Two years ago I was in the hospital with pericardial and pleural effusions, which is fluid around the heart and lungs. Last month my brother Anthony Warnes was doing a class on the Crucifixion and I learned that many scientists suggest Jesus probably suffered from these same conditions. I was so touched and I wanted to share what I discovered with you. I thought about how hard it was for me to go through this and how terrible it was at the time, and yet our Lord’s suffering was so much more difficult to understand because He went through much more excruciating things at the same time! Even though this is a very hard subject to think about, it can help us to understand how very much Jesus loves us.
Let’s start before the Crucifixion when Jesus was praying to God. Luke 22:41-44 says, “…and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, ‘Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.’ Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” Since He knew what all He was going to go through, He was very nervous and stressed. They say this is called hematidrosis. He was so upset that eventually Christ bled a little bit through the sweat glands. This made His skin extremely fragile. So, His skin was very, very sensitive when He was flogged the next day. For the flogging they used a whip of braided leather with metal balls woven into it. The balls would make deep bruises or contusions. The whip also had bits of sharp bone that would cut the flesh. The whip would go from the shoulders down to the back of the legs. The back would be shredded so badly that sometimes some of the spine was showing.
People who would survive this could go into hypovolemic shock-“Hypovolemic shock means the person is suffering the effects of losing a large amount of blood. This does four things: first, the heart races to try to pump blood that isn’t there; second, the blood pressure drops, causing fainting or collapse; third, the kidneys stop producing urine to maintain what volume is left; and fourth, the person became very thirsty as the body craves fluids to replace the lost blood volume” (Strobel 262). The hypovolemic shock caused the pericardial and pleural effusions (fluid around the heart and lungs). John 19:17 says “They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.” I have to say that when I had fluid around my heart and lungs I couldn’t walk without having a horrible shocking pain in my chest and in my shoulder. Think of our Lord having that pain, plus the pain from the thorns that were piercing His head. Also, Christ bore the pain from carrying a rough, splintery cross after being flogged. PLUS on top of all that, Jesus carried OUR sins. Scientists also believe that Christ was undergoing hypovolemic shock because He lost all strength and collapsed under His cross when He could no longer carry it for Himself. (Remember the third point from above)
“When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left” (Luke 23:33). They put the nails in His wrists, where the largest nerve going out of the hand is located; this nerve would have been crushed. “Do you know the kind of pain you feel when you bang your elbow and hit your funny bone? That’s actually another nerve, called the ulna nerve. It’s extremely painful when you hit it. Well, picture taking a pair of pliers and squeezing and crushing that nerve. That effect would be similar to what Jesus experienced” (Strobel 264). People had to invent a word to describe this pain, because it was beyond words. So, they came up with “excruciating.” Believe me, when I had this problem, one of the most painful things to do was lay down flat. There was a heavy, shocking, “can’t-breathe-well” pain–and I had people gently taking care of me. Jesus didn’t! Think of our Savior going through ALL of that pain while laying on his shredded back on top of the cruel cross. While hanging on the cross, His arms would have been stretched around six inches and his shoulders would be dislocated! “The reason is that the stresses on the muscles and diaphragm put the chest into the inhaled position; basically, in order to exhale, the individual must push up on his feet so the tension on the muscles would be eased for a moment. In doing so, the nail would tear through the foot, eventually locking up against the tarsal bones. After managing to exhale, the person 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 course wood of the cross. This would go on and on, until complete exhaustion would take over, and the person wouldn’t be able to push up and breathe anymore”.
While hanging on the cross, Jesus said, “I am thirsty,” further proving the probability of hypovolemic shock (point number four from above). Continuing on, Luke 23:46 says “And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.” Finally, after our Lord died, a soldier pierced his side. “But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out” (John 19:34). This is the final proof that Christ was suffering from water around His heart. Otherwise, water would not have come from His side. When I had this condition, the doctors literally went in and cut open my side and allowed the water to drain out from my heart and lungs to give me some relief. Like I said before, for me this was done with great care and gentleness and I even had many strong and powerful medicines to minimize the pain.
I know this was probably difficult to read, but I think it is good for all of us as Christians to know what our Savior did for us so that we wouldn’t have to. Now our Jesus is in Heaven waiting for us to finish our race and be with Him forever. I hope you can remember all of this next Sunday while you are taking communion.
“Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood, Sealed my pardon with His blood; Hallelujah! What a Savior!”
The Case for Christ, September 1, 1998, Zondervan, ISBN 0310226058
By Abigail Warnes
Abigail Warnes (age 15) is the fifth of nine kids and is the proud aunt of two nieces and a nephew. Homeschooled by her parents, Jon and Laura Warnes, they all attend the Miller Street Church of Christ. Some of her hobbies include decorating cakes and sewing.