- Click Here To Find Out More About:
- Best School Of Performing Arts Sydney
Jesus Died When He Wished to Die
Martha FitzgeraldPhysicians and forensics specialists can debate how Christ died – and we have, for at least 50 years. But one thing is certain: He did die on the cross. New conspiracy theories, born of the same sensationalism as the DaVinci Code, say Jesus survived the crucifixion.
One hypothesis is that He swooned and only appeared to die. Another is that He struck a deal with Pontius Pilate, was sedated and later revived. This may make thrilling reading, but I prefer to go to the source to develop my theories: the Scriptures. And they bear out a conviction of my late wife, Dr. Alice Baker Holoubek: There is no medical explanation for why Christ died when He did. Jesus died when He willed it.
For decades Dr. Alice and I gave presentations on the sufferings of Christ at Calvary. Inspired by the pioneering work of Dr. Pierre Barbet, author of A Doctor at Calvary, we also researched and published scholarly articles on the subject. I discovered, for instance, that there are 78 documented cases of hematidrosis or bloody sweat in medical literature. Other people, under severe stress, have sweat blood through unbroken skin.
In our more than 300 public meditations on the death of Jesus, Dr. Alice would show images of the Shroud of Turin, an ancient burial cloth of a man who was crucified, and discuss what the stains tell us about the wounds and battered condition of the body. But she refused to pin down a medical cause for Christ’s early death. Jesus died, she would say, when He wished to die. People who were crucified in the fashion of ancient Rome took 24-36 hours to die on the cross, sometimes longer.
Our Lord, to the surprise of Pilate, died in three hours. The two thieves who were crucified alongside Jesus died quickly only because soldiers broke their legs. Read the Scriptures closely, particularly the Gospel of John, and you will agree that there is another cause at play in the death of Jesus than his physical condition. From John, Chapter 10: The Father loves me because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. Chapter 19 documents the early death of Jesus. As undeniable proof, a Roman soldier pierces the chest of Jesus with a sword. Such a wound, directed to the right compartment (ventricle and auricle) of the heart, would have caused immediate death had Jesus still been alive. Later, the risen Jesus appears to the disciples in a closed room. Thomas, not being present, refuses to believe what he has not seen. Eight days later Jesus reappears. “Peace is with you,” He tells his followers, then turns to Thomas. “Put your finger here. Look, here are my hands. Give me your hand. Put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.” Thomas replies, “My Lord and my God.”
In the 1950s, Dr. Barbet proposed asphyxia as the reason Christ died. Weak from blood loss, beating and dehydration, He could no longer push himself up on His feet, nailed to the cross, to breathe. Forensic pathologist and author Dr. Frederick Zugibe has conducted detailed laboratory experiments to disprove this long-held theory. In a recent book he proposes another explanation: Jesus died from trauma and hypovolemic shock (thick blood from the sweating and severe beatings). What evidence do we find in the Scriptures of either theory? Massive blood loss, for example, would have soaked the garments of Jesus, but no gospel writer mentions this.
There’s no doubt Christ was weak. He’d had no sleep for at least 30 hours, having walked to Jerusalem from Ephraim. He’d had nothing to eat or drink for about 20 hours, since the Passover meal. At the house of Annas and later, He took several heavy blows to the face and head. Then He was scourged and crowned with thorns. And yet Jesus was able to walk to the home of Pontius Pilate, to the palace of Herod and back. He had to carry a 90-pound crosspiece on the path to Calvary. It surely was a stumbling procession, even with the help of Simon the Cyrene. And yet Jesus was able to talk clearly with the women on the scene. His was a routine and professional crucifixion.
Nails were driven through His hands and feet with excruciating pain, but a minimum of bleeding. Jesus probably coughed continuously from congestion of the lung. But He received enough blood to the brain to forgive his enemies, entrust his mother to John the apostle, and speak to the thieves crucified alongside him. No one in a state of shock could have said all of this, especially from an upright position. Blood pressure would be too low or completely absent. Then the dying Jesus let out a final cry. It is consummated. Or, in another translation, It is finished.
What was consummated? What was finished?
It has to be that Jesus had completed the work his Father had sent Him to do. He and the two thieves had blood loss, dehydration, hypovolemia, electrolyte imbalance, pleural and pericardial effusions. Eventually, after more hours of suffering, they would have died from traumatic and hypovolemic shock with terminal cardiac arrhythmia. Medical professionals will continue to analyze all the symptoms that Jesus developed, from the time in the Garden of Gethsemane to his death on the cross at Golgotha. But we may never determine any medical reason that would cause His death within three hours. Jesus died when He wished to die, having completed the saving of the human race. I lay down my life. No one takes it from me.
Martha H. Fitzgerald is the editor and co-publisher of the
Bible-based novel, Letters to Luke,
written by her father Dr. Joe E. Holoubek.