Is Your Back Pain and Headache Really Excruciating?

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When we say we have an excruciating headache or excruciating pain coursing through our leg or lower back, do we really know what we are saying? I know what we are trying to say (I am not minimizing migraines and other significant pain), but I don’t think we come close to experiencing what the word actually means.

The word excruciating comes from a Latin compound, meaning pain like the pain of the cross or the pain like the pain of crucifixion.

Crucifixion was the most painful torture ever invented for the worst of criminals. It was probably invented by the Persians and perfected by the Romans. The Romans began using crucifixion around the time Jesus was born, and it was a punishment designed to inflict maximum pain and suffering. Crucifixion wasn’t about killing someone; it was about killing someone in the most horrible and painful way possible.

What was Jesus’ crucifixion like?  

  • First, Jesus was beaten or flogged. The Roman soldiers used a lead-tipped leather whip, with animals’ bones to flog him. The lead-tipped balls caused deep bruising while the animals’ bones would shred his skin, exposing and cutting nerves and muscles. Jesus lost a considerable amount of blood, and he probably went into a state of shock. Flogging was designed to inflict maximum pain and it was truly excruciating. John 19:1; Matthew 27:26.
  • Upon the conclusion of the flogging, which was designed weaken Jesus, the Roman soldiers made the him carry the cross bar outside the city to the place of crucifixion. Crucifixion always happened outside the city because it was so disturbing to citizens. The cross-bar Jesus carried probably weighed between 75-200 pounds. Jesus’ ability to carry the cross was determined by how badly he was flogged. Jesus began carrying his cross to the place where he was crucified, but because he had been beaten so severely and he was so weak, he probably fell flat on his face from the weight of the crossbar. Thus, he needed someone to help him carry the cross. John 19:17; Matthew 27:32-33.
  • Next, Jesus was fixed to the cross by nails. Typically, right below the hand, Roman soldiers would drive 7-9 inch spikes through the victim’s wrists (not the palms because the hands could not support the weight of the victim), striking the main nerve running through the arm. Luke 23:33; Matthew 27:35.
  • Roman soldiers fixed a charge or crime board to the cross above Jesus’ head. When people passed by, they were able to see what crime he was charged with. The cross bar was raised and then Jesus’ heels were nailed to the upright post, striking two main nerves running through the legs. Luke 23:33; Matthew 27:35, 37; John 19:19.
  • Next, crucifixion was intentionally lengthened or dragged out. Jesus’ crucifixion began at 9:00 in the morning, and he was still alive around 3:00 in the afternoon. If the soldiers wanted to speed up the process of death, sometimes, they would break the victims’ legs so they could not lift themselves to exhale. They didn’t break Jesus’ legs because he was already dead. He probably died quicker than most because he was flogged or beaten so severely. Mark 15:25, 33, John 19:34.
  • Once on the cross, Jesus’ body weight suspended his arms. In this position, Jesus could not completely exhale. He probably took shallow breaths for a while, but eventually would be forced to push himself up to take a full breath.  Eventually, Jesus was no longer able to raise himself up and he suffocated (Mark 15:37).

So, Jesus, our Leader and Lord, humbled himself in obedience to God, and literally experiencing excruciating pain and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

He was PIERCED for our rebellion, CRUSHED for our sins, he was BEATEN so we could be whole. He was WHIPPED so we could be healed. So, we keep our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he ENDURED THE CROSS , disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

On this Holy and Sorrowful Friday, let’s not simply gloss over… And they crucified Jesus, without giving thought to what those words really mean. When Jesus died, he went through an unimaginable amount of pain and suffering for us. The way he died – by crucifixion – reveals how messed up we really were and how much we needed rescuing. Take the time to reflect on and thank Jesus for enduring excruciating pain to bring us freedom.

Turn Your Minutes into Moments

How does the pain Jesus endured during his crucifixion put your pain into perspective?

What tangible way can you thank Jesus for all he endured for your freedom?


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