From Gethsemane to Golgotha :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

Mark 14:32-42, Mark 14:43-50, Mark 14:66-72, Mark 15:21-32

Summary: Chapters 14-15 of Mark’s Gospel gives us an account of the final hours in Jesus’ life as he faced hostility, mockery, torment, and the agony that would be placed upon Him as He stayed on the cross for the sake of our sins.

It was not long after the Lord Jesus presented His prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives that the drama of the crucifixion began to fall into place. At what is referred to as the “Last Supper,” He told His disciples that the bread and wine they had consumed was a symbol of His body and blood that would soon be broken and shed for the salvation of all who would believe in Him. They were still uncertain as to what He was talking about. He also stated that one of them would be a traitor and sell Him out to His enemies. They were all astonished and shocked as to who would do something so diabolical.

Jesus knew very well that Judas Iscariot – the trusted treasurer of the group and someone who had played the role of devoted follower for three and a half years – was a hypocritical fraud who would be exposed later in the evening as Jesus completed His time of agonizing prayer before God the Father as to what He was to undergo for the sake of humanity.

His inner circle of trusted disciples, Peter, James, and John, had fallen asleep at His hour of need, and the others were soon to flee for their lives and go into hiding as the event of Jesus’ trial and sentencing commenced.

Mark 14:32-72 gives the details concerning Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane; the betrayal of Judas and Jesus’ arrest; the period where the Lord was beaten and mocked in the house of the High Priest Caiaphas; Peter’s denial; and the scourging, mocking, and beating he endured at the hands of the Roman soldiers. Scholars who have gone over the time of day and the order of events state that, by this time, Jesus had been awake for over twenty-four hours. He was not only physically exhausted but was undergoing severe bleeding and loss of strength. It was a miracle He was even still alive, but the worse was to come.

After the mock trials given Him by Pilate, the Pharisees, and Herod Antipas, He was led away, carrying the upper beam of the crucifix, known in the Latin language as a PATIBULUM, upon His bleeding shoulders. It is likely that this crossbeam alone weighed over 40 pounds, proving too much for Him to bear. A soldier pulled a man named Simon of Cyrene (Modern Libya) out of the crowd and made him carry the beam instead (Mark 15:21; John 19:17). Mark identifies him as the father of Alexander and Rufus, two men who were well known in the church (Romans 16:13) at the time of the writing of this Gospel.

Jesus was brought to a place outside the city known as “Golgotha” or “the place of the skull” (Mark 15:22; Luke 23:33; John 19:20). As He was nailed to the cross, He suffered unbearable, excruciating pain. Most criminals who were put to death in this manner were given a narcotic mixed with wine to deaden the pain somewhat. This was offered to Jesus, but He refused it, choosing to experience this horrific situation with His full senses intact. The description of the crucifixion was an amazingly restrained account given by the Gospel writers (Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:24-25; Luke 23:33; John 19:18). The Roman orator and statesman Cicero was to have said that this ordeal was the “cruelest and most hideous punishment possible.”

Physicians who have studied the medical aspects of this procedure described it as follows:

“Simon is ordered to place the cross beam on the ground, and Jesus is quickly thrown backward with His shoulders against the wood. The soldier in charge of carrying out the crucifixion feels for the depression at the front of Jesus’ wrist. He then drives a heavy, square-shaped wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. He quickly moves to the other side and repeats the process, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly but to allow some flexion and movement. The crossbeam is then lifted into place at the top of the vertical beam. The left foot is then pressed against the right foot with toes down, whereby a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately fixed.

The crucifixion procedure is now complete, but the full torment follows. As the victim now sags down, putting more weight on the nails and the wrists, there is a surge of excruciating, fiery pain that shoots along the fingers and up to the arms to explode in the brain as the nails place pressure on the median nerves. As Jesus pushes Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places His full weight on the nails that pierce His feet. Again, there is searing agony of the nail tearing through His nerves, which are located between the metatarsal bones of His feet.

At this point, another phenomenon takes place. As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the entirety of his muscular system, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upwards. Air can be drawn into the lungs but cannot be exhaled. Jesus raises Himself up in an agonizing attempt to catch the smallest breath, but now carbon dioxide is building up in both His lungs and the bloodstream, causing the cramps to partially subside. In a spasmodic attempt, He pulls Himself up in order to exhale and breathe in life-giving oxygen.

This ordeal will continue for hours as He will undergo limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, and searing pain as skin and nerve tissue tears from His lacerated back as He moves up and down to breathe against the rough timber.

Another agony starts as crushing pain enters His chest cavity. The pericardium that surrounds His heart now begins to fill with serum, causing pressure to come upon the heart. The struggle is near its end as the loss of tissue fluids reaches a critical level, and His heart now struggles to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues. His tortured lungs are making a frantic attempt to gasp in small amounts of air. Jesus’ body is now at the point of EXTREMIS, and He can feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues as His mission of atonement has now been completed, and now He can allow His body to die.”

(Source: Davis, C. Truman: “The Crucifixion of Jesus- The Passion of Christ from a Medical Point of View.” Arizona Medicine 22, No. 3, March 1965; pp. 186-187 as quoted in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8, Frank Gaebelein, Ed. (1984), pp. 779-80)

Even in the midst of this unbearable physical torment, there is also His public humiliation as He was nailed naked to the cross and His clothing up for grabs by the soldiers, who gamble for them (Psalm 22:18; Mark 15:24). The ordeal began at the “third hour,” or 9:00 A.M. Pilate had written the charges against Jesus that were posted above His head on the cross, with the Gospel writers giving differing accounts (Matt. 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:20). The entirety of the charge was more likely, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.”

On each side of Jesus were two thieves, also being crucified for their crimes against Caesar. They and the crowd around the cross mocked and blasphemed the Lord (Mark 14:57-58; 15:27-29, 31-32). Later, one of the thieves recanted and asked the Lord to remember Him (Luke 23:39-43). Jesus told him that he would be in Paradise with Him soon. This man received redemption nearly at the point of his final breath.

This ordeal will last for six hours. It was all done in order to show us the terribleness of our sins, the greatness of God’s love for us, and for us to receive mercy, grace, pardon, and salvation we do not deserve. His death gave us life, and that more abundantly.

He did not stay dead. The empty tomb is the silent voice of victory over death, hell, and the grave. How will you respond to this act of great love and compassion? Surrender your life to Him today while there is still time.

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