The Manner of Jesus’ Death
THE last days of Jesus’ ministry on earth were filled with severe trials. Realizing that the time of his death was drawing near, “Jesus took the twelve disciples off privately and said to them on the road: ‘Look! we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man will be delivered up to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and will deliver him up to men of the nations to make fun of and to scourge and to impale, and the third day he will be raised up.’”—Matt. 20:17-19.
On Nisan 14, the day of the Passover, having instituted with his disciples the Memorial in commemoration of his death, he took them out to the mount of Olives. “And Jesus said to them: ‘You will all be stumbled, because it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered about.”’” (Mark 14:27) Jesus knew that this prophecy, long before recorded at Zechariah 13:7, was about to be fulfilled, and he was preparing his disciples for the great trial that would come upon them.
Coming to a garden called Gethsemane, he took along Peter, James and John, “and he started to be stunned and to be sorely troubled. And he said to them: ‘My soul is deeply grieved, even to death.’” Or, according to An American Translation, in paraphrase he said: “My heart is almost breaking.” “And going a little way forward, he fell upon his face, praying and saying: ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will.’ Again, for the second time, he went off and prayed, saying: ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this to pass away except I drink it, let your will take place.’” (Mark 14:32-34; Matt. 26:37-39, 42) Jesus had a great burden on his mind. Of chief concern to him was the vindication of his Father’s name. The salvation of mankind, as well as his own life, depended on his course of action.
At the beginning of his earthly ministry, when Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, the Devil tried to turn him away from the course of faithfulness, but Jesus would serve only Jehovah. “Then the Devil left him, and, look! angels came and began to minister to him.” So, too, at this time of trial at the close of his human life, “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.”—Matt. 4:11; Luke 22:43.
At this point it is interesting to consider a prophecy concerning the death of Jesus that is recorded at Isaiah 53:10, which says: “Jehovah himself took delight in crushing him; he made him sick.” In just what way did that prove to be true?
There in Gethsemane Jesus was in great agony. “Getting into an agony he continued praying more earnestly; and his sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) Jehovah permitted this, and for that reason it might be said that he was the one who made Jesus sick in the garden. So severe was Jesus’ agony, even producing bloody sweat that fell to the ground, that he might have died if it had not been cut short. However, it has been suggested that this sickness that he underwent was such that it deadened the sensitivity of his nerves, making the experiences he was yet to undergo bearable. Here we see the mercy of Jehovah in permitting Jesus to be made sick before he was nailed to the torture stake.
After Jesus had been arrested and given a mock trial, he was scourged and, at the insistence of the clergy-led crowd, was handed over to be impaled. Terrible as the experience was, the pain was no doubt lessened to some extent by the nerve-deadening experiences he had already undergone. Rather than allow Jesus to suffer long on the torture stake or to let the soldiers end his life by breaking his bones, “Jehovah himself took delight in crushing him,” which he did by letting him expire a few hours after he was impaled. Jesus, realizing what was happening, cried out: “My God, my God, for what purpose have you forsaken me?” And, overcome with grief, “Jesus let out a loud cry and expired.” (Mark 15:34, 37) In explaining what had happened, William Stroud, M.D., in The Physical Cause of the Death of Christ, refers to the observation of one Grüner, who says: “It is common for persons whose heart is oppressed by excessive congestion of blood, with anxiety and palpitation, and who are threatened with suffocation, to cry out with a loud voice.” Apparently his heart had been broken or one of the larger arteries had been ruptured, causing him to expire.
This made possible the fulfillment of another important part of Jehovah’s purpose. “Unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place.” (Heb. 9:22) And concerning the death of Jesus it had been written: “He poured out his soul to the very death.” (Isa. 53:12) His death had to be on a stake to make it possible to relieve believing Jews of the curse of the Law, but death on a stake would not cause blood to be poured out, and that was required in order to meet the divine requirements for the remission of sins of all believing mankind. (Gal. 3:13) But Jehovah’s having crushed Jesus by letting his hands and feet be pierced by nails and permitting a rupture of his heart or one of the arteries, the blood poured into his pericardium or thorax. Thus when one of the soldiers took a spear and pierced his side, “blood and water came out.” (John 19:34) In this way, while Jehovah was pleased to bring to an early end the agony of his Son, he also made it possible for all the things written by the inspired prophets to be fulfilled and for the requirements for salvation to be met.