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I would like to share with you, my perspective as a Christian physician, on the Crucifixion of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.  We are frequently exposed to paintings, sculptures, and pictures that depict the Crucifixion.  Rappers even wear gaudy, gold crucifixes.  I personally believe that our culture has become desensitized and perhaps truly apathetic to the meaning of the suffering and death of Our Lord.  I believe that the precious 60 hours which begin with the Last Supper and end in the Resurrection, represent the most important spiritual and physical events, which have ever occurred since the creation of the world.   I think it would be safe to say that no man’s death has been more studied, more questioned, and more revered than the death of Jesus Christ.  Through the scrutinizing eyes of history, it has shaped and continues to shape the destiny of mankind as no other event since the beginning of time.  For non-believers, His death represents a folly, possibly the biggest hoax in history.  For Christians, it represents the ultimate act of love of our creator, for sinful mankind.

My interest in Christ’s Passion began when I was in the fifth grade. I read a book, A Doctor at Calvary by Pierre Barbet, which had a lasting impact on my life.  It influenced me to become a physician and ultimately a surgeon. Dr. Barbet was a French surgeon who committed himself to a lifelong, detailed study of the Crucifixion.  He was particularly interested in the Shroud of Turin, the linen cloth believed to be Christ’s burial cloth. Although the authenticity of the Shroud is often questioned, I personally believe that it contains exquisite detail about Our Lord’s passion which could not be fabricated.  I will refer to it later in this monograph. Dr Barbet performed extensive research on cadavers to help us to better understand the medical aspects of a Crucifixion.  He published his definitive book in 1953 which has become the primary reference source on the subject. 

Today, I will focus on the Lord’s Passion at the hands of the Jews and the Romans, "seen through the eyes of a surgeon".  I hope to re-awaken in each of us a magnificent sense of awe, as we study intensely the almost indescribable suffering Jesus chose to endure to secure redemption for humanity.

Crucifixion was developed in Persia, an area which now makes up Iraq and Iran.  The Romans adopted the practice of Crucifixion 600 years before the birth of Christ; they developed a high degree of efficiency and skill at performing this consummate means of torture and death.  The technique was modified and improved in order to create a controlled, exquisitely painful and disgusting method of execution.  The Romans made the victim of Crucifixion a public spectacle for all to see. Although we believe that Christ died on the cross after 3 hours, there are records of criminals hanging for as long as 3 days. They fell prey to insects and birds.  Their bodies would be devoured by wild animals before or after death occurred; many were never buried.  This form of capital punishment shows us the sadistic cruelty of the rulers, in controlling the masses; it provided a strong message to the citizens to remain submissive to the order of Rome. 

Investigation of writings from around the time of Christ, and archeological discoveries suggest that Christ was not crucified on a cross shaped like the small letter “t,” but rather on a Tau cross shaped like a capital “T.” The cross consisted of 2 components, the stipes and the patibulum.   The stipes (the vertical component of the cross) was permanently implanted in the ground.  The patibulum (or horizontal piece) was the only component carried by the victim.  The stipes was inserted through a hole in the patibulum in a mortise joint after the victim was affixed to the patibulum.

As we study the Passion, there is a fascinating interplay that develops, between Christ’s human nature and Christ’s divine nature.   From the time of His birth in Bethlehem, He was entirely divine.  Nevertheless, He chose to take on all of the attributes of humanity, with the exception of sin.  We can see this interplay between Christ’s divinity and humanity in Gospel stories about His life; it takes on special significance during his Passion and Death.  One of my favorite stories is about the death of Lazarus.  Lazarus was one of Jesus’ special friends.  When he was seriously ill, his sisters, Margaret and Mary sent Jesus a message to ask him to be at his side.  But, Jesus was detained.  He arrived at Lazarus’ house three days after He had died.  From His human nature, He wept openly for the loss of His endeared friend.  But from His divine nature He had the opportunity to perform one of His greatest miracles – raising Lazarus from the dear.  He went down to the tomb and called out with a loud voice, “Lazarus come out.”  And Lazarus was brought back to life.

I will remind you that our study of the Passion is summarized in the powerful words of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” 
Some of the material I will present is graphic and may be disturbing.  If anyone becomes troubled by my work, please know that I, too, have been deeply troubled by this powerful message for a very long time.  It is my hope that our investigation will make all of us intensely aware of the depth of Christ’s love for each one of us.



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