Medical Aspects of the Crucifixion: Jesus’s Suffering. Part I

Jesus Bearing His Cross

The Tau cross of the crucifixion

Introduction– in this three-part look at Jesus’ crucifixion, the medical aspects of Jesus’s suffering will be reviewed. Only 100 verses in the New Testament Gospels address the passion of Christ (read Matthew 27:26-56, Mark 15:15-41, Luke 23:26-49, John 19:16-37), that is, his physical suffering. I will warn you ahead of time of some of the gruesome pictures that you will see.


 We don’t want to necessarily focus on his torment, but in the next few blogs we will have laser focus on his misery. An honest and sobering look at the subject should humbly affect us and give a closer view at what he was willing to go through for us so that we might have eternal life in heaven with him! His mental and spiritual anguish was worse and will not be discussed here.

 By the time it was over we should remember that Jesus experienced grotesque torture and severe punishment. How did these profound physical abuses affect his body? Isaiah 52:14 says it best. “Just as there were many who were appalled at Him–His appearance


“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

was so disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness…so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of Him.”  Try to grasp the utter brutality of the crucifixion and the events just preceding it! Don’t gloss over it. Isaiah 50:6 says that Jesus offered His back to those who beat Him, His cheeks to those who pulled out His beard; He did not hide his face from mocking and spitting.


History of crucifixionthis severe form of punishment was originally practiced by the


Crucifixion originated in the Persian Empire

Persians (modern day Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and others). Alexander the Great brought it back to the Mediterranean world to Egypt and Carthage. The Romans then learned the practice from the Carthaginians. The upright portion of the cross was called the stipes, and the cross-arm was the patibulum. Jesus likely died on a Tau cross, like the letter T, with the patibulum placed in a notch at the top of the stipes. A condemned man was generally forced to carry the 110 pound-or-so patibulum from the prison to the place of execution.


Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemanethe physical distress of Jesus started here,-


The Garden of Gehtsemane

the only gospel that describes Jesus’ sweat was in Luke. In Luke 22:44, it says, “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” One would expect Luke the doctor to mention this fact!  Though very rare, the


Jesus had so much emotional stress that he literally perspired blood (hematidrosis), stating, “Father, if at all possible, take this cup from me.”

phenomenon called hematidrosis, or bloody sweat, has been well documented. Under great emotional stress, capillaries in the sweat glands can break, mixing blood with sweat.


References: “A Doctor at Calvary” by Pierre Barbet, MD, 1949. “The Day Christ Died,” by Jim Bishop, 1957. Life Application Bible, NIV version

Stay tuned for more on medical aspects of Jesus’s crucifixion in the next two blogs.


Check out Dr. G’s e-book Wisdom from the Word at

About Dr. Robert

I am married to Janet and we have four children. I am active in Grace church in Racine, Wisconsin and serve there in leadership and teaching . I have been an internist for 30 years and keep busy by taking care of a full load of patients. On the side, I like to write, coach, mentor, spend time with my family just hangin' out, and help take care of our three dogs; two Golden retrievers named Reagen and Finley and a Bernese named Sadie'.
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