After suffering such a terrible passion, I must confess I never thought our Lord’s death was something out of the ordinary course of nature. The question in my mind was why did Jesus not die sooner than he did?
The terrible scourging, the crown of thorns, the loss of blood, the painful march to Golgotha, hanging on the cross for three hours having been nailed through one’s hands and feet – considered all together, these are enough to make any one wonder how Jesus survived as long as he did!
Now consider what a miracle is.
A miracle is a wondrous deed which demonstrates the action of God. St. Thomas Aquinas writes,
Those effects are rightly to be termed miracles which are wrought by Divine power apart from the order usually observed in nature.
What precisely was the miracle associated with Our Lord’s death on the cross?
Well consider what St. Mark reports about one of the centurions who saw Jesus die.
“And the centurion who stood over against Him, seeing that crying out in this manner, He had given up the ghost, said: Indeed, this man was the Son of God.”
Seeing that Jesus cried out in a loud voice, the centurion realizes that “This man was the son of God.” Interesting isn’t it?
Perhaps you, like I, have been in the habit of thinking that the centurion was moved to this realization because of the other many things reported to have happened in the other gospels surrounding the death of Jesus (e.g. an earthquake, rocks splitting, the dead coming out of their tombs).
But St. Mark’s account demonstrates that the simple act of our Lord crying out in a loud voice was enough to convert the centurion.
The centurion surely had witnessed many deaths. Perhaps he had been a witness to many crucifixions. But when he witnessed the moment of our Lord’s death he exclaims
Indeed, this man was the Son of God!
St. Thomas writes,
In order for Christ to show that the Passion inflicted by violence did not take away His life, He preserved the strength of His bodily nature, so that at the last moment He was able to cry out with a loud voice: and hence His death should be computed among His other miracles.
You and I, in similar circumstances, would gradually die. The life would slip out of us by degrees and at the end we might give up the ghost with a last sigh or groan or moan.
Not so our Lord!
And Jesus having crying out with a loud voice, gave up the ghost
Our Lord, because he was God, was able to retain all of his strength until the end. And he was able to determine the precise moment of his death. Again, St. Thomas,
For as of His own will His bodily nature kept its vigor to the end, so likewise, when He willed, He suddenly succumbed to the injury inflicted.
This brings out the truth of what Jesus said in the Gospel of John,
No man taketh it away from me: but I lay it down of myself, and I have power to lay it down: and I have power to take it up again.
It is Jesus who died. It was by his own power that died. He truly laid down his life and it might be said truly that no man took his life away from him.
**Our Lord, because he was God, was able to retain all of his strength until the end.**
So you are saying that Jesus did not, in fact, suffer in the same way and to the same extent as we do? That He did not fully experience and thus share what humanity goes through? That He did not fully take on human suffering? That He basically cheated? Is that what you are suggesting? It certainly seems so.
I would think that Jesus, Who has full possession of His emotions would not suffer in the same way we do. I would think His intensity of suffering would have far surpassed our suffering, yet feeling the intensity of such pain and not allowing your emotions to run the gambit…fear…hatred…revenge…will be fully experienced yet different.
I think Thomas argues that Christ’s passion was the most painful human experience ever because His senses were the most perfect.
Jesus already proved that he has power over death. According to his sin-free human nature and his divinity, he was also not liable to die, so no one, not even the devil, could forcibly take his life from him, or force Jesus to do anything that was contrary to the will of God. Jesus could have alternatively been drawn and quartered, disemboweled, burned at the stake and beheaded, and he still could have remained miraculously alive until the appointed time. All of this does nothing to mitigate the intensity and/or the amount of suffering that he endured, but it has everything to do with his divine and human natures, his power, his sin-free, perfect humanity and the salvific mission he was sent to complete.
I wrote a 42 page paper on this subject in 1999-2000. I believe I found your address and will send it to you. I agree with your conclusion, as did Tertullian (whose father was a Roman centurion), and more recently Fulton Sheen—-Happy Easter!
Thanks Dr. Hand!,
I look forward to receiving it. Happy Easter to you as well!
Thanks for finally writing about >Did you know that our Lord�s
death was a miracle? | Classical Catholic Education <Loved it!
Wow. I don’t think I ever thought of that before. I would have thought that the miracle of Jesus’ death would have been that God had allowed Himself to die at all. In other words, I would have thought that the miracle lay in the fact that God had participated in an act that was contrary to His nature as God. (Obviously, not contrary to human nature which He miraculously became one with.)