I cannot possibly fathom the physical pain Jesus endured before and during his crucifixion.
Before he was crucified, Jesus was scourged. Romans would strip a man of his clothing, and flog his back, buttocks and legs. A Roman soldier would have used a flagellum, a whip of several strands, perhaps 3 feet long, and each strand would have jagged pieces of lead and/or sheep bone in them to rip open the flesh. Romans were not limited by the Jewish law of 39 strokes so the Roman soldiers probably would have struck Jesus far more times. Often people would faint or die during Roman scourging.
And the Roman soldiers didn’t just flog Jesus. They added a crown of thorns:
and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 3And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. Matthew 27:29-30
Whatever plant the soldiers made the crown from must have had sharp barbs and spines which cut into Jesus head. And they didn’t set this “crown” lightly on Jesus head, but whacked him on top of it with the “reed,” the mock scepter they had put in his hand, “whereby they drove the sharp points of the thorns into (his head), which must (have given) him inexpressible pain and torture.” – Gill
When Jesus finally arrived on Golgotha, the soldiers laid him on the cross, then drove heavy metal nails through his wrists, according to many sources, and a spike through his feet. One source said the soldiers would have turned his feet outward so the nail could be driven through the Achilles tendons (All About Jesus Christ.org).
When hanging on a cross, it was difficult to breathe, so that one would push himself up at first, putting all his weight on his feet, gasp a breath or two, then because of the excruciating pain in his feet lower himself down, putting all his weight on the nails in his wrists. So for 6 hours, Jesus pushed himself up, gasped for breath, then dropped back down for a minute or two, unimaginable pain in his wrists and arms, then pushed himself up again. Over and over.
I cannot fathom the physical pain Jesus endured. But this was not the worst thing Jesus endured.
We catch an infinitesimal glimpse of Jesus deepest pain in Matthew 27:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
Jesus was quoting David in Psalm 22 here:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” Psalm 22:1-8
In Psalm 22, David cries out to God in desperation, surrounded by enemies and unable to sense God’s presence. But God had not forsaken David. Jesus quoted this Psalm because as he hung on the cross, he endured an infinitely greater pain than all the physical torture he had experienced. Jesus experienced the ultimate being “forsaken.”
To forsake another person is to leave them entirely, usually in a moment of need. –Vocabulary.com
For all eternity, Jesus had enjoyed perfect, unbroken fellowship with his Father. In the Trinity, Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit experienced eternal, infinite love and joy. But God laid every single one of our sins upon Jesus, as if he had personally committed them, then poured out his wrath upon his Son, punishing Jesus in our place for our sins. Jesus stepped in as a Substitute for us.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
In some sense, God made Jesus “to be sin.” Sin, the most despicable thing in God’s sight. The very opposite of the holiness of God. Sin, the horrific rebellion against a loving God, the thing that ruined the human race. Sin, that vile, filthy rejection which spits in God’s face. It is interesting that the Roman soldiers spit in Jesus’ face after they crowned him with thorns.
God put all our sin on Jesus. Peter says:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree… 1 Peter 2:24
God made Jesus “to be sin.” Jesus was not literally sin, but he “bore our sins in his body” – he so identified with our sin that in a sense, he “became” sin. And because he was “sin,” God the Father turned his back on Jesus. Habakkuk says:
You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, Habakkuk 1:13
When Jesus hung on the cross, in his body, he bore every single one of our sins. Every prideful and lustful thought. Every curse word, every act of immorality. Every murder, every hateful thought and word. You get the idea. In God’s eyes, Jesus became unimaginably vile, despicable and disgusting. And at that moment, Jesus was cut off from experiencing the perfect fellowship, love and delight he had had with the Father for all eternity.
At that moment, Jesus “experienced” being forsaken by God. Of course, he was not literally abandoned by God, because he was God. But because he had “become sin” God poured out his wrath on his Son. In a sense, Jesus experienced hell – being cut off from God’s presence and enduring God’s fury upon sin.
We have no idea what this experience was like for Jesus. But he went through this for you and for me. So that when we turn to Jesus in faith, when we call out to him to be our Lord and Savior, because he “became sin,” we “become the righteousness of God.” God counted our lives of sin to Jesus, as if he had lived them, and he counts Jesus’ life of perfect obedience to us, as if we had lived that life.
Unbelievable! Because God “abandoned” Jesus on the cross, he will never abandon us.
Because Jesus was “forsaken” we will never be forsaken. Because Jesus was punished for our sins, we will be rewarded for his obedience.
The physical pain Jesus endured for us was unimaginable. But the worst pain he endured was in his soul, when he experienced God’s wrath against sin. And he paid for every last sin – he cried out “It is finished.” His mission was absolutely completed. He will never have to suffer for our sins again.
O Lord Jesus, how can we begin to thank you and praise you for all you endured for us? We love you. We worship you. You are worthy of our lives and our praise and our thanks. Please make us the most thankful people on earth. Please give us opportunities and boldness to tell others of your incredible love.