Easter: Jesus' Death
By Rick Warren
— April 11, 2009
“That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18 MSG).
Easter celebrates an event that proved Jesus was who He claimed to be. He was God in the flesh, and He came to earth to save us. And that meant He had to die for us.
After a night of beatings and mocking, after being crowned with painful thorns, Jesus was crucified. Crucifixion is probably the most brutal and torturous death penalty ever devised by men. His hands were stretched out wide against the cross and nailed through the two bones in each wrist. As the nails went through this part of the flesh, they would strike the nerve that travels up the arm and cause excruciating pain.
If you hang this way for any period of time, the muscles around your chest cavity become paralyzed. You can breathe in but you can’t breathe out. Death on a cross is really a simple matter of suffocation, except the Romans didn’t want to make it that easy. They’d take a person’s knees and bend them a little bit and nail the feet to the cross.
So a man would hang there in absolute agony until the pain in his chest was about to explode, and then he would lift himself up on his nailed feet to grab a breath. When the pain in his feet grew unbearable, he’d let himself back down again until the pain in his lungs became unbearable. It was an incredibly torturous event.
Eventually, the soldiers would break the legs of the criminal to hasten death by suffocation.
In the case of Jesus, they didn’t have to break His legs, because He had already died. But just to make sure, they stuck a spear in His side. Water and blood came out of the chest cavity, which, doctors say, only happens if the heart rips. You can call it what you want, but Jesus died of a broken heart.
Why did Jesus have to die? Because He alone was able to pay for your sins. You deserved punishment, but Jesus paid the penalty for you: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18 NIV).