ).
Once Jesus was hanging on the cross, he essentially died from asphyxiation. The reason is that His position on the cross put His chest into the inhaled position. Basically, in order to exhale, He had to push up on His feet. In doing so, the nail would tear through the foot, eventually locking against the tarsal bones (The Case for Christ).
In Strobel’s book, Dr. Alexander Metherell continues: “After managing to exhale, Christ would then be able to relax down and take another breath in. Again He’d have to push Himself up to exhale, scraping His bloodied back against the coarse wood of the cross. This went on and on until complete exhaustion took over, and Jesus wasn’t able to push up and breathe anymore.”
The Romans didn’t mess around, either. They were professional killers. It was a soldier’s job to make sure the person died. So…just in case Jesus had merely passed out, a soldier took a broad, clean-cutting, two-edged spear and thrust it upwards under Jesus’s left ribs. The wound would have been large enough to put an open hand into, and the spear would have sliced open the stomach, lung, and ultimately punctured Christ’s heart (Jesus Christ: The Real Story).
The American Medical Association explains: “Clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicated that Jesus was dead.”
Even if we assume Jesus could have physically survived the crucifixion, how could He then have lived for three days and nights in a tomb, sealed away from any kind of medical care or treatment? If He somehow managed to survive that, He would’ve been a severely broken, wounded man—psychologically traumatized, physically crippled and maimed for life. He would have looked so pitiful that the disciples would never have hailed Him as a victorious conqueror of death (Jesus Christ: The Real Story). Remember…His appearance no longer resembled a human being…I don’t think the disciples would have celebrated a zombie Jesus.
So…Point 1: Did Jesus die? Yes. Even non-believers who have done their research acknowledge that Jesus died on the cross. In fact, there is no historical account from Christians, Romans, or Jews that disputes either Jesus’s death or His burial. Now we move to Point 2: Was the tomb empty?