Extreme Love

Many of us overlook the details of the crucifixion and the events preceding it. The details are unpleasant, to put it mildly, but without knowing the details of the crucifixion we cannot truly appreciate the Resurrection. In this article, I will show the extent of physical pain as well as the mental, emotional, and spiritual suffering Yeshua (Jesus) endured for our sake.

by William L. Nowell
Crucifixion Silhouette
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son ... (John 3:16)


“God showed His great love for us in this way: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) But how did He die? I feel it is vitally important for us to know the extent of pain and suffering Yeshua (Jesus) endured in the crucifixion and the tortures that preceded it. Then we can begin to understand how great [i.e. how extreme] His love is for us.

Many Christians celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord, but overlook His horrific death on Passover. That is a mistake! Though the graphic details of His crucifixion may assault the delicate sensibilities of some people, without the details we fail to grasp the enormity of His sacrifice. And so now, with eyes wide open, let us examine all Yeshua (Jesus) experienced from the Garden of Gethsemane to the cross at Calvary.

Sweat Like Blood

While praying in the Garden of Gethsemane Yeshua's sweat became like drops of blood according to Luke 22:44. Here Luke is describing a rare psychogenic medical condition known as hematidrosis where one's sweat contains blood. Hematidrosis occurs when the blood vessels surrounding sweat glands rupture, resulting in sweat mixed with blood. Hematidrosis is most often caused by extreme anxiety or intense fear, such as that which comes when facing torture or death. The abject terror of what He was about to suffer was so horrendous that the thought of it literally caused Him to sweat blood.

From Gethsemane to Pilate

First, Yeshua (Jesus) is betrayed by a “friend.” Next, He is arrested by an armed mob in the middle of the night. Then His disciples abandon Him. Finally, He is made to stand trial; a trial rife with illegalities and false accusations. At the end of His mock trial, His accusers deem Him worthy of death. Then the physical abuse begins. (Matthew 26:47, 59-60, 66)

Physical and Verbal Abuse

Yeshua's (Jesus') accusers, in an act of utter disrespect, spat in His face, beat Him with their fists, and others slapped Him. Then to add to the cruelty, they blindfolded Him and continued striking Him on the face. As any boxer will tell you, it's the blows you don't see coming that do the most damage. So unable to brace for or deflect their blows, He felt the full force of each blow. Finally, to add insult to injury, they made fun of Him while still blindfolded by asking Him to prophesy who hit Him. And they also spoke many other things against Him, further insulting Him. (Matthew 26:67-68; Luke 22:64-65)

Also, from Isaiah 50:6 we know that they pulled out His beard. Though the gospel writers do not specifically mention the pulling out of His beard, we are certain that it happened. And this is because in Luke 18:31 Yeshua told us that everything written by the prophets about Him would be accomplished. Still, there is more to the pulling out of His beard than immediately meets the eye.

When we read Isaiah, the gospels, and the Bible in general, it is important that we interpret the writings in the context of the times and cultures in which they were written. We must understand that in that time and culture a long beard was a symbol of dignity and honor. So to tear one's beard out was to dishonor and disgrace him. Therefore, by pulling Yeshua's beard out, they not only inflicted pain on Him, but they humiliated Him as well.

Denied by Peter

Not only did His enemies plot and scheme against Him, but now the Lord witnesses Peter, one of His closest friends, denying even knowing Him. (Luke 22:60-61) That had to have hurt even more than a physical slap in the face. Though Yeshua started out with 12 seemingly devoted disciples, one of them betrayed Him. Of the remaining eleven, nine abandoned Him, scattering into the night at the time of His arrest. Only two disciples followed, but only at a distance. One of them denied Him leaving only one unnamed disciple, most likely John. From twelve down to just one, His best friends turned their backs on Him in His time of trouble.

Yeshua (Jesus) is exhausted from a sleepless night. Bruised and battered by His accusers, they now tie Him up like a common criminal and lead Him away to Pontius Pilate for sentencing. (Matthew 27:1-2; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66, 23:1)

However, Pilate could not find Yeshua guilty of any crime worthy of death and therefore sent Him away to Herod. (John 18:38) Having heard many things about him, Herod simply wanted Yeshua (Jesus) to entertain him by performing some miracle. But not getting what he hoped for, Herod's soldiers treated Him with contempt, mocked him and sent him back to Pilate. (Luke 23:8, 11) In traveling from Pilate to Herod and back again, Yeshua (Jesus) would have walked more than two miles, adding to His exhaustion.


Pilate sought to appease the religious leaders by having Yeshua whipped and then set free, as it was customary to release a prisoner at Passover. However, when given the choice of setting free either Yeshua or a prisoner called Barabbas the crowd chose Barabbas. Imagine Yeshua's utter humiliation and sense of betrayal. He fed them when they were hungry, healed them when they were sick, and even raised their dead back to life again. Yet, after all the good He'd done, they called for His execution. And in the same breath demanding that Barabbas, a notorious prisoner guilty of insurrection, a thief and murderer be set free. They chose a murderer over Him! (Mark 15:11-13; Luke 23:16-18)

Yeshua (Jesus) has already suffered emotional stress, humiliation and the pain of physical beatings. But it all pales in comparison to the nightmare of torture His executioners are about to unleash on Him.


flogging of Jesus

The Roman flogging was brutal and inhumane. Roman soldiers used a short whip (called a flagrum) consisting of three or more leather tails that had small metal balls or bones at the end of each tail. Yeshua would have been stripped naked and shackled by His wrists to a column. One or more soldiers would be assigned to deliver blows from a whip. When struck on the back with full force, the whip would wrap around from the back to the front of the body; striking the arms, shoulders, and legs down to the calves and tearing out chunks of flesh. At first, the heavy thongs would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues beneath it. Then, with each succeeding blow, the cuts grow deeper, ripping into skeletal muscles and creating a mass of deeply lacerated bleeding flesh. (Matt 27:26; Mark 15:15; Luke 23:16; John 19:1)

The prophet Isaiah foretold the Messiah's suffering at the hands of the Roman soldiers when he said, “His appearance was disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness.” (Isaiah 52:14) In other words, He was so badly beaten that He was hardly recognizable as human. That is the amount of suffering He endured for us. But that was just the beginning.

Crown of Thorns

After stripping Him of His clothing and brutally whipping Him, they put a royal robe on Him in mockery. Then the soldiers inflicted pain on Him by pressing a crown of thorns down on His head. In all likelihood, the crown was not a circular wreath as commonly seen in artwork. It most likely covered His entire scalp like a cap or helmet, much like an actual crown would do. Common plants in the region had sharp, closely spaced thorns 1-inch in length. His crown of thorns caused intense pain and profuse bleeding. (Matthew 27:29-30; Mark 15:17-19; John 19:2-3, 5)

Next, they belittled Him by placing a staff in His hand and kneeling in front of Him. They also spat on Him and slapped Him in the face. But that was still not enough to satisfy their need for sadistic pleasure. So they took His staff and hit Him repeatedly on the head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp and through nerves causing severe pain.

scarlett robe and crown of thorns

Throughout the Bible, thorns carry a negative connotation. In particular, from Hebrews 6:7-8 we see that the people of Yeshua's time and culture thought of land that bore thorns as worthless. Therefore, by placing a crown of thorns on His head, they were essentially saying that He and His Kingdom were worthless.

Having finished mocking Him as “King of the Jews,” the soldiers removed His robe. But by now the arid Middle Eastern climate and the hot sun would have dried at least some of the blood on His robe causing it to stick to His wounds like a bandage. So when the soldiers removed His robe, it would've ripped His wounds open again causing even more blood loss and searing pain. (Matthew 27:31; Mark 15:20)

Prelude to Crucifixion

It was customary for the condemned man to carry the horizontal crossbar to the execution site outside the city walls — where as many people as possible could witness the execution. Since the weight of the entire cross would likely be well over 300 lbs, the convicted man carried the crossbar only; contrary to what we commonly see in artwork. The weight of the crossbar would vary depending upon the region and the type of wood used. However, a typical crossbar would weigh roughly 100 pounds.

The condemned was usually stripped naked and the crossbar placed across the nape of the neck and balanced on the shoulders. Also, bear in mind that the crossbar was not made of smooth and treated wood. Instead, it would have been jagged and splintered, rubbing splinters into open wounds with every step taken. Usually, a small sign on a pole had the condemned man's name and crime written on it. The sign was carried ahead of the victim in front of a procession to the execution site.

Road to Golgotha

Forced to carry the crossbar He would later be nailed to, Yeshua (Jesus) began a long walk through the city streets to the execution site. (John 19:16-17) Then as they came out of the city, the soldiers forced a bystander to carry the crossbar for an ever-weakening Yeshua. (Matthew 27:32) By now Yeshua (Jesus) would have grown weak due to severe blood loss caused by the crown of thorns and violent whipping. This is in addition to having had no sleep, no food or water, and having already walked miles from Pilate to Herod and back again. And now He also must deal with the emotional distress of having an innocent bystander carry His crossbar.

Crucifixion Defined

Crucifixion: An ancient form of torture and capital punishment in which the victim is nailed to a cross or to a stake. Its intent is to produce an especially slow and publicly humiliating death while inflicting maximum pain and suffering.

Crucifixion Practices

The execution site was located outside of the city where as many people as possible could witness the public spectacle. Upon arriving at the execution site, by law, the condemned was given a drink of wine mixed with myrrh (gall) that served as a mild analgesic. However in Yeshua's case, He refused the drink, and so there was no dulling of His pain. Next, the condemned was thrown to the ground on his back, adding contamination to already open wounds. Then, with arms outstretched, the victim was nailed to the crossbar.

Nails were driven through the wrists between the radial and ulna bones and not through the palms of the hands as commonly seen in paintings. If nails were driven into the palms, the weight of the body would cause the nail to rip through the palms. However, the bones and ligaments of the wrist can withstand the weight of a body hanging from them. The crossbar and the victim nailed to it were then hoisted into place on a vertical pole.

Next, the feet were nailed to the cross. Typically, the knees were bent at about a 45-degree angle and the feet flexed and placed atop one another along the front of the pole. Then, a single long nail was driven through the feet between the 2nd and 3rd metatarsal bones causing severe nerve damage and pain.

Finally, the sign with the condemned man's name and crime was attached to the top of the cross. Meanwhile, the soldiers customarily divided the victim's clothes among themselves. At the same time, the crowd taunted and jeered the condemned man while watching him slowly die a humiliating and excruciatingly painful death.

Agony of Crucifixion

Nailed to a cross /

Physical Pain

The executioner drove nails through the wrists, severing or crushing the median nerves. The median nerve is one of three sensory-motor nerves that begin in the shoulders, extends down through the wrists and into the hands. Upon impact, nails through the median nerves paralyze the hands while simultaneously sending excruciating jolts of burning pain through the arms and into the shoulders.

The crossbar with the condemned man hanging from it is then hoisted to the top of a vertical pole, forming a cross. However, before the executioner nailed Yeshua's (Jesus') feet to the cross, the full weight of His body hanging from His nailed wrists would've pulled His shoulders out of joint. (Psalm 22:14)

The weight of Yeshua's (Jesus') body hanging from outstretched arms also made the simple act of breathing very difficult. To breathe properly He would have to push up on His nailed feet (causing even more pain) while simultaneously pulling up from the wrists. Furthermore, when He pushed up to breathe, His wrists rotated against the nails, which would irritate the damaged median nerves causing intense pain. In addition, each time He lifted His body to breathe, His badly lacerated back scraped against the rough wood of the cross making the pain virtually unbearable.

Dehydration from lack of water and sweating combined with excessive blood loss would have caused an insatiable thirst. (John 19:28) In addition, muscle cramping and spasms added yet another layer of intensity to His pain.

Mental Anguish

Keep in mind that one aspect of crucifixion was public humiliation, and that Yeshua's crucifixion happened at the time of Passover. This was one of three annual Pilgrimage Festivals when Jews from around the world returned to Jerusalem. And so, with the city packed with people from far and wide, Pilate had a multilingual sign placed above Yeshua's (Jesus') head to assure His humiliation before as many observers as possible. (John 19:19-20)

Also, while hanging on the cross, Yeshua could see the soldiers below gambling for His clothing. In regards to His tunic, they viewed it valuable and worth preserving. So not wanting to tear it, they instead gambled for it. Clearly, they considered Yeshua's clothing as more valuable than His life. (John 19:23-24)

We can only imagine the sorrow He must've felt for His grieving mother watching the horrendous sight of her first-born Son beaten to a bloody pulp, nailed to a cross between two criminals and left to die. (John 19:25-27)

Spiritual Agony

For the first time in all eternity, Yeshua (Jesus) felt utterly abandoned by God the Father when He cried out "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46) The spiritual agony of separation from His Father likely cost Him the will to live. Soon after this, He said "It is finished" and "Into Your hands I commit My Spirit," then He hung His head and died. (John 19:30; Luke 23:46)

Physical Cause of Death

Over the years, forensic pathologists, physicians, surgeons, and other medical professionals have researched the cause of death in crucifixion. Though they have found more than 10 possible causes of death, we still have no way of knowing with certainty the exact cause of Yeshua's (Jesus') death. In all likelihood, Yeshua's death was multifactorial in nature due to the tremendous physical trauma He suffered.

Yeshua's (Jesus') multiple injuries likely contributed to catastrophic cardiovascular, respiratory, and metabolic complications which ultimately led to His death. More specifically, He could've died from hypovolemic shock, asphyxia, arrhythmia, pulmonary embolism, cardiac rupture, or other causes. He most likely died from some combination of these.


three crosses /

On the day of First Fruits (Resurrection Day), we recognize the fact that Yeshua died, was buried and rose from the grave to pay the penalty for our sins. However, I firmly believe that we must not lose focus on the extraordinary amount of pain and suffering Yeshua endured for us. It is only then that can we begin to understand and truly appreciate the extreme [agape] love He has for each of us.

Agape: The Greek word agape translated into English is love. But it must not be confused with other types of love, such as brotherly love or romantic love. Instead, agape love is a totally unselfish love-in-action that serves the best interests of others. Yeshua (Jesus) demonstrated His agape love for us by allowing wicked men to crucify Him.

“I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of Christ's [agape] love, and to know the [agape] love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:17-19) I pray that you know our Lord Yeshua's (Jesus') extreme [i.e. agape] love.

Three Crosses